The ABC’s managing director Michelle Guthrie has given her first major speech since joining the ABC heavyweights and taking the reigns from Mark Scott in May, and she is insistent that the ABC not just be a place for pre-schoolers and oldies, but could be a good partner to SVOD services.
Per Fairfax, Guthrie, speaking at the Creative Country Forum, said she has heard over the years the ABC referred to as capturing “the hearts and minds of every pre-school and aged-care facility”, but that the joke is over and that’s not enough for the public broadcaster.
“While we can all laugh, it belies a lack of imagination and commitment,” she said. “Because an ABC that is paid for by all Australians should strive harder to serve each and every Australian.”
Guthrie said, per Fairfax reports, that the ABC “can and must” provide quality content for age brackets outside the very young and very old, adding, “There is no reason why its reach should be less than 100 per cent”.
Guthrie is arranging for “deep data dives” to uncover why the ABC makes the decisions it does, and looks for answers to questions such as “Do unconscious biases lurk in our corridors?”
Guthrie hinted at commercial partnerships, saying she wanted the ABC to “leverage its clout” to team up with streaming services like Netflix and Stan to circulate ABC content.
“The idea that the customer has to come and find you and must play solely within your boundaries is now obsolete,” she said.
“Consumers want a seamless, networked universe. If they go to Netflix, why shouldn’t they find ABC content?”
But ABC fanatics can relax – Guthrie assured the audience that a radical commercialisation of the ABC was not what she had in store, but rather partnerships done in line with the “ABC’s legislative obligations” and “community expectations”.
“Our policy in relation to third-party platforms ensures that our content will always be available on traditional ABC platforms free of charge.”
For Guthrie, diversity was also a major area she wanted to address, refusing to accept that the average media industry worker of a 27-year-old white male living in Bondi or St Kilda – according to a recent PWC report – was an accurate depiction of Australia in its current state.
“It is incumbent on the national broadcaster to reflect this change, in its staffing and content,” Guthrie told the audience, citing figures that show 28 per cent of Aussies were born overseas and Chinese migration has grown by 37 per cent in recent times.
“Over time, you will see or hear from many more like Costa [Georgiadis], Jeremy Fernandez, Charlie King, Patricia Karvelas, Kumi Taguchi, Del Irani, and Christine Anu.
“Talented people doing great, creative work and bringing fresh perspectives to your ABC.”