News dept. to lose $2 mil a year, local prod'n lessened

SYDNEY — Staff members at pubcaster ABC are on the verge of mutiny after cuts to budgets in key departments.

Company’s still reeling from a 12% budget cut imposed by the conservative federal government and a clean-out of management since the March appointment of former Thames TV deputy chief exec Jonathan Shier as managing director.

News and current affairs, long the pubcaster’s sacred cow, will lose nearly A$4 million ($2 million) a year. Staffers say the department needed an extra $4 million on top of its $58 million allocation just to maintain standards. About 100 hours of local production may be shaved from TV, after it received $9 million less than it needed, while radio could lose up to $1 million, although online received an additional $1 million and program acquisitions will be boosted by nearly $1 million to replenish dwindling program stocks.

“We can’t keep running (ABC) on the type of funding that we are currently running it on.” The latest wave of appointments includes former Southern Star Primetime G.M. Helen Thwaites, who becomes head of acquisition business management, reporting to her old Southern Star boss Robyn Watts. Former BBC and ITV exec Tony Virgo is the new head of drama, Valerie Hardy deputy drama head.

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