Mother’s Day weekend was a busy one for the new head of ABC Radio, Kate Dundas.

Her weekly “Touching Base” email had to be composed, this one revealing her first dramatic changes since being appointed six weeks ago. In it she detailed the complete revamping of the management and the structure of ABC Radio and has set in train the development of “A new strategy for ABC Radio” which will be worked on this month and in June for implementation in July. In fact it’s the biggest shake-up for years.

She wrote:

The Head Local Radio position will be replaced by two new positions of Manager Metropolitan Local Radio (also with management responsibility for Radio Sport) and Manager Regional Local (also responsible for Rural).

These positions will be advertised in coming weeks. The state-based Local Radio Managers will report to both these positions.

The Head National Networks position will be replaced through direct representation of the national network managers (Manager triple j, Manager ABC Classic FM, Manager ABC Radio National, Manager ABC NewsRadio) along with Manager Digital Radio.

I will be adding two other new positions to the Radio Executive.

In the email Ms Dundas revealed that she had removed Margaret Cassidy who was Head of National Networks, a manager appointed by her predecessor, Sue Howard.

More important was this warning: “We are about to take steps that will have a major impact in creating the kind of ABC Radio we and our audiences want in the future. In achieving this we need to concentrate on some of the values and characteristics most important to the long-term performance, sustainability and social contribution of the Division.”

On the new strategy she wrote:

While it’s wonderful to collaborate and innovate it clearly needs to be for a reason. Given the dynamic environment in which we operate, it is time that we developed a new strategy for ABC Radio .

However, I don’t want this to be a dry exercise — I want this to be a model for the kind of collaboration and innovation that we want to be the life-blood of this Division.

The strategic planning process will run through May and June, with a plan to be launched and implemented from July onwards.

A group including members of the Radio Executive is getting together tomorrow (Monday May 11)  to set the foundations for the plan — then it is in the hands of the whole Division.

Here’s the complete memo:

Dear All

I am back to touching base — the original and the best. So that this doesn’t become a novel I will only deal with one topic this week.

As noted in last week’s email, I want to bring you up to date on proposed changes to the way we manage in ABC Radio. We are about to take steps that will have a major impact in creating the kind of ABC Radio we and our audiences want in the future. In achieving this we need to concentrate on some of the values and characteristics most important to the long-term performance, sustainability and social contribution of the Division, namely:

  • Dedicated and insightful focus on our audiences
  • Commitment to collaboration — within the Division, with other Divisions and with external partners
  • Creation of outstanding content
  • Innovative thinking about how we take our content to our audiences, including the exploration of new technology and multi-platform approaches
  • Being at the leading edge of the industry, in terms of our services, capabilities and skills

The areas we are strengthening in order to better manage our work in ABC Radio are collaboration and strategy .

Our business has two key dimensions: platforms and expertise areas. By platforms, I mean the media brands through which we reach our audiences. These are essentially: Local (metropolitan & regional), triple j, NewsRadio, Radio National, ABC Classic FM and soon Digital services. By expertise areas, I mean the capabilities in which we need to excel. These include: programming, marketing, people/communications, policy, multi-platform content and delivery, and -planning & technology development.

We will be most successful in serving our audiences if we collaborate as broadly, freely and dynamically as possible across these platforms and expertise areas. We can achieve great understanding of, and connection with, our audiences if we encourage and liberate people with diverse skills, experience and expertise across a range of keys areas to come together.

With this in mind, I will be changing and expanding the Radio Executive (REX) so that each of these platforms and expertise areas is represented.

The Head Local Radio position will be replaced by two new positions of Manager Metropolitan Local Radio (also with management responsibility for Radio Sport) and Manager Regional Local (also responsible for Rural). These positions will be advertised in coming weeks. The state-based Local Radio Managers will report to both these positions.

The Head National Networks position will be replaced through direct representation of the national network managers (Manager triple j, Manager ABC Classic FM, Manager ABC Radio National, Manager ABC NewsRadio) along with Manager Digital Radio.

I will be adding two other new positions to the Radio Executive. The Group Program Director will be responsible for working directly with the managers of our radio content platforms to ensure the sound and quality of our content meets the highest standards and that new talent is identified and nurtured . I have asked Michael Mason to take on this position as soon as the Metro and Regional Local Radio Managers are recruited. Michael’s long experience and clear expertise in this area will now be available across the division.

