Friday, August 15, 2014

August 15. Day 227. Great Scott

Friday 10am. This is where I lecture first years in the fine art of newswriting. Most weeks the little darlings get to hear from me but sometimes special guests are invited to take the podium. Today there was what I could only describe as a "special" special guest. Fronting the room in packed with students and television cameras was ABC managing director Mark Scott who was giving a keynote speech about what a future ABC might look like in a changing media environment and in an era of funding cuts. It was a broad ranging and insightful look at the industry into which our graduates will head which provided comfort as well as reason for nervousness. I found the prepared speech compelling but the answers to questions from the floor even more so.
For example, a very frank Mr Scott talked about the issue of piracy of television content saying that in a worldwide media environment Australian audiences would simply not tolerate a program being released in the US in September amid a flurry of social media hype and then wait until the Australian ratings season in March to be able to watch it legally. Media organisations that failed to learn that would suffer.
He also offered an explanation for why Game of Thrones is the king of illegal downloads in Australia - people will not pay $600 to watch it legally. The itune music model has shown audiences are prepared to pay but the price point must be fair.
The speech highlighted he need to innovate in order to stay the same and flagged program content cuts and outsourcing outside the ABC's core business - IT and real estate looking the most likely contender.
While I will never accept that the ABC should be on the funding chopping block the reality is no-one died and gave me access to the nation's finances and a lot of noisy interest groups have far more say in this than I.
Given that it appears the cuts are inevitable I felt reassured at least that the man at the top was going to tackle the challenge head on.

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