SYDNEY: Australia’s public broadcaster announced Wednesday it will cut 250 staff, the latest in a slew of redundancies as the country’s conservative government seeks to slash taxpayer funding.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation — which is routinely maligned by ruling conservative politicians and Rupert Murdoch’s competing mastheads — will seek tens of millions of US dollars in savings as its government funding continues to be cut.
“We anticipate we will farewell as many as 250 people through this process,” ABC Managing Director David Anderson said outlining a five-year restructuring plan.
Anderson said the redundancies were inevitable after the broadcaster’s budget was effectively slashed by $58 million over three years.
According to the ABC, its annual revenue from the government was around Aus$879 million this financial year.
ABC operates across the Australian continent, with reporters based in rural and remote areas, and is the nation’s most trusted outlet according to a recent public opinion survey.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the restructuring was needed to adapt to a changing media landscape. He welcomed a plan to move 75 percent of staff out of the broadcaster’s Sydney headquarters.
“The ABC needs to reflect all of Australia, and Sydney is not Australia,” Fletcher told reporters.
The cutbacks follow a long list of redundancies and closures at Australian media outlets, with the crisis in the news business made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
The national newswire AAP announced earlier this month it would cut half its staff after narrowly avoiding closure, and prior to that, News Corp. had said it would stop printing more than 100 regional and local newspapers.
The media union said government funding cuts were vindictive and ideological, designed to undermine the independence of the broadcaster.
“The Coalition Government’s war against the ABC … amounts to nothing less than vandalism of one of Australia’s most trusted and valued public institutions,” Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance chief executive Paul Murphy said.