An Open Letter to Members of the ABC Board and ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie
An Open Letter to Members of the ABC Board and ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie As musicians and music industry professionals, we are appalled by the decision taken by ABC management to scrap The Daily Planet, The Inside Sleeve, The Live Set and The Rhythm Divine, and to remove Jazztrack from Radio National. This decision was taken without proper industry and public consultation and must be reconsidered and reversed. The cuts deliver a fundamental blow to diverse, vibrant and independent sectors of the Australian music industry, which receive minimal national radio coverage elsewhere. These programs are among the remaining windows for Australian artists to tell their stories about Australian life, for people to hear and learn from those stories and for all Australians to hear the songs and stories of other cultures from around the world. Further, they support and underpin a music sector that, according to Music Australia, contributes between $4 and $6 billion to the Australian economy annually and which generates close to 65,000 jobs, over half of which are full-time. They are essential listening for those working in this vibrant industry and should not be discarded on the grounds of ratings. We do not believe that the proposed additions to Double J in any way compensate for Radio National’s losses, especially given that Double J is only available in digital format. We are deeply concerned about listeners in regional, rural and remote areas where the Internet and digital radio access is problematic at best. Many of these listeners rely on linear broadcasting. It is clear that the cuts contradict the intent and spirit of the ABC Charter, which outlines two of “the functions of the Corporation” as: - “broadcasting programs that contribute a sense of national identity and inform and entertain, and reflect the cultural diversity of, the Australian community;” - “to encourage and promote the musical, dramatic and other performing arts in Australia.” Collectively, The Daily Planet, The Inside Sleeve, The Live Set, The Rhythm Divine and Jazztrack provide specialist, linear broadcasting of diverse music that is not broadcast nationally elsewhere with equivalent depth, breadth and expertise. This music is often outside the mainstream. It includes folk, roots, world, blues, jazz and adult contemporary, among the many genres. It champions unique voices, small communities, alternative perspectives, story telling (particularly of Australian stories), experimentation, live performance, improvisation and excellence. Much of this music is released independently by highly-respected Australian musicians who have developed enthusiastic audiences through extensive touring, depending on RN’s Australia-wide reach for promotion. Many perform regularly in regional, rural and/or remote areas. The shows set for axing also provide promotion and national live broadcasting of numerous Australian music events, including major festivals, such as Byron Bay Bluesfest, Woodford Folk Festival, the National Folk Festival, Port Fairy Folk Festival and Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, as well as small festivals and community gatherings. These provide regional, rural and remote areas with opportunities for place-making, musical education, tourism and economic growth. While we value and admire Double J, we do not believe that it can fill the hole left by the cuts, despite additions proposed for 2017. These additions are limited to a four-times weekly (rather than weekly) programming of The Beat Eclectic, which covers “post rock, punk and pop, ambient and acoustic sounds”; the introduction of Fat Planet, which ran on FBi from 2003-2008 and “showcases new music from around the world, such as Scandinavian folk, Japanese dubstep and Chilean postpunk”; and a “new live music show” to feature “new recordings from local and international artists”. Meanwhile, Triple J’s primary focus will remain the youth market. Without The Daily Planet, The Inside Sleeve, The Live Set, The Rhythm Divine and Jazztrack, how will ABC Radio possibly “reflect the cultural diversity of the Australian community”?
