Staff and unions campaign to save ABC archives

The ABC archives contain 90 years of valuable records
The ABC archives contain 90 years of valuable records. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Staff, unions and archivists are campaigning to save the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) archives. Management plans to slash staff at the national broadcaster.

Fifty eight permanent staff and 17 contractors could lose their jobs.

“While the Australian community is celebrating the ABC’s 90th anniversary, the ABC’s management is pushing ahead on a drastic and damaging proposal to gut the ABC Archives,” the Community and Public Service Union’s (CPSU) Proud to be Public campaign said.

The campaign is concerned that more than a third of the Archives’ “specialist workforce” will be cut. It said “the ABC Archives and the nation’s history itself are at stake” and that such cuts “jeopardise the integrity of our current and future historical records”.

“The ABC has been entrusted by the Australian people to collect, preserve and make accessible audio-visual records of our stories, our voices and our songs since the ABC’s inception in 1932. But it’s not just about our history from the past, it is about our stories now and ensuring that these stories are not lost as a result of these changes,” the campaign said.

The campaign said there had been no consultation with the staff over the cuts.

Library and archive professionals sent an open letter to ABC chair Ita Buttrose and managing director David Anderson expressing “significant concern” about the staff cuts and “the lack of a clear and public plan for the future of the ABC archives, library and information services”.

“Australians trust the ABC to provide well researched, evidence-based journalism and high-quality programming,” the letter said. “It is reasonable to expect that the ABC archival collection will be managed according to professional standards for creating, managing and preserving records, standards common to other public institutions responsible for a collection of national significance.

“The growth of digital collections, including born-digital and digitised materials, brings with it challenges such as limits on digital storage, unstable file formats and the risk of permanent loss when content has not been properly stored or described and so cannot later be found. Journalists, while having many skills, do not have skills in digital collection management and preservation. Professional archivists and librarians do.”

It noted, wryly, that the ABC is only able to celebrate its 90th year showcasing “its proud history” because of “the work of the ABC’s professional archivists and librarians over the decades”.

[Find out more about the campaign here.]