Extract from ABC News
Photo: The Lewis review has formed the basis for some of the cuts being made by the ABC and SBS. (ABC Australia and SBS logos)
The Greens say a leaked review into efficiency at the ABC and SBS shows there is no way that cuts of the scale imposed by the Government could have been made without having an impact on programming.Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam has obtained a leaked copy of parts of the draft efficiency review of SBS and the ABC written by Peter Lewis, who spent many years as chief financial officer of Seven West media.
The review has formed the basis for some of the cuts being made by the ABC and SBS in response to Federal Government budget measures.
Until now, the document the Government commissioned has been kept secret apart from an executive summary.
Lewis efficiency review recommends:
- The ABC and SBS share premises in Sydney and Melbourne
- Removing ABC state and territory directors in every capital city
- The two broadcasters stop paying for their services to be rebroadcast on Foxtel
- Sell off outside broadcast vans and its Melbourne news helicopter
- The ABC sell off property at Lanceley Place in Sydney
Senator Ludlam said it should be publicly released before a Senate estimates hearing on Monday into the ABC cuts.
"At the very least have the courtesy to give senators the material in time for budget estimates hearings on Monday," he said.
He said it showed the efficiencies the Government wants cannot be found without making cuts to programs and content.
"You go through what we've seen of the report and it's very, very clear that there's no way, really, that mangement could have made cuts of the size that government is imposing on it without impacts on programming. I mean, that's now crystal clear," Senator Ludlam said.
"It should really put that whole myth to rest the idea that it could all be done in the back office.
- Federal Government cutting $254 million over five years from the ABC budget
- More than 400 ABC staff - close to 10 per cent - could lose their jobs
- Adelaide TV production studios to close
- State-based 7.30 programs on Friday to be scrapped and replaced with national 7.30 program
- Lateline moved to a new timeslot on ABC News 24
- Foreign bureaux will be restructured to create "multiplatform hubs" in London, Washington, Jakarta and Beijing
- The Auckland bureau will close down and a new Beirut post will be opened
- Regional radio posts in Wagin, Morwell, Gladstone, Port Augusta and Nowra to close
- ABC Local, Radio National and ABC Classic FM programming changed, with programs including Bush Telegraph scrapped
- State-based local sports coverage scrapped
- New regional division and ABC Digital Network, to begin in mid-2015, and a $20 million digital investment fund
"These are efficiencies that the ABC's been kind of combing through and trying to achieve for years, it's not that there were 400 people sitting around around the country doing nothing waiting to be shown the door.
"I think the figures finally contradict the Minister's idea that this could be done without impacting programming so I hope he stops saying that."
Senator Ludlum opposes some of the ideas in the review - including one to impose a charge for using the ABC's catch-up service iView.
"That the ABC should try and monetise its online presence either through paywalling - forcing people to pay to see some of the content - or to start taking advertising is a line that I think we shouldn't cross," he said.
"To apply commercial imperatives to a public broadcaster is precisely the wrong way to go."
But he concedes that it costs the broadcasters to distribute the programs over the internet.
"Whereas obviously the additional cost to the ABC of someone turning on a radio somewhere out there in the world is zero, so I guess that's the thinking that's driving it, but of course the ABC was not intended as a profit generating business and in fact anything that the ABC and SBS can do to make their content more widely accessible to people we should encourage," he said.
Promise check: No cuts to the ABC
Ludlum questions cuts to local radio stationsOne of the most controversial ABC cuts is to close five small radio stations and scale back the Newcastle office. Senator Ludlam said the draft review does not find there are efficiencies to be made in local radio.
"The report is quite black and white actually in that it says there are no new efficiencies to be gained and my reading of that I suppose, without having access to the full document, is that there is not much that people can do in existing regional broadcast bureaus to make themselves more efficient," he said.
"They have been cut to the bone already but that is not to say that if you did not start knocking them over entirely and closing them down that you could save a little bit of money.
"If you are looking at pure commercial efficiencies then these are the kind of hard decisions I guess that have had to be made."
Senator Ludlam said some parts of the efficiency review were sensible.
"Things that the ABC was doing anyway - which gives rise to the question as to whether some of these savings are there or whether actually the Government has been double counting stuff that the ABC has already been doing," he said.
He said the huge problem was that the ABC was no longer using money gained by making itself more efficient to reinvest in new services like digital content.
"By ripping that much money and that many people - just the raw cost of having all that expertise forced out the door - is that you effectively risk bringing that innovation and that transition process to a halt and that's one of the things that is scariest," he said.
One of the suggested savings was that the ABC and SBS could save millions a year by no longer paying Foxtel to broadcast their content on pay TV.
ABC managing director Mark Scott said the organisation was looking at making that change and Senator Ludlam said it should be considered.
"I was very surprised to see that the ABC is paying Foxtel so much and kind of wondered briefly why Foxtel wasn't paying the ABC to rebroadcast an extraordinary array of content over its services," Senator Ludlum said.
Mr Scott will appear before a Senate estimates committee on Monday where he will be grilled about the changes being made to cover the $254 million being cut from the broadcaster's budget.