Cautious early commentary on yesterday's restructure announcement from ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie has been broadly positive.
200 mostly middle management jobs are to go. The number of internal divisions will be cut from 14 to nine, and $50 million will be made available to boost video and digital content production in regional Australia.
With ABC and other 'legacy' media audiences in steady decline, nobody disputes the need for radical change in order to confront digital disruption from the likes of Netflix and Facebook. The question is whether Guthrie is going about it the right way, and as yet it's difficult to tell.
So far, she has been light on detail, and not very forthcoming when she has been asked to explain her decisions in forums such as Senate Estimates.
When challenged to justify the ending of shortwave broadcasts, all she had to say was that there had been only 15 complaints from members of the community. Some of her interlocutors were stunned by her lack of detail, and there is no doubt there will be pressure for her to be more forthcoming in the future.
But for now, we're being left to join the dots in what could be a deliberate strategy to facilitate a slash and burn approach to reforming the ABC. In other words, the wholesale removal of functioning infrastructure that has taken many years to establish and cannot practically be rebuilt should her plans turn out to be mistaken.
Yesterday's announcement included news that the ABC's international division will be absorbed into other divisions. Does this mean that the ABC is no longer interested in providing a service to listeners in the Pacific and PNG, which it has done for many generations through Radio Australia?
It appears it does, and that it's quite significant. It's the broadcasting equivalent of cancelling the most needed part of Australia's international aid to developing countries.
The ABC has just discontinued shortwave broadcasts to the region, ostensibly as part of the move towards distribution of content through the internet. But a report yesterday on the industry news website radioinfo.com.au reveals that Radio New Zealand International (RNZI) has stepped into the void created by what is being depicted as Australia's abandonment of the Pacific and PNG region.
Radio New Zealand CEO Paul Thompson said: 'Remote parts of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu who may be feeling the loss of the ABC can rest assured RNZI will continue to provide independent, timely and accurate news, information and weather warnings as well as entertainment to its Pacific listeners.'
Radio New Zealand came to international shortwave broadcasting only in 1990, and its CEO is obviously proud to be able to help these nations at their hour of need. This begs the converse question of why Michelle Guthrie is not ashamed that the ABC has apparently disabled its ability to provide them with assistance and why it does not matter that the ABC will no longer have a separate international division.
The ABC withdrew its shortwave broadcasts at the beginning of this year as Radio New Zealand was reasserting the need for them. Metaphorically speaking, the two broadcasters are not on the same wave length.
The Radio New Zealand CEO claims that they broadcast timely cyclone and tsunami warnings via shortwave and can continue to be heard should local FM broadcasters go off-air due to a cyclone or other disaster.
We need to hear a counter claim from Michelle Guthrie that the warnings are not vital or that they can still somehow be accessed through the ABC's online services even while there is a power cut. Or that the welfare of these people in a crisis is not the ABC's or Australia's concern.