Changes to breakfast, afternoon and drive slots across the ABC’s radio network have been announced this week by its director of radio, Michael Mason, who said they were in response to the changing needs of its audience.
One of the big changes is the cancellation of Radio National’s Books and Arts to make way for a daily arts program called The Hub and the reduction of hosting duties by Michael Cathcart from five days to one day a week.
The Hub will be presented by a different person at 10 am each weekday “with contributions from an ensemble of artists, makers, writers and critics, and delve into the creative worlds of the visual arts, theatre and performance, literature, film and TV as well as popular culture” the ABC announced.
ABC RN’s arts, culture and society editor Dina Rosendorff said: “The Hub is an exciting evolution for Books and Arts because it will allow our expert presenters and producers to really home in on their respective specialties.
“Current presenter Michael Cathcart will spearhead this new model each week and is incredibly excited about concentrating on his passion for theatre and all that it encompasses. Sarah Kanowski will continue to be heard on RN as she will share presenter duties with Richard Fidler on Conversations in 2018,” Rosendorff said.
On Mondays, Cathcart will present The Stage Hub looking at theatre, opera, dance and musicals with contributions from choreographer Gideon Obarzanek, actor Kate Mulvany and soprano Emma Matthews.
Tuesdays will see The Book Hub hosted by Claire Nichols with contributions from authors Annabel Crabb, Tara Moss and Michael Robotham.
Wednesdays will be Eddie Ayres host The Art Hub with contributions from art critic Sebastian Smee, visual arts specialist Daniel Browning and artist Ben Quilty.
The Screen Hub on Thursdays is Jason Di Rosso’s 30 minute The Final Cut extendend to one hour with the “occasional guest contribution” from film critic David Stratton.
Popular culture is covered on Fridays with Stop Everything!. Beverley Wang, Benjamin Law and Lauren Rosewarne will offer “a sophisticated analysis of what our cultural products and predilections say about our world right now”.
Fridays also include Kate Evans and Cassie McCullagh “chatting about the books they’re reading and loving” on The Bookshelf. Evans’ former program BooksPlus has been cancelled.
The siloing of different art forms into discrete programs on different days has its advantages and disadvantages. It should provide more depth on a given art form, but runs the risk of segmenting its audience. For example, those who are only interested in film will no longer be exposed to other art forms.
The changes also might mean there are fewer opportunities for an an overview of the whole arts sector which has proved to be important during news events such as the Senator George Brandis attack on arts funding in 2016 or the current issue of what is “inappropriate behaviour” in the arts workplace.
These changes are part of the ABC’s digital restructure announced last month by its managing director, Michelle Guthrie. These also include changes to the current affairs program PM reduced from one hour to 30 minutes from January 2.
The midday news program The World Today will also be cut from 60 minutes to 30 minutes. But Regional Radio will add a new 25-minute current affairs program focussing on regional and rural issues at 7.35 pm weeknights and repeated on Radio Australia at a later time.
Other changes see Melbourne’s 774 replace long time early morning host Red Symons with Jacinta Parsons and Sami Shah who will co-host the 5.30 am to 7.45 am slot. ABC stalwart Jon Faine follows in his usual mid-morning program on 774.
Early and mid-morning slots will be consolidated in the other capital city stations. In Sydney, Robbie Buck and Wendy Harmer will present the the 6 am to 10 am program and in Brisbane, Rebecca Livingston and Craig Zonca will host that time slot.
Meanwhile, the afternoon programs will run from 2 pm to 4 pm and the drive time programs will take the 4 pm to 6.30 pm slot eating into the old PM slot.
At the ABC’s Double J, former Triple J presenter Zan Rowe will host mornings while presenter Tim Shiel will take the afternoon slot. Rowe’s role at Triple J will be take over by Linda Marigliano.
Meanwhile, ABC TV’s summer line-up throughout December and January looks a meagre offering. It includes a recycling of the retired The Book Club in a Christmas special called The Book Club: 5 of the Best. Gardening Australia will present Tinsel, Tears and Turkeys: An Aussie Christmas Unwrapped. and a QI Christmas Special will be broadcast.
Peter Capaldi’s departure in Doctor Who: Twice Upon A Time will be followed by a Rove McManus hosted special of Whovians.
Other shows include Call the Midwife: Christmas Special (2016) and a look back at 2017 with The Yearly with Charlie Pickering. Pickering will also host Countdown Live NYE 2017 from the Sydney Opera House with performances from Jimmy Barnes, Phil Jamieson, Marcia Hines John Paul Young, Montaigne, Casey Donovan, Ngaiire, Kate Ceberano, Isaiah Firebrace, Colin Hay, Mahalia Barnes and Prinnie Stevens, as well as coverage of the fireworks.