ABC Radio Senior Staffers Up In Arms Over Restructure Plan

On Air sign in a studio broadcasting via radio, podcast or wireless transmission.

Senior members of staff at ABC Radio have reportedly condemned the public broadcasters’ restructure proposition, saying it will create “serious consequences” for listeners.

Emma Mackenzie
Posted by Emma Mackenzie

In an exclusive piece for The Guardian, writer Amanda Meade said many veteran broadcasters had written to the ABC’s board expressing their concerns.

The restructure will see a consolidation of executive management across a number of ABC’s radio networks – Radio National, Triple J, local radio, Classic FM, and News Radio.

In a statement to B&T, the ABC said the restructure will not include mergers between the networks or stations, nor will it impact the content or production teams.

The restructure is in response to the changing media landscape, said the ABC, and aligns with the network’s 2020 positioning in the digital future. See the end of this article for ABC’s statement in full.

However, in a letter to the ABC board, obtained by The Guardian, many senior members of staff said they find it hard to believe the restructure will do anything other than bleed money.

“Given what we have been told about the state of the ABC budget, we find it difficult to believe that an expensive new structure will do anything but leach more money away from content-making and the very audiences we seek to serve,” they reportedly said to chairman Jim Spigelman.

One point of contention was that the restructure announcement happened before incoming boss Michelle Guthrie had completely taken the helm.

Guthrie, a former Google exec, starts in May but is currently being shown the ropes by outgoing boss Mark Scott.

“We find it breathtaking that senior management announces such a restructure before the new managing director has commenced,” the letter said.

News Corp’s The Australian is this morning reporting Michael Mason, director of ABC Radio, is hoping to talk to those who signed the letter.

He told The Australian of the restructure: “What this does is ensure that radio has a ­viable and sustainable future across the ABC by building further on that great content strength radio brings to the ABC as the home of arts, science, ­religion and all its other specialist areas.

“This ensures one, we look after our linear audience, and two, we are able to meet our digital audience and have more of that radio content exposed across the ABC, particularly in news.”

In a statement, the ABC said: “ABC Radio has received feedback from staff as part of last week’s announcement and will address that feedback once it has been compiled and reviewed.”

ABC’s full statement:

ABC Radio has announced changes to its Radio Executive team designed to increase its ability to meet audience expectations and respond to challenges in the industry.

These changes are the culmination of a significant body of work in developing our 2020 strategy. ABC Radio has chosen to make these changes in response to the pace of change in the media landscape and the increasing number of digital platforms.

The executive changes will ensure ABC Radio is in a position to continue to evolve its networks and position it for a digital future. The restructure does not include any mergers between networks or stations.

ABC Radio has been working for the past year to identify the major projects necessary to position it as a leader in the digital audio space, while strengthening its connections with linear audiences on all its networks. The new structure enables it to take these projects forward.

These changes formalise the role of Head, Strategy and Transformation which has been funded for nearly a year now. The reality of the current leadership model is there is little time to deliver these projects while continuing to drive Radio’s existing strategic imperatives, deliver creative excellence and continue to undertake day to day operations.

The two additional roles of Head, Music and Head, Spoken, will give ABC Radio the capacity to do this.

Along with other members of the senior executive, they will be charged with delivering these transformational projects ahead of 2020 along with content leads

The Head of Business & Resource Planning position has been abolished, leading to one redundancy. The role will be replaced by that of Head, Partnerships, Business and Operations.

Overall, the increase in head count to the Radio Executive team is two positions.

The outlay we’ve made into all new and upgraded roles represents a modest investment against the saving we need to make for reinvestment into content.

These changes will not impact any content, presenters or production teams and are funded within current budget. They will lead the work to ensure that ABC Radio meets its reinvestment funding targets.

ABC Radio has received feedback from staff as part of last week’s announcement and will address that feedback once it has been compiled and reviewed.