The ABC will roll out a root and branch restructure of its TV division early in the new year, Crikey had learned.

The changes, which have been planned and discussed at the highest levels of management, will see the public broadcaster adopt a BBC-type structure of silo-based management around its channels ABC1, ABC2 and ABC3. Director of TV Kim Dalton will oversee “controllers” for each of the channels in an echo of the BBC arrangement which grants wide-ranging powers to titular heads to take control of each channel’s direction. Crikey understands that some programming, creative and support staff will be involved, alongside a greater focus on each channel and its schedule by smaller groups.

Reports suggest there will be a senior management team, presided over by incumbent director Kim Dalton. This will replace the current system of genre-based content executives (such as directors of arts and entertainment, comedy, etc). However, the ABC will avoid a complete organisation restructure with the changes confined to television.

According to the 2008-09 ABC annual report (page 191), the current management structure of ABC TV is like this :

Television

  • Director of television: Kim Dalton
  • Executive head, children’s: Tim Brooke-Hunt
  • Executive head, content creation: Courtney Gibson (departed).
  • Head, business and operations: Chris Oliver-Taylor
  • Head, multi-platform production: (acting) Arul Baskaran
  • Head, programming: Marena Manzoufas
  • Head, strategy and governance: vacant
  • Head, television marketing and promotions: Sue Lester

According to insiders, this flat structure will replaced by a new arrangement based on each of the three channels, which will no longer be programmed and filled from a central management group. The streamlined structure will include oversight from people such as a head of content, a head of promotion and a head programmer, with Dalton overseeing his new charges.

Dalton told Crikey this morning that it was “important to make sure we have an operating model in place which best serves our extended content offering”. He said the review of television was still underway and that no decisions had been finalised.

“It is hoped that we will be in a position to commence discussions and consultation with the Division early in the new year”.

Some of the existing ABC team would be early favourites for the new channel controller positions: head of the children’s group Tim Brooke-Hunt oversaw the introduction of ABC3, the digital kids channel that commenced on 4 December and has quickly built up momentum to the point where it now regularly out-rates SBS2.

However, it is unknown what would happen to Greg Dee’s overarching position as Executive Producer for ABC TV’s Arts, Entertainment and Comedy, which was announced in May.

The key roles would be the controllers of ABC1 and ABC2, and how much power each position would have over staff, programming, content and budgets.

ABC insiders said the current structure, which was set up for just one TV channel, has rapidly become moribund. It handled the arrival of ABC2, and then ABC3, but each of the channels now has a distinctive personality and programming (and creative needs) can’t be satisfied from a central body.

Insiders say there is now a pressing need for a management structure catering to the schedule and viewers of each of the channels. ABC1 is the main channel and needs the greatest resources because it still has the broadest audience needing a wide mix of programming. The less mainstream ABC2 is a bit edgier and aimed at younger audiences with Midsomer Murders unlikely to ever get a guernsey on the main channel.

ABC3 is the kids channel and needs a management and creative structure of its own while talk is also swirling over an ABC4 channel that could come online after the restructure is rolled out next year.

Peter Fray

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