The Northern Daily Leader | Ann Newling | 11 September 2015
The jobs of longtime editorial director Maxene Cooper and former newsreader and coastal bulletin director Fiona Ferguson are believed to be those under threat, with the likelihood only one will be retained under the rationalisations.
Prime Media Group yesterday announced that a number of senior editorial positions would go in Wagga Wagga, Tamworth and Canberra, although it did not detail how many or who.
Prime Media Group chief executive officer Ian Audsley confirmed what industry sources had been predicting for some time, amid the current campaign by regional telecasters warning that regional news and television across Australia is under threat.
“After a period of consultation with our staff, we have taken steps to consolidate a number of senior editorial positions within our news teams,” Mr Audsley said in a brief release. “It is always regrettable to lose good staff and this decision has not been easy or taken lightly.
“Prime still maintains a strong news presence in many regional centres; however, we have been making the point for well over two years that regional voices in the national debate are under threat.”
Both Ms Cooper and Ms Ferguson first joined Prime about 20 years ago but one position is expected to go under the planned cuts.
Four independent regional television and radio broadcasters – Prime, WIN, Southern Cross Austereo and Imparja – launched a community awareness campaign to highlight the growing risk of cuts to regional television services, including news, information and community support, in August.
The campaign Save Our Voices launched on all four networks five weeks ago, with teaser announcements in prime time and the launch of a website to allow regional and rural communities to learn more and get involved.
The four regional networks want changes to outdated federal media laws that currently leave them chained to the past in a rapidly changing environment, while major metropolitan TV networks and international players like Google and Netflix stream services into regional broadcast areas unrestricted, with unregulated content.
Mr Audsley has warned since, and been backed up by some powerful regional political and business leaders, that local content was at risk in regional news.
Yesterday’s announcements come after earlier closures of local news services in some markets and the move of the Tamworth newsreading bulletin from its home of 50 years to Canberra back in April.
Since then, Ms Ferguson has continued in a behind-the-camera news role.
At the time, there were 21 jobs in Tamworth and the coastal-area newsrooms of Coffs Harbour, Taree, Port Macquarie and Lismore.
The campaign has focused on the fact regional television serves an audience of some nine million Australians.
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