Australia

ABC budget cut could lead to 500 job losses by December

Malcolm Turnbull talks during House of Representatives question time on 28 May 2013 in Canberra, Australia Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the savings were "not punitive"

The Australian Broadcasting Corp will likely sack as many as 500 staff by year's end because of a government budget cut.

The Australian government has cut the national broadcaster's budget by A$50m ($44m; £28m) or about 5% a year.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed the anticipated cuts on ABC TV programme Q&A.

A number of key television programmes will be affected, including the Friday night state-based 7.30 programmes.

Speaking on Monday night, Mr Turnbull said the A$50m cut would average out over five years at about 5% off the total budget.

Political bias

He said he would release more details about the cuts later in the week and said the savings were "not punitive".

"They are relatively modest savings relative to the budget of the ABC and SBS," said Mr Turnbull.

"They are part of a government savings exercise because we've got a problem with the budget. There's no reason for the ABC to be exempt from that," he said.

The ABC has been regularly criticised over a long period of time for bias against the conservative side of politics.

But Mr Turnbull last night criticised ABC management for trying to shift the blame for "programming changes [made] for its own programming reasons" to the government.

"That is simply not right," he said.

ABC's Media Watch program said ABC2 and ABC3 would survive; Radio National would be cut by 2% and regional radio had been mostly left alone. Regional ABC services are greatly valued by those communities and by the Coalition's National Party MPs.

Late night news and current affairs program Lateline is expected to suffer a cut, while 20 jobs will be lost in the ABC's foreign bureaus, said Media Watch host Paul Barry.

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