Michael Mason to leave the ABC

ABC’s Director of Regional & Local, Michael Mason, has announced he will leave the national broadcaster at the end of the year.

He emailed staff in the Regional and Local Division (previously called Radio Division) today with the following message:


My departure from the ABC
I am writing to let you know that very shortly the acting Managing Director, David Anderson, will make an announcement regarding my decision to leave the ABC at the end of the year.   
Late last year I accepted the role as Director Regional & Local to oversee the transition to our current content structure. While offered a longer contract, I agreed to take on this role for 12 months with a view that I would revisit that decision and the possibility of extending around this time.  
I am keenly aware that we have just experienced significant change at the highest levels within the ABC.  I am also aware of the incredible depth and talent that exists in both the ABC’s executive leadership team and the Regional & Local executive team and it is for this reason that I believe now is the right time for me to step down as Director.  This decision was made in early August, well before the departure of former Managing Director Michelle Guthrie and former Chairman, Justine Milne and is in no way linked to those events. 
After 34 years at the ABC I can honestly say I have been privileged to have had the opportunity to work alongside some of this country’s greatest broadcasting and media talent – both in front of and behind the mic.  And now I believe I’m just as privileged to be able to call time on my ABC career at a moment of my choosing. 
During those past 30 years I’ve seen massive change in the ABC, as well as across the entire media industry – and never more so as in the past few years.  But almost in spite of the odds that seem overwhelmingly stacked against us at times, we have kept attracting the brightest talent and producing some of the finest content imaginable.  Within the Regional & Local team that is abundantly clear.  We have emerged this year with a clear strategic narrative in place, a clear vision of our contribution to the business and what we are able to achieve. Our Business Plan, taking us forward to the end of next year, has been endorsed at all levels.  The R&L leadership team is strong, strategic, open and honest – and the finest leaders in the ABC.  That is why I feel now is a good time for me to step away. 
I want to tell you, though, that this decision is one of the hardest I have ever made.  I genuinely love my role and every day I am inspired by your passion, creativity, resourcefulness and free spirit.  Being the Director of the Regional & Local team may well be the best job in the ABC.  But there comes a time in every business when renewal is needed, and I feel very strongly that now is the right time to pass the baton to the next leader. 
I am proud of my long career at the ABC, but very aware that the achievements I have been involved in have only been possible due to the many committed, talented people I have worked with over the years.  
At Local Radio, some of the highlights for me were building Local Radio up to be the market leader through the 2000s with a strong presenter line up;  assisting Richard Fidler to develop and launch what has become the Conversations juggernaut; developing an emergency broadcaster infrastructure of the very highest standard; and opening up new regional drive programs and offices, including the long needed bureau at Ballarat.  
Being part of RN for close to two years was probably the most satisfying time of my career – nothing underscores world-class radio like RN.  It was great to be associated with a range of new programs including RN Drive initially with Waleed Aly, Download This Show, Sunday Extra and Off Track. I’ve also had enormous fun working with the all those involved with triple j over the years.  How satisfying and how deserving to see that network go from strength to strength, still delivering what are indisputably the best radio events in the country – One Night Stand and of course, the stand-out success that is the Hottest 100.  Moving the day was a complex process, but the triple j team handled themselves and the debate with maturity, respect and great care for their audience and colleagues.  
The resilience and adaptability of the Classic FM team has never ceased to impress me.  Their ability to move with the times has ensured that the ABC Classic FM brand remains synonymous with the very highest quality in classical and fine music broadcasting. 
In the digital space, we now have the country’s leading DAB+ channels in ABC Jazz, ABC Grandstand, Double J and Unearthed, and I was super proud to help lead the charge with the first dedicated children’s station ABC KIDS listen added to the line-up this year. We started ABC Audio Studios last year and it has delivered new audiences for us in the digital space.  If you factor in Australia’s most popular on-demand and streaming service ABC listen, which we launched only last year and is now the number one audio app in the country, then I think we’re in pretty good shape with our radio services.  
Diversity remains a challenge for us, but I am proud that we have gone from just one female presenter having a voice in the primetime breakfast shift in our capital cities to five and we have an Indigenous voice at breakfast in Canberra.   
A personal highlight was the co-ordination of the ABC’s coverage of the 2013 Federal Election campaign.  It gave me a rare opportunity to work closely with teams from every part of the corporation and to discover first-hand the depth and range of talent that exists within the ABC. 
And of course, over the past twelve months it has been tremendously satisfying to be part of Regional & Local, helping to set the team in the right direction for the years ahead. 
It has been wonderful working with our screen team, particularly around our live events, and seeing the possibilities that more regional and local content can bring to television screens across Australia. For the content restructure to really deliver, Regional and Local needs to be able to deliver a rich slate of screen content just like the more established screen areas. This work will continue.  
It has also been immensely gratifying seeing the growth and success of our regional teams and the work and thought being put into rebuilding our capital city stations. The regional teams and the cross-platform content they are now delivering is a lesson for how all of the ABC should function and work together. The regional bureaux story is truly a remarkable transformation, going from basically just a radio station to now a team delivering world class digital, audio and video content that now truly shows the diversity of Australia in every form. I will miss our regional teams and their drive and energy very much. 
I have worked for the ABC in many locations from Canberra to Adelaide to Sydney and have been fortunate enough to have visited every ABC regional bureau during my career.   I can say with authority that nothing better demonstrates how genuinely close we are to our communities than seeing our regional teams in action. They are without question the essential ingredient in the trust given to us by the Australian people. 
I believe that announcing my intentions now will facilitate a smooth transition for the incoming director, particularly as we begin discussing commissioning plans for 2019.  
The Managing Director, David Anderson, has asked the ABC’s Head of Specialist content, Judith Whelan to act as Director Regional & Local while the corporation seeks a new director.  
Judith has worked in the media for more than 30 years and was most recently in the role of ABC Head of Specialist, where she has overseen our coverage of Arts, Science, Health & Technology, Religion & Ethics, Education and Society & Culture across all the ABC’s platforms. She has also overseen RN, Grandstand and the ABC’s Capital City local radio network in her former position as Head of Spoken Content within the former Radio division. 
I will plan to be on hand to assist her during what is traditionally a fairly hectic commissioning and end-of-year period with my last day to be 13 December.  
I hope to be able to say goodbye to many of you in person before then.  After that I plan to be ‘off-the-grid’ for a while before I begin to think about the next chapter.    
I want to end by thanking everyone for the unstinting support shown to me over the many years and in the many jobs I’ve had.  I’ve been truly fortunate.”     

Acting Managing Director of the ABC, David Anderson, emailed staff saying that Michael Mason’s influence over 34 years at the ABC saw him become one of the most influential radio executives in Australia, and his decision to leave will be a significant loss at the ABC.
David Anderson says Michael “has steered Local Radio and the national radio networks through some turbulent periods to expertly position us for the future. He has been responsible for developing many careers across the corporation and unearthing some of radio’s brightest talents. For me personally, Michael has always been a great colleague and leader – knowledgeable of his portfolio and inclusive of others and their ideas, and for that I am very grateful.”
The ABC will advertise the role of Director of Regional & Local internally with the aim to have a replacement appointed before Mason’s departure in December.

Michael spoke to us last month in a wide ranging interview with radioinfo.


Tags: | |