ABC board meeting targeted by alliance of community organisations

A broad group of community organisations will be protesting at the ABC Board meeting in Sydney today.

The groups are extremely concerned that the ABC is failing to meet its charter obligations and that senior management is not genuinely listening to staff or responding to the needs of its audiences.

Members of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), Hands off Radio National Music and ABC Friends say a range of management decisions have created a crisis at the national broadcaster.

Recent decisions that demonstrate how out of touch the ABC Executive has become include:

  • The axing of science program Catalyst
  • Removing music from Radio National; and
  • Ending shortwave transmission in the NT

ABC management’s decision late last year to cut all but one of Radio National’s music programmes from its 2017 schedule drew sharp criticism from artists and audiences.

Hands Off RN Music spokesperson Ruth Hazelton said, “Despite gleaning close to 23,000 signatures on our petition, and statements from some of Australia’s most prominent philanthropists, artists and organisations (including Janet Holmes a Court, Paul Kelly, Missy Higgins, Archie Roach, Music Australia & APRA/AMCOS), ABC senior management has failed to acknowledge the devastating blow they have delivered to Australia’s music culture and diversity as a result of these cuts, made without industry or artist consultation.”

“Similarly, Senior Management has failed to acknowledge the impact this decision has had on rural and regional audiences with its premature reliance on digital formats. We believe management is using the digital strategy as a smokescreen for crude cost-cutting. It has drastically underestimated community outrage, yet seems impervious to the ensuing loss of support from passionate listeners. These are serious issues that need to be addressed at a Board level”.

The ABC’s announcement that it has engaged a third party for the provision of the ABC Fact Checking Unit has also come under fire. The group says that while the return of the service is welcome, the method by which is has been reinstated raises serious concerns.

CPSU’s ABC Section Secretary Sinddy Ealy said, “Australians know and trust the ABC to provide quality news and current affairs, but that trust is at considerable risk as the ABC goes down the path of relying on outside organisations to fund and produce content.”

“It’s not good enough for our national broadcaster to just slap an ABC logo on it; only producing that content in-house guarantees that the ABC’s exacting editorial standards are maintained. The Fact Check Unit was axed last year because of ABC management’s bungled handling of the non-recurrent funding and the ABC Executive’s off-kilter obsession with digital expansion at the expense of current programming.”

“Hardworking ABC staff have raised concerns with their bosses about the impact of cuts and illogical changes, but they seem to have fallen on deaf ears. The ABC Executive needs to start listening to staff and the community about what’s needed for the ABC.” said Ms Ealy.

The protest will call on the ABC Board to step up and ensure our national broadcaster is properly managed by people who are genuinely committed to public broadcasting.

The groups will also call on the ABC Board to not sign off on Managing Director Michelle Guthrie’s restructure plans until they are sure that the ABC Executive has done their due diligence including properly consulting with affected community stakeholders and staff.

ABC Friends National President Margaret Reynolds said, “It is time the ABC learned to communicate with its shareholders who should be part of the decision making process. Public broadcasting is about responding to the needs and interests of the Australian community so both the ABC Board and ABC management need to reach out beyond their urban bases.”

The protesters will continue to lobby until the ABC Executive starts listening to the people they are there to serve.

For comment

Simon Frazer, CPSU  – 0409 493 290

Ruth Hazleton, Hands off RN Music –0419 487 060

Margaret Reynolds, National President, ABC Friends – 0418 181 843

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