25 March 2008


ABC Managing Director Mark Scott in The Australian has promised a new world of news delivery:

In 2008, work will begin on the ABC's first purpose-built continuous news centre to provide multiple, simultaneous continuous streams of news, 24 hours a day to every outlet of the ABC - ABC1, ABC2, ABC Online, Australia Network and ABC Radio.

A specialist production team will operate the CNC using new technology to sift and distil the hundreds of hours of news content produced daily by ABC staff around the country and make it available to multiple platforms around the clock.

For our audience it means stories can be published or updated as soon as they are completed, taking full advantage of the ABC news network: more than 1000 journalists working locally, nationally and internationally.

The centre will deliver to existing continuous news platforms, and be viable for potential future ones such as an ABC news channel for digital TV, or internet TV. To do this we have to reorganise the way we work. If Sky News can deliver a 24-hour news service with a fraction of the number of journalists working in ABC newsrooms, then it stands to follow that the ABC is capable of producing a 24/7 news service for our audiences: we just need to work smarter to deliver it.

In contrast to Sky News, a niche service available only in the 25 per cent of homes that can afford pay TV, the ABC provides a universal service to all Australians, rich and poor. The CNC would make ABC news content even more accessible to all Australians, all day on different devices.

We begin with a great advantage: our strength and reputation in news gathering. By adopting a new production model we can harvest more effectively the news and information we are generating.

Digital technology means we can create news content once and use it many times over on a number of different platforms. The CNC will allow us to take stories that appear on news services in Perth, Darwin or Brisbane and make them available for audiences across the country. It means we can put cameras in the AM studio, so these interviews won't just be heard on radio but can be seen on TV or online.

The same principles apply to our creation of 60 new local websites, ABC Local, delivering not just local news, weather and sport but also video and audio, reflecting local events and cul-

ture and opportunities for audiences to contribute.

These will be the dominant information hubs across regional and rural Australia, demonstrating the depth of ABC commitment outside the state and territory capitals.

The ABC has no rival in rural, regional and local news gathering and with fast broadband coming to the bush, the ABC will be the "town square" where events, issues and community information is posted and debated.

The continuous news centre will be built within existing ABC funding, a result of a constant process of review at the ABC to ensure our funding is being used in the most efficient and effective way.

Much of it involves taking the content we already produce and finding new ways to connect with our audiences. If there's a new and better way of working offered by technology, we use it.

That's how we are able to achieve so much within existing means.

I'll look forward to seeing how this unfolds. While much of what Mr Scott says about the ABC's "strength and reputation in news gathering" is true IMO there are significant areas where the network's news dissemination could be improved. For example

  • Many stories broadcast on radio bulletins (esp outside Sydney) don't seem to be posted on the internet or available from archives
  • The news search engine doesn't seem to be able to access stories from the preceding few days (though it seems to be able to pinpoint many of those from years ago).
If the ABC can work towards implementing Mr Scott's vision so that tangible changes, including those I've suggested above, are apparent within the next two years or so this will be a considerable achievement.

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