Saturday 30 July 2011

ABC | 100 jobs at risk in ABC outsourcing drive

New Inventors
James O'Loghlin, on the set of 'The New Inventors' in Sydney. Picture: John Fotiadis Source: Supplied

ABC television staff have called on managing director Mark Scott to stop outsourcing production ahead of the expected cancellation next week of ABC productions The New Inventors, The Collectors and Arts Nation.

Some staff believe that the job losses could amount to 100 positions.

Media understands the ABC's director of television Kim Dalton is going to announce the end of a raft of ABC-produced shows to add to the growing list he has already axed: Spicks and Specks, Talking Heads, Can We Help and the Hopman Cup.

In a letter delivered to Mr Scott yesterday, staff said the quality of Australian content was at risk. "Under the current mixed model of production, ABC TV internal production staff and budgets have been steadily eroded. Starved of resources and opportunities, we are finding it increasingly difficult to deliver the quality content that the Australian public deserves."

The letter was signed by TV production staff in Sydney.

Sources say up to 100 people, including camera operators, researchers, directors and producers in the television and resources division as well as regional production staff in Adelaide and Perth are set to be retrenched.

The model pursued by Mr Dalton, who has pursued a strategy of outsourcing ABC-produced shows to independent production houses, risks the broadcaster becoming merely a funding body, or a "mere facilitator of the private TV production market", staff said in the letter.

Mr Dalton did not deny jobs or program cuts in a statement to Media in response to questions.

"Television is not a static business. Planning is ongoing around programming, the production slate and the management of resources. Programs may be cancelled - such as Talking Heads or Can We Help. Key talent may decide not to proceed with ongoing series - such as Maggie Beer and Cook And The Chef or Adam Hills and Spicks and Specks," he said.

"Programs are moved in the schedule - such as Poh's Kitchen. New programs are commissioned - such as the drama Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, the comedy At Home With Julia or the sports show Marngrook Footy Show.

"ABC TV's primary objective is always to deliver the best quality and diverse service it can to its audiences."

In their letter to Mr Scott, staff wrote: "We also firmly believe that for the ABC to continue to deliver quality Australian television content it must afford its staff the opportunity to create innovative, value for money content."

The staff letter called for an audit of the relative costs of internal versus external production has been ignored by Mr Scott.

"We believe that the current bias shown for external production is based on the false premise that we are less efficient," the staff said.

"External studies have in the past demonstrated this not to be the case. Before the ABC further dismantles internal production we urge you to address the questions that were presented to you in the open letter of 27 May 2011."

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