The decision to introduce an ABC statewide regional morning program, cutting two hours of local content from the air, is a response to changing audience participation, says ABC director of local and regional content Judith Whelan.
In Ballarat, the Breakfast program, presented by Steve Martin, will be cut from four hours to three, while Gavin McGrath's Mornings program will go entirely.
Ms Whelan says no staff will lose their jobs and no money will be taken out of the ABC Radio budget in the changes, which will allow the national broadcaster to better focus its resources.
"We have to think, all the time, about how we can use our resources best to serve people on all of the different platforms we have," Ms Whelan told The Courier.
"We've seen this rapidly growing digital audience - not just at the ABC, but with media companies worldwide. As people take up these new platforms, they want content on the ABC website, they want content on ABC Listen, they want content wherever they can get it, whenever they can get it. This move doesn't reduce the quality of ABC Radio at all; what it does is allow us to do is break and discover more truly local stories, and get those stories onto not just our linear platform on our radio broadcasts, but also onto our digital platforms."
While there was no specific local audience research done before announcing the changes, Ms Whelan says the format was trialled through summer programming.
"We're not turning off anything. We're making the audio better for them. The audience has been receiving this plan for the past few years, and we've had no complaints about it. There hasn't been a reduction in localism.
"In the past two years we've seen a quadrupling of followers to local Facebook pages in the regions. Australians are early adopters, they use platforms available to them to stay in touch in the way they want, whenever they want. We have to move with audiences. We have to give them what they want."
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