ABC Radio Canberra presenter made redundant against wishes

Genevieve Jacobs

Genevieve Jacobs

Genevieve JAcobs leaving ABC headquarters in Wakefield avenue, Lyneham after being made made redundant. Photo by Karleen Minney.

Genevieve JAcobs leaving ABC headquarters in Wakefield avenue, Lyneham after being made made redundant. Photo by Karleen Minney.

Genevieve JAcobs leaving ABC headquarters in Wakefield avenue, Lyneham after being made made redundant. Photo by Karleen Minney.

Genevieve JAcobs leaving ABC headquarters in Wakefield avenue, Lyneham after being made made redundant. Photo by Karleen Minney.

ABC Radio Canberra is losing its now most experienced presenter, with widely-respected announcer Genevieve Jacobs being made redundant by the broadcaster - against her wishes.

A "very sad" Ms Jacobs, 50, made the shock announcement that she would be leaving the ABC during her Mornings program on Wednesday.

She made it clear it had not been her decision to leave the position, saying ABC management had told her her "services were no longer required on air".

Ms Jacobs' usually assured delivery was missing as her voice shook with emotion relaying the news to her dedicated listeners.

"I've been very proud to be a voice for the people right across the region, to speak for the bush and the suburbs and the city," she said, on air.

"I've always tried to act with integrity and fairness. Not to give in to the bullies and to use the yardstick of common sense in the way I approach all issues. And if I've erred or failed, I've tried to honestly rectify that. Mostly, I've always tried to tell you the truth.

"You are such kind, smart, good people. You are the best of Australia. You are my neighbours, you're my community and it's been the greatest privilege to serve you.

"I'm not leaving Canberra or retiring."

Supportive comments came within minutes of Ms Jacobs making her announcement, including from Canberra Museum and Gallery director Shane Breynard who called her a "master broadcaster".

"We have been so lucky to have her in the role," he tweeted.

Listeners, too, reacted with emotion as the program went on.

"I'm sorry to the people who are ringing to say they're in tears," Ms Jacobs said.

"That's happening here too."

Others tweeted that it was "a terrible decision'' and that the "ABC is being gutted. It's really sad".

After reading the morning news, Susan McDonald made sure to praise Ms Jacobs, telling her she had been a valued colleague and would be very much missed.

Before going on air, Ms Jacobs emailed contacts telling them at 50 she had no plans to retire and while her career with the ABC was over, she certainly was "not out".

"I'm writing to let you know that about a month ago ABC Canberra manager Michelle Ainsworth told me that my services were no longer required on air. This makes me very sad," she said, in the email.

"I'll be telling the listeners this morning and I wanted to let so many of you who have been friends, guests, colleagues and comrades know too. I thank you all for your generous friendship and everything we've shared on the radio over the past decade.

"I do love nothing more than a good yarn about a big idea and so many of you have helped make that possible."

Ms Jacobs has been with ABC Radio Canberra, formerly 666 ABC Canberra, for a decade, gaining a reputation for presenting intelligent interviews, asking the tough questions when needed and understanding the local community.

It's understood that when Ms Jacobs objected to being dumped, ABC management did offer her a replacement position - as an off-air producer, a slap in the face for someone with her profile and following.

She is also sought-after as a professional MC and interviewer at events around Canberra, especially with the national institutions.

Ms Jacobs is the third high-profile and long-standing female presenter to leave the ABC in Canberra in the past year.

Afternoons presenter Alex Sloan left ABC Radio Canberra last December after 22 years with the station.

ABC Canberra TV news presenter Virginia Haussegger left the ABC last October after reading the news for the national capital for 15 years.

Added to this, journalist and regular news reader Siobhan Heanue has also left Canberra, but continues with the ABC, as its newly-appointed South Asia correspondent, based in Delhi.

And experienced presenter Louise Maher in 2012 was moved out of the Drive shift to become a field reporter.

It also follows the departure last week of breakfast announcer Red Symons from ABC Radio Melbourne after he was offered "other things" by ABC management but decided to leave.

Ms Jacobs' leaving comes amidst the ABC's "diversity drive" - the broadcaster determined to hire more people from minority backgrounds.

Her departure is also at a time when there is rumoured to be moves to merge ABC radio and TV in Canberra, so that they share the same presenters and content.

That has already been seen by the hiring of Dan Bourchier who presents Breakfast on ABC Radio Canberra as well as the 7pm News bulletin on ABC TV from Monday to Thursday.

It's understood the new boss at the ABC in Canberra, Michelle Ainsworth, delivered the decision to Ms Jacobs that she was no longer required.

But there is a strong belief at the ABC's Dickson headquarters that it is a directive straight from management at Sydney as the national broadcaster scrambles to make changes and show it is relevant.

There are concerns within the ABC ranks that experienced presenters are being sidelined for younger broadcasters with less understanding of their audience, in the name of youth and diversity.

A statement from ABC management made no mention that Ms Jacobs had been made redundant, only that she would "not be returning to ABC Radio Canberra in 2018"..

"Genevieve is known for her strong connection with local issues, warm, well-informed interview style, and robust discussions during the fortnightly Chief Minister Talkback segment," the statement read.

Michelle Ainsworth, editor ABC Canberra, thanked Genevieve for her contribution to local radio.

"Genevieve has made a terrific contribution to ABC Radio Canberra over the past 11 years," Ms Ainsworth said.

"She is a highly respected journalist and broadcaster who has presented a number programs and connected deeply with the community over local stories and issues. With Genevieve's departure from ABC Radio Canberra we'll take the opportunity to refresh the program in 2018.

"We wish Genevieve all the best for the future."

The 9am to noon ratings slot is shared on ABC Radio Canberra between Ms Jacobs on Mornings until 11 and then the nationally-syndicated show Conversations with Richard Fidler until noon.

ABC Canberra Radio has lost market share in the ratings for the timeslot over the year, falling from around 15 per cent to around 11 per cent, losing footing with the commercial FM stations Hit 104.7 and Mix 106.3, which have forged ahead.

Ms Jacobs has been a journalist for almost 30 years, starting on small country newspapers and working across print and radio.

ABC Radio Canberra is due to go into its summer broadcasting on December 15. There was some speculation it had been trying to delay any announcement about Ms Jacob's departure until then, to avoid any controversy. Ms Jacobs' final program will be broadcast on December 15.

The local weekday presenters remaining with the station, so far, are Bourchier, Laura Tchilinguirian (Afternoons) and Adam Shirley (Drive).

A further announcement about the 2018 lineup on ABC Radio Canberra is expected to be released on Wednesday afternoon.

As Ms Jacobs signed off on Wednesday, she said she had received "several hundred texts" from shocked listeners. She said not everyone agreed with her during her broadcasting career but they still enjoyed listening, and that was the whole point. Ms Jacobs told listeners their love, support and generosity meant the world to her.

This story ABC Radio Canberra presenter made redundant against wishes first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.