ABC’s regional radio programming will undergo a shakeup in 2016. Photo: Andrew QuiltThe ABC has infuriated Coalition MPs by axing its all its regional flagship ‘Mornings’ programs from next year’s radioschedule.
The ABC will instead extend the ‘Breakfast’ program and introduce a new feature-based program,Local Life, to run from 10am to 11am.
Some regional stations, such as Newcastle, have been told they willbe exempt from the changes.
ABC Newcastle is exempt from the programming cuts to regional stations.
— Michael McGowan (@mmcgowan569) October 29, 2015
Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said on Thursday the decision was “very disappointing”.
“If this is so good, and they claim it will deliver better services to regional communities, well, why not deliver better services for the people Sydney and do the same thing for them?” he asked.
“I think the ABC has lost its way.”
The member for Herbert, Ewan Jones, said he was furiousthat the Mornings program on his local ABC North Queensland would no longer exist.
“I think that [ABC managing director] Mark Scott has lost the plot completely,” he said.
“He won’t be happy until the ABC just becomes a bastion of the intelligentsia in Ultimo, Canberra and Melbourne.
“This is piss poor management from the ABC.”
Mr Jones said he had complained to Communications Minister Mitch Fifield about the decision, which he said had blindsidedregional MPs. The ABC is beginning negotiations with the government about its next three-year funding deal.
Mr Jones said he had “copped a belting” from local Mornings presenter Paula Tapiolas on occasion but that she held politicians to account.
“There is no way this will lead to a better ABC,” Mr Jones said.
ABC head of regional Fiona Reynolds described the changes as “minimal” and said two local presenters would still be required in the mornings.
“ABC Regional is putting more focus on breakfast radio programming with increased production support at a time when we know audiences are strongest, according to the data and feedback from those audiences,” she said.
Ms Reynolds said the changes would allow local reporters “the ability to get out of the office more to gather local and distinctive content”.
The Abbott government last year cut the ABC’s budget by $250 million over five years.
Following that decision the ABC closed down its South n production studios, axed state-based current affairs, axed theBush Telegraphradioprogram and closed some regional reporting outposts.
It also created a new regional division with 50 new jobs.
In a speech earlier this monthMr Scott arguedan ABC funding boost would help it deliver better regional news services.
“My central thesis tonight is that the public’s investment in news at the ABC represents better value for taxpayers than ever – and is more important than ever,” Mr Scott said.
“As commercial media operations struggle with market forces and the slow decline of their business models, the role of the ABC, particularly in respectto news, is becoming increasingly vital to the health of our democracy and culture.
“Nowhere is this being more keenly felt than in rural and regional , where news operations are contracting at an alarming rate.”