ABC ‘doesn’t understand Gippsland’

THE boss of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has been accused of having a lack of understanding of Gippsland.

The comment came from Wellington Shire councillor Darren McCubbin, who labelled the decision to close the ABC’s Morwell office as “ludicrous”.

The comments follow a response from ABC managing director Mark Scott in relation to concerns about the national broadcaster’s organisational changes.

In November, councillors voted to write to Gippsland MHR Darren Chester advising council recognised the valuable work of the regional ABC network, requesting support to quarantine ABC Gippsland from the budget cuts and asking for services to return to their pre-2012 levels.

Late last year, the federal government announced a $245 million cut in funding to the ABC, prompting changes to the organisation, including the closure of its Morwell office.

There were concerns the changes would affect the ABC’s ability to provide vital emergency information.

Mr Chester passed on these concerns to Mr Scott, who responded in writing in December.

According to Mr Scott, changes to ABC operations would not affect the broadcaster’s ability or commitment to issue all medium and high level “watch and act” and emergency warnings.

“Under the ABC’s emergency broadcasting policy, implemented in January 2014, emergency broadcasting and the issue of warnings is the responsibility of ABC Local Radio, which also co-ordinates warnings on other ABC platforms including ABC News 24, other ABC radio stations and digital networks, as well as online and social media,” he wrote.

“ABC News teams will continue to cover disasters as news.

“The changes announced will in fact enhance the ABC’s online and mobile content and broaden the scope for distribution of warnings and emergency information to people using these options to receive information.”

The closure of the Morwell office was proposed because the ABC considered there would be no effect on content and minimal impact on staffing.

“It is proposed that the two local staff will work from the ABC office in Sale and cover the same region,” Mr Scott wrote.

“The ABC remains committed to regional Australia and will continue to invest more than any other Australian broadcaster in rural and regional Australia, despite recent budget cuts.

“The ABC remains committed to telling Australian stories and conversations from regional centres and rural Australia.”

Cr McCubbin said he was disappointed with the response from Mr Scott.

“The knowledge that the Morwell office was going to be closed and the person relocated to Sale completely misunderstands the dynamics of Gippsland and the size of Gippsland,” he said.

“To suggest that Morwell can be organised out of the Sale office is ludicrous.

“Anybody that knows Gippsland as intimately as we do knows that Sale exists a fair distance from Morwell.

“If you’re looking at a news gathering person, here you have the Latrobe Valley, one of the central areas within the Gippsland region, probably the key towards the energy of Gippsland, and this is being ignored by the ABC.

“You simply cannot report on the business of the Latrobe Valley from Sale.

“This is indeed a downgrading of regional radio within this region.”