Friday, 23 November 2012

ABC's response to our petition

7-ON has just received a response from an Arts Manager at the ABC. We delivered a petition protesting the cutting of radio drama at Radio National to the ABC on 31st October (see previous post). We weren’t the only petition – there were several circulating. But we were gratified that we attracted over 800 signatures (and still counting), and some really cogent, well-argued comments.

Dear Ms Zimdahl

Thank you for your petition regarding Radio Drama. The Chairman and Managing Director have asked me to respond on their behalf.

Airplay has been formally decommissioned by ABC Radio. This decision was taken only after looking very closely at the ongoing viability of producing radio plays on the network. While you will no doubt be unhappy with this decision, we believe that it was absolutely necessary in terms of the overall sustainability of the network, both in terms of our budgetary framework, and attracting and engaging with audiences who are looking for different sorts of audio performance.

It is clear that the resources required to produce radio plays are better served in making, and experimenting with, different sorts of radio. This is not the end of radio drama and fiction on RN, but a recognition that our audience is looking for different ways of engaging with Australian voices and stories on radio and online.

Radio plays have, for many years, faced declining audience numbers, while remaining an expensive activity for the network. We have always said, and continue to believe, that ratings are not the only measure for RN, but the decline in listenership does indicate a lack of engagement in radio plays amongst our audience.

Further, we believe that by maintaining our current model of radio plays, we will no longer be able to engage with young writers and artists looking for different ways of working with sound and story.

Our new Creative Radio Unit, charged with our two new programming slots “Sounds Like Radio”, will provide an opportunity for a new generation of creative audio performance specialists to engage with the network and the audience. I do hope you come to enjoy the performance material we offer in 2013 and beyond.

Thank you for taking the time to write.

We find this answer rather insulting. It is a regurgitation of the press release, that does not address any of the specific points raised in the petition.

It particularly does not address our core concern. It's not about us “enjoying the performance material on offer" next year, it's about WORK, JOBS, LIVELIHOODS. Someone somewhere needs to make known the guidelines for pitching and commissioning in this new environment.

The letter from the ABC also flourishes the furphy that – somehow – a new generation of writers will by definition attract the fabled new demographic of listeners. No. They may attract some new listeners, of course. They also may lose some others who won’t come back. Nobody worries that there aren't enough people in the 50+ demographic going to pop concerts or hip hop. A bum on a seat is a bum on a seat, whether said bum is 27 or 77.

The Airplay demographic was 40 - 70. Why not serve it? Why not let audiences arrive there as they get older? Demographic is closely linked to advertising, but surely that shouldn't be a consideration for the federally funded ABC.

It is also insulting to imply that only young writers are able to tell stories in new ways. Where does that put the mother of formal experimentation, octogenarian Caryl Churchill?

And we just heard, in the middle of all this, that Arts NSW have defunded Hothouse Theatre. WHAT????

Funding used to get slashed when organisations embezzled or went off the artistic rails. These days funding is withdrawn from viable and functioning enterprises that have been already cut to the bone but have been working double to survive and create despite the constraints. Funding is cut so that other organisations can cannibalise on them, because the purse just doesn't get any bigger. The regions were / are massively important and distinct, and deserving of their own initiatives. As the country in general is deserving of its own radio drama. What about the ABC's glorious radio drama back catalogue? Will it now simply go into an archive? It's a body of work as vital as the work that got to the stage, and it will now evaporate. Heritage obliteration. Isn't that a war crime? Artists need comparatively so little, but often get less than they can live or work on. There are public servants on salaries larger than Powerhouse Youth Theatre's annual budget. It’s a crying shame how pathetic and mean things are.

1 comment:

Jason Caulfield said...

That's because George Souris as slashed arts funding and sent money to pet projects like Short and Sweet and Sculpture by the Sea (aka commercial, for-profit activities).