STAFF REPORTER | Radioinfo
SYDNEY - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat morning program has undergone some format changes, causing concern that there have been more cuts to the national broadcaster’s international radio service.
And, in another change, announced internally today, esteemed Pacific Affairs reporter Bruce Hill will be leaving the ABC.
The format changes “are not cuts,” according to Radio Australia manager Cath Dwyer, who has told Radioinfo the format of the morning sequence was rearranged to make it sound better.
At the beginning of this year, before Cath Dwyer took up her current position, the ABC announced that “listeners in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific will get an additional two hours of live morning weekday programming with the launch of a new morning news, talk and entertainment show.”
But the show was "a combination of different formats that wasn't working as well as we wanted it to," according to Dwyer, who explained that the morning sequence began with the half hour Pacific Beat show, then half an hour of Pacific Mornings, then a replay of Pacific Beat, another half hour of Pacific Mornings followed by AM.
“We needed to refine the format. The style and pacing of the shows were just too different, so we have consolidated Pacific Mornings into a 90 minute show and added some of our best and most relevant RN programs into the early timeslot, because they fit better with Pacific Beat and AM,” said Dwyer
“There are no cuts, in fact we have allocated slightly more resources.”
PNG media commentator Keith Jackson, previously of Jackson Wells Morris, is one of several expert observers who are worried about the changes happening to Radio Australia services in the Pacific.
"Shortwave seems like the crystal set these days, an old technology of no current relevance,” he told Radioinfo.
“But to the people of PNG and the Pacific and small boats at sea, for weather reports and general information, it was a godsend.
"Then a couple of years ago, the ABC - with no pushback from Australia's foreign affairs department - decided to save a few coins by disbanding their transmitters in Darwin and Melbourne.
"There was an immediate and prolonged protest from the islands to our near north but to no avail. The transmitters shut down, the frequencies were given up and - lo and behold - China has just grabbed them,” Jackson said.
"Now normally this would be a matter of little consequence - samting nating as we say in Pidgin English - except that the Chinese have a strong desire to make the south west Pacific part of their sphere of influence.
“Australia has known about this for years but only recently - probably pushed by the Americans - are we beginning to make a fuss about it.
"Despite this, the ABC has just decided to further cut its popular internet-based Pacific Beat program - in another act that has enraged Pacific listeners. Can its Chinese sequel be too far away?”