ABC management cuts likely in planned restructure

An exclusive article in Fairfax Media’s Sydney Morning Herald says the ABC’s new managing director Michelle Guthrie is planning to cut a significant layer of middle management and use money saved to fund more programming.

A report by Matthew Knott says Guthrie has been developing a restructure plan since she she began at the ABC, and that it is almost ready to present to the national broadcaster’s board for approval.

Knott says ABC sources told him the plan will “take a scythe to the broadcaster’s layers of management,” with the aim of saving up to $50 million a year.

The savings would be invested in original television and radio programming and to further deepen the ABC’s push into mobile and digital platforms,” reports Knott.

“We are talking big savings,” one source familiar with the plans said.

Corporate and middle management will be shown the door according to Knott, “with significant cuts expected to staffing levels in areas such as the ABC’s finance, property and information technology departments. Middle managers will also be cut from the ABC’s radio, news and television divisions.”

Fairfax Media was close to the office of the former managing director Mark Scott, who previously worked at Fairfax.

The current managing director used to work for rival News Corp. She began her career as a media lawyer and has worked with a range of media companies in Australia and abroad, including Foxtel, BSkyB, and the Asian-based Star television network. She joined Google in 2011 as the firm’s managing director for agencies in the Asia-Pacific and was appointed to the ABC MD role last year.

In an interview on ABC TV when she was appointed, Guthrie said one of her priorities is to be able to move very quickly, something which is not known to happen in organisations with multi layers of management. 

At the time Guthrie told Jo O’Brien on ABC TV: “The key thing is what audiences really desire and how that is changing rapidly with digital transformation. We need the organisation to respond to those fast changing audience needs very quickly and I hope to be able to bring some of my experience from broadcasting and digital to be able to do that.”


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