The ABC today affirmed plans to constantly increase investment in Australian production as it unveiled a strategy dubbed Investing in Audiences.
The public broadcaster confirmed new seasons of Rosehaven, Gruen and Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell as it revealed it spent $94.5 million on independent production last year.
In encouraging news for screen producers ABC chairman Justin Milne told a public meeting in Sydney, “We’ll improve our content partnerships so that we can produce more and better Australian content. We plan to constantly increase our investment in Australian production to help ensure both a healthy Australian screen industry and to provide more and new stories for Australian audiences.
“We’ll improve our commercial operations so that our content can be seen by more people all over the world and extra funds generated can be ploughed back into more Australian content.
“In tomorrow’s media environment we can expect ongoing intensity from a number of huge international players. Australia has always been at risk of being culturally swamped by overseas media and I believe that risk has never been greater, so ensuring that the trusted and much loved voice of the ABC can continue to be heard has never been more important.”
Milne described Investing in Audiences as series of projects which will make the ABC better for audiences and better for staff, creating an initiative he called ABC 2.0.
“ABC 2.0 will use technology to transform the way we serve content to our audiences and it will change how our people operate, attracting the brightest creative and technical talent and making the ABC an even better place to work,” he said.
ABC MD Michelle Guthrie provided some comfort to producers who are alarmed at the future of children’s TV after the commercial free-to-air networks urged the government to scrap the kids’ quotas.
“Our 2018 slate strengthens our commitment to children by championing their voices and showcasing their stories through diverse and inclusive programming,” she said.
“Our children’s team have delivered a programming schedule in 2018 that will inspire, entertain, educate and develop the minds of our youngest audience members.
The ABC would remain as a key outlet for distinctive stories on the arts, science, religion, ethics, and education, she added.
Growing the ABC’s investigative news capability is a central priority with the creation of the largest dedicated investigative and specialist journalism team in the country at a time when other media organisations are reducing the size of their newsrooms.
Chief financial officer Louise Higgins revealed that the ABC’’s efficiency drive over the last five years will have resulted in savings of $324 million by the end of 2018.
Of that, $70 million has been reinvested in new content, services and platforms and $254 million was returned to the government.
That is despite a decline in funding of 28 per cent in real terms since the mid-1980s, including a $200 million cut in the last five years.
Demonstrating its value-for-money approach, the ABC estimated that the first two series of Netflix’s House of Cards cost $A125 million.
For that same sum the ABC funded 50 Australian programs including 24 drama series.
The inaugural public meeting consisted of events in Sydney, Rockhampton and Launceston and was streamed live.