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ABC Classic FM could be facing its most radical restructure ever, according to senior sources within the broadcaster. Under the planned restructuring, which is yet to be made public, the major shakeup of the ABC’s classical music radio station will see a large number of redundancies, primarily of producers and presenters, including some of the broadcaster’s most high-profile figures, as well the loss of the majority of its existing live-to-air presented programming. Limelight understands that all but two existing shows will become largely automated, with only the Breakfast Show and Drive Time programme surviving the cuts, which according to one source are “imminent”. The rest of the broadcaster’s programming will be replaced by the pre-programmed “streamed” broadcasts similar to the type that replaced the overnight programming of Classic FM in November 2014.
Details of the alleged programming cuts have been circulating for months among Classic FM employees, according to sources inside and outside the organisation. However, management are allegedly in “lock down” according to one Classic FM source, and are refusing to offer further information or reassurances to staff. The situation closely mirrors the anxious atmosphere within Classic FM in the final months of 2014, when Government cuts to the ABC’s funding saw drastic reductions in live broadcasting and regional recordings, as well as other cuts to administrative and producing staff. Leaked details of 2014’s restructuring were flatly denied by Classic FM’s station manager Richard Buckham in the September of that year, only to be proved accurate two months later when ABC Managing Director Mark Scott unveiled the full extent of the broadcaster’s response to Government cutbacks.
Limelight has approached the ABC twice in recent months to ask for comment on the planned cuts and in April Buckham assured us that rumours of these cuts were entirely baseless. However, given his denial of previous cuts to Classic FM programming, these assertions have come as little comfort for many within the broadcaster. The switch to a less personnel-heavy, pre-recorded style broadcast would tally with Mark Scott’s proposed vision for the ABC, announced in late 2014, which called for a greater emphasis on the ABC’s digital channels to encourage a younger audience to engage with its content. Cuts to Classic FM a little under two years ago were met with overwhelming public outrage, but were described by Scott as “a prudent efficiency measure that still ensures a quality service for the classical audience.”
In response to the most recent allegations of staff and programming cuts, Buckham was unable to confirm or deny future alterations to Classic FM's offering, stating, "The commissioning and budget process for 2017 has not yet begun, and therefore there are no confirmed plans regarding content or presenter changes for any ABC Radio network," adding that the ABC were "looking forward to announcing our 2017 schedule towards the end of this year."