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ABC local radio to become less local

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ABC local radio stations are set to lose more locally produced programming only weeks after the national broadcaster's head of radio promised an Adelaide audience there would be no more networked shows.

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Head office will tomorrow reveal the 2018 line-up for all of the ABC’s radio stations, with one of the changes expected to be a syndicated new national program hosted by former Triple J announcer Myf Warhurst.

The new show is part of controversial moves revealed in The Guardian today, including trimming the PM and World Today current affairs programs by half an hour.

The ABC’s local stations lost the 11am to midday shift years ago, to be replaced by Richard Fidler’s syndicated, and highly regarded, Conversations program.

Earlier this year, local evenings programs were replaced on Friday nights by a networked show.

The latest move means that networked programming will be in place on stations like ABC Radio Adelaide from 11am until 2pm, meaning the locally-produced afternoons shift, currently hosted by Sonya Feldoff, will lose an hour.

Local programs will pick up half an hour later in the day, with the drive shift set to be extended by half an hour to 6.30.

The changes come only weeks after the ABC’s director of radio, Michael Mason, promised an ABC Radio Adelaide audience that there would be no additional networked programs on local radio stations.

On November 17, Mason gave an extended interview on David Bevan’s mornings show, during which callers raised concerns about the potential loss of local programming under a national restructure.

Bevan asked: “Are you going to network more programs on ABC Radio Adelaide?”

Mason replied: “No, no, no. That’s not anywhere in our plans.”

Mason insisted that connections with local audiences were the lifeblood of the ABC, but Bevan pressed again.

“So in two years’ time we will still have a local ABC Radio Adelaide afternoon program, we’ll still have a local ABC Radio Adelaide drive program, evening program, mornings and breakfast?”

Mason replied: “Absolutely. Those programs will be there. My only rider would be is that our local management teams – our local leadership teams – make decisions based on what they think the best content is for their local market. And that’s not necessarily driven by budget stuff.”

The Guardian reported today that ABC staff had been told on Monday that, from January 22, The World Today would end at 12.30pm – instead of 1pm. A light entertainment program hosted by Warhurst, reportedly designed to attract a younger audience, would then run for 90 minutes.

PM will also be trimmed and shifted to 6.30pm to allow local drive programs to run for an extra half an hour.

An ABC radio spokesman confirmed to InDaily that the long-running World Today and PM programs would be cut in half.

He said The Guardian’s report was accurate, and other changes to programming would be revealed in full tomorrow.

The national president of the Friends of the ABC, Margaret Reynolds, told InDaily she was very concerned about the changes to local programming and would be raising her concerns with ABC management.

“The ABC has to ensure it’s reaching out to all Australians and the best way to reach out to all Australians is to work at the local level and the national level,” she said.

Reynolds was scathing about the idea of cutting ABC current affairs programs in half.

“I don’t know whose idea this is,” she said.

“It sounds as though someone might be unduly encouraged by Donald Trump’s preoccupation with fake news. We need more journalism, not less.

“If ABC management is reducing that level of coverage (of current affairs), they will simply alienate their supporters, and without their supporters their future is bleak.

“We should be expanding it in this day and age.”

While no-one would speak on the record today, ABC staff in Adelaide have long been concerned by the creeping replacement of local programming with shows produced in the eastern states.

In 2014, the ABC ran an axe through local television programming, shutting down the Adelaide production studio and canning the Friday night state editions of 7.30.

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