In a surprise announcement, ABC Radio is introducing sweeping program and presenter changes across its network starting in 2017. An overhaul of Radio National will mean that the station loses all but one of its music shows, and strenuous protesting is mounting over that.
Staying is Andrew Ford’s The Music Show, but otherwise RN looks set to become talk-only. All other music content is going: The Daily Planet hosted by Lucky Oceans, Paul Gough’s The Inside Sleeve, Alice Keath’s The Live Set, and Geoff Wood’s The Rhythm Divine.
This leaves RN looking very awkward as the nation’s leading non-commercial cultural network. ABC Radio says it will increase live music coverage on Double J, but the fact is these programs cater for musical genres that the latter station simply does not and cannot be expected to take up. Diversity will be lost.
By November 21 over 4,000 people had signed a petition protesting against RN’s dropping of so many music programs and diminishing its commitment to music.
“This decision ignores the complexities and depth of our Australian music industry. It delivers a significant blow to Australian independent musicians, independent music events, festivals and all industry partnerships who rely on these shows to promote their music, gain exposure and bring alternative genres of music to the Australian public,” the petition reads.
“Without the support of ABC Radio National,” it goes on to say, “our industry will suffer enormously; financially, socially and culturally. These shows deliver content rarely featured or supported by Double J and JJJ and while these are fabulous Australian institutions, we do not believe that we will be represented to the same degree by these services.”
Meanwhile at ABC Classic FM, upheavals at that station have long been in the wind, and follow budget cuts in 2014. But now the following changes to presenter roles have been confirmed. Saturday morning host Damien Beaumont moves to Monday-Thursday evenings, while Russell Torrance takes Friday and Saturday evenings. The weekday afternoon slot goes to Mairi Nicolson, and Graham Abbott’s Keys to Music goes from Sunday midday to Mondays at 7pm.
Margaret Throsby’s daily interview show will be dropped. Instead she will be presenting “a three-hour program on Saturday morning” – at which station is not yet clear.
Sharing weekend duties are Julian Day, who will do Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and newcomer soprano Greta Bradman, who according to CFM’s website will present “a selection of music designed for relaxation and renewal on Sunday mornings”. Expect to hear guest presenters at other weekend hours, “in response to audience feedback that listeners want to hear more music on weekends”. Stephen Watkins’ For the God Who Sings clings on at a later time on Sunday evenings, from 11pm to 1am.
One of the most significant changes is to Overnights. Instead of this program switching to the ABC’s streaming service Classic 2, this program, this will be renamed Night Music and “presented by some favourite ABC Classic FM presenters” This is again according to the station’s website. Quite what that entails – live broadcast or some pre-packaged format – we’ll have to wait and see.
Nowhere mentioned in the announced changes are future on-air duties for high profile presenters Christopher Lawrence and Simon Healy. So their roles at the station, along with those of Genevieve Lang and Colin Fox, suddenly look uncertain.