Press release from ABC

The ABC’s Managing Director, Mark Scott, has affirmed the broadcaster’s commitment to quality in news and current affairs, declaring that editorial values would become even more important in an era of expanding media choice.

Speaking at the Melbourne Press Club today, Mr Scott said a strong editorial culture was essential to the survival and success of the ABC.

He highlighted the ABC’s commitment to quality journalism, with the creation of a new ABC News Online Investigation Unit and an emphasis on training and editorial standards.

“Journalism is people not technology.  And the ABC’s confidence in its people is the ABC’s enduring strength,” Mr Scott said.

The ABC announced on January 21 it would launch Australia’s first free-to-air 24-hour news channel later this year, adding to its existing multi-channel line-up of ABC1, ABC2 and the children’s channel, ABC3.

Recruiting for the new channel has begun.  As he spoke, nine new cadets employed by the ABC’s News Division were continuing their intensive training in Sydney this week.

Addressing criticism that the ABC’s expansion would hurt existing news programming, Mr Scott said the embrace of technology and the reinvigoration of journalism were not “mutually exclusive”.  The ABC’s history, culture, reputation and investment in news positioned it to provide “an excellent service” for the news channel. 

“The ABC has more reporters locally, nationally and internationally,” Mr Scott told the audience of senior media figures.  “It has newsrooms in 60 locations around the country and 12 foreign bureaux.  It has both extensive broadcast experience and a record for innovation and embracing new technology.  You add all this up and the question is not why would the ABC provide a 24/7 news channel, but why wouldn’t it?”

Mr Scott said news values would become even more important in an era of unprecedented media plenty where there was “more coverage of Angelina and Brad than Angola and Chad”.

The ABC would rework its Editorial Policies to embed a culture of high-quality journalism and would emulate other high-performing organisations by investing in training and development.

“I suspect we need to have a greater focus on the crafts and skills our journalists and broadcasters need,” Mr Scott said.

“To be constantly providing feedback, examples of best practice, an honest, on-going conversation around standards and performance. And all of this applied more consistently around the country”.

“We’re going to more systematically use the expertise we have inside the ABC – that huge, incredible asset of journalistic experience and talent – to mentor and develop our people”.

Mr Scott said it was imperative that the ABC invest resources in serious long-form news and current affairs and take investigative journalism into the next decade.

The ABC News Online Investigation Unit, led by Suzanne Smith, is designed to provide support for journalists working on the ABC’s many programs and platforms and to ensure the right “follow through” on its own major news breaks.

 Click here to read the ABC Managing Director’s speech.