The ABC’s closure of its TV production unit in Tasmania with a loss of 17 jobs could represent a breach of the public broadcaster’s charter, the Community and Public Sector Union said.

Management’s decision to axe TV production, which was made without consulting staff, is a retreat from local programming and bad news for the state, the CPSU’s Regional Director of Tasmania Paul Blake said.

“The ABC has been beating a retreat from local programming for some time now but this decision demonstrates its lack of commitment to Tasmania, our stories and our voice.”

“The ABC is in breach of its charter and it’s not just us saying it, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy seems to think so too. Management has rushed into making this decision before the triennial funding package is announced next year. Why not wait until it could have been saved?”

The ABC Charter states:  “To provide broadcasting programs that contribute to a sense of national identity and inform and entertain, and reflect the cultural diversity of, the Australian community.”

Mr Blake said the decision showed that the ABC was far from transparent in its dealings with the community and cited a recent Parliamentary hearing in which it was asked about its commitment to Tasmania.

“Only last month the ABC’s managing director Mark Scott was asked by Senators of his plans around TV production in Tasmania and all he could say was that ‘No decision has been made around a change in Tasmania at this point’. It’s clear from today’s announcement that the ABC says one thing to one audience and something entirely different to another.”

The CPSU is now calling upon the ABC to reconsider its decision which will have a major impact on local families as well as the arts on the island.

The ABC’s production unit used to make Gardening Australia in its studios and the now-defunct arts program The Collectors. More recently it had been producing an interim program The Auction Room.  The 17 jobs in TV production represents close to a fifth of the Corporation’s total workforce in Tasmania.

• Andrew Wilkie: I am disappointed

I am very disappointed the ABC is cutting up to 16 local jobs. 

I lobbied ABC Managing Director Mark Scott some months ago about the importance of maintaining the local production capability and spoke with him again this afternoon to express my concern.

In my opinion the decision is at odds with the ABC’s obligations as a publicly-funded broadcaster and any job losses are a big hit to the local community.

• Greens: Decision to axe ABC Tasmania production must be reversed

Greens communications spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam, Senators for Tasmania Greens leader Christine Milne and Peter Whish-Wilson. 20 November 2012.

The move to close down the ABC’s Hobart television production unit would be “grossly unjust for the people of Tasmania”, the Australian Greens said today.

Greens communications spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam said closing the Tasmanian unit would “violate the spirit and the letter of the national broadcaster’s charter – which stresses the need to represent voices from across the nation”.

“We don’t want to see 17 jobs disappear, and we don’t want to see less local content on our ABC.  An ABC that sources its Australian content exclusively from two cities would not be a real national broadcaster;  it wouldn’t fulfil the role the ABC was established to fulfil.”

Greens leader and Senator for Tasmania Christine Milne said “By further centralising its operations in Sydney and Melbourne, this move will deny rural and regional Australia its stories.  Tasmania’s production facilities and skilled people are second to none, this decision is short sighted and must be reversed”.

Greens Senator for Tasmania Peter Whish-Wilson said the decision made “no economic or cultural sense”.

“We should be supporting and promoting smart service industries in Tasmania, not cutting them back.  With the roll-out of the NBN we could be exporting digital productions to the world in a cost competitive environment.”

Other Creative Industries Will Be Impacted

Cassy O’Connor MP
Greens Arts & Culture Spokesperson
Wednesday, 21 November

The Tasmanian Greens today urged all Tasmanians to fight the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s decision to close the Hobart production unit, with the associated loss of up to 16 creative industry professionals.

Greens Arts & Culture spokesperson Cassy O’Connor MP said that the move to centralise production in the major cities was short sighted and would diminish the quality and depth of local storytelling.

“The ABC’s management in Sydney have delivered and another slap in the face to regional Australia with this appallingly short-sighted decision,” Ms O’Connor said.

“This will have a big impact on other creative industries like film and documentary production, as skilled freelance producers and camera operators who rely on the ABC for casual work head interstate.”

“If we don’t do something about it and stand up to the Sydney-based management of the ABC, that is where production will be centralised.”

“Since it was created, the ABC’s greatest achievement has been its ability to capture the regional flavour of Australia, and promote diversity and breadth of our culture.”

“Centralising ABC production to the large capital cities will not only lead to bland and undifferentiated content, it will destroy the development and training of new talent across the industry in regional areas.”

“This is the second poor decision by the ABC’s management in a week, after they axed the highly innovative and original Marngrook Footy Show.”

“As the national broadcaster, the ABC has an obligation in its charter to promote regional storytelling by supporting local production.”

“This also begs the question for the unionists like Paul Howes as to what they will do to fight these cuts, now that actual jobs are being lost.”

