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ABC's stunning axing of 30-year Adelaide veteran

Media Week

In this week's Media Week column, the ABC has stunned local staff by forcing out a highly-respected veteran broadcaster.

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ABC blindsides veteran broadcaster

ABC staff in South Australia are shocked by interstate management’s decision to axe Leigh Radford, a highly respected 30-year veteran who headed up rural and national programs for ABC Regional.

Radford, who will be familiar to many South Australian listeners due to his many on-air roles over the past decades, was one of the few senior ABC executives based in Adelaide before his position was made redundant last month.

He told InDaily that he didn’t see it coming.

“It was out of the blue as far as I was concerned – I certainly didn’t expect it,” he said.

“It was a huge shock to me, all of my staff and my colleagues across the ABC. It was pretty out there.”

Radford, who joined the ABC in 1987, has become one of the voices of rural Australia, working for the ABC’s rural programs for his entire career at the public broadcaster. He presented the Country Hour for more than a decade and headed up the ABC’s regional programming for a similar time, overseeing radio and television programming such as Landline and Back Roads.

He’s not totally sure why his position was abolished and, at just 55, is taking some time to work out where his career heads next.

“I have made what I think is a fairly significant contribution to rural Australia for a long time, and I would like to think I might continue to make a contribution into the future.”

He says he’ll start shaping that future when the shock of his sudden axing starts to fade.

It’s the end of an era not only for Leigh, but for his family. His grandfather Leonard worked for the ABC in a technical role after World War II and his father Bryce also had a long career as an ABC reporter. Brother Drew left the ABC in 2015 after nearly two decades at Aunty.

InDaily has asked the ABC why Radford’s position was made redundant.

Fewer opportunities for long-form reporting

The loss of the locally-based position adds to long-standing perceptions that the ABC is centralising power and decision-making in the eastern states.

Editorially, it seems the ABC hasn’t made good on its promise to retain some long-form television reporting in the states, following the scrapping of local versions of 7.30 in 2014.

One of the few forums for substantial state-based reporting was Australia Wide, hosted by Yassmin Abdel-Magied. That show was axed last month, after Abdel-Magied found herself the subject of a News Corp-led campaign to have her sacked.

Her crime was a brief Facebook post about Anzac Day for which she apologised. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton welcomed the announcement that the show had been axed, arguably ignoring the wider good work done by the show’s reporters.

In better news, local ABC manager Graeme Bennett told InDaily that the ABC’s Adelaide radio operations were not in the firing line for redundancies – at least at the moment.

“There are currently no plans to reduce ABC radio staff numbers in Adelaide,” he said.

News Corp cuts hit home

Meanwhile, morale also isn’t great across town at News Corp’s Waymouth Street headquarters, despite some positive jobs news today for the media giant’s back office operations.

A round of redundancies in May has already left a skeleton staff of photographers to service The Advertiser, Sunday Mail and Messenger newspapers.

The papers are increasingly reliant on AAP and freelance photographers for sport, in particular, in a trend that’s evident in media organisations across Australia. (It’s already showing: The Advertiser used agency photographers to cover the historic Port Adelaide match in China.)

However, there are some positive signs for News Corp’s back office jobs in Adelaide.

Industry website Mumbrella reported this morning that News Corp is axing 120 jobs at its contact centres in Victoria and NSW from July, with some of the jobs moving to Adelaide.

A spokesperson for News Corp told Mumbrella: “We are consolidating our resources to create a centre of excellence in South Australia.”

Meanwhile, editorial jobs continue to be shed in Adelaide, with another handful of staff taking redundancies over the past few weeks. This made a bittersweet backdrop for last Saturday’s SA Media Awards.

Incidentally, the union that runs the media awards and is meant to represent journalists’ interests, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), has repeatedly avoided InDaily’s queries about the scope of job losses in South Australia.

In fact, its state branch has failed to offer any comment, despite this column’s repeated queries over the past two weeks.

This columnist is accustomed to non-responses from evasive politicians and dodgy corporates, but being blanked by the journalists’ union? Bizarre and, probably, telling.

Interstate, a who’s who of Australian journalism is leaving Fairfax today and over the weeks to come.

These are dark days for the profession.

Media Week is a regular InDaily column on South Australian media, marketing and public relations. Get in touch – editorial@solsticemedia.com.au

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