2014, will I hope go down as the darkest year in the ABC’s history. I mean it couldn’t get worse than this year could it?
Earlier in 2014 the ABC lost the Australian Network contract. A contract removed just to appease Murdoch – 80 staff, many of them good friends were fired. As Mark Scott said over 1000 years of talent walking out the door (1).
The non-continuation of the Ramp Up Australia funds, which saw the ABC lose the voice of Stella Young as the Editor and a number of key staff that supported this project, a project that helped give some of the most disadvantaged a voice in a market that deems they don’t need one. (2)
Oh but the budget cuts (not forgetting the Abbott lie “No Cuts to the ABC or SBS, weren’t enough) lead to the so called “Efficiency Dividend”, something that would see 10% of staff cut, both front and back of house walking out the door. If 80 staff was a 1000 years of experience walking out the door, what is the impact of 400 staff leaving. To make matters worse, the vast majority of these forced redundancies are just before Christmas. Scrooge looks like a bloody prince compared to the Abbott government kicking so many people out of a job just before Christmas.
Then this week, the shocking and unexpected death of Stella Young. A person I am glad to call a friend and a co-worker. Her passing was not just a loss to the ABC for her going voice in the organisation, but for the NDIS and disability overall.
The announcement that Waleed Aly will no longer work for RN, or the ABC. A voice that is so articulate, clever and witty. Hell, who needs a voice like that we Australia have Bolt, Jones et.al. The loss of Quentin Dempster from the ABC, a mentor to many journalists over the years. This week also saw the final broadcasts from ABC Newcastle and Carol Duncan, a city of over 500,0000 people, relegated to a regional area due to funding cuts.
And sadly tonight the final episode of At the Movies aired. An amazing shift from SBS to the ABC to continue a legacy which I doubt will never be repeated. One of the few changes to the ABC that wasn’t budget and Liberal ideologically driven.
So many “back of office” staff have been cut, those back of office staff many of which are the ones that help shaped the ABC over the last 10 years to be the organisation is it today. People often only think of the on air staff, not the hundreds of people that help put the shows together. Staff that I have seen work 18 hour days when an emergency occurred.
The ABC is an organisation that is digital, responsive and flexible. I could list all the things that the ABC has lead the way on, such as Catch Up TV (IView), Twitter, free 24 hour News, Children’s programming, Websites, Podcasts, Long Form Digital Narratives, Emergency Broadcasting etc. Sure the rest of the media are still playing catch up, but according to the Liberals, we need to cut the ABC, so they are more efficient. Or another way, the Liberals want the ABC cut so they don’t look efficient compared to Murdoch’s effluent media.
Our ABC has suffered more in 2014 than even under the Shire and Howard years, the fear is at least 2 more years of a hostile Abbott and Turnbull government will see even more drastic cuts is utterly incomprehensible and yet so frighteningly real I hate to think what the next few budgets and “efficiency dividends” will bring.