As Peter Cundall pays out: ‘More badly written drama from Sydney’, Cathy Alexander, Crikey here

‘More badly written drama from Sydney’: critics slam ABC centralisation

Crikey deputy editor |  EMAIL   |  COMMENT


Of the ABC television programs currently on air, and wholly funded and produced by the network, just three are made outside of Sydney or Melbourne.

ABC managing director Mark Scott yesterday announced he would axe non-local TV production in Tasmania as part of a cost-saving mission to further centralise the network.

Tasmania produced The Collectors and Auction Room, which have both been dumped with the loss of 16 jobs. That leaves Poh’s Kitchen (Adelaide), Australian Story and Landline (Brisbane) as the only TV programs which are fully funded by the ABC and made outside of network hubs in Sydney and Melbourne.

ABC identity Peter Cundall, who featured in the Tasmanian production of Gardening Australia, slams Scott’s decision to cease non-news TV production in Tasmania. “It’s a massive, massive disappointment for everyone,” Cundall told Crikey.

“We’ll get more Sydney-centric stuff ... more empty, badly written drama, more second-rate production mainly from Sydney and Melbourne. The aim of the ABC is to cover the whole of Australia; that’s now been drastically reduced.”

Cundall says it’s no surprise ABC management, mostly based in Sydney, have decided to cut production in the regions. His suggestion: cut from Sydney instead. “There’s an enormous amount of people wandering around [Sydney HQ],” Cundall said, comparing them to Tasmania’s “world class” production staff.

Cundall’s views have been backed, less passionately, by federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and former ABC managing director David Hill. The latter told Crikey it’s an “atrocious piece of timing to be rationalising TV production right now”.

“They’ve just had a renewal of their funding, as Conroy points out. They can hardly be crying poor mouth,” Hill said. “On the basis of pure efficiency, you’d only have one TV production centre but the ABC has a responsibility to reflect the whole of this huge island nation.”

Hill says the ABC should produce TV programs—not just news and current affairs bulletins—in every state. “Tasmania has always been a difficult issue. It’s got a small population but it is a state and is part of the great tapestry and cultural aspiration of this country. Every state should be in the mix,” he said.

Scott defended his decision in an email to staff:

“The decision does not reflect on them or on the wider Tasmanian branch. The fact is that Tasmania does not have the scale and market to justify the high fixed costs involved in maintaining an internal television production unit and associated labour and infrastructure.”

Some ABC employees in Tasmania had been expecting the axe might fall on TV at some stage. But they’re angry and worried about losing their jobs after management arrived “like a military detachment” (as one said) to announce the news in Hobart yesterday. Management is still on site discussing redundancies and entitlements.

The ABC is pushing for a co-production funding model in the regions, already in operation in Western Australia and South Australia. The model, under which the ABC joins with state governments or other investors to co-fund TV production, has seen a range of programs made recently, including Race to London, Croc College and Jillaroo (all in South Australia), and Vet School, Boomtown West, Who’s Been Sleeping in My House, Will’s Big Twitch and Dream House (WA).

Scott says the ABC wants to invest $1.5 million over three years for co-production ventures in Tasmania, probably with the assistance of the state government-backed Screen Tasmania. But some local ABC staff are concerned the cash-strapped Tasmanian government may not be able to contribute much.

Critics claim the ABC is breaching its charter, which states the national broadcaster’s functions include “broadcasting programs that contribute to a sense of national identity and inform and entertain, and reflect the cultural diversity of, the Australian community”. Greens leader Christine Milne told Crikey: “Its objective as a national broadcaster is to be a national broadcaster.” She says the regions should be able to tell their own stories; planning to fly film crews out to the regions occasionally is not good enough.

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne told Crikey that Gardening Australia (formerly made in Tasmania, now in Melbourne) and The Collectors were well produced and loved by audiences around the country, whereas Auction Room had been set up to fail with a graveyard timeslot as ABC management worked towards centralising production in Sydney.

Milne plans to move a motion in the Senate this afternoon, which she expects to be supported by all three parties. Milne criticised Scott for “widdling away” the ABC presence in Tasmania, describing the decision as short-sighted.

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• Friends of the ABC, : ABC or PBC (Private Broadcasting Corporation)

“ABC management must be called to account for its plan to axe Tasmanian ABC TV production,” said Glenys Stradijot, a spokesperson for Friends of the ABC (Vic).

“Friends of the ABC is wondering how long it will be before the ABC changes its name to the Private Broadcasting Corporation, with only its main office in Sydney and an outpost in Melbourne?

“The ABC is increasingly directing its resources to outsourced drama and documentary programs at the expense of in-house television production. And in doing so, it is also shutting down television production and coverage of local events in smaller states.

“ABC management is acting with flagrant disregard for the public broadcaster’s responsibility to be a national broadcaster that reflects the interests of the community right across Australia,” said Glenys Stradijot.