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Switch off date for Australia Network still unclear, as ABC staff prepare for redundancies

Australia networkThe precise date for the switch off of the Australian Network remains unclear as staff, with international satellite television service which broadcasts in 44 countries across Asia and the Pacific, wait anxiously for news the extent of redundancies and what impact the loss government funding will have on the public broadcaster’s ABC International operation.

The Australian union representing many ABC staff, the Community Public Sector Union (CPSU) has called on the broadcaster to clarify the impact of recent budget cuts and in particular the Australian Government’s decision to axed 10-year contract for the Australia Network which is worth $223m to the broadcaster.

CPSU President Michael Tull said: “We understand that the ABC has been placed in a difficult position by the Government  but staff are really anxious about their futures.”

“It’s now been 50 days since the Budget when staff were told that in three months they would be out of a job and still ABC management says it is unable to shed any more light on the situation.”

In an email to staff last week, ABC International boss Lynley Marshall acknowledged the frustration among staff. “I want to reassure you that the ABC is putting every effort into building a new blueprint for ABC International and in providing clarity for our staff and those in other divisions who may be affected,” wrote Marshall.

“The Board has asked ABC International management to provide it with additional information on a reformatted International service that delivers on our Charter obligations within the confines of a reduced budget. The focus has been on developing a service that both builds on our past successes and positions us to capitalise on growth opportunities.”

“A revised proposal will be provided to the Board in coming days for their urgent consideration. The ABC is also negotiating with DFAT on the costs of existing the AN (Australian Network) contract.”

Despite media reports that the Australia Network may cease broadcast as early as July 1 the network continues broadcasting in Asia.

It is understood that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) which administers the contract is currently in discussion with the ABC with funding for the TV network to continue for only 90 days after the May 13 announcement. This timeline would see the network stop broadcast by mid August.

In her email Marshall told staff: “Unfortunately, until we receive further advice from the Board and resolve the outstanding legal and financial issues with DFAT, I am unable  to provide any more detail.

“I do understand that this is a particularly difficult time for everyone. Please be assured that we are putting every possible effort into achieving the very best result we can in the current environment and finalising the process as soon as practicably possible.”

The CPSU said Australia Network staff had been indicate who might consider a redundancy. “They can’t have it both ways,” said Tull. “These delays are just prolonging the pain and the ABC has a duty to consult unions and staff when making changes  and therefore CPSU has commenced action to force the issue – either ABC management start consulting now or we will take the case to the Fair Work Commission.”

A spokesman for the ABC said the public broadcaster was consulting its staff with Marshall speaking to ABC International staff in Sydney on Friday other staff in Melbourne and Adelaide on Monday.

“Work is still continuing on the new model and the ABC is hopeful it will be able to discuss details of the service with staff in the near future. Until then we have no comment on this matter,” said an ABC spokesman.

Nic Christensen

Marshall’s full email to staff:

I want to reassure you that the ABC is putting every effort into building a new blueprint for ABC International and in providing clarity for our staff and those in other divisions who may be affected.

The Board has asked ABC International management to provide it with additional information on a reformatted International service that delivers on our Charter obligations within the confines of a reduced budget. The focus has been on developing a service that both builds on our past successes and positions us to capitalise on growth opportunities.

A revised proposal will be provided to the Board in coming days for their urgent consideration. The ABC is also negotiating with DFAT on the costs of existing the AN contract.

Unfortunately, until we receive further advice from the Board and resolve the outstanding legal and financial issues with DFAT, I am unable  to provide any more detail. I do understand that this is a particularly difficult time for everyone.

Please be assured that we are putting every possible effort into achieving the very best result we can in the current environment and finalising the process as soon as practicably possible.

As soon as I am able, I will be advising you of the proposed International service and we will be commencing consultation on its impact and implementation.

As always, I am available for anyone to contact me should you have any questions or comments regarding the process.

Lynley Marshall

CEO ABC International

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