News & Commentary, Screen, Stage, Visual Arts

Books and Arts axed as ABC makes massive radio changes

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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 CrabbTara 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 WangBenjamin 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.

18 responses to “Books and Arts axed as ABC makes massive radio changes

  1. A reminder that some of your readers do NOT live in Melbourne, Sydney or even Brisbane but would still like to be informed of the changes that will affect them. We get tired of examples from the Eastern States that mean nothing in the West of the continent.

    1. Ah, but the little hobbits who occupy Ultimo think that “the far west” is anything beyond Leichhardt, even Melbourne is lucky to get a mention. The Daily Review is simply reflecting that reality – the rest of us aren’t important to Aunty any more. Sad, but true!

  2. “Tuesdays will see The Book Hub hosted by Claire Nichols with contributions from authors Annabel Crabb, Tara Moss and Michael Robotham” and there’s a SEPARATE program on “popular culture”? does that mean that the ABC now regards Crabb and Moss as high art? this is responding to the “changing needs of the audience”? since when does the ABC respond to the needs of Channel 9’s audience?

  3. Maybe the changes at ABC Radio will energise and give depth to arts coverage – I’m prepared to wait and see. But those TV offerings are pathetic. The old “who gives a shit” approach to those who are socially isolated/trapped at home over the ‘holiday’ period through illness, age, disability, poverty. I’m guessing SBS will roll out more of the ghastly Andre Rieu in the same period, and a few horror shows on the poorly-named Viceland.

  4. When were we – the listeners to ABC Radio (local, classical, RN) and the watchers of ABC TV – ever consulted on the guts being ripped (our favourite programs) from “our” ABC?
    The slash-and-burn destruction being wrought by former corporate world and Murdoch stooge Michelle Guthrie has to be stopped and reversed. Over the past five days I watched the death pangs of LateLine – till last night’s final demise – watching some of its great presenters over the past almost three decades (Kerry O’BRIEN, Leigh SALES and Maxine McKEW – Tony JONES absent) led by Emma ALBERICI – speak of what made it one of the world’s great (late-night for us) investigative report programs.

    Bring it back. And all the other programs we have loved for decades! None of them the same as they were when they began – all of the evolving to suit our contemporary mood – none of them deserving to be axed! Come the Revolution is a book title by journalist Alex MITCHELL – but it carries other messages for Michelle, and her puppet-masters, surely!

    1. I’m somewhat gutted that Red Symons has been axed…love his irrelevant querky humour. I’m willing to give Jacinta & Sammy a go but the trouble is there’s rarely any going back if it bombs.
      The Lateline axing is just stupid but if Michelle and Co touch 4 Corners & Foreign Correspondent I’ll personally head the bloody revolution. ..guillotine in hand!
      Is she being paid a bonus from old boss ultra conservative Rupert to put a wet rag on the investigative ABC ??… let’s hope not. Only time and good investigative journalism will tell. Tony. Blackburn

      1. I’m with you on the revolution, brother. As for Rupert’s tentacles, they reach everywhere and anywhere, and you don’t always notice them until you see the sucker marks after you’ve showered.

    2. I absolutely agree. Why don’t they establish who listens/views the ABC radio and television? The ABC, too, presents independent coverage of events, not dictated by a wealthy involved dictator protecting his own capitalistic interests. It is we who pay for the ABC and we demand a say. Louise Campbell

  5. A silo approach seems a reversal to earlier models of arts reporting. Surely a more integrated model is appropriate that also provided depth. If the current programming was considered redundant them surely there is a better model than this.

    PS the reduction in current affairs coverage is pathetic.

    1. Yes, bring back Romana Kaval, intelligent and significant comment on literature instead of superficial analysis. Also, the very best of interviews.

      1. Dear Peter and Fran – YES YES YES – please bring back Ms Kaval. A brilliant reader and commentator of all things literary. So bored with Michael Cathcart’s increasingly silly interviews and opinions.

  6. I am appalled that the ABC programming is, yet again, being hacked into and would appear to be “dumbing down” yet again.
    As a stalwart supporter of the ABC since forever, I have never been consulted about the slash and burn mentality of the current powers that be. I have put up with the regular decimation of the RN format every couple of years, but this next change seems to just be a step too far.
    Please can Michael Cathcart and his enthusiasm and interest be left intact on a daily basis?
    Please may we have an overall view of the arts instead of isolated bits?
    We all need our views expanded, not confined to be just about the things that happen to interest us at the moment.
    How else are we able to find things that are new to us?

  7. I HATE the sense of Radio National suffering ‘death by a thousand cuts’. It is SOO precious to me and my sense of being connected to the wider world. The Hub per se sounds fine, but am sorry that if I understand correctly, each of Sarah Kanowski, Kate Evans and MIchael Cathcart will get less airtime – each of them broadcasters I value highly for their specialist but also adaptable cultural knowledges

    Aunty, leave your Radio National child alone. Give them a specialist manager and let them evolve independently. Please!

  8. Open letter to ABC boss – $900,000 a year public servant – Michelle Guthrie.
    Ms Guthrie, you are not listening to your consumers, as you call us.
    The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ABC, has become the Australian Promos Corporation, APC, with promos replacing content.
    In regional areas we rely on the ABC for all non-commercial broadcasting services, and many of us do not have the benefit of digital technology.
    Constantly, those of us in regional areas are bombarded with promos for all the many platforms where ABC product can be consumed: digital, on mobile phones, ABC apps, ABC Listen, podcasts, and of course we can join in the conversation on Facebook, twitter, or text…
    Well, sorry, all of you in Sydney’s Ultimo ABC headquarters, most of us cannot.
    How many of us do not get mobile phone service and have internet speeds which mean that streaming is intermittent at best? Too many.
    Further, there is no digital transmission in areas such as the Margaret River region, and this is likely to remain the case.
    This means that when, for instance, federal parliament is sitting, we can only to listen to politicians, which is the default situation on analogue radio, rather than News Radio’s digital news feed.
    Meanwhile, our local radio programming is constantly interrupted with promos for shows we can’t get, and station idents ad nauseam.
    We know what we’re tuned into, thank you very much. We don’t have to be reminded every few minutes.
    Given that the NBN has been such a disaster in the regions, we’re unlikely to see real improvements in communications in the future.
    Please, Ms Guthrie, those of us in the regions deserve better, like broadcasting instead of ‘digital platforms’.
    Ian Parmenter, OAM, Margaret River.

  9. I see walking frames and sticks and much beige in the streets of Ultimo and Southbank. Thousands. With more police at the ready. I see no fields of green. And nothing will save the Board or the Chairman. They too have a duty to explain the new structures and programmes.

  10. It seems that the ABC is trying to attract younger listeners. Good luck with that. I imagine the few who are actually listening to the radio during the day would choose the ABC. The politicians and voters who think the ABC should be constrained and Michelle Guthrie who seems to be trying to appease them should consider the unintended consequence of us ABC-devoted elderly becoming bored, miserable, even ill; worse still, costing the nation so much more if we are increasingly disconnected from the nation and the wider world. Think carefully.

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