Popular ABC Radio presenter Carol Duncan to lose job in station downsizing

LAST DAYS: Radio 1233 presenter Carol Duncan.  Picture: Marina Neil
LAST DAYS: Radio 1233 presenter Carol Duncan. Picture: Marina Neil

Comment: ABC cuts 'tear out the regional heart of Australia'

Lewis's view 

NEWCASTLE’S local ABC radio will lose a third of its staff before Christmas as it down-sizes from a metropolitan to a regional station.

The decision followed the announcement of huge budget cuts to the ABC and SBS by the federal government and staff were called in for early morning meetings on Monday to hear the news.

Carol Duncan, one of Newcastle’s favourite ABC radio hosts will have her show cut in an ‘‘efficiency dividend’’ measure by the station.

Ms Duncan’s is one of nine positions to be cut from Newcastle’s 1233 ABC station from a current total of 27 staff.

Ms Duncan, will return to the airwaves on Wednesday and will continue to broadcast until her show is cut in what she thinks will be mid-December.

James Valentine’s Sydney show is set to fill the timeslot after her departure. 

Newcastle has been acknowledged by management as ‘‘bearing the brunt of the ABC budget cuts,’’ Ms Duncan said.

But the presenter urged disappointed and angry audiences not to blame the ABC.

‘‘It’s really important not to take it out on the ABC,’’ she told the Newcastle Herald. 

‘‘It will be much harder to do what they do, but my colleagues will do their very best...’’

With her trademark optimism and sense of humour, Ms Duncan said she had no idea what she would do next, but was seriously considering all job offers.

‘‘I can promise ABC audiences that our remaining staff will always put their community first,’’ she said. ‘‘Love your Aunty.’’

Nick Leys, ABC media manager, said the move from metropolitan to regional was ‘‘based on Newcastle’s position in standing along with other regional centres’’.

‘‘At the end of the day, we are responding to deep and dramatic budget cuts by the federal government,’’ he said.

Managing director of the ABC Mark Scott said in a release that he was ‘‘sorry’’ so many people would lose their jobs.

“We regard the changes as vital to securing the long-term health of the organisation but I acknowledge that is no comfort to those who will lose their positions,’’ he said.

Phil Ashley-Brown, local radio manager at 1233 ABC Newcastle said in an address to staff yesterday morning that he was ‘‘bitterly disappointed’’ by the news.

Murdo Macleod, Newcastle financial planner and former 1233 ABC Newcastle acting manager and senior producer condemned the cuts as being ‘‘crazy’’ and ‘‘stupid’’.

‘‘It’s a real loss for the Hunter and broader area because the talent pool at the local ABC is phenomenal,’’ he told the Herald.

He said Ms Duncan was an ‘‘outstanding broadcaster’’ but echoed sentiments she shared on ABC radio that she would be able to ‘‘turn this into a positive.’’

1233 ABC Newcastle tweeted the following message after news broke of the proposal.

‘‘If you have concerns about the news surrounding budget cuts to ABC announced by the Government, please contact Radio.feedback@abc.net.au’’.

Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery said Monday was a sad day for the Hunter’s radio listeners.

“For many it will be like losing a family member, each and every one of the ABC broadcasters, along with those behind the scenes, play a huge part in the lives of Hunter listeners,’’ Ms Hornery said.

Charlton MP Pat Conroy said losing resources in the Hunter would hamper the ability to spread information during emergency periods.

‘‘These cuts mean regional stations won’t be able to broadcast local radio 24-7, and you can’t provide local information if your radio broadcasters are based in Sydney or Canberra, and that’s going to be a great tragedy and it’s really going to hurt our region,’’ Mr Conroy said.

Federal Member for the Hunter, Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon raised the cuts in the lower house on Monday.

‘‘This will tear at the heart of the Hunter’s social and economic fabric,’’ he said. ‘‘This is a disgrace. 

‘‘And all those representing rural and regional seats on that side have abandoned their local communities.’’

‘‘These cuts mean regional stations won’t be able to broadcast local radio 24-7, and you can’t provide local information if your radio broadcasters are based in Sydney or Canberra, and that’s going to be a great tragedy and it’s really going to hurt our region,’’ Mr Conroy said.

Federal Member for the Hunter, Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon raised the cuts in the lower house on Monday.

‘‘This will tear at the heart of the Hunter’s social and economic fabric,’’ he said. ‘‘This is a disgrace. 

‘‘And all those representing rural and regional seats on that side have abandoned their local communities.’’