As of 2017, five of Radio National’s six music programs – namely The Daily Planet, The Inside Sleeve, Jazztrack, The Live Set and The Rhythm Divine – will not run. The programs are to be cut as part of a re-structure which might see the loss of up to seven full-time Radio National staff members. In addition, several non-music shows will go, including Sunday Nights, Afternoons with Michael Mackenzie, Soundproof, PocketDocs, TV Club and The Body Sphere.
“These changes are aimed at serving our audiences better and attracting broader audiences with engaging, appealing content,” a spokesperson for the ABC told The Guardian.
However, the cuts have inspired fierce opposition from the Australian music industry. A petition, created by independent musician Ruth Hazleton via change.org, had attracted over 4,600 signatures, as of Monday 21 November. Among its supporters are Peter Noble, co-founder and director of Bluesfest, and vocalist and saxophonist Joe Camilleri, who wrote, “These programs have supported my music where commercial stations and JJJ refuse to play anything new that I’ve released since the early nineties. I’ve released 48 albums in my 50-year career. I am still performing 150 shows a year. Where will my music be played? These are programs where demographics do not matter, just the music”.
The petition reads, “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 … 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.”
Numerous musicians and industry figures have also expressed their opposition via social media. “ABC and particularly RN have been instrumental in creating national awareness for myself and other artists in a way that community radio is unable to do,” wrote Adam Simmons, a multi-instrumentalist and teacher. “Getting rid of musical voices that do have relevance across Australia is not about balance, nor is it about diversity. It is a stifling and suffocation of Australian identity in all its variety and depth.”
Iconic Australian artist Deborah Conway concludes her post with a very direct statement: “You should be mindful of how much you are destroying with this decision, how many people’s livelihood will be affected by your quest for whatever it is you’re questing for and how many listeners will be truly saddened by this move.”
In October, Michelle Guthrie, managing director at the ABC, told Greens Senator Richard di Natale, “I can tell you that we are not planning any redundancies on any particular programs at the moment.”
According to a “confidential briefing document” quoted in The Guardian, Radio National might be transformed into a digital platform by 2020. “In 2017, RN will embody digital content creation from the beginning, through to the end, with all our content. This will coexist with a high regard for our linear audience. An increased investment in digital will help us reach younger and more diverse Australian audiences.”