After weeks of speculation, ABC MD Michelle Guthrie has announced a major restructure of the broadcaster. The move will see up to 200 jobs axed to create a new $50m Content Fund.
The ABC today put out the following release:
The 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 announced today by the ABC’s Managing Director, Michelle Guthrie.
“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.
The key initiatives are:
- 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% 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.
Addressing ABC employees across the country, Ms Guthrie said both the Content Fund and the Regional Investment involved unprecedented financial commitments by the Corporation 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 per cent 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.
It is expected that across these three exercises, 150 to 200 staff will leave the ABC by 30 June 2017.
Ms Guthrie said the ABC was not alone in the media sector in having to make painful decisions to reduce employee numbers. “These changes are essential to the long-term health of the Corporation, but I acknowledge that this is little comfort to those whose roles are impacted. We will work with unions and with affected staff. We will be open and move as quickly as possible to end the uncertainty in affected areas.”
Ms Guthrie said the ABC had to adapt to the changes that were sweeping through the media sector. The ABC was dealing with the challenges of new and powerful media competitors, fast-changing audience trends and fixed funding. Responding to those challenges required swift and strong action.
“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. Change that strengthens the organisation, empowers our people and delivers long-term results for audiences.”
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 MD.
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, joins the ABC as Chief Financial Officer. Sam Liston, formerly the Director of ABC People, becomes Chief Engagement Officer. The former COO, David Pendleton, will act as Interim Chief Technology Officer while the ABC recruits for that position.
Alan Sunderland will remain as Director of Editorial Policies and Michael Millett will be Director of Government Relations.