Cloud technologies to help ABC find savings, says Mark Scott

Mobile, online key to future of public broadcaster, ABC chief says

The use of cloud-based technologies to deliver content is one area that ABC can expect to find future savings, the public broadcaster’s managing director, Mark Scott, said in a speech delivered last night.

“[I]t seems likely that much of the technology we now need to play out our services can be migrated to the cloud — which will certainly cut down some major capital costs,” the ABC chief said in an address to the University of Melbourne’s Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society..

“The rise of fast-speed broadband and new generation mobile phone technology is offering new distribution possibilities, as we are witnessing with the popularity of iview and our radio streaming services,” Scott said in his speech.

“As distribution costs come down (hopefully) the ABC will be able to use these new distribution methods to offer more personalised, interactive and better targeted content to audiences.

“It's possible that distribution breakthroughs will open up other efficiency options. The Minister for Communications has indicated he will help facilitate new compression standards that will enable television broadcasters to move beyond existing spectrum limitations.

“More flexibility is also being offered in the way broadcasters use existing spectrum.”

The ABC and SBS were earlier this year subject to a government-commissioned “efficiency study” led by former Seven West Media chief financial officer Peter Lewis. Lewis has since been appointed to the ABC’s board.

The government cut the public broadcaster’s funding by $35.5 million over four years. That funding cut was described as a “down payment” on efficiencies expected to be found in the wake of the Lewis report.

The report included a range of suggestions for back-office savings. Harnessing technology was one of the six general areas that the ABC and SBS were expected to cut costs.

“The reality is the ABC's budget has already been cut this year,” Scott said in his speech last night. “And more cuts are on the way.”

“Earlier in the year, I'd imagined that by the time I'd be speaking to you here at the University of Melbourne, we'd know the future funding position for the ABC,” the ABC MD said.

“Not so. We are still not sure precisely how much will be cut. We are still not sure precisely when the cuts will become payable. And decisions around size and timing could, naturally, have a material impact on ABC audiences.”

“We want the ABC to be the home of Australian stories and conversations - not just on the platforms that have dominated the past, but on the platforms that will be central to the future in an online and mobile world,” Scott said.

“By reorganising our newsrooms to meet the realities of convergent media, ABC News now offers up-to-date, quality coverage across radio, television, mobile and online.

“We have reinvented our news gathering operations to deliver much more content across all platforms far more efficiently. That's quality investment delivering quality results - exactly as the Charter envisages. And the audience wins — with nearly 4 million Australians tuning in each week.

“The ABC would be much poorer without this digital investment — and much weaker. Without the savings we found, funding the investments we made, the ABC would be a public broadcaster in decline. But instead it remains vital, still significant, still relevant, though challenged by the changes pressed on us in this new media landscape…

“We continue to look at the ABC's current content spend to find where funds might be saved, freed up to reinvest where we know it's most needed - the most competitive media space of all, online and mobile products and services.

“We will have to spend less on television and radio to spend more on online and mobile - not just in content, but on the capacity to deliver the services demanded.”

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