WIN's win means job losses

July 11, 2009

Public broadcaster ABC has entered into a controversial joint venture with Australia's largest regional commercial television network, WIN TV, to run the ABC's master control centre to send out television and radio signals. WIN TV's transmission spans the largest geographical area in the world, reaching more than 5.2 million viewers across Australia.

The move will cost at least 60 jobs across both media outlets and has drawn criticism from the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), which represents workers in both media outlets.

"The ABC has announced this decision without consulting with staff and it means many specialist master control staff will have limited opportunity to re-skill and be transferred into productive work", ABC sections secretary of the CPSU Graeme Thomson told the July 6 Australian.

ABC and WIN TV will each own 50% of the new company that will provide networking and distribution services to the ABC and WIN from its new centralised facility in Sydney.

Darce Cassidy, webmaster for the Friends of the ABC National Resource Centre and ex-employee of the ABC told Green Left Weekly (speaking in a personal capacity) that the ABC had become a victim of a "pincer movement".

He said the fact that the ABC did not own or operate its own transmitters (which are now owned by a Macquarie Bank subsidiary) created many problems because "the last step in the process, the delivery of the audio or video signal to our listeners, was in someone else's hands".

Cassidy said this tension would get worse with yet another commercial enterprise having decision-making power over distribution and networking.

Thomson told the Australian that the ABC was becoming a "commissioning house". The ABC "no longer transmits, it no longer makes programs and the public has had no chance to comment on what's happening and how their $1 billion a year is being spent", he said.

Cassidy told GLW that the independent TV production companies, which are commercial entities, have had success with their years of aggressive lobbying to close down or at least wind back the ABC's in house production capacity for television. "Outside of news and current affairs and a few cheap and cheerful studio programs like The Collectors, everything is produced outside of the ABC by the commercial sector", he said.

ABC chief operating officer David Pendleton justified the merger in a statement that said the ABC needed to devise new services and more efficient service delivery. Win Corporation's, managing director David Butorac told the Australian that WIN had a lot to gain from this decision.

"This new joint venture whereby broadcast operations are centralised, will enable WIN to capitalise upon the current and future standard-definition and high-definition broadcast requirements across the television business", he said.

An ex-employee of WIN TV told GLW that the merger was alarming.
"For corporations like WIN the bottom line is always about revenue and ratings, not about creating jobs or providing programming that would benefit the public," she said.

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