There is a tectonic shift, said Kim Dalton, head of TV with the Australian Broadcast Company. At ABC, we are in the business engaging audiences of creating communities. Audiences come together around content, and communities come together around ideas. (The ABC press office has the full speech online.)
In the analogue world, Australians saw Australian content. In the digital world, the analogue model is under threat. He returned to this threat not only to the analogue model but also the public policy that had supported it and Australian content.
We have three ideas around TV. There is the TV as a device. The device is the centre of battle between broadcasters and telcos. Alternative devices are proliferating with PCs, PVRs and DVDs, but the TV still holds place.
The second idea is TV as content from documentaries and drama and new forms like reality-based shows. The third idea is TV as a revenue model. Australian public policy has created and maintained a specific revenue model, a model that is under threat.
Time and place shifting is tipping the balance to deliver a very personalised TV experience. A significant part of networked content will be delivered online. There are those who question the place and role of a public broadcaster in the new digital world.
He rigorously defended the public broadcasting model and the ABC as part of the national conversation. He said it was part of the social glue. Public broadcasting provided a place for Australian voices and stories across platforms. The ABC played the role of the trusted guide and voice and also an innovator. He said that there have have been 5.3m downloads of ABC content this year. Online was especially good for children’s programming.
They are moving to multiplaftorm content and communities. And he returned to this idea of Australian content. Australia is a small, English-speaking country that might not support domestically-created content without public policy support. The media debate is dominated by commercial interests, he said.
And he seemed to be arguing for an extension of that public policy model into the digital world to maintain the availability of Australian content on digital platforms.
He presented some interesting statistics that showed that TV viewing was up with the over-40 audience (zTam figures). With youth, they were doing a lot of activities concurrently such as listening to music (their number one leisure time activity) and going online (the fifth most popular activity). Their second most favourite activity was watching TV and hanging out with friends.
He argued for a continued role of the ABC as a provider of free, national content, but he said that ABC needed to change how it measured success. Their content was available on a number of platforms including airports, airplanes, DVDs and on demand. Silos had to be broken down in the organisation. People had to think and cooperate differently. Where do they need to save money, where can they make money and where can they allocate resources.
Quoting publicity material for the X|Media|Lab, he said, of content is king, the king is dead, and the audience is a new sovereign, but he said that this was an over-simplication. The analogue public policy model that ensured Australian content had to move forward and keep the same assurances in the digital era.