ABC to axe up to 200 staff in organisation restructure

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 8 March 2017
Michelle Guthrie

The ABC is planning to cut between 150 to 200 staff in management positions and hire up to 80 new content roles in an effort to bolster coverage in regional areas.

The decision is part of a broader restructure that also aims to improve content reach and engagement as well as digital content delivery.

The organisation will reduce the number of division from 14 to nine. These will include teams in engagement, audience, technology, finance and content across radio, television and digital. 

ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie says the organisation needs to urgently address declining audience figures across television and radio.

“We lack the flexibility to quickly adjust to the fast-changing audience trends. Our reach on television and radio is declining and digital is struggling to bridge the divide,” Guthrie says.

“We have significant audience gaps: socially, culturally and geographically. This means we’re falling short of properly and effectively representing, in our employees, content and audience impact, the modern Australia in which we live.”

Guthrie's decision to trim management fat and “reduce duplication” comes after rounds of consultation with ABC staff across the enterprise.

ABC journalists have privately told AdNews the organisation has far too many managers, which can hinder decision-making and responsiveness. Guthrie describes these as “choke points”.

“You’ve told me, in no uncertain terms, that we need to make people more accountable for their successes and failures,” she says.

“You want us to address choke points that frustrate workflows and decision-making. You have demanded that we fix the technology problems – from the lack of shareable video-players to inadequate and outdated content management systems.

“Importantly, you have said, in unison, that we need a fresh approach that facilitates dialogue, eliminates the silos and better reflects audience expectations and priorities.”

To help the organisation move more swiftly on innovation, Guthrie has set aside a 'content fund' of $20 million with an annual top up of $50 million with “a premium on ideas that utilise our strength as a national broadcaster to tell stories”.

There will be a focus on the ABC's regional bureaus with $15 million earmarked to help grow teams.

New leaders

As part of the restructure, the ABC has appointed Louise Higgins as CFO, and the new engagement, audience and technology teams will be led by Sam Liston, Leisa Bacon and Dave Pendleton, respectively.

Pendleton, who has been chief operating office since 2004, will be replaced by a chief technology officer when he leaves the ABC at the end of the financial year.

David Anderson has been appointed to director of television while Gaven Morris will continue as the director of news, Fiona Reynolds will continue to head ABC Regional and Michael Mason will lead ABC Radio. 

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