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Skills loss likely if TV unit closes

IF THE Hobart-based ABC TV production units closes, it’s likely staff would need to be flown in from outside the state to ensure Tasmanian television content.

That’s what the Hobart Senate hearing into the ABC’s Commitment to Reflecting and Representing Regional Diversity heard last week.


On Friday February 1, unions told the hearing there needed to be regional coverage and the loss of the production unit would mean a loss of skills and career paths in Tasmania.

In November – an email from ABC Managing Director Mark Scott saying the internal TV production unit in Hobart would close before any consultation.

Later Mr Scott contacted the Federal PSU and said no final decision about closing the unit had been made – this came after the union lodged a dispute with Fair Work Australia.


Public Sector Union Tasmania Regional Secretary Paul Blake at the Senate hearing into the ABC’s commitment to reflecting and representing regional diversity this morning saying there was a need for a production unit in our state.

The PSU’s submission stated the ABC had an obligation to provide regional production and programming.

The submission quoted ABC staff who said:


Having local and informed staff instead of metro-staff that can fly regionally is important to understand the local climate and circumstances, know who to contact for stories, and to make sure the ABC is the first to report accurate news’ and ‘Local knowledge is always going to be more in depth than ‘outsourcing’. And sending in outsiders can have a negative effect on the talent within the story.”


Friends of the ABC (Tasmania) President Professor Margaret Reynolds also spoke at the hearing.

Prof Reynolds talked about the reliance on importing BBC content rather than using local content that highlighted Australia and its regions. The ABC screens far too many hours of BBC repeats and programs that could so easily be produced to create an Australian identity.

“Why do we have to continually view travel and lifestyle programs, frankly, through the eyes of aging British chaps?”

“Every time we seem to turn on our television sets, especially in holiday periods, it’s Stephen Fry, Stephen Fry, Stephen Fry and more Stephen Fry. This is not about no British content, it’s about getting a much better balance and ensure Tasmanian and Australian film makers can see their talents and work on screen.”


On the impact of closure of the Tasmanian production unit, Prof Reynolds said:

“It’s not just about the loss of jobs… it’s about the ABC’s role as a leader in this industry. It’s not just about those (ABC) jobs but it’s about the jobs, through its leadership it encourages. So it’s obviously the loss of direct ABC jobs in directing, editorial, camera, sound and support functions but it’s also about young filmmakers losing career paths and mentors,” Prof Reynolds said.

The ABC mentors so many film makers and potential film makers. The Tasmanian screen industry will lose key professionals… Some local film makers will be obliged to leave the state and there will be no capacity for creative screen industries to take advantage of the National Broadband Network.”


The ABC’s Mark Scott addressed the committee in the afternoon.

He said the ABC was making a lot of production outside Sydney and Melbourne.

“We want to make production around the country but it comes to ideas that are placed before us”, Mr Scott said. “We like the idea of making programs outside Sydney and Melbourne but it’s the strength of that idea that attracts the funding…”


One panel member raised that since 2008 there was an increase in jobs in New South Wales by 129 and 66 in Victoria, while Tasmania had lost 34, with potentially another 16 if the production unit were to close.

When asked if this was the case how Tasmanians were going to get their stories told, Mr Scott said the ABC was very committed to Tasmania.

“Now we have reached the stage where we run basically National television schedules, if you look at where we are making a lot of local television for our television division, we’re not doing that in Brisbane, we’re not doing that in Western Australia, we’re certainly not doing that in Canberra and Darwin, we won’t be doing that in Tasmania – that is our expectation,” Mr Scott said.  “We are currently undergoing a consultative process around the local production unit.”

ABC management told the inquiry closing the production unit would mean a saving of an excessive of over $1.5 million in labour costs, plus additional “savings”.

Mr Scott said keeping the production unit meant keeping a “high fixed-cost investment here and millions of dollars that go with that over the years”.

When asked how ANZAC day, one of the busiest television production days, would be covered if the production unit closed, Mr Scott said an outside broadcasting (OB) van and staff would be brought over from outside Tasmania.

We are happy to have our performance review over time as to the kinds and ways we are telling Tasmanian stories,” Mr Scott said.

You can read the PSU’s submission, the Friends of the ABC’s submission and other submissions here.


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