Mark Scott (abc Md) An Smith Oration On Journalism At University Of Melbourne

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14th October 2009, 08:44pm - Views: 941

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Wednesday 14 October 2009


ABC Managing Director Mark Scott said the ABC would continue to provide online content for free to

audiences despite pressures from commercial media organisations to start a paid model.

Delivering the annual A.N. Smith Memorial Lecture in Journalism this evening, titled The Fall of Rome:

Media after Empire, Mr Scott said talk of a fully paid online content model for all media organisations

was wistful and destined to fail.

“Much of the content, most of it, nearly all of it when you look at the totality of the web – will be free,”

Mr Scott said.

“It will certainly be free online at the ABC. The public pays for the ABC to deliver distinctive, quality

content to them – and if it is content we are creating and packaging for them now, they are entitled to

view that content free of charge.”

In his address, Mr Scott identified the major issue confronting the 21st Century ABC: how does a public

broadcaster created in a time of media scarcity maintain relevance in an era of plenty? 

“The ABC faces the challenge that all publishers and broadcasters face to not just be an oracle,

espousing the facts and the analysis as we see it, but to create space for our audiences to speak – to

share their knowledge and insights, their creativity and ingenuity,” Mr Scott said. “To embed a user-

generated content experience at the same time as holding on to our brand, our values and integrity.

“What we are trying is revolutionary. Reengineering our newsrooms to deliver quality news when our

audience wants it, not just when we schedule it. Turning our local radio stations into media hubs – full

of content generated for broadband, user-generated content, being a community town square.

Declaring war on silos and insulated thinking. Being audience, not organisationally-centred. If we are

to survive as anything more than a shell – than a legacy broadcaster – as an empire in decline – this is

what we must do.”

To survive and prosper, Mr Scott suggested media organisations would need to do five things: be

transformational in their thinking, inquisitive about new technology, empower audiences to contribute,

protect themselves through diversification, and build cultural behaviours from within. 

“The only media organisations that can survive will be those who know and accept that all the

rules have changed. It’s that kind of transformational thinking – and only that – which will bring

the true critical analysis of the business mode.

Successful organisations will be endlessly inquisitive about the new, understanding that no-one

knows where the next breakthrough idea or technology will come from. You don’t just need to

find creative partners – you need to let them do what they do – giving them space in a strategic

alliance to inform you, build your understanding and help you find new audiences in new ways. 

Successful organisations will be willing to empower their audiences to contribute, to create and

to share. They will cede power to audiences to gain engagement and respect. 


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Media organisations will need to find protection through diversification, as has been the case

with News and The Washington Post. Print and television companies and who have found

themselves long in assets greatly threatened by this revolution and who lack any growth story,

will remain under pressure. 

And finally, the great challenge on all this is to start within, on areas of culture and behaviours.

Recognising your old internal fiefdoms came from another world – that your inability to work

together, to cooperate, to maximise your ability to deliver for advertisers and audiences. If we

could only agree on a strategy that was widely understood and we worked together – putting all

the old battles and turf wars behind us – we would give ourselves half a chance.”

The A.N. Smith Lecture in Journalism commemorates Arthur Norman Smith, a leading political

journalist. Among previous speakers are Rupert Murdoch, Bob Hawke, Michelle Grattan, Peter

Beattie, John Faine, Maxine McKew and Michael Gawenda. 

Go to to read the full address.

Media contact:

Sandy Culkoff

02 8333 5155

0438 292 369

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