State Symphony Orchestra Chairmen express collective disappointment at station’s less talk, more music direction.
Margaret Throsby’s Midday Interview is the major casualty in a shakeup of ABC Classic FM announced yesterday. A staple for many radio listener, Throsby’s popular, long-running weekday programme will be replaced by a single three-hour show, Saturday Morning with Margaret Throsby. “The decission was entirley mine, and sought by me in the middle of this year,” Throsby told Limelight. “The move is being made with the ABC’s blessing.”
“I feel the time is right to say goodbye to the Midday Interview and for me to take on new challenges,” she said in the ABC press release. “I’m really excited and looking forward to the new programme format and timeslot, where I’ll [be] co-presenting with a guest who will share stories about their love of classical music. I’d like to invite my loyal weekday listeners to spend their Saturday mornings with me.”
However, in a rapidly mustered group statement, the Chairmen of the Adelaide, Melbourne, Queensland, Sydney, Tasmanian and West Australian Symphony Orchestras took a swipe at ABC Classic FM for an apparent reduction in quality content. Acknowledging the “outstanding and sustained contribution” that Throsby has made to the orchestras and to the Australian musical ecology over 22 years, they praised her for having “significantly supported the ABC in fulfilling its charter to encourage and promote music in Australia and build our musical cultural heritage,” but said they were “disappointed that ABC Classic FM’s Midday programme, which featured guests sharing their life stories and favourite music, will not return next year.”
Other Classic FM changes announced in a lengthy ABC radio statement covering several of the broadcaster’s platforms, include the decommissioning of Mairi Nicolson’s Music Makers, while Damien Beaumont, a popular presenter and informed classical music specialist will move from his Saturday Morning slot to hosting Evenings, the regular concert broadcast at 7pm each night. “ABC Classic FM will continue to feature short-form conversations with artists across the schedule, especially in relation to Australian concert performances,” the station told Limelight. “The difference is that we will not have a regular one-hour timeslot dedicated to this content every week. We are instead using this hour to offer our listeners more music.”
More positive changes include the recruitment of soprano Greta Bradman, a popular 2016 guest presenter, taking up a regular Sunday morning slot focussing on music for relaxation and renewal. “One of my greatest loves is bringing people together around classical music – and this opportunity will enable me to connect with people from all over the world through glorious classical music via the ‘remote togetherness’ of radio,” said Bradman in the ABC statement.
The station has also responded to listener complaints about the anonymity of its presenter-less current midnight to dawn offering. Overnights, will be replaced in 2017 by Night Music, a new presented programme. The station’s statement suggested that it will be hosted “by some of your favourite ABC Classic FM presenters”. In response to Limelight’s enquiry as to which current presenters will be moved to what, it would be fair to assume, is a fairly unappealing billet, the station replied that “the 2017 presentation rosters are yet to be worked out but familiar, current network voices will feature in the programme.” It is also unclear what will happen to those presenters’ current programmes if they are moved to the night shift.
The majority of the broadcaster’s changes, it argues, are being made in response to audience preferences for less talk on weekends. “Saturday and Sunday will see talk content make way for high-profile concerts from around Australia in response to audience feedback that listeners want to hear more music on weekends,” said the Classic FM statement. “By the end of 2016, ABC Classic FM will have broadcast roughly 300 new Australian concerts, it will have repeated roughly another 300 and under our agreement with the EBU (European Broadcast Union) it will have broadcast approximately a further 300,” said the station in response to Limelight’s request for statistics around current concert broadcasts, admitting that two-thirds of their ‘live’ content in this area is now comprised of overseas syndicated content or repeats of previous concerts. “Our commissioning for 2017 will be aiming for similar numbers and a similar ratio,” they added.
In addition to the decommissioning of Music Makers, Graham Abbott’s Keys to Music will been moved to Monday evenings and religious music programme For the God Who Sings will now be heard from 11pm to 1am on Sunday nights, purportedly to avoid schedule clashes with longer operas broadcast in Sunday Opera.
Perhaps the biggest changes to music broadcasting will take place at Radio National. Apart from Andrew Ford’s The Music Show, RN will cancel almost all of its music programming – including The Inside Sleeve, The Live Set, The Daily Planet and The Rhythm Divine – with up to seven staff potentially losing their jobs according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Margaret Throsby’s final Midday interview will be broadcast on December 16.
This article updates a previous version, which might have implied that Midday was being decommisioned against Margaret Throsby’s wishes.
Key Schedule Changes:
Saturday Morning with Margaret Throsby 9am until 12pm
Sunday Morning with Greta Bradman 9am until 12pm
Weekday Afternoons with Mairi Nicolson (Tuesday – Friday) 12pm until 4pm
Weekend Afternoons with Julian Day (Saturday – Monday) 12pm until 4pm
Keys to Music with Graham Abbott, Monday at 7pm
For The God Who Sings with Stephen Watkins, Sunday 11pm – 1am
Night Music with various presenters, Monday – Saturday 12am – 6am
Night Music with various presenters Sunday, following For The God Who Sings 1am – 6am