The ABC will axe a fifth of its management and plough millions of dollars worth of savings into making new content and beefing up its presence in regional Australia under a massive shake-up of the national broadcaster.
Managing director Michelle Guthrie announced the sweeping changes to ABC staff on Tuesday, saying they were essential to the 85-year-old broadcaster’s long-term health at a time when its funding situation was “tight” and its audience no longer “rusted on”.
Between 150 and 200 middle managers in support areas like legal, IT and finance are expected to lose their jobs by June 30.
ABC TV and ABC News will also have extra cuts made in production and support jobs.
Money saved will be tipped into a new $50 million Content Fund, with $15 million a year to be invested in expanding the ABC’s coverage of regional areas by creating 80 new jobs and increasing digital and video output.
“We face a tough few months,” Ms Guthrie told ABC staff.
“The actions announced today will result in a stronger, more confident and better-equipped ABC.
“An ABC that unlocks our full potential and puts our investment directly where it matters – with audiences.”
The ABC board has backed Ms Guthrie’s plan, which she has been working on since becoming the broadcaster’s first woman managing director last May.
Ms Guthrie said the ABC was not immune from widespread changes in the media sector driven by the emergence of new players such as Netflix and Amazon.
With the ABC’s TV and radio audiences in decline and its digital offerings struggling to breach the gap, “transformational change over the next year is essential”, she said.
The Content Fund sits at the heart of Ms Guthrie’s planned changes, with an initial $20 million to be injected to fund innovative ideas for new programming and services thought up by ABC staff.
Its coffers will eventually swell to $50 million, which Ms Guthrie said would be the biggest sum the ABC had ever committed to such a venture.
Regional projects will be a priority, while ideas on how to expand the ABC’s digital news service and new ideas for arts, science, business and sport projects will also be sought.
The Content Fund will be overseen by Leisa Bacon, the ABC’s former audience and marketing director who will now head the new Audiences Division.
Digital and corporate strategy boss David Anderson was also confirmed as the ABC’s new head of TV.
Regional Communications Minister Fiona Nash welcomed news of the ABC’s investment in regional content as a “good start” and said she hoped the remaining $35 million in the Content Fund would be allocated to regional journalists and content.