Managing director Michelle Guthrie grilled over ABC’s rural coverage
More than half of the ABC’s full- time workforce is now employed in Sydney, new figures show, as the Michelle Guthrie of national broadcaster comes under fire for continuing to spend more money there than the rest of the country.
New ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie has responded to questions asked in Senate estimates hearings this year about the ABC’s spending in Sydney compared with the rest of Australia. The figures show that in 2011-12, the national broadcaster spent $248 million of its annual budget in Sydney, the equivalent of 27.2 per cent of its total spending, which has since blown out to $296m — more than a third of its annual budget.
Staff numbers in Sydney, concentrated at ABC headquarters in inner-city Ultimo, have jumped in the same period, and account for more than half of its full-time workforce. The figures show that in 2011-12, there were 2107 full-time employees in Sydney, representing 45.78 per cent of its workforce. In 2015-16, there were 2145 Sydney workers, representing 51.3 per cent of all staff.
Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie, who regularly questions the ABC on its commitment to regional Australia, called the accelerating trend “disappointing”. “As we suspected, there has been consolidation over time of both financial resources and indeed human resources — people — to Sydney, and that has come at a direct cost to not only local employment and career opportunities across regional Australia, but also to local content as a direct consequence,” Senator McKenzie told The Weekend Australian.
“Despite the rhetoric of their commitment to regional services … the numbers don’t lie; it is very, very clear they are talking the talk but not walking the walk.”
Independent senator Nick Xenophon, who asked Ms Guthrie to provide the figures at a Senate estimates hearing in October, said the new managing director had the opportunity to reverse the trend of increasing centralisation.
“If the ABC is to represent all Australians, it needs to reverse this disturbing trend, otherwise it will end up asphyxiating the ABC as the national broadcasters,” Senator Xenophon said.
NSW Nationals senator John Williams said he was looking forward to asking the ABC for an explanation of the trend to ensure the regions were not getting the “rough end of the stick”.
A spokeswoman for the ABC said it had staff in 56 locations across Australia, “more than any other media organisation”.
“The corporation has approximately 400 staff in its regional division,” she said.