ABC’s of downsizing

Aussie pubcaster to farm out production

MELBOURNE – Large-scale layoffs, outsourcing all non-news production, selling around A$345 million ($276 million) worth of property and quitting ventures in orchestras and overseas broadcasting – those are just some of the recommendations of the Mansfield review into Aussie pubcaster the ABC, which was released Friday.

The review was commissioned by the conservative federal government shortly after it was voted into office in March and, contrary to election promises, cut ABC’s annual funding by 12%, to $400 million. The review considered a staggering 10,615 submissions, mainly from individual members of the public expressing their support for the beleaguered pubcaster and objecting to last year’s funding cuts and to the idea that ABC should accept advertising, which Mansfield recommends against.

Mansfield’s proposal for the ABC to contract out most of its production is good news for independent producers, but will result in major layoffs in the main production centers of Sydney and Melbourne. Despite the opposition of ABC management to the idea, federal communications minister Sen. Richard Alston strongly endorsed Mansfield’s outsourcing call, saying, “We have a vibrant and independent production sector in Australia and I think that ABC services would be significantly enriched.”

Should the ABC adopt this change, it would pave the way for it to sell much of its $276 million property portfolio, proceeds from which Mansfield recommends the pubcaster be allowed to keep to fund technology upgrades and to “bear the cost of significant redundancy payments.” Alston was less enthused by this idea, saying only that he would “consider” it.

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