Archivists and librarians at the ABC are in shock after management unveiled plans to abolish 58 positions and make journalists research and archive their own stories.
Reporters and producers working on breaking news, news programs and daily programs like 7.30 will have to search for archival material themselves and will be expected to log the metadata of any new material into the system.
Sources told Guardian Australia there are a further 17 contract positions in archives that will be abolished and that some of the archive staff affected are based outside the major capital cities.
The research library staff will continue to help investigative programs like Four Corners and Background Briefing, but will not be available to assist daily news or ABC co-productions.
Sound libraries will no longer add new commercial music releases to the music bank and producers must access music for programs themselves.
“After thoroughly assessing and considering all aspects of this organizational change, we have determined that work being performed by some of our ABC archives team members is no longer required, has evolved, or can be combined with other roles that fit into our plans for the future state of ABC archives,” staff were told.
The ABC section of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), which held meetings for affected staff on Wednesday, said the move was “devastating news for many ABC staff and has come as a shock to teams across the country”.
A further four positions will be made redundant in TV post-production as the roles are being replaced with automatic services.
The proposal for post-production says that manual quality checking of a program by ABC specialists “to ensure it meets ABC broadcast standards” will now be automated.
“The proposal suggests that the [automated] system will also improve workflows across broadcast channels, ABC iview and ABC Archives and across teams including ABC Audiences and the classification team”, the change proposal says.
The ABC said the redundancies came about as a part of the broadcaster’s transition to digital and on-demand services, and to improve workflow and efficiency.
“These proposed changes are the result of the extensive digitization of the ABC Archive collection and the introduction of new tools and systems which enables different, more efficient work practices,” a spokesperson said.
“In 2021, approximately 90% of our audio and 35% of our video tape collection was converted into digital files. More than two million content assets are now available to content makers at their desktops via the ABC’s Content Digital Archive (CoDA).”
The ABC is proposing to introduce 30 new roles, including “content navigators” who will work in newsrooms to assist journalists with using the digitized ABC archives.
The gutting of the archive staff follows the dismantling of the ABC’s historic sound and reference libraries in 2018.
The librarians knew the collection intimately and suggested music for documentaries and other programs.