'Digital media evolution' at Aussie B'cast


SYDNEY -- The Australian Broadcasting Corp. managing director Mark Scott has engineered a far-reaching restructure of the public broadcaster's operations, abolishing its 10-year-old New Media and Digital Services division and folding its functions into the core operations of the broadcaster.

The move aims to capitalize on the ABC's suite of digital media services and makes "digital media integral to everything we do," Scott said in announcing the changes Wednesday. "What this does is organize the ABC in a way that will deliver its digital future."

At the same time, a new structure has been created for the pubcaster's international broadcasting operations, bringing pan-Asian satellite TV network Australia Network under corporate and communications director Murray Green, while the broadcaster is rebranding commercial arm ABC Enterprises as ABC Commercial, with a wider brief to exploit digital media rights and find new revenue sources for ABC properties. According to Scott, exploitation of those rights could include paid-for downloads of TV programs in the ABC archives.

ABC new media and digital services director Lynley Marshall will head ABC Commercial, following the resignation of ABC Enterprises CEO Robyn Watts.

Scott branded the changes -- his first major initiative since taking the helm of the public broadcaster seven months ago -- "the ABC's digital media evolution," saying the restructure reflects "the shift of digital and new media from the fringe of our operations 10 years ago to the very center of our TV, radio and news and current affairs output today.

"It is a recognition of the fact that television and radio is no longer simply a matter of broadcasting to a mass audience but must encompass online delivery, multichanneling, podcasting, vodcasting and a greater engagement with our audiences," Scott said.

Changes include: The ABC New Media and Digital Services division will be disbanded and staff and operations will be folded into a TV, radio and new news division; digital TV channel ABC2 will become part of the TV division, reporting to director of television Kim Dalton; ABC News online staff will become part of ABC News; the radio division will become Radio and Regional Content, charged with developing each of the broadcaster's 60 local radio stations across the country; a new unit headed by current Australia Network CEO Ian Carroll called ABC Innovations will be the "hothouse" for new digital content and services; ABC Enterprises will become ABC Commercial, with responsibility for existing and new revenue streams; and a new division called ABC International will be formed with responsibility for Radio Australia, satellite TV network Australia Network and international projects.

The key departures under the new structure include the ABC Enterprises CEO Watts, and Radio Australia chief Jean Gabriel Manguy, who will take on another senior role with the broadcaster after 10 years at the helm of the pan-Pacific radio service.

Scott paid tribute to ABC New Media and Digital services chief Marshall, who he said was responsible for the division "receiving international recognition for its leadership in the field ... with enthusiasm, energy and creativity." Under Marshall, ABC Online has grown to reach 2.2 million unique users a month, monthly podcast downloads have reached about 2 million each month and ABC2 has been launched as a secondary digital TV channel.

The ABC currently receives more than AUS$822 million ($625 million) a year in funding from the federal government.

A spokeswoman for the ABC said the changes were expected to be cost neutral with no other redundancies expected. The changes, Scott told the staff, will have a "direct effect on relatively few people."