ABC has assured listeners there will be no staff cuts among reporters and presenters in Gippsland when schedule changes take place next year.
Local news bulletins at 8.30am and 5.30pm will be cut and replaced with headline updates.
‘Mornings’ will also disappear and be replaced with an extended ‘Breakfast’ program from 6.30am to 10am and a new program called ‘Local Life’ from 10am to 11am.
ABC Regional director Fiona Reynolds said the changes followed extensive consultation with staff and would allow reporters to be “out on the road more” to gather local stories which could be shared across regions and nationally.
She said the changes were based on meeting audience expectations.
“We know that audiences no longer wait until designated five minute timeslots to find out about their news and information,” Ms Reynolds said.
“The extended breakfast program will have a stronger focus on news and the issues of the day, meaning reporters in the field can feed stories in at a time of the day when our audience is strongest.
“Instead of audiences having to wait until (5.30pm) to hear their local news, it will be included in radio programs, online and through social media throughout the day as events happen. Reporters will also have more opportunity to do live Q and As (questions and answers) in programs.
“There will also be an emphasis on sharing regional content more broadly across regions and nationally. There will be no reduction in news reporters.”
ABC Regional’s schedule shake-up plan drew the ire of Coalition MPs last week and came five months after the national broadcaster closed its Morwell office and moved its Latrobe Valley-based journalist to Sale.
Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester, who described the Morwell decision as “poor” and “city-centric”, warned that ABC senior management needed to ensure there was no less local content overall as a result of the new schedule changes.
He said if the changes allowed ABC Gippsland journalists to cover more local stories such as courts, major incidents or public events, “then that is a positive”.
“Every journalist in Gippsland – whether they work in print, radio, online or TV – is being asked to do more, with less resources,” Mr Chester said.
“Our local radio news journalists no longer just produce news stories. They are being asked to write for online, shoot video for television, post on social media and produce human-interest feature stories – all across a geographical region that covers Phillip Island to Mallacoota. This is a much harder task compared to the workload of a journalist based in a metropolitan studio.
“Gippsland is fortunate to have outstanding community newspapers like the Latrobe Valley Express, daily AM/FM radio news and programs, and a local television news service.
“If we are to ensure that regional stories continue to be told, we must keep our local journalists embedded in the community.”