ABC to close Port Augusta post

Port Augusta's ABC site on Church Street will be closed as part of budget cuts.
Port Augusta's ABC site on Church Street will be closed as part of budget cuts.

Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey has expressed strong disappointment with the ABC’s decision to axe the Port Augusta reporting team and wind-up the Adelaide based production.

“Managing director Mark Scott has used the requirement for a 4.6 per cent efficiency dividend to make some kind of political statement,” Mr Ramsey said.

“The independent efficiency review commissioned by Malcolm Turnbull identified savings greater than those implement but met the required target without cutting content.

“Mr Scott has chosen instead to deliver programming measures which will impact on our local services.

“It’s worth noting that SBS which runs a far leaner operation anyway says it is able to meet the  funding reductions while making very few changes to their programming.”

Mr Ramsey said it was important the government looked at all public expenditure to improve efficiencies.

“The reduction in funding to the ABC means their budget will fall from $5.5bn to $5.2bn over the next five years,” he said,

“It is still an enormous amount of money and at a time when every other government department is being asked to make savings to address the $230bn accumulated net debt left by the Rudd/Gillard Governments, it is simply not responsible to totally quarantine the ABC from reality.”

Mr Ramsey said his contacts in the commercial sector laughed at the 4.6 per cent figure, telling him they had faced far tougher cuts. 

“As far as they are concerned the ABC has had a dream run and used taxpayer generosity to erode their businesses,” he said.

Mr Ramsey criticised the way the ABC went about implementing the cuts.

“Instead of attacking excess they have chosen to further centralise the organisation,” he said.

 “Already 51 per cent of the ABC’s staff reside in NSW and these decisions will make it worse. 

“The area where the ABC best meets its charter is in regional Australia whereas the need for its duplication of services in urban Australia (eastern seaboard) is far more debatable.

“The problem is not that the ABC faces a shorter budget, it is that they have lost sight of their core objectives.”

Port Augusta will lose its local ABC office with the national broadcaster making sweeping changes to the organisation due to budget cuts.

The local studio is one of five regional offices to get the axe, with the broadcaster also set to pull the plug on the Friday night South Australian version of the 7:30 Report.

The other four regional offices to close are Wagin, Morwell, Gladstone and Nowra. 

Speaking of the five "very small regional radio posts" to go, ABC managing director Mark Scott said the number of staff affected is "minimal and there are no content implications".

"The ABC will always have and need a strong regional footprint," Mr Scott said.

"But we need to be responsible in how we allocate resources and maintaining these sites is not best practice."

The two local full-time employees are expected to keep their jobs but may be relocated.

Scott's message on the changes to the ABC outlined that the five regional locations, including Port Augusta, were expensive to maintain.

Closing the Adelaide television production studio and winding back remaining production activities in the smaller states (outside news and current affairs) has been earmarked as part of the broadcaster's changes.

State-based local sports coverage will also get axed.

Port Augusta mayor Sam Johnson has voiced his disappointment at the decision.

"It is disappointing, there's no two ways about it," he said.

"Any time there is local closures it concerns me.

"We are trying to drive job creation and things like this don't help."

Mr Johnson said the closure is a worry for Port Augusta and regional South Australia.

"It's important to have a local person who knows the local issues."

"For us in the region, they're are our media spokesperson," he said.

"The mainstream media is pretty well focused on the metro area, so regional ABC has always been our voice."

Australian Greens Senator for South Australia Penny Wright said it is impossible to believe local coverage won’t be affected by the closure of Port Augusta’s ABC bureau.

Senator Wright said the cuts announced on Monday to ABC services across South Australia were gut-wrenching.

“The local ABC is such a vital part of country communities, it is very sad for the Port Augusta community to be losing their local reporter.

“ABC managing director Mark Scott says there will be no content implications, but it is hard to see how that could possibly be the case.

“If someone has to make the trip down from Port Pirie, I think there will inevitably be times they decide the trip isn’t worth it or they can’t spare the time.”