‘Disgrace’: Backlash over ABC job, local news cuts

A state government minister says the ABC has “abandoned” Adelaide after axing the local Sunday night TV news bulletin for a Sydney-produced program, amid a backlash over job cuts as the public broadcaster pivots away from TV and radio to a digital future.

Jun 16, 2023, updated Jun 16, 2023
Photo: InDaily

Photo: InDaily

The ABC said yesterday that all state-based Sunday night 7pm news bulletins would be axed and replaced with a national service, and 120 jobs cut, as part of its digital-first restructure.

The announcement prompted an immediate backlash, with SA Infrastructure Minister Tom Koutsantonis using social media to blast Sydney-based ABC management.

And there it is. Sydney nightly news for the rest of us. The arrogance to believe an entire continent can have its nightly news delivered from Sydney. So much for the rest of us. I for one won’t be watching news that isn’t local. I’ll be watching @7NewsAdelaide & @9NewsAdel on…

— Tom Koutsantonis MP (@TKoutsantonisMP) June 15, 2023

ABC Radio Adelaide breakfast presenter Stacey Lee said on air this morning that axing local 7pm bulletins was a “shame”.

“As someone who has read that state-based 7pm bulletin on a Sunday night, I think it’s a real shame,” she told listeners.

” I personally think that’s a real shame, as someone who has been employed to do that job before. It’s going to be a loss to state-based services.”

Former federal Liberal MP Nicolle Flint also weighed in, saying Sydney should be decentralising, not axing local programming.

The ABC should be decentralising reporting out of Sydney not centralising even more ? Local news is so crucial & what our taxpayer dollars pay for. This is INSANE. What are @AlboMP & @AustralianLabor going to do about this ?

— Nicolle Flint (@NicolleFlint) June 15, 2023

Former ABC Adelaide 7pm newsreader Michael Smyth lashed the “disheartening” move in the chase for digital growth, saying ABC “fat cats” in Sydney should be reminded that “the ABC was established to serve all Australians, even us in the ‘sticks’ “.

Disheartening to see what’s happening at the ABC. Axing more local news in the pursuit of digital audiences. First radio bulletins, now TV. Someone should remind the fat cats in Sydney that the ABC was established to serve all Australians, even us in the ‘sticks’. #ABCNews

— Michael Smyth (@MichaelSmyth_) June 15, 2023

The cuts were revealed as part of the ABC’s five-year plan to become an integrated digital operation by 2028, which required finding “savings and efficiencies to deal with rising costs and to reinvest in its strategic priorities”.

“Everything we make now is digital – there is no delineation between content being for a digital audience or not,” ABC news director Justin Stevens said.

News that ABC’s Canberra-based political editor Andrew Probyn yesterday lost his job as part of the digital-first pivot prompted condemnation from ABC veterans, senior national journalists and industry observers.

Probyn, who led national political coverage for ABC TV and the 7pm news, was told he and his role were no longer needed.

“I’ve been informed that the national broadcaster no longer needs a political editor and that they want to reinvest the money into social and digital reporting roles,” he told Guardian Australia.

Former ABC journalist and Insiders host Barrie Cassidy likened the move to a restaurant sacking its head chef.

No. It’s like saying a restaurant doesn’t need a head chef. The cooks stay. The ABC now needs to explain how the kitchen works without a head chef.

— Barrie Cassidy (@barriecassidy) June 15, 2023

Former Nine political editor Laurie Oakes called the decision “pathetic”, saying the ABC Thursday 7pm bulletin did not include the news that a former Liberal senator had accused a serving Liberal senator – already under fire for claims of sexual harassment inside Parliament House – of “inappropriate touching” in 2020.

InDaily in your inbox. The best local news every workday at lunch time.
By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement andPrivacy Policy & Cookie Statement. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Pathetic!ABC does not have Stoker statement in Van package.And they don’t think they need a political editor.

— LaurieOakes (@LaurieOakes) June 15, 2023

Australian Financial Review political editor Phil Coorey called Probyn “the broadcaster’s best and most constant news breaker”.

“They’ve sacked him because they suddenly don’t need a political editor,” Coorey said.

“What a disgrace from an organisation full of middle-management time servers.”

.@andrewprobyn is the hardest working ABC journalist I know and the broadcaster’s best and most constant news breaker. And they’ve sacked him because they suddenly don’t need a political editor. What a disgrace from an organisation full of middle-management time servers. @abcnews

— Phillip Coorey (@PhillipCoorey) June 15, 2023

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance says axing the political editor and other newsroom roles would leave a “gaping hole” in ABC reporting and “inevitably weaken its ability to deliver quality journalism to the Australian public”.

“Local news coverage will also be lessened, particularly through the axing of the state-based 7pm Sunday television and iView news bulletins,” it said.

MEAA media director Cassie Derrick said the “targeting of longstanding, experienced journalists” would hurt ABC reporting.

“The ABC has been running on empty for the past decade and we are concerned about how it can continue to deliver quality public interest journalism with even fewer staff following these cuts,” she said.

“Local journalism in our country continues to be eroded, and these cuts are a further insult to local audiences.”

Axing the Sunday night 7pm news bulletin produced at the broadcaster’s Collinswood base is the latest move by Sydney-based management to cut local programming and centralise services in Sydney.

Adelaide’s nightly, state-based 7.30 Report program was dropped years ago, to be replaced by Friday night current affairs program Stateline -which was also subsequently axed – leaving South Australia without any dedicated local ABC TV current affairs program examining state issues.

In a statement yesterday, the ABC said Stateline would return as a “digital-first” program, “unpacking the local stories that matter through long form journalism, in-depth interviews and explainers for on-demand and broadcast audience”.

In 2014, local TV program production was also cut and staff made redundant, with the announcement coming the morning after an Adelaide-produced special on the ABC’s iconic Countdown screened nationally to ratings and acclaim.

The SA state manager position was abolished, radio news journalists and producers culled and in a further downgrading of radio in 2020, the flagship 7:45am news bulletin was dumped in what was branded a cost-cutting exercise without explanation of how it actually saved money, given that a journalist-producer was already on duty preparing and reading scheduled bulletins.

Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InDaily.
All rights reserved.