ABC workers face layoffs

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SYDNEY -- The Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s workforce is bracing for a round of pink slips after the pubcaster’s managing director Mark Scott confirmed Thursday there would be redundancies under a restructuring of its television production capabilities.

While Scott didn’t specify the number of staff that would be made redundant or the cost savings involved, he said the creation of a new ABC Resources division would “provide the ABC with a more flexible, multi-skilled production workforce able to provide facilities and skilled staff to both internal and external production.”

Part of the plan includes replacing TV News studio technology with automated systems. It follows the announcement earlier this month that the ABC would build a continuous news center that will deliver news 24 hour-a-day to the ABC’s TV channels, along with ABC Online, Australia Network, radio, IPTV, PDAs, broadband clients, and mobile phones .

"One of the great challenges for the ABC is to keep faith with our traditional audiences on radio and TV, while keeping pace with audience trends in the rapidly emerging digital media space, notably the delivery of content via broadband," Scott said. "To meet this challenge we need to harness the potential of new technology and have a more flexible workforce."

But ABC staff and their unions are concerned that the moves will lead to all production at the national broadcaster eventually being outsourced to the independent sector.

Community and Public Sector Union official Graeme Thompson told ABC Radio "automation of TV studios will limit production. It will drive further production outsourcing to the private sector. There will be a lot of anxious people in the ABC workforce."
Scott said the ABC would continue with a mix of international and external production.

“The ABC is committed in the future to being a broadcaster and a producer of its own material as it is today. That means sourcing the best quality material at the best price from both our own producers and the independent production sector.

The unspecified savings he said “will allow the ABC to produce more content, including more news content, for our audiences. We also plan to set aside some of the savings to fund additional TV production from outside Sydney and Melbourne.”

The broadcaster is currently seeking additional funding to run a third digital channel for children, and to increase its production slate. It currently receives around AUS$800 million per year ($720 million) in government funding.

The new ABC Resources division comes into operation July 1.
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