ABC wields axe on staff, arts programs

Three ABC arts programs and several production staff have been given the axe from the public broadcaster due to the “increasing financial pressures” and focus on primetime programming, director of television Kim Dalton confirmed yesterday.

In a written statement to ABC staff, as reported in the media, the former Australian Film Commission’s chief executive said staff redundancies had been proposed in NSW, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Northern Territory. Meetings took place with the affected-talent yesterday.

He denied reports the broadcaster had slashed its whole arts production branch.

“ABC TV management recognises that this can be a very difficult time for some staff and will ensure all the appropriate support is offered,” Dalton said.

“However in the face of an increasingly competitive broadcasting environment and increasing financial pressures, ABC TV must ensure it uses its Government funding as efficiently and effectively as possible to deliver maximum value to its audiences and the Australian taxpayer.”

In 2009-10, the ABC received about $912 million in federal government funding and the three years to 2012, this will equate to almost $2.85 billion.

However, Graeme Thomson, the ABC section secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, said cutting programs, sacking staff and outsourcing production was a breach of its charter and could jeopardise this funding.

“Taxpayers have the right to be outraged by the dismantling of their ABC,” he said in a statement.

“This announcement raises serious questions about whether the ABC is delivering against its legislative charter, Parliament’s justification for the ABC’s [near] one billion budget.”

Under the ABC shake-up, The New Inventors, The Collectors and Art Nation have been cancelled, while At The Movies and First Tuesday Book Club dodged the axe. Dalton said falling audience numbers also contributed to the programs being cancelled.

Thomson said giving Art Nation the boot was an act of “cultural vandalism”.

Sydney’s The New Inventors finishes on August 17, The Collectors on September 23 and Art Nation on November 27. A new show from the team who produced The Collectors, entitled Auctions, has been commissioned, and will air next year.