Aussie B’casting Corp. downsizes

SYDNEY – Responding to government-imposed budget cuts, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. unveiled a sweeping restructuring Monday involving a merger of TV and radio divisions, a thinning in the layers of senior management by 20%, and changes in several key posts.

“It is a defining moment for the ABC,” managing director Brian Johns said, adding that the restructuring will go “some way towards meeting” the government’s funding cut of A$55 million ($44 million) in the 1997-98 fiscal year.

The pubcaster’s old divisions are being scrapped and replaced by four program-oriented areas: national networks (including the TV network, five radio webs, multimedia, and sat service Australia Television); regional services; news and current affairs; and program creation (turning out drama, comedy, education, science, children’s, and other specialized programs).

Andy Lloyd-James, previously head of TV drama, is elevated to head of national networks. Penny Chapman, who was head of television, becomes general manager of network TV, reporting to Lloyd-James. The ABC is advertising internally and externally for the post of head of program creation.

Johns said the ABC would save $21.6 million by ending duplication, cutting back on non-program areas, and making inhouse production more competitive. The org has already shed 300 jobs among its 5,300 staffers, and Johns has estimated a further 600 redundancies (all voluntary, it is hoped), including 60 managers.

Despite speculation that the ABC’s board would agree to seek private investors for its cash-strapped Australia Television, an ABC spokeswoman told Daily Variety that options were still being discussed, and there may not be a decision until March.

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