THE AUSTRALIAN Broadcasting Commission (ABC) will invest $50 million in new content and create 80 new jobs in rural and regional Australia under a new strategy and transformation program.
The program announced by ABC managing director, Michelle Guthrie – named Investing in Audiences – involves a number of interlocking initiatives “designed to strengthen the corporation and enhance its ability to deliver on its Act and Charter and serve the community”.
Ms Guthrie said the key initiatives were creating a $50 million fund open to all employees to source new ideas for content; investing $15 million per year in regional jobs and extra digital and video output as a key part of the fund; implementing a new streamlined leadership team and structure; reducing management by 20 percent and addressing duplication in support roles; signalling a transition to a more audience-focussed content structure over the next 12 months; delivering additional production and support efficiencies across ABC TV and ABC News.
Ms Guthrie said both the Content Fund and the Regional Investment involved unprecedented financial commitments by the ABC from within its own budget.
“The fund enables us to respond with flexibility and speed to shifting audience trends and to extend our reach and engagement, especially with audiences who are infrequent ABC users,” Ms Guthrie said.
“Regional investment will be a priority. We’re committing to an injection of funds, ultimately building to $15 million a year, to provide more reporters and content makers, better tools and increased video and digital output. The ABC will recruit up to 80 new content roles in regional areas within 18 months.”
The ABC aims to reduce management by an average 20 percent across the corporation, with support areas to absorb a higher percentage of that cut. There will also be a process to address duplications across support roles. The savings will go directly towards the Content Fund. ABC TV and ABC News will also reduce production and support roles as part of internal efficiency targets.
The restructure reduces the number of main ABC divisions from 14 to eight, with the four existing content divisions balanced by new streamlined support functions. Sitting alongside the four content divisions (Television, Radio, News and Regional) will be new divisions for Finance, Technology, Engagement and Audiences. Editorial Policies and Government Relations will be specialist functions reporting direct to the managing director..
“These initiatives recognise that incremental reform isn’t the answer and that transformational change over the next year is essential if the ABC is to realise its full potential,” she said. “Change that strengthens the organisation, empowers our people and delivers long-term results for audiences.”
Ms Guthrie said 150 to 200 staff would leave the ABC by June 30, 2017.
The ABC has proposed integrating staff in ABC International into the ABC, enabling the Corporation to utilise all its knowledge, skills and platforms to better serve audiences in the Asia-Pacific region and deliver on its International Charter remit.
There are a number of new leadership team appointments. David Anderson, previously the director of corporate strategy and planning and director of Digital Network with 25 years experience at the ABC, is the new director of ABC Television.
There will be a new Audiences Team, led by Leisa Bacon, who was previously the director of audience and marketing. The new Audiences Division has an expanded remit to oversee the use of the Content Fund and to provide an across-the-ABC approach to research and audience strategy.
Louise Higgins, who has a strong background in financial media management, including working at the BBC and at Nova Entertainment, has joined the ABC as chief financial officer. Sam Liston, formerly the director of ABC People, has become chief engagement officer.
Alan Sunderland will remain as director of editorial policies and Michael Millett will be director of government relations.
The ABC Board has issued its own statement here.
For additional information on the ABC Leadership Team is available here.