I am creating a Head Multiplatform and Content Development. This position will take responsibility for all our online output and will work with the managers to lead new developments across platforms, including in close collaboration with other divisions . The current development funding, including National Interest Initiative funding and the Regional Production Fund will move from the Radio Policy area to be managed by this position to ensure the most strategic use of these funds for new content. I have asked Linda Bracken to act in this position pending advertising in June.

I have also changed some current titles to more accurately reflect the roles being performed and incorporating a new focus of intent. We need to recognise that changes to management arrangements can often throw up questions about responsibilities, relationships and decision paths . I don’t anticipate there will be many of these because there has been a great deal of thinking around this and talking with key managers about functional responsibilities, however we will sort through any that do arise and clarify as we go along.

My view is that it takes months not weeks for a new structure to start to work well and become second nature. I am confident that this is a much better way of supporting content making now and into the future

The new RADIO EXECUTIVE will be as follows:

Director Radio Group Program Director Head Marketing Head Multiplatform & Content Development Head People & Communications Head Technology & Digital Radio Planning Manager Policy & Administration  Manager

triple j

Those positions shaded in green and red will form an AUDIENCE & CONTENT GROUP which will meet monthly and focus solely on what we do . This group will have relevant people from content areas and audience research attend according to the agenda. The Audience & Content Group will also be the group responsible for the commissioning process to ensure that we service our audiences in the most complementary and effective manner. This group will be chaired by the Group Program Director and attended by the Director Radio.

Those positions shaded in purple and red will form the GROUP HEADS and will meet monthly and focus on how we lead , how best we support the content and platform managers and the key strategic issues facing the division. This group will have a rotating chair.

The RADIO EXECUTIVE as a whole will meet on the alternate weeks of the month to ensure a constant flow of information and collaboration in achieving the 3 year strategy for the Division. The REX will be chaired by Director Radio.

Manager ABC Radio National
Manager ABC Classic FM
Manager ABC NewsRadio
Manager Metropolitan Local Radio
Manager Regional Local Radio
Manager Digital Radio

The new Radio Executive team are:

Director Radio Kate Dundas
Group Program Director Michael Mason
Head Marketing Warwick Tiernan
Head Multiplatform and Content Development Linda Bracken (acting from 25/5/09 pending recruitment)
Head People and Communications Vanessa Macbean
Head Technology and Digital Radio Planning Russell Stendell
Manager Policy & Administration * Cathy Duff
Manager triple j Linda Bracken to 25/5/09, acting TBC)
Manager ABC Radio National Jane Connors
Manager ABC Classic FM Richard Buckham (acting)
Manager ABC NewsRadio Helen Thomas
Manager Metropolitan Local Radio to be advertised
Manager Regional Local Radio to be advertised
Manager Digital Radio Tony Walker

* this area is likely to be restructured once the outcomes of the ABC’s self regulation review are known

Of course, the make-up of the REX is only a small component of driving collaboration. The key will be how all of us work with each other — especially in diverse, multi-functional teams. Organisational structures should not be barriers — if we are to be the most innovative we can be, we should work with others whenever and however it makes most sense. I will be doing all I can to make it as easy as possible for people to work together in new and creative ways.

While it’s wonderful to collaborate and innovate it clearly needs to be for a reason. Given the dynamic environment in which we operate, it is time that we developed a new strategy for ABC Radio . However, I don’t want this to be a dry exercise — I want this to be a model for the kind of collaboration and innovation that we want to be the life-blood of this Division.

The strategic planning process will run through May and June, with a plan to be launched and implemented from July onwards. A group including members of the Radio Executive is getting together tomorrow to set the foundations for the plan — then it is in the hands of the whole Division. We will be identifying workstreams, each to be led by a member of the Radio Executive, which will provide valuable input to the strategy. For example, we already know that one workstream will focus on Learning & Development. I will confirm the others after our meeting tomorrow.

In coming weeks, we will be looking for your ideas to feed into the strategy as part of the workstreams – so please look out for surveys, workshops and other means by which we will be seeking every person’s input. If you have an idea regarding any element of the strategy as we develop it, we want to hear from you.

As I mentioned, I want to see collaboration and innovation being the hallmarks of ABC Radio. These first steps of redesigning the management structure to better focus on and support content together with developing a robust and forward thinking strategy should start this process but, in the long term, it will be about what each one of us actually does. Feel free to make a start.

Regards, Kate

Kate Dundas
Director Radio
Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Peter Fray

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