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Aunty swings the axe: 120 jobs to go as ABC guts arts, political coverage

The ABC is preparing to cut up to 120 jobs, including its senior arts team and the role of political editor Andrew Probyn.

Jun 16, 2023, updated Jun 16, 2023
The ABC's national political editor Andrew Probyn says he is "flabbergasted" at losing his role as part of funding cuts at the national broadcaster. (Image: ABC)

The ABC's national political editor Andrew Probyn says he is "flabbergasted" at losing his role as part of funding cuts at the national broadcaster. (Image: ABC)

He was one of the first to confirm he was given the boot and said he was blindsided by the decision.

“I’m pretty flabbergasted,” he told Guardian Australia.

The veteran journalist said he was called into a meeting and told his job was no longer needed.

“I’ve been informed that the national broadcaster no longer needs a political editor and that they want to reinvest the money into social and digital reporting roles,” he said.

Probyn said he was struggling to understand the decision, adding: “Only the political editor at the ABC would understand the scrutiny that comes with this role”.

In an email sent to staff by ABC managing director David Anderson, the company confirmed it had spoken to impacted employees.

“It is anticipated that up to 120 employees will potentially leave the ABC,” the email read.

Online, ABC staff described the redundancies as a bloodbath and said they were furious.

Australian Financial Review political editor Phil Coorey described Probyn as “the hardest working ABC journalist I know and the broadcaster’s best and most constant news breaker”.

“They’ve sacked him because they suddenly don’t need a political editor,” Coorey said.

“What a disgrace from an organisation full of middle-management time servers.”

ABC news director Justin Stevens sent staff a five-year plan for the national broadcaster on Thursday.

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The plan outlined a move away from traditional channels and a shift from three to two divisions, news and content.

It said the ABC would be an integrated digital operation by 2028, and needed to “find savings and efficiencies to deal with rising costs and to reinvest in its strategic priorities”.

“Everything we make now is digital – there is no delineation between content being for a digital audience or not,” Mr Stevens said.

Around 40 positions across the news division are expected to become redundant including journalists, editors, camera and sound operators on 7.30, Australian Story, Four Corners and the investigations team.

Included in the changes will be plans for the return of Stateline and a new Climate, Environment and Energy team. Other cuts include the digital arts editor and the managing editor of arts.

The media union urged the ABC to provide clarity on the restructure, saying it had been poorly communicated by management.

“The ABC has been running on empty for the past decade and we are concerned about how it can continue to deliver quality public interest journalism with even fewer staff following these proposed redundancies,” union official Cassie Derrick said.

The ABC recently finalised a pay deal with staff, which Ms Derrick said was a chance for management to reset its relationship with employees.

“It hasn’t got off to a good start.”

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