the fearlesThe Australian Broadcasting Corporation has long been our leading provider of news from the rest of the world. Read former foreign correspondent Tony Hill's remarkable book Voices From The Air, about the ABC correspondents who reported from the battlefronts of World War 2. Ever since then, the ABC has led the way on international coverage, with generations of foreign correspondents bringing us news from often dangerous and isolated locations. The coverage from Washington during the invasion of Congress was in the finest traditions of ABC international news coverage.
Some ABC foreign correspondents become household names and very big stars. All of them are supported by reporters, producers, fixers, office managers - staff hired locally in the city where ABC overseas bureaux operate. There are offices in Beijing, Jakarta, London, Tokyo, Washington, and Port Moresby, where I served between 1999 and 2002. There used to be many more. Some have closed, and others are now a work from home arrangement - Bangkok, Beirut, New Delhi and Jerusalem.
From these locations, correspondents file radio, TV and online reports, working a roster to fit Australian filing deadlines, rather than local time zones. They rely heavily on the local knowledge, contacts and nous of their local staff. Correspondents get the kudos and the awards. The local staff are largely unknown, their salaries and conditions far less rewarding than the ABC correspondents they support.
In Port Moresby, I had the tireless support of the wonderful journalist Ekonia Peni, champion office manager Rachel Tigen, the fearless Peter Dipp on camera, and the amazing Kauage and Sik as caretakers. I relied on their skills and kindness every day of my three years in PNG. I would not have filed a single story without them. I was well paid for my work there, but they were asked to work to Australian standards for salaries and conditions well below Australian minimums. And it is the local staff who bear the brunt of any repercussions when the correspondent delivers unpopular or contentious reporting.
This has been a concern in the ABC community for decades, and a recent development shows it hasn't improved. Former ABC Africa correspondent Ginny Stein, writes of her concern for a staff member at the ABC bureau in Nairobi, which is closing down amid cost-cutting at the national broadcaster.
Ginny and staff member "D" moved the ABC Africa bureau to Nairobi from Johannesburg in 2013. "D" has been made redundant, but Ginny says his low wage meant a "pittance of a payout". She says "D" will have to return to his homeland, Zimbabwe, where economic and political turmoil makes for an at best difficult future for this talented and loyal ABC staffer.
Read Ginny Stein's Facebook post about "D" and the Nairobi bureau. The ABC disputes some of Ginny's statements. But the situation she describes will be familiar to many former ABC foreign correspondents and local overseas staff.
And here's the link to a fundraiser for "D" started by Ginny.
Richard is a writer, podcaster, radio and TV broadcaster, an editor, and a lover of music. He tells the stories of how great songs are made, and of the people who make them.