ABC’s axing of Lateline is not part of a cost-cutting measure, says host Emma Alberici, with no journalist to lose their job.
Speaking to Radio National Drive host Patricia Karvelas yesterday, Alberici acknowledged the show’s sliding ratings and costs. But she understood ABC management’s move to restructure its current affairs teams across a variety of shows and platforms.
“It’s a terribly sad day for journalism, for a program that has a very proud history and I’ve been with for almost six years. As you point out some of the best journalists in this country have been attached to the program,” she told Karvelas.
“We’ve broken stories, we’ve won Walkleys, Logies, quite recently we were the impetus behind the royal commission into child sexual abuse and the Northern Territory intervention. The show has a really proud tradition of breaking stories and our interviews have been among those most talked about the next day. But it’s an unfortunate part of what’s happening throughout the media landscape and the fact that to meet audience demands we all need to change the way we deliver news.
“Our audiences have not held in terms of numbers.”
“I’m sad to see Lateline go because the brand means something to me and all the people who have worked on it over the years, and most recently. I also recognise that our audiences have not held in terms of numbers. That’s true of all free to air television, not just Lateline, but all shows. So it becomes more difficult to justify having 2 current affairs programmes every night being 7:30 and Lateline.
“Our funding started to go three years ago as everyone who follows this would be well aware. Breaking news and producing original journalism costs a lot of money. When you start taking money out of a show it becomes difficult to do that and management I guess, and I understand this, had to make a decision about when audiences are (as frayed) as they are, and splintered all over the place on On Demand, Netflix, Stan, Foxtel, and everywhere else in between iTunes, we are competing with all those players that are new, for eyeballs.
“So you need to work out where your money is best spent. The ABC has made a decision that we need to protect our history of breaking stories, original journalism and investigations and put our money there.”
Lateline will remain on air until the end of the year with Alberici to become ABC’s Chief Economics Correspondent.
“No money will be saved by losing Lateline”
Yesterday ABC also announced the end of The Link. Host Stan Grant is to front a prime-time news discussion show at 9pm on ABC News channel and a half-hour late edition national news bulletin at 10.30pm on ABC. He also becomes Chief Asia Correspondent.
“Management has been very clear that there is no cost-cutting agenda here,” Alberici continued. “We’ve been told no money will be saved by losing Lateline and no net journalism jobs will be lost. So the same number of journalists will be employed by the ABC next year as are now. So that’s very comforting and I’m very happy to hear that because I, like those who do what I do, care about quality journalism and if what we doing is investing more money into that and worrying less about the platforms through which that’s delivered ….that, is you don’t have to be attached to a particular programme as long as you’re making a fantastic story that breaks news, is original, uncovers something that others didn’t want uncovered…. then that will find an outlet these days.
“At the moment journalism can be a post on Facebook as it can be a story on Four Corners. Things have changed so dramatically in terms of how you define journalism and we need to be where our audiences are. I think that’s the challenge for all media organisations. So while of course we are all incredibly sad to see Lateline go, as long as we are protecting our commitment to quality journalism and those sorts of stories that have made the ABC the place everyone goes to for reliable news, then I think that will be okay.”