The Guardian • Issue #2015


Save our ABC!

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2015

2022 is the ABC’s 90th anniversary; however, for many, it won’t be one to celebrate. The ABC stated last month – the month of its anniversary – that it would cut seventy-five jobs. Fifty-eight permanent positions and seventeen contractors face the axe on a move that was announced on National Archive Day.

According to the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), “these cuts will lead to over 1200 hours a week of key archival work simply stopping or being pushed onto program makers and journalist who are already overworked and dealing with chronic staff shortages.”

According to The Guardian (UK), the cut to fifty-eight permanent positions would mean that journalists research and archive their own stories”, with the cut to seventeen positions would mean archive staff would be affected in areas “outside Sydney and Melbourne, including three in Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and the Northern Territory, four in South Australia and five in the ACT.”

This isn’t the first time funding cuts have been made to the ABC archives, as CPSU ABC Section Secretary, Sinddy Ealy states:

“The last time the ABC took a knife to its library services in 2019, it promised there would no more loss of specialist work, yet here we are. ABC staff are at the frontline of digitisation and the early uptake of technology. They always have been, but not at the expense of dumbing down content or quality like this change could see.”

While no journalist jobs are being cut, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance media director, Adam Portelli spoke to the “dramatic downstream effects” the cuts would have on other staff and the quality, stating:

“Research services will no longer be available for same-day stories for programs such as 7.30, News Channel, The Drum, iView and online stories, so journalists and producers will be expected to shoulder this burden on top of their current workloads.

“Journalists and producers will be expected to decide which raw camera footage needs to be kept and add the metadata in the system on top of their daily workloads. There is a very real danger that with this added workload, valuable archival footage could be lost.”

The Australian Library and Information Association, the Australian Society of Archivists, and other media and archival organisations have signed an open letter against the cuts stating their “significant concern about the announced reduction” and “the lack of a clear and public plan for the future of the ABC archives, library and information services,” further stating:

“The growth of digital collections, including born-digital and digitised materials, brings with it challenges such as limits on digital storage, unstable file formats, and the risk of permanent loss when content has not been properly stored or described and so cannot later be found. Journalists, while having many skills, do not have skills in digital collection management and preservation. Professional archivists and librarians do.”

With a new Labor government, it is important to reserve the near-decade of cost cuts to the ABC and start refunding our ABC. It is important that we have a national broadcaster that is free from the financial considerations that privately-owned broadcasters face. In this instance, we cannot forget the role the ABC played during the 2019-20 Australian bushfires, providing crucial information for many rural regions. It has also played a significant role in developing Australian talent and showcasing Australia’s diverse cultural backgrounds. Where will the ABC be by its 100th anniversary if these cuts continue?

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