In a sweeping effort to deliver a more audience-focused content structure amid shifting viewing trends, ABC Australia has announced it will cut up to 200 jobs as part of a major reorg featuring a sleeker divisional framework, a new director of television, 80 new regional jobs and a US$38-million (AUS$50-million) internal contestable content fund.
Made possible by the job cuts, the funding injection will be open to all ABC employees to source new ideas for content, with US$15 million (AUS$20 million) per year earmarked for regional content jobs and extra digital and video output.
Announced by ABC MD Michelle Guthrie yesterday, the changes won’t affect the broadcaster’s kids team, according to the head of ABC TV Children’s and Education, Michael Carrington.
Despite the fact that a 20% reduction in management will see between 150 and 200 staff leave the pubcaster by June 30, Carrington says the new content fund is a step in the right direction for ABC’s kids audience.
“It’s exciting and positive news for the children’s department as a major supplier of content, but at the same time there is some impact on other people in middle management and support services around the ABC in general. Senior management is moving quickly to help resolve any uncertainty by the end of June,” says Carrington.
At the leadership team and structural level, the number of ABC divisions is being cut from 14 to eight. The new structure focuses on television, news, radio, regional, audiences, technology, finance and engagement.
On the television side, ABC’s digital network and strategy and planning director David Anderson will immediately replace Richard Finlayson as director of television. (It’s a role Anderson previously held in 2012.)
Since becoming director of corporate strategy and planning in 2014, Anderson was instrumental in the investment in audience-focused content, products and services. As digital director, a role added to his remit in 2016, he helped ABC create a personalized and connected online network to boost new audience engagement.
Carrington says he expects good things from the leadership change as it pertains to kids.
“David, whom I’ve met several times already, is hugely supportive of and complimentary about the work we do for our children’s audiences, in-house and with independent producers in Australia, and around the world,” he says.
For Carrington, the transformation is critical given the evolving habits of ABC’s viewers.
“Audiences—particularly children—have more choice than ever before and viewing habits are changing. Transforming the ABC is crucial in achieving our objectives of putting the audience first and driving Australian stories and conversations,” he says.
“It provides content makers like the in-house children’s team with the flexibility and resources we need to address audience and technological changes that are sweeping through the media sector. Children are increasingly viewing our content via the ABC KIDS and ABC ME apps, as well as our video on demand and catch up TV service, iView.”
The changes come a day after ABC unveiled a new funding initiative for female creators.