The Morrison government is promising $44m in extra funding for the ABC for “enhanced news gathering” over 3 years. When will the Coalition realize that this treat will not make the ABC show any leniency in the lead up to the federal election? Did they even bother reading the ABC Staff Engagement Survey buried on page 94 of the 2017/18 Annual Report? Less than half are engaged.
The ABC conducted its second Corporation-wide employee engagement survey in late 2017. The previous survey was conducted in November 2015, with outcomes reported in the 2016 Annual Report.
The overall employee engagement score from the 2017 survey was 46%, down six points from the 2015 results. 6% down!!!!
This moved the ABC from the median to the bottom quartile when benchmarked with other Australian and New Zealand organisations. Bottom quartile!!!
Employees expressed the need for improvement in several areas, including:
• that the ABC Leadership Team needs to be more visible, accessible and communicate more openly.
• that the ABC needs to do a better job of managing poor performance. Even the staff want to move duds on. A commercial spirit among the staff?
• that employees want to know what action is being taken to address feedback received in the survey.
The ABC management (no longer with us) conducted sessions on the back of the survey.
Three key priorities were identified from these sessions:
1. The way in which the ABC recruits, contracts, inducts, develops and manages its people needs a huge amount of work. Inefficiency!!!
2. More communication is needed between teams – employees want to know what other teams are doing, and want less top-down, hierarchical communication. Bureaucracy!!!
3. Many of the ABC’s processes, tools and technology don’t work effectively for its people. Obsolescence!!!
So instead of giving the ABC more money, perhaps an efficiency drive driven by a change manager could achieve the same outcomes desired by the market for far less cost. This reads like an organization that has too much fat.
To that effect, the annual report also noted:
Bureaucracy Stop was launched in March 2018 with the aim of creating a working environment with less bureaucracy and red tape. The program wrapped three months later with 147 ideas on simplification of processes, 55 of which were resolved by the end of the financial year. Where a simplification solution wasn’t available in response to an idea, an explanation was provided as to why that process needed to remain.
What was the dollar savings for these 55 improvements?
Maybe the government should say to ABC management for every dollar saved, the ABC keeps 50c? For a broadcaster with over $1.1bn in funding, 10% of savings would mean they keep c.$60m. Morrison’s $44mn is easily covered.
Digging a bit deeper into the stats of the ABC reveals a big need for overhaul. Comparing 2017/18 and 2015/16 we see that TV audience reach for metro fell from 55.2% to 49.7% and regional slumped from 60.3% to 54.0%. If we go back to 2007/8 the figures were 60.1% and 62.4% respectively. For the 2017/18 period, the ABC targets a 50% reach. Hardly a stretch.
Since 2008, the average salary of ABC’s staff has risen 18% from $86,908 to $105,219. Total staff numbers have risen from 4499 to 4939. Therefore salaries as a percentage of the ABC revenues have risen from 37.1% of the budget to 50%. The ABC’s ability to generate sales from content has fallen from A$140mn in 2015/16 to A$46mn last fiscal year.
The multicultural SBS has seen its budget grow from A$259mn in 2008 to A$412mn in 2017. SBS staff numbers have grown from 844 to 1,466 over the same period with average salaries rising from A$82,689 to A$88,267 or 7.2%. Which begs the question why is the SBS able to operate at 31% of the budget in salaries while the ABC is at 