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Welcome to the Friends of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Forum. Here is your chance to have your say about current ABC issues. We hope this will be the place for productive and informative discussions.

-- Anonymous, July 10, 2000


I appreciate 'pro forma' letters put in the Background Briefings, to give us ideas for writing to people, such as Howard and Alston, on subjects such as Mr Shier's lack of commitment to public broadcasting. I have noticed that handwritten letters are the most likely to get a reply from politicians, especially if they are not all written in the same way (paraphrasing is very helpful).

-- Anonymous, September 19, 2000

Rosemary, there will be proforma letters in the next SA newsletter with space for members to add their own comments.

Here are the most significant pieces of news since Background Briefing went out. Things are looking bad for Radio National. Newspaper reports of developments since the newsletter went out. Joan Laing

30/8 Anne Davies, SMH

Plan to seek partnerships with State govts. The governments would offer financial or in-kind support in return for the ABC relocating work such as environment and indigenous programming, and rural and regional affairs, to their states.

News and current affairs could lose as much as $20m from its $117m allocation. Former ABC employee has been put in charge of a review of news and current affairs line-up, but Mr Shier has already indicated he has a preference for a mid-evening news program and that the 7.30 report will go.

There are also fears that the radio current affairs programs AM & PM could become optional on metropolitanand regional stations.

The Science Unit is to be split up with Environment going to Hobart and the rest to Brisbane.

3/9 Wendy Tuohy, The Age

Senior staff at the ABCs radio networks are bracing themselves for a wide-ranging jobs shake-up.

Sarah Benjamin, general manager of radio networks, and deputy to Sue Howard, said she had already decided to resign, as has Kate Miller, the state director of NSW radio. Ms Benjamin said: I have chosen to go. I know Sue Howard would like me to stay and I go with very mixed feelings. If we had a different environment I probably wouldnt have chosen to go.

Last week the high -profile science host Robyn Williams became the first broadcaster to publicly attack the Shier restructure, saying that it had thrown the ABC into turmoil.

He said that while staff were keen to embrace change and wanted to contribute ideas, there had been no consultation.

The wave of changes so far under Mr Shier had been the most drastic Mr Williams had seen, and it was striking that all the decisions had been totally from the top down.

Graeme Thomson, ABC section secretary of the CPSU said staff were concerned that Mr Shier was taking the ABC in a commercial direction, and there are growing concerns about the lack of process  to the restructure.

People just disappear and no reasons are given. People long established in broadcasting go missing without a word.

8/9 Amanda Meade, The Australian

Shier has been ordered by the Industrial Relations Commission to advertise all new jobs in accordance with public service guidelines. the appointment of 15 new department heads has also been questioned, with the commission ordering detailed duty statements within 14 days. The staff union has said that Mr Shiers appointment of a new team breaches the ABCs public service rules and has disadvantaged its members.

11/9 Michelle Gilchrist, The Australian

National Partys federal council believes the ABCs rural and regional role could be at risk.

Mr Anderson said several National Party members had raised concerns about the ABC at the federal council meeting [in the first week of September], with some worried about the future of news and current affairs, including the 7.30 Report.

Mr Anderson said the National Party wanted to emphasise the role of the ABC in presenting an alternative source of rural and regional news. We see the ABC as an information lifeline for many of the people in rural and regional Australia.

Senator Alston, speaking on the Nine networks Sunday program, yesterday backed what he called the quiet revolution taking place under Mr Shier.

The critical thing is that someone coming into an organisation as important as the ABC needs to have a vision, it needs to be shared with senior management and the board, and then decisions will flow down, Senator Alston said.

14/9 Errol Simper, The Australian

The jobs of managing RN, Triple J, Classic FM and News Radio have been abolished.

Steven Alward, manager of RN, has been sacked and leaves in a few days. He is negotiating a redundancy package. He was not encouraged to apply for the new position of heading talks radio, which is to take in RN and NR.

Radio National and News Radio will have one head, as will Classic FM and Triple J. It is thought that the present manager of Triple J, Ed Breslan, has been urged by management to apply for the joint position of head of music.

Peter James, manager of Classic FM, said, I believe the station has been performing in excellent fashion and for the life of me I cant understand why anyone would want to change it. Mr James is recovering from a heart attack and has not been officially notified of the change at this date.

14/9 Peter Wilmoth The Age

Distressing and mindboggling was the way Peter James, head of Classic FM, described the way he was sacked while off work after a heart attack without any formal contact from senior management. I think Im pretty resilient but I have never encountered anything like this in my life. I think the effect on staff is so demoralising. Its so undignified. One wonders what school of management these people were brought up in. Ive been in radio a long time, at the BBC and in the US, and Ive never encountered anything like this. The John Birt revolution at the BBC was quite fierce, pretty draconian, but we were informed about what was happening.

A senior ABC source predicted a long slow, painful death by neglect of all four networks. Without a dedicated manager with his mind firmly on the job for each of them, they will not get the attention they deserve.

-- Anonymous, September 25, 2000

I am a member of the Northern Rivers FABC but am anxious to know if there is any movement afoot to protest - apart from letters to the policitians etc - about these changes to OUR ABC. Obviously they have forgotten who owns it. Grass roots protest is one way to go - can we co-ordinate something??

-- Anonymous, October 31, 2000

In response to Jennifer Nichols' query late last year, in the ACT Region, we're having a "monster rally" on Feb 11, marching on Parliament House from a point in the centre of Canberra, and we're getting pretty excited about it as Ruth Cracknell, Geoff Morrell, John Howard (Bob Jelly), and Quentin Dempster have agreed to speak. It would be terrific if this could be just one of a number of demos around Australia. We got started on this action when we did two things: a big letter- box drop of a leaflet publicising the ABC's plight and calling for new members (and our membership has trebled as a result!), and secondly organising a "toot for the ABC" rally one morning before work in December. It was the huge response to that which prompted us to keep on going. So why not give some of this a try in Northern Rivers? Any help you need for ideas - and how to get free printing etc. - we could pass on to you if you like.

-- Anonymous, January 21, 2001

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