ABC boss Mark Scott has flagged a dramatic overhaul of the public broadcaster. Photo: Andrew Meares
Outsourcing more ABC production to the private sector, reviewing television and radio programming, selling off assets and redesigning the websites are among dramatic changes flagged by ABC managing director Mark Scott as he pushes for an overhaul of the public broadcaster.
In a speech laying the foundation for major announcements later this year, Mr Scott said the growth of digital media and looming funding cuts mean the ABC must scrap its "analogue" structure to become a leaner and more agile organisation.
"We must acknowledge how much the world has been altered by digital media, and how rapidly and urgently we need to change to deal with this," Mr Scott told the Queensland University of Technology on Wednesday morning.
"We must accept that, in the fierce contest for audiences, where old alliances no longer work and where friends can become rivals, the ABC has to robustly review its programming and services, find new ways to keep the audiences we have and to attract new ones.
"We will make the investment necessary to deliver quality programming. But it will be prudent and we will need to make careful judgments about the audience return."
Mr Scott said the media organisations that triumph in the modern age would be those that act as disruptors, embracing change and acting quickly to meet new audience demands.
The ABC's funding was cut by $35.5 million in this year's budget and the government has said there will be further funding cuts following an efficiency review into ABC and SBS operations.
This means difficult choices would have to be made, Mr Scott said.
"We need to re-examine our production, our processes, our infrastructure," he said.
"The ABC has, in many areas, been an owner or builder of assets, reflecting our long history as a public sector agency with access to funding at cheap rates.
"There is a strong argument that in an era of scarce funding, the default position should be that unless there is a compelling financial - or importantly, editorial - reason for an activity to remain in-house, or unless it relates to an area of core competence for the ABC, outsourcing must be looked at."
Most ABC drama and documentaries are produced externally, although the broadcaster still produces some programs – such as Play School and At the Movies – internally.
Mr Scott said the ABC was exploring outsourcing IT, HR and other functions.
Mr Scott said new spending would be targeted at online and mobile, where audiences were growing.
He said the ABC, which has several websites catering to small audiences, would focus on creating fewer websites offering a richer, more personalised experience.
"We will put more specialist content, such as arts, on our sites with higher traffic, such as news, where it can attract the attention of a wider audience it deserves," he said.
Mr Scott said the ABC needed to shift away from a focus on traditional platforms – such as television, radio and online – to focus on content.
''In many respects, we have an analogue structure, an organisational inheritance that sits uneasily in a digital world," he said.
"A digital solution means a shift from disparate platform strategies to an integrated content strategy, overseen by an executive responsible to one another for delivering its different elements.
"We will see more teamwork with an integrated content strategy - a greater push for engagement across divisions, a bias towards agility, creativity and innovation."
Mr Scott said he would create more transparency around why particular programming decisions were being made and how they were performing.