COMMENT: The axing of the staff representitive on the ABC Board would have been a tough decision. But it’s a right decision.
The axing of the staff representatives position on the ABC board is going to be talked about for weeks particularly among the individuals in the ABC newsrooms who believe that they have sway in the forming of public opinion.
As the National broadcaster the ABC has an obligation to present information and entertainment for the masses across live TV, Radio and the web and the decision by the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan to restructure the board and remove the staff representative comes at an interesting time. During the next few years the board of the ABC is going to have to make some tough decisions particularly in the digital TV and content delivery space. They are also going to have to face up to the impact of radio, TV and other services being streamed across a broadband network.
In fact the possibility exists that the Federal government is going to find it hard to regulate or control the delivery of content into Australian homes as servers hosting content from movies and TV services to radio and music can now be easily hosted from a foreign Country back into Australian households. The Federal government will then find it very hard to control the delivery of that content unless they introduce legislation to control what ISP’s allow over their networks. In recent weeks the ABC in particularly the ABC editorial staff has demonstrated that it is very much out of touch with the thinking or sentiment of the Australian public which is often the case when one listens to the ABC News. Content is more about politics than business or dare I mention it educating Australians on how to make a profit by being innovative with new business opportunities. We need to become a nation of innovators not political commentators.
Christopher Warren, Federal Secretary of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance said of the move by Coonan to axe the staff representative position from the ABC board “I think it’s largely driven by blind ideology and a failure to understand that the staff in an organisation such as the ABC have a unique insight that is of great value to the ABC’s corporate governance.”
Well let’s take a look at that so called unique insight. In recent weeks the ABC across radio TV and online have religiously been covering the Cole inquiry into the actions of the Australian Wheat Board. Every night and every morning on AM they have either interviewed Kevin Rudd or gone on verbatim about the issues arising out of the inquiry. What the ABC staff have not woken up to is the fact that the average Australian is bored stupid with the Cole Inquiry coverage and that the debate is going no where. Because quite quietly they would rather support Australian farmers who got the business than see the wheat sales go to another wheat provider.
A clear indicator of this is that during the period that Rudd has been calling Howard and the Federal Government liars the publics attitude towards Howard and the government has been to show not only support for the government but for Howard personally by lifting their trust in him as a leader. Commercial researchers seeing this type of data would immediately tell you to back off from continually pushing a wrong message. But not at the ABC which is driven more by blind ideology than common sense. What the ABC has to do now is face the reality that the way forward is great content that by majority in 5-10 years time could be delivered over a broadband cable or wireless network into a variety of devices from TV screens to Computer screens to mobile phone or portable device screens. They also have to get closer to every Australian not just the small chosen few who support the news room ideologies of the ABC.
The also have to introduce the concept of commercial support, not from paid advertising but by learning how to feed the global masses with great content that entertains and informs and is of such good quality that other content providers want to buy it.