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The Year Ahead

 Lyn Mills for the National Press Club of Australia
Managing Director of the ABC David Anderson at the National Press Club. Image: Lyn Mills for the National Press Club of Australia
It has been a challenging year for all of us for many reasons, the COVID-19 pandemic just one of them. The bushfires across the nation last summer tested our teams to their best abilities, from our metro news rooms to our regional bureaux across the country.

We will always ensure that Australians have access to vital information during times of crisis and as the nation recovers. Additionally, we will deliver resources to help communities prepare for emergencies and build resilience in the aftermath of such events.

COVID-19 has tested us even further, changing the way we work and live. However, the ABC has stood strong during this turmoil. Throughout this momentous challenge we have adapted and continued to support all Australians, providing the valued news, information, investigations, entertainment, education, music, culture and conversations that have always been the hallmark of our relationship with them.

They have relied on us to do this for the past 88 years and know that we are deeply committed to continuing to deliver these excellent services. I think they have never been more important.

Earlier this year I launched the first-ever ABC Five-Year Plan, our 2020-2025 strategy to guide us as we accelerate our transformation from a traditional broadcaster to Australia’s most trusted and valued digital content provider.

We want to get closer, understand and reflect our nation’s many and diverse cultures and interests. We want to become more local; to better reflect communities across the country, to listen to audiences and provide the content they ask for. The ABC stands by its deep and long-standing commitment to regional and rural Australia. As the commercial media industry withdraws, we will remain embedded as part of many communities across the country, connecting Australians wherever they live.

The ABC will increase reporting for and from the outer-metropolitan and regional areas of Australia’s cities. Having already opened a Parramatta office in Western Sydney in March 2020, we will move forward with decentralising our workforce and are committed to relocating more than 75% of content-makers out of the ABC Ultimo Centre in Sydney, over the life of the Five-Year Plan.

The ABC has built its enviable reputation as the most trusted institution and provider of news, information and investigative journalism, and we aim to ensure that degree of trust remains unassailable. Central to our public standing is the clear impartiality that provides a foundation of trust between us and our audiences.

The ABC’s independence – its freedom from answering to vested interests – allows us to report without fear or favour. It makes us uniquely placed to pursue public interest journalism, keeping Australians informed on matters of importance crucial to the functioning of democracy. To that end, we will continue to champion law reform so that our journalists can do their jobs without fear of prosecution.

We are committed to reflecting the spectrum of views across the country and discovering new voices from across the nation to better represent and reflect the diversity of contemporary Australian life.

To continue on this path, the ABC will commission more stories that reflect the breadth of Australian experiences and perspectives, embracing our cultural, socio-economic and geographic diversity. In 2020-21, we also will continue to implement initiatives to increase the social and cultural diversity of our staff. Fundamental to this will be the commitment we have already made, set out in the ABC’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan 2019-22 and Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan 2019-22.

In the coming year, the ABC will prioritise its goal to become Australia’s premier digital media innovator and a leader in anticipating the on-demand and personalised ways people seek their information and entertainment. During 2020-21, we will improve personalisation across platforms and devices to provide an experience that reflects audiences’ preferences and makes it easier than ever to find ABC content and services.

This innovation, initially applied to ABC iview, will allow the audience to leave watching programs on one device and resume on another, helping to turn the service into the leading online showcase for our content. A key element of developing these personalised services will be ensuring privacy protections for audiences that are consistent not just with Australian law, but with global best practice. To make sure that we have the capabilities to deliver these services and to position the ABC to survive future changes, we will continue to modernise our technology base.

I would like to thank all ABC staff for their hard work and dedication during this challenging year. In the year ahead, as the country continues to recover from the pandemic and the bushfires, we will continue that dedication and commitment.

This year has shown that the future is never predictable, but we will continue to uphold the highest editorial values and deliver the most trusted public interest journalism, coverage and information for all Australians, everywhere.

David Anderson

Managing Director, Australian Broadcasting Corporation