A consultant from the commercial radio industry has been hired to overhaul ABC local radio offerings, as some former staff blame management for stretching staff too thin.

The move follows a disastrous ratings plunge that has seen Melbourne ABC 774 audiences drop from more than seven to less than six per cent audience share in just a year.

Read a report about the slump in ratings

Some observers have been blaming the phenomenon on audience shifts to on-demand content, but former ABC 774 Mornings host Jon Faine squarely blames ABC management.

He says the ABC board has adopted a “rubber band” approach to stretch the staff just so far as for them not to break completely.

Jon Faine writes:

…new staff are overwhelmingly base grade recent graduates on cheap casual contracts. This budget-driven hiring inevitably and irretrievably impacts the quality of the output. Many of these eager but raw recruits are sent to remote locations where they get little support or formal training. Sink or swim. Much of their content attracts tiny audiences.

Read Jon Faine’s column

Former staff are also pulling-apart the situation on social media.

One former senior news producer wrote:

Re-structuring is needed BUT many other horses have bolted in recent years.

Of those, ditching the 7.45 bulletin PLUS other 10-minute bulletins of record was a piece of audience engagement of the negative kind. Cuts in output caused by resourcing issues are WD40 for many rusted on listeners.

In an attempt to address the decline in audiences, the ABC has hired a doyen of the commercial radio industry to execute a “complete reset.”

Cherie Romero was Australia’s first female Music Director in Australia and pioneered FM formats.

She became the first Content Director for rock station Triple M Sydney, later crossing to 2DayFM to help create the first soft adult contemporary format.

Romero also launched the MIX and Gold FM brands, and has conducted international consultancies from the Pacific to Europe.

Read a profile about Cherie Romero

According to a report in The Age, Romero will look at everything from the structure of interviews and music selection to branding.

She told the paper:

It is a challenge given the choice and crowded audio offerings audiences can access at their fingertips.

 My involvement is to give an external perspective and provide added value to be able to assess the entire audio offering nationally and define where ABC Radio can grow their audiences and re-connect with listeners who have left us.

“This is not a cost-cutting exercise. In fact, far from it. It is addressing what needs to be done to evolve ABC radio for the future and to the five-year plan. If we don’t deliver content that is relevant, we will become irrelevant.

ABC audiences will be the winners.

Read an Age report about the new review


Phil Evans


Gay man on the road in a ute with a dog named Zane, Also Consultant with Rhizomatic & @Actionskills (he/they)