ABC axes Lateline as part of current affairs journalism overhaul … – The Guardian

The ABC has announced an overhaul of its current affairs journalism including the axing of its flagship show Lateline and the creation of investigative and specialist reporting teams.

The new teams of reporters and producers will work across television, radio and online to boost the broadcaster’s daily news and current affairs output.

Hosted by Emma Alberici, Lateline first aired in 1990, with Kerry O’Brien in the chair until 1995, and has been fronted over its 27 years by some of the ABC’s biggest names including Maxine McKew, Virginia Trioli, Leigh Sales and Tony Jones.

The late-night news program survived the axe in 2014 after a public campaign swayed the ABC board but had its budget cut by 25% and was moved to the ABC News channel.

Sources told Guardian Australia it is still an expensive program, with a budget running into the millions, but only attracts an average metro audience of 185,000 viewers across two channels. It plays on the ABC News channel first at 9.30pm on weeknights and then on the main channel at 10.30pm.

The size of the audience has made it difficult to argue to keep Lateline in the schedule as it has lost much of the impact it once had under O’Brien in the early days and under Jones when it had more investigative resources.

In his six years on the program O’Brien conducted lengthy interviews with international guests via satellite, which became the program’s signature. It also made the green pen he held in his hand an icon.

Lateline’s 2006 coverage of sexual violence in remote Northern Territory Aboriginal communities led to the Little Children Are Sacred report and has been named by Jones as among the program’s most important work.

Alberici will become the ABC’s chief economics correspondent, the broadcaster said in a statement.

The investigative team will be led by the 7.30 executive producer, Jo Puccini, and the Lateline executive producer, Lisa Whitby, will be in charge of the team of specialist reporters who will cover arts, business, courts, industrial relations, entertainment and health, many of the areas abandoned by broadsheet newspapers in recent years.

The new recruit John Lyons, who has been appointed head of investigative and in-depth journalism, will have overall responsibility for the specialist and investigative teams.

The restructure of current affairs has been undertaken to better share resources between radio, television, digital and news divisions and is expected to result in two or three redundancies after a consultation period with the unions.

Next month the corporation is expected to unveil a major restructure of the content divisions of the ABC along genre lines rather than divisions. Originally scheduled for early October, it has been pushed back to as late as November.

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