ABC news feels the squeeze but refuses to cut Corners | The Weekly Beast | Media
The ABC may be in dire financial straits as its budget gets squeezed even further by the Coalition but there is one program that has had its budget increased.
It was the ABC news director, Gaven Morris, who told the Melbourne Press Club after the $84m federal budget cut was handed down, “Make no mistake, there is no more fat to cut in ABC news. From this point on, we’re cutting into muscle.”
But it is also Morris who has delivered an unprecedented boost to the budget of Four Corners, amid widespread squeezing of program budgets and redundancies across the news division.
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While 22 journalists are to be made redundant within days, the flagship investigative program has received a boost to its $4.5m budget of as much as $1.5m, sources told Weekly Beast.
A spokeswoman for ABC news said the ABC did not comment on program budgets.
However, Morris did tell the press club he was adding four locally made episodes to the Four Corners season, making a total of 44 programs a year.
“EP Sally Neighbour is also already recruiting some digital producer roles so we can ensure this incredible reporting isn’t just shown once on a Monday night but goes on to have an equal digital life as well,” Morris said earlier this month.
“That means taking our best journalism and massively amplifying its audience, impact and value by giving it proper treatment on digital platforms as well as broadcast.”
Budget cuts will be seen elsewhere, however. The ABC is pulling one of its most beloved programs, Australian Story, off-air for eight weeks for a “winter break”, Weekly Beast understands. Monday will see the first episode of a two-part true crime story, Blood on the Tracks, an investigation by Allan Clarke into the death of Mark Haines, a 17-year-old Gomeroi teenager whose body was found on the Tamworth train tracks in 1988. But after that the show will go off air for the month of June and July. That is a first for Australian Story.
The look of loveNow out of parliament, Jacqui Lambie is finding other ways to stay in the public eye. The former Tasmanian senator will appear on Channel Seven’s Sunday Night this weekend in a story about her love life titled Lambie in Love. The cameras will follow her as she uses dating apps, shops for sexy lingerie and is injected with botox. At 47, she is “unemployed and dateless” and “looking for true love”, according to Seven. “But with Sunday Night in tow – and a little help from her friends – Jacqui has begun a new campaign. She’s going all in, throwing herself back into the dating game and on the hunt for her Prince Charming.” It will be Lambie’s classiest media appearance since she told a radio station what she liked in a man. “They must have heaps of cash and they’ve got to have a package between their legs, let’s be honest,” she said on Heart 107.3FM in 2014.
Maiden voyageSky News Australia boss Angelos Frangopoulos won’t be drawn on the future of star political reporter and presenter Samantha Maiden. The Canberra press gallery was awash with speculation on Monday after it emerged Maiden was on leave following complaints about her behaviour in the workplace. Lawyers are involved, sources say. But a Sky News spokeswoman would not be drawn: “We do not comment on internal staff matters.”
A political reporter for two decades, Maiden made a name for herself as a news breaking force for the News Corp Sunday tabloids before quitting to join Sky. No shrinking violet, Maiden wrote in 2016 that the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, had inadvertently sent a text message describing her as a “mad fucking witch” directly to her.
Since joining Sky News last year, she has won some new fans for her strong interviewing skills and her refusal to mimic the political views of most of the Sky News presenters – and her takedown of the Australian’s associate editor and Sky colleague Chris Kenny on Twitter.
Burying the ledeGreat excitement this week as Fairfax Media announced the recruitment of 20 trainee journalists to join the newsrooms of the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age, the Canberra Times, the Australian Financial Review, Brisbane Times and WAtoday. To an industry that has lost 3,000 jobs in five years, the news was welcome.
At the same time as they’re hiring, Fairfax management is trying to undermine the conditions the existing journalists at Fairfax have worked under for many years, according to the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance. “Fairfax management today put its bargaining position forward – an aggressive agenda of cuts to current conditions and no guaranteed pay rises for staff,” the MEAA told members. Some of the longest-serving journalists who took redundancy in recent years walked away with a lot of money because Fairfax did not cap the payout like News Corp does. But now they want to change the agreement to cap redundancies at a maximum of 52 weeks. The journalists’ traditional six-week holiday period is also under fire as management want to drop holiday entitlements from six to four weeks for some journos.
Seven’s heavenThe ABC copped a lot of flak for daring to send a Sydney-based team of Jeremy Fernandez and Annabel Crabb to cover the royal wedding in London. We told you last week that claims by News Corp that they flew business class were hogwash. But sadly, once on the ground in London, Fernandez and Crabb continued to slum it in economy class. The ABC was corralled in a “holding pen” with a very dreary background that made it look like they were broadcasting from an empty park. Meanwhile Seven’s Melissa Doyle and Michael Usher had a prime spot at the centre of the action. In terms of ratings, Seven also won the day with 2m viewers while the ABC had less than one-quarter of that.
But the poor ratings and lacklustre set did not stop the ABC’s intranet site boasting about the “distinctive coverage” that drew 1.6m viewers. Headlined “Audiences Turn to ABC’s First Class Royal Wedding Coverage”, the Pravda-style article failed to disclose how the 1.6m figure was reached.
Markle debaclesOne sour note of the night was the constant referral to the race of Meghan Markle. It was left up to ABC presenter Stan Grant to express disdain for the way commentators kept referring to the bride as “mixed race” or “biracial” – even on the ABC. In an online piece about the world’s obsession with Markle’s race, Grant said: “One British commentator who was part of ABC’s coverage even wondered ridiculously about the future children of Meghan and Harry who, in her words, could be ‘all sorts of colours’.”
The less said about SBS’s coverage the better but co-host Ray Martin shocked many watching by pointing out that Prince Philip had once used the N-word on a visit to Nigeria. SBS edited it out of the SBS On Demand version.