The omens are not good for the managing directorship of Mark Scott at the ABC.

What subject did he choose for his first major policy statement? A commitment to the best local production of drama; maintaining News and Current Affairs coverage or promising to crack down on bullying and work place harassment with the organisation? Perhaps a broader statement of what he would like the ABC to be during his time running the national broadcaster?

No, instead last Friday, Scott talked about conserving energy. The stuff of bean counters and bureaucrats, with a dash of touchy-feely thrown in to make the luvvies at the ABC feel good.

At a time when the ABC has been whacked by poor publicity about the Chris Masters’ book Jonestown, worries about the level of TV drama production which saw the head of ABC drama Scott Meek depart because of “irreconcilable differences”, budget overruns in News and Current Affairs and issues like advertising, Scott’s first encyclical is on the most efficient use of energy. This was sent to all staff on Friday morning and then released later in the today to the general public:

During the past eight weeks I have visited a number of ABC offices, production sites, shops and centres — and there are many, many more of you I have yet to reach and meet. I have enjoyed meeting and talking with so many of you and coming to a fuller understanding of the priority areas we need to work on together.

I wanted to highlight one issue I think we can focus on to ensure we are the most efficient organisation we can be and fulfil our important role as a leader in the community.

Individuals and organisations are being challenged everywhere to find practical steps that can be taken to ensure the most efficient use of energy. At the ABC it means working together in a way that reduces our energy needs.

As a result, I am directing that a comprehensive Energy Audit be undertaken across the entire Corporation, in every State and Territory. This Energy Audit will show us where and how we are using energy and where areas of wastage may be occurring within the Corporation, and then provide recommendations for where and how reductions can be made.

Bullying and harassment continues to burble along inside the ABC. As a result its Comcare premiums (workers compensation premiums for Federal Government employees) rose last year due to rising claims for stress. There’s also the case of alleged fraud against a senior production resources manager which is still before the courts. That case that go to the question of accountability and transparency in the ABC’s internal audit program and whether it is adequately resourced. But Scott mentioned nothing about these issues.

New CEOs only get one real opportunity to chart a course or direction for their organisation: it has to be early and preferably the first formal utterance, not an interview on radio, TV or in newspapers. It’s all about being accountable and responsible. Mark Scott probably has one more chance to make such a statement, otherwise he’ll become known as the MD responsible for turning the lights out at the ABC.

Peter Fray

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