The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance has criticized ABC’s decision to close its standalone arts unit as part of a broader content restructuring, arguing it will reduce the station’s coverage of the arts.
Yesterday, ABC announced a newly created Arts, Music and Events department to be led by Kath Earle. But the move means the roles of Managing Editor Arts and Arts Digital Editor will be abolished.
Chief Content Officer Chris Oliver-Taylor said, “Using the extensive experience Kath has gained during her tenure at ABC, Kath will now lead a combined department focusing on ABC’s continued important commitment to the arts, as well as consolidating significant impact of the ABC Events team. Such events include coverage of ANZAC Day, Gallipoli, Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras and Australia’s celebration of New Year’s Eve. Music continues to be an engine for our younger audiences and we have shifted production to anger from the Music Audio team to the Music screen team.”
Other journalists currently employed on the art team will be reassigned to the new Art, Music and Events department, while Artwork hosted by Namila Benson (pictured) will continue.
However Age speculates the work of an online arts team will now be “managed by the digital innovation team” without the same curatorial skills.
ABC Charter includes a requirement “to encourage and promote the musical, dramatic and other performing arts in Australia”.
MEAA chief executive Erin Madeley said the ABC’s decision went against the Revive National Cultural Policy which seeks to restore the importance of the arts to Australian society and economy.
“Artistic coverage has been a key role of the ABC since its early days, so we struggle to see how this decision meets its statutory obligations to ‘encourage and promote the musical, dramatic and other performing arts in Australia'” , he has declared.
“All-media arts coverage in Australia has been in decline for the past decade and this decision by ABC management is a major blow to our cultural sector and arts audience.
“For people living in remote and regional Australia who rarely have physical access to the arts and rely on the national broadcaster to provide them with their cultural ‘fix’, this risks leaving them with even fewer opportunities to participate in our artistic life and cultural.
“And it will make it harder for artists, especially those early in their careers, to get the exposure upon which they can build an enduring body of work.”
Yesterday, ABC noted its key genre priorities in its Content division as Indigenous, Arts, Children’s, Scripted, Entertainment and Factual (News is a separate division).
In a statement, the ABC said the savings and reinvestment statements will in no way diminish its ability to fulfill the Charter’s responsibilities to arts coverage.
“No other Australian broadcaster comes close to offering the depth and breadth of ABC’s artistic coverage. The propositions announced yesterday will see the savings reinvested into ABC’s arts coverage, which will lead to more of the arts content audiences want and expect.
“Our commitment to the arts remains as strong and comprehensive as ever, with our excellent screen arts team moving into a new screen arts, music and events department and our artistic digital roles joining within of the new Digital and Innovation team. Reports to the contrary are not accurate.
“Australians come to us to keep them informed and updated on all the news and events related to art. There is a huge range of art-related content on ABC TV and ABC iview – which includes the Art & Culture collection – as well as on our ABC Arts YouTube channel and ABC Arts Instagram account.”
He also noted daily art deals on audio platforms and weekly art magazine shows, Artwork.
“We regularly commission documentaries and series such as Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra, In Search of the Archibald AND Great Southern Landscapes with Rachel Griffiths.”