We also emphasise the importance of RN Music’s expert broadcasters. Lucky Oceans, Paul Gough, Geoff Wood and Alice Keath are some of Australia’s most experienced, knowledgeable, passionate and intelligent musical minds. The casting off of these irreplaceable staff members contradicts RN’s commitment to “specialist content across arts and culture” broadcasting, as outlined on RN’s website. We are far from alone in our opposition. A petition to save RN Music, launched on November 14th, has already attracted over 12,000 signatures, and numerous high-profile figures – both Australian and international have officially endorsed the petition statement. These include Paul Kelly, Missy Higgins, Archie Roach AM, Gurrumul, Kate Ceberano, Tim Winton, Neil Murray, Sarah Blasko, Megan Washington, Mike Nock, Shane Howard AM, Don Walker, Tim Freedman, Lindy Morrison OAE, Glen Hansard, Andy Irvine, Gina Williams, Paul Grabowsky AO, Rob Hirst, Deborah Conway, John Butler, Iva Davies AM, the Waifs and many, many more. In a public statement, author Tim Winton writes: “At a time when it seems every element of home-grown culture is under siege, it’s bewildering to see Radio National stripping music shows from its programming. To musicians, composers, producers and listeners alike, this retreat feels like a betrayal, a signal that ABC management feels no need to repay the loyalty of its audience. For years Radio National has been a defender of Australian culture and a means by which new writers, players and composers find an audience.” Also in a public statement, Katie Noonan writes: “I simply can not fathom how anyone would have thought this was a good idea for the Australian people … In regional Australia these radio shows are literally the lifeline for cultural connectivity … Having been lucky enough to tour this great big country of ours many times, I know how absolutely vital these programs are to people’s lives … The catastrophic effects of these cuts will be enormous on multiple levels - this decision has simply not been thought through properly and absolutely needs to be reversed”. We urge the Board and management to respond to the following questions: (1) Can you assure the listening public that the changes will not reduce the diversity of music styles played, the amount of new Australian music promoted, the number of Australian musicians profiled and the resources devoted to these activities? (2) Will the changes reduce regional access to Australian music? (3) Is the ABC confident the changes won’t reduce audiences for the genres covered by RN Music, or adversely impact the live music ecosystem for these musicians and their audiences? (4) Has the ABC considered, in delivering on its charter, its responsibility to the broader music community and to the country, to contribute to anoriginal, national musical culture and identity, to support viable careers and to support an important national industry, culturally and economically? We also ask the board to look at the thousands of comments on the petition as well as others on social media. https://www.savernmusic.com This is a link to the petition: https://www.change.org/p/michael-mason-hands-off-radionational-music Finally, we again call on the ABC to review this ill-considered decision, as outlined in the petition statement, and to return The Daily Planet, The Inside Sleeve, The Live Set, The Rhythm Divine and Jazztrack to Radio National in 2017. It’s our ABC. We would be happy to discuss these issues further. Yours Sincerely, Ruth Hazleton & the ‘Hands Off Radio National Music’ campaign team. Adrian Jackson - Artistic Director Wangaratta Jazz & Blues Festival Andrew Legg - UTAS Director, Conservatorium of Music Andy Irvine (Ireland) APRA/AMCOS Board Archie Roach AM Association of Australian Musicians (AM) Australian Independent Musicians Association (AIMA) Barney McAll - Peggy Glanville Hicks Resident Ben Northey - Associate Conductor MSO Bernard Fanning Black Market Music Bob, Margaret & James Fagan Brett Kingman Cameron Undy - Owner Venue 505 Chong Lim - MD John Farnham/Dancing with the Stars Chris Wilson Craig Scott - Chair of Jazz Studies Sydney Conservatorium of Music Country Music Association of Australia (CMMA) David Spelman - Artistic Director NY International Guitar Festival Dan Sultan Deborah Conway Djakapurra Munyarryun Djolpa McKenzie Dobe Newton Don Walker Eddie Perfect Elizabeth Rogers, CEO