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Cuts could cost 400 jobs at Australian public broadcaster

[SYDNEY] More than 400 jobs could be lost at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the head of the organisation said Monday, after the government cut funding.

Canberra last week announced the public broadcaster's budget would be cut by A$254 million (US$221 million) over the next five years, prompting thousands to protest in Sydney and Melbourne on the weekend.

ABC managing director Mark Scott on Monday said the cuts meant hundreds of jobs could be lost, while television sports broadcasts would be scaled back.

"We anticipate that more than 400 people - close to 10 per cent of our ongoing workforce - face potential redundancy as we adjust our activities over coming months," he said.

"We regard the changes as vital to securing the long-term health of the organisation but I acknowledge that is no comfort to those who will lose their positions." Mr Scott said the ABC would also review its property holdings, with one Sydney site to be sold while an Adelaide television production studio and five regional radio stations face closure.

Foreign bureaux will be restructured and a new Beirut post opened.

Mr Scott also flagged a renewed emphasis on digital services, with a A$20 million investment fund established in the area and the creation of a new ABC Digital Network division in 2015.

The ABC Board said it supported the revamp, with chairman James Spigelman saying the initiatives were a careful response to the "twin challenges of technological change and reduced funding".

"They provide funds to invest in essential new online and mobile strategies that better connect the ABC with its audiences," Spigelman said.

Mr Scott said he believed the changes were in the best interests of the ABC and its many stakeholders given the funding cuts, and were designed to position the organisation for the future.

He said the ABC "cannot stand still and run the risk of becoming less relevant and compelling to this and future generations".

The government currently provides the ABC and ethnic broadcaster SBS some A$1.4 billion in funding each year.

In announcing the cutbacks last week, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the ABC should be able to fund the less than 5.0 per cent cuts through efficiencies and without sacrificing programming.

Since being elected in September 2013, the conservative government has announced savings across the board to rein in a growing budget deficit, and Mr Turnbull said the ABC and SBS could not be immune from eliminating waste and inefficiencies.

Australian media companies, like their foreign counterparts, have endured hundreds of job losses in recent years amid the difficult transition to digital media.