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Behind The News? What about the cadets behind the newsgathering?

By Matt Doran - posted Wednesday, 3 September 2003

Amid the anarchy and mud-slinging of the recent ABC budget cuts, a stealth-like blow has been dealt to this nation's aspiring young journalists.

While a war has been waged on the controversial axing of the children's show Behind The News, the equally valuable cadet program has been unceremoniously dumped.

By dropping this training program the ABC has adopted the same hopeless mindset as the commercial networks; a vicious, regressive mindset that says to today's hopeful graduates: "No, we don't want you".


In an industry that offers few, if any, entry-level positions, the ABC was widely recognised as the final pillar of hope for students planning a career in broadcast journalism; an area where commercial broadcasters have traditionally contributed little.

Axing the program will save the broadcaster a modest $530,000 a year, a paltry return considered within an overall budget of around $740 million. The decision is made even less palatable by reports that a further $90 million in taxpayers' money will be poured into ABC's Asia Pacific channel - watched mainly by expats and holiday-makers in the Pacific.

Harry Dylon, acting coordinator of journalism at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, is one of many academics lamenting the loss of the valuable program.

"It is a fairly small amount of money to be saving to scrap something very, very important for the sake of $0.53 million, which in ABC terms doesn't seem to be a hell of a big slice of the budget," Mr Dylon said in the wake of the cuts.

ABC cadetships were highly sought-after and offered a unique type of training. Since 2001 the ABC has employed 18 cadets nationally, who have been trained as journalists for both radio and television news. Last year there were more than 800 applicants.

Which raises the question: why has it now ditched them?


On the face of it, the decision appears largely budgetary. The ABC Group Audit on National Training (2000) reports that the average training investment per ABC employee for the 1999/2000 financial year was $912. This represents an investment in training of 1.4 per cent of salary.

But the ABC's own inquiry in 2002 found that, among other benefits, ABC training in areas of media production and broadcasting "provides efficient return on the dollar investment in training".

The ABC even has a project-planning system that sets out costs for each training project, "so that delegates can make a judgement on the value for money before approving expenditure".

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About the Author

Matt Doran is a final-year Media and Communications student at Melbourne University.

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