Regional Arts NSW Fairbridge Festival Fred Smith Folk Alliance Australia Genevieve Lacey Gina Williams Glen Hansard (Ireland) Greg Fleet Gurrumul Yunupingu Head Records Helen Marcou & Quincy McLean – SLAM & Bakehouse Studios Iain Grandage - Artistic Director Port Fairy Spring Music Festival Iva Davies AM James Morrison AM Jamie Oehlers - Coordinator of Jazz Studies, WAAPA, Edith Cowan University Jack Charles Jane Clifton Jazz Queensland Jeff Lang Jim Conway Joe Camilleri Joe Geia Joe Henry (US) John Butler Jonathan Dimond - Head of Program/Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Polytechnic Julian Burnside AO QC Dr Jon Rose (Don Banks Award) Jordie Lane Kate & Phil Ceberano Katie Noonan - Artistic Director Queensland Music Festival Kavisha Mazella Ken Stringfellow (US) Kerrie Glasscock - Artistic Director Sydney Fringe Festival Kutcha Edwards Leah Flanagan Lindy Hume - Artsistic Director Opera QLD Lindy Morrison OAM Lior Attar Liz Frencham Lucie Thorne Lyn Williams OAM - Director Gondwana Choirs and Sydney Children's Choir Marcia Howard Marc Ribot (US) Margaret Roadknight Mark Atkins Mary Black (Ireland) Mary Mihelakos Megan Washington Melbourne International Jazz Festival Melbourne Jazz Coop (MJC) Michael Franti (US) Michael Tortoni - Owner Bennetts Lane Jazz Club Mick Thomas Mike Nock (Don Banks Award) Miroslav Bukovsky - Distinguished Artist in Residence, School of Music, ANU Missy Higgins Monique Brumby Mullum Music Festival Music Australia The Music Trust Nannup Music Festival National Celtic Festival National Folk Festival Nick Bailey - General Manager, ANAM Dr Nick Haywood – Coordinator of Contemporary Music, UTAS Conservatorium Paul Dempsey Paul Grabowsky AO Paul Kelly Dr Paul Williamson - Coordinator of Jazz Ensembles and Honours, Monash Uni Peter Noble OAM - Artistic Director of Byron Bay Bluesfest Port Fairy Folk Festival Rebecca Barnard Rhonda Burchmore Richard Letts AM - Founder, Music Council of Australia, President, International Music Council Associate Professor Robert Burke - Coordinator of Jazz & Popular Music, Monash Uni Dr Robert Vincs - Head of Jazz & Improvisation, VCA, Melbourne University Rod Vervest -Program Manager Perth International Arts Festival Ross Wilson Sarah Blasko Shane Howard AM Simon Burke AO Skinnyfish Music Slava & Leonard Grigoryan Spiderbait Stephen Pigram Steve Nieve (England) Sydney Fringe Festival Sydney Improvised Music Association (SIMA) Thirsty Merc Tim Freedman Tim Rogers Tim Winton Tracy Bartram Truckstop Honeymoon (USA) Vince Jones The Waifs William Barton Which Way Music Woodford Folk Festival PostScript December 2nd, 2016 - the ABC have answered the above letter with this reply Hands off Radio National music have now responded: Dear friends, Here is a link to the ABC’s response to our open letter. Our initial response is this: • The ABC’s response is inadequate. • It is clear that our concerns are not being taken seriously. • It is clear that the ABC do not fully comprehend the issues of cultural diversity, choice, access and regional/rural concerns addressed in our open letter. Our objections to these cuts are not simply about music. • The ABC clearly do not understand how these cuts will affect the Australian music industry itself. • We are seeking a response from ABC Board, to whom the letter was addressed; NOT staff members who were responsible for these decisions in the first place. • We wrote to the Board and Managing Director pointing out that these are decisions that contradict the ABC charter and we expect them to consider and respond appropriately. • The concession that "...not all genres and artists will be covered in the same way...and some artists and areas of music won't be consistently covered by Double j or Local Radio” is completely unacceptable. • It is simply not correct to argue that everyone can access Double J or digital radio. Access to programs via the internet is for many Australians either impossible, intermittent and/or very costly. • Finally, and of great importance, the response arrogantly doesn't even mention the decades of experience, wisdom and knowledge - and networks of the wonderful people; presenters and producers - who lovingly curate these shows to bring us new and familiar and interesting sounds every day. We are preparing a detailed response and encourage you to voice your opinions DIRECTLY to this email address: email@example.com