An email, signed by ABC managing director Mark Scott, sent to ABC staff this morning.

Yesterday I held a meeting with 200 senior leaders, managers and some key people across the ABC to look at the progress we’ve made on our journey to becoming a great public broadcaster in the digital age — and what we must do in future to ensure we get there.

We have so much positive activity we can report on: new content for digital networks like ABC3, the launch of digital radio and the expansion of our online services through The Drum and the new ABC local websites. We have a slate of new Australian drama in pre-production and are combing through a swag of great applications from potential recruits for ABC Open. We continue to expand our international services and work together to meet to assist communities in need; just as we did most recently during the Queensland floods.

Preparations are well under way for our new 24-hour news channel to be launched later this year. (I am acutely aware that most of our staff work a long way away from Sydney, but if you are visiting Ultimo this week, you can see our new studio being built at the northern end of the foyer).

The theme of our meeting was Innovation. My message was a simple one: Yes, we have made great progress, but there is much work to be done.

We have been funded for new and exciting projects like ABC3 and ABC Open, but we must internally finance other important ventures such as the news channel, content for digital radio and a series of initiatives being launched by ABC Innovation.  Making these projects happen is entirely in our hands.

Through the demanding work flowing from the Production Review we have been able to turn money spent in backroom operations into producing new programs and new channels. This year we will look closely at corporate overhead expenditure.

We are determined to find ways to release funds so that they can be redirected towards what our audience values most: creating great content and delivering it so people can experience it at the time they want, on the device they want, and wherever they want. This is absolutely central to our future.

We are grateful for the government funding we receive to back the ABC’s operations and even more appreciative of the significant increases in the 2009 Budget that have allowed us to expand in such a significant way.

But the blunt reality is we will never receive direct funding for all we feel we should do to strengthen the ABC and cement its role as a compelling, indispensable digital broadcaster. In fact, our recurrent funding does not even cover our annual increase in salary costs. So we need to be a truly innovative organisation — not just coming up with bright new projects and ideas — but innovating with smarter, more efficient and effective processes.

We also launched the ABC SPARK awards — an initiative to seek out and support innovative ideas within the ABC.  I believe a culture that fosters creativity and innovation is vital to our position as a leading media organisation in Australia and the world.  The ABC SPARK Awards are just one way in which we can encourage people to come forward with innovative ideas that will improve the ABC. I know how many great ideas are out there, everywhere in the organisation,  and I encourage you to take a look at these Awards and put your ideas forward at http://nmdev.abc.net.au/sparkawards .

As you know, we have critics, particularly in other media organisations, who would like to see the ABC reduced, sold or marginalised in the competition for Australia’s attention.  Yet I am confident our future can be secured. Success depends on our ability to deliver on our Charter to be comprehensive, independent and innovative, producing content that is specialised and of wide appeal to Australians, and also taking Australia to the world with our international services. A key to our future is to the ABC upholding the highest standards in all we do and being deserving of the great trust our audiences have in all we do.

A successful ABC fundamentally depends upon the committed people who work here, providing outstanding services every day to the Australians who fund and support us.

I like the words of the American futurist, John Shaar, who said: “The future is not a place we are going but a place we are making. The paths to the future are made, not found.  And the process of making them changes both us and our final destination.”

That is very true of the work under way now at the ABC.  It remains a great privilege for me to work with everyone here. Together, we are creating the future for this great organisation.

Mark Scott