Lateline, The Link to be axed in ABC overhaul

The ABC's evening news program Lateline and Stan Grant's The Link will be axed as part of a sweeping overhaul of the national broadcaster's current affairs schedule.

Lateline host Emma Alberici will remain at the ABC and will take up a senior news and current affairs role.

The flagship current affairs program has been on the air for 27 years and was originally hosted by Kerry O'Brien. Other hosts have included Tony Jones and Maxine McKew.

Speculation has been rife that management would end Lateline's nearly three-decade run for some time. In August, ABC sources told Fairfax MediaLateline was in its "death throes".

"It's had its budget chipped away at for years, so it won't really come as a surprise when it's axed," the source said.

At the time, the ABC denied Lateline was facing the chop, but admitted it was "always discussing programming". Earlier this year, the broadcaster's managing director Michelle Guthrie announced massive changes, including a 20 per cent reduction in management.

Since March, there have been more than 80 redundancies at the ABC, however the overwhelming majority of those have come from the news and television departments.

It is unclear whether any staff on the show will lose their jobs, however ABC documents estimate there will be around six redundencies. The show's demise will result in additional resources being put into investigative rounds to bolster ABC's breaking news abilities.

Staff on Stan Grant's Friday evening show The Link have also confirmed their show will be axed as part of the program shake-up. It will remain on air until the end of the year.

Lateline host Emma Alberici will reportedly stay at the ABC. Photo: ABC

Lateline host Emma Alberici will reportedly stay at the ABC. Photo: ABC

ABC director of news Gaven Morris said in a statement Alberici will become the broadcaster's chief economics correspondent, while Grant will be become chief Asia correspondent. Former Lateline executive producer Lisa Whitby will head up a specialist reporting team.

"These proposals represent a big investment by the ABC in investigative, specialist and in-depth journalism at a time when many other media outlets are retreating from these areas," Morris said.

"Public interest journalism on behalf of all Australians is more important to the role of ABC News than ever."

Morris also paid tribute to Lateline's team, saying it has made an "enormous contribution" to Australian public life.

"This proposal is no reflection on the excellent work of the program teams. But with audience habits changing, we can deploy these resources more effectively in other ways."

The public broadcaster plans to launch two new shows in 2018: a current affairs discussion show at 9pm presented by Stan Grant, and a half-hour news bulletin at 10.30pm.

The ABC has said it will consult with staff and unions over the proposed changes. Staff have been told they can apply for voluntary redundancies before October 19.

ABC sources told Fairfax Media "a few" staff were expected to lose their jobs, as the national reporting team gets absorbed into the new investigations and specialist reporting divisions.

ABC head of news Gaven Morris told Fairfax Media the changes were about making the broadcaster's nightly news the best it can be by "focusing on the one program".

"Overall, there'll be no fewer jobs at the end of the process," he said. "There may be a handful of redundancies, but we've said that to staff."

Morris said while it was sad to see Lateline go, it would mean 7.30 would benefit from more journalists and more innovative ways of storytelling.

Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance director Katelin McInerney said she feared the programming overhaul would result in forced redundancies.

"It is a sad day for both journalists and audiences when such a respected, long-running program ends," she said.

- with Michael Lallo

The story Lateline, The Link to be axed in ABC overhaul first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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