David Anderson.

ABC managing director David Anderson said today the broadcaster is farewelling 229 staff, a combination of voluntary and forced redundancies.

While that is fewer than the 250 departures which he flagged as a response to the Federal Government’s three year, $84 million indexation pause, he told a Senate Estimates hearing: “The ABC Five-Year Plan announcement has not been without a significant degree of pain for the ABC. 

“In meeting the pause on indexation for the remainder of this triennium funding period, in addition to previous budget cuts, we’ve made difficult decisions that have affected both staff and services.”

Those 229 employees are from all divisions and teams including some well-known and highly experienced journalists and presenters, as well as support staff.

Anderson told the hearing there have been major shifts in the consumption of media during the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by more people at home with a greater need for those services.

In this environment, he said, the ABC has been more important than ever:

  • ABC TV and iview have both grown reach, with live ABC News streaming key to this.
  • ABC News digital has reached new heights: number one across all demographics, with engagement up 80 per cent compared to 2019.
  • The ABC News website was Australia’s top digital news site in September for the ninth consecutive month.
  • In the latest radio ratings survey, ABC radio achieved its highest reach since 2004.
  • 1.6 million average monthly users have visited ABC Kids on iview – across all websites and apps, an increase of 36 per cent year-on-year. Bluey remains the number one kids’ program with a 2.5 million VPM average audience audience.
  • ABC Kids reaches 62 per cent of kids aged up to four each week.

In his closing remarks he welcomed the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision to not proceed with any action against ABC journalist Dan Oakes over his reporting of allegations about Australian soldiers committing war crimes in Afghanistan.

However in a swipe at the protracted Australian Federal Police investigation, he said: “This matter should have never gone so far.  It is more than three years since the ABC published The Afghan Files and over a year since the AFP raided our Ultimo building, hunting for information on the confidential sources for that reporting.

“In that time, great resources and efforts have been wasted pursuing the confidential source of stories that were accurate and clearly in the public interest.  As we have maintained all through this saga, Australians deserve better of their democracy. 

“They deserve legislation that offers proper protection of journalists, their sources and the public’s right to know.”

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