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ABC shake-up slashes jobs and flagship radio bulletin

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The ABC will slash up to 250 jobs and axe its flagship 7.45am radio news bulletin in a major shake-up at the national broadcaster.

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ABC Life will be rebranded, ABC Comedy repurposed and underperforming news programs reviewed.

No division will be spared in the job cuts as the broadcaster tries to save $40 million under a five-year plan.

“This is a difficult time for us, as it is for the broader economy and community as we all struggle with the events of this year,” ABC managing director David Anderson said on Wednesday.

Staff travel budgets will be reduced by a quarter and $5 million will be shaved off the independent production budget.

ABC Life will become ABC Local, which will cost half of staff their jobs as content is sourced from across the broadcaster.

The ABC’s property portfolio will also go under the microscope, with management hoping to relocate or lease unused office space.

Leasing empty space at the broadcaster’s headquarters in Ultimo, Sydney, could add up to $4 million to its coffers.

Three-quarters of content-making staff will be working outside of Ultimo by 2025.

Another round of voluntary redundancies will be offered on Wednesday, which will see at least 10 more workers go.

“We will still have a 10-minute bulletin at 7am, and a new 5-minute bulletin at 8am, followed by the AM program until 830,” Anderson said. “The 45 minutes of news will reduce to 30 minutes.”

Anderson made it clear that the cuts were connected to the Federal Government’s pause in the indexation of the national broadcaster’s budget, which opened up an $84 million gap in funding.

“This is on top of $64 million of ongoing cuts that were imposed on us in 2014,” he said.

“In real terms this means our operational funding will be more than 10% lower in 2021-22 than it was in 2013.”

Read Anderson’s full speech to staff here.

ABC staff have been Tweeting their concerns about the changes.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher welcomed the new digital, regional focus of the ABC.

“The review has emphasis on the way that Australia’s changing and the rate at which Australia’s changing,” he told reporters in Sydney.

He also cheered plans to move three-quarters of content-making staff out of the ABC’s headquarters in Ultimo, Sydney, by 2025.

“The ABC needs to reflect all of Australia, and Sydney is not Australia,” Fletcher said.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the ABC wasn’t Sydney-centric and its summer bushfire coverage saved lives.

“It is appalling that the government hasn’t recognised that,” he told the National Press Club in Canberra.

“Democracy can’t be taken for granted, it’s fragile in many parts of the world. I think the ABC has a critical role.”

The Community and Public Sector Union said the ABC was suffering a death by a thousand cuts.

Union spokesman Sinddy Ealy said it was utter madness for the government to be forcing job cuts during the coronavirus-induced recession.

“It is clear that Australia needs a strong ABC now more than ever,” he said.

The union wants the government to halt its $84 million funding freeze for the ABC.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance said the ABC were already doing more with less.

“These vindictive cuts have been ideologically motivated to undermine the ABC’s independence and its news-gathering ability,” MEAA chief executive Paul Murphy said.

-with AAP

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