ABC Television has come under fire for changes to its locally-produced arts programming.

The ABC has faced accusations of “cultural vandalism” from staff and the public this week following the cancellation of three arts programs. Art Nation, The New Inventors and The Collectors will be discontinued at the end of their current season run, with Collectors to be replaced by a more general program called Auctions.

The national broadcaster’s decision to drop Art Nation, the Melbourne-based, half-hour show hosted by Fenella Kernebone and the ABC’s only dedicated local arts program, has been met with criticism.

Although head of television Kim Dalton insists that the ABC will be “moving some of these resources into increased primetime arts programming,” detractors claim the demise of internally-produced arts content has called into question the cultural and intellectual integrity of the organisation. Glenys Stradijot, spokesperson for the community group Friends of the ABC, believes the loss of distinctive local arts coverage in favour of outsourced commercial material threatens the broadcaster’s independence. “This is privatization by stealth,” she said.

Dalton cited “increasing, ongoing financial pressures,” “falling audiences” and a focus on “primetime programming” as factors in retiring the shows – Art Nation ratings have dropped by more than 30 per cent since it replaced the hour-long Sunday Arts in early 2010.

He stressed the online portal, Arts Gateway, will continue, as well the Sunday afternoon block of arts programs. The Tuesday evening Artscape slot, the First Tuesday Bookclub, At The Movies, ABC2 Live arts performances will continue into 2012 and beyond.