Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been talking for some time about outsourcing and streamlining ABC administrative functions in order to save money, and it seems someone has been listening. ABC boss Mark Scott today gave a speech to Queensland University students addressing the issue head on:
“There is a strong argument that in an era of scarce funding, the default position should be that unless there is a compelling financial — or importantly, editorial — reason for an activity to remain in-house, or unless it relates to an area of core competence for the ABC, outsourcing must be looked at.
“We’re reviewing support activities like property and IT, procurement, HR and finance activities in a robust fashion. Are there activities that we can drop, automate, do differently? We are working with SBS to see if, by working more closely together, we can make backroom savings, while remaining independent editorially.”
These comments are eerily similar to those made by Turnbull, who has also emphasised “back office” savings since commissioning the Lewis review into efficiency at the ABC and SBS in January. It also seems to be a bit of a departure for Scott, who in March talked about “efficiency exercises” but did not use the O-word.
To stay the same, Scott said today, the ABC must change: “Our ambition must be to spend as much as we can on programs, to reduce what we spend on administration and support functions.”
As Scott began speaking, the final episode of Radio National’s Asia Pacific went to air. Change is already here.