The future of Australia’s digital radio stations is in jeopardy after a review commissioned by the Federal government proposed dumping the ABC’s digital radio service as a cost-saving measure.
The Lewis review, led by former Seven West Media chief financial officer Peter Lewis, suggests the ABC should abandon digital radio and focus instead on streaming radio online. This would mean the axing of both triple j’s Unearthed station and Double J, a digital branch of triple j that launched earlier this year.
As reported in Fairfax Media, the review also calls for the ABC to charge users to access content on its iView online catch-up service, suggests SBS increases its airing of advertisements and proposes the sale of ABC studios.
The report also suggests moving SBS into the ABC’s headquarters in Ultimo, Sydney. This follows a similar suggestion made by the Abbott government’s efficiency review into the ABC, which recommended outsourcing the production of all ABC television shows to the private sector.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told ABC radio the review was a “report to government, not a report from the government” while Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the review was designed to protect ABC programming from budget cuts.
ABC managing director Mark Scott said any changes made to the broadcaster will be left to the board. “The Lewis review is not prescriptive and final decisions on how the ABC operates and spends its budget lies with the ABC board,” he said. According to Fairfax, the ABC Friends lobby group has called for the review to be made public.