I am sharing this post for friends and writers in Australia and others who follow the work of the ABC. The article was posted by the Australian Society of Authors today.
The Government and the ABC – A Christmas Special
In the ricochet of the Abbott government’s $254 million, 5% cut to the ABC over five years, it has been announced that more than 300 ABC staff would lose their jobs over the next period.
Impacts on Australian writers.
This will have a serious impact on writers. Among the departures will be people who create scripts, intros, narrative, jokes, segues, back-announces and such other incidentals that radio and television production need. Producers, program makers, presenters, commissioning editors – many of whom wield precious word skills to produce ‘content’ – will also be eliminated.
We express sympathy and solidarity with salaried or contract staff who will find themselves terminated – but equal sympathy must go to the freelance writers who have relied on the meagre copyright or broadcast fees payable for use of their work.
The proposed closure of Poetica, Mike Ladd and Krystyna Kubiak’s long-standing program celebrating and supporting poetry in Australian life, is a further betrayal of the national broadcaster’s Charter, which includes: “… programs that contribute to a sense of national identity and inform and entertain, and reflect the cultural diversity of the Australian community …”
Poetica has run every week since February 1997 bringing poetry to a mainstream audience on ABC Radio National. From this program alone it appears that 9 out of 18 producers – i.e. writers – are to be sacked. At its peak Poetica reached 90,000 listeners per week, with many more via the internet.
Poetica made 900 programs, 60% of which featured contemporary Australian poets. It brought their work to a wide audience and provided the poets with some much-needed income through the fees paid for broadcast. Their publishers benefitted through some exposure. And booksellers reported a rise in enquiries and sales of the poetry titles featured.
In the absence of a dedicated poetry program with its own timeslot and separate website, assurances that poetry will continue to be featured on Radio National are merely a sop.
Poetica is one of many culturally valuable writing-centred programs to have been axed in recent years; others include The Book Reading and Short Story. It appears that this latest is a ‘specialist’ program of a kind that no longer lies within the brief of the broadcaster – or if it does, is not worth paying for.
Despite the ABC Charter, ABC programmers more and more ignore the need to respond to and facilitate ‘special interests’. If the ABC does not actively and vigorously support such an interest as literary creativity – something that is central to education and the nation’s intellectual life and arts – what exactly does it support?
The ABC’s efforts to ape the styles and motives of commercial media and internet organisations are meanwhile risible. 100 people are to go from News and Current Affairs to fund a $20 million digital investment program and 70 new digital jobs, suggesting it will now seek new space in a highly competitive online environment, with no guarantee of further reach or loyal audiences.
The ASA accuses the ABC of ill-informed, uncaring behaviour and helping to send writers broke. Shame on ABC management and shame on its political masters.
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