What’s happening at the ABC? Once every move by management was greeted with sullen resentment and suspicion. Now, it seems, the clouds have cleared and people are, if not happy, then at least manageably disgruntled. Occasionally they are even optimistic.

As reported by The Australian today, senior ABC management will be gathering in Sydney later this week for a two day executive love-in.

Once cynicism would have been the response, but a ring around this morning revealed people cheerfully looking forward to a “timely” day of consultation and “get to know you” with the still relatively new Managing Director, Mark Scott.

The conference, being held at the ABC’s Sydney headquarters, is being seen in part as an attempt to tackle what is surely the corporation’s greatest weakness – the tendency for personal and professional rivalries and jealousies between the divisions undermining any sense of corporate direction.

Sessions will be chaired by managers of different ABC areas, and the aim will be to come up with a shared understanding of strategic priorities, according to one ABC insider. “My understanding is that it won’t be Scott coming down from the mountain with tablets of stone, but all of us working together,” said one.

Senior ABC managers working together? I had to check the number I had dialled to make sure I was talking to the right person.

The conference, expected to become an annual event, follows Scott’s major announcements last month anticipating the creation of new digital television channels and an increased focus on regionalism. Controversially, he also announced plans to gain revenue from commercialising and exploiting ABC podcasts and other content on line

The reorganisation has been generally well received within the national broadcaster. If there is a cloud on the horizon it is that Scott has refused to rule out taking advertising on ABC websites – which is bitterly opposed by many. But most ABC managers seem to be preceding on the assumption that this is unlikely to happen.

Scott has also announced moves to almost double the amount of cross-media content produced by ABC Local Radio, making it clear that localism will be a big part of the national broadcaster’s future.

Meanwhile there are rumblings of reorganisation within some of the departments seen to have more than the usual number of problems – including Legal and Human Resources.

After the conference, expect more clear statements about where Scott will be taking the national broadcaster. And watch this space.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey