The CEO of the Australian Music Centre leads a campaign to save ABC Classic FM’s new music showcase.

John Davis, the CEO of the Australian Music Centre, has written an open letter to Mark Scott, the Managing Director of the ABC, Michael Mason, acting Director of Radio and Richard Buckham, Classic FM’s Station Manager to implore them to save ABC Classic FM’s New Music Up Late program. The radio show which showcases contemporary music and is a major media channel for the promotion of new Australian work was the first program to be confirmed as cancelled following the announcement last week of major changes to Classic FM’s schedule due to federal funding cuts. Davis also condemns the decision to move all broadcasts of jazz music from Classic FM to Radio National, which he believes will “fragment [Classic FM’s] audience in a way that seems ill-considered.” APRA AMCOS, the national copyright collective for Australia and New Zealand has published the letter on its website.

Davis writes that he is contacting the ABC’s management on behalf of the Australian Music Centre’s “630 represented composers, 1,200 members, 4,000 mailing list subscribers, and a larger constituency who use the AMC’s services, which includes audiences who support and engage with contemporary music in this country.” Davis outlines the impact of removing New Music Up Late, which not only provides one of the primary platforms in Australia for composers and sound artists to promote their work, but also an important source of income via broadcast royalties. “This directly impacts the sustainability of professional creative practice,” Davis writes.

Davis also illustrates the devastating impact of losing long-form radio documentaries from ABC Radio National such as Into the Music, which have been discontinued following the cuts announcement, describing these programs as “valuable documentation on artists and their work, often highlighting important work that is largely invisible, bringing it to an interested and engaged audience.”

A petition to save New Music Up Late, started last week by composer Cat Hope has already attracted over 1,400 signatures. Composer, cultural commentator and regular Limelight contributor Julian Day currently hosts the radio program.

Quentin Dempster speaking at ABC protest

While momentum is building in the fight to save Classic FM’s programming, one of the biggest supporters of the station within the ABC has become one of the first casualties of the corporation’s sweeping staff cuts. Veteran journalist Quentin Dempster, who has been spearheading protests to save the ABC, has been made redundant by the broadcaster after 30 years of service because the regional current affairs program he presents, 7.30 NSW has been abolished. He is one of 300 ABC staff who were immediately laid off following the cuts announcement last week.

Dempster is a highly decorated journalist. In 1992 he was awarded the Order of Australia for services to the media and in 2002 he was honoured with a Walkley Award for the outstanding contributions to journalism.

He was the first ABC insider to voice concerns about the future of Classic FM. In a statement published on the Friends of the ABC website in September, he suggested major changes to the broadcaster were imminent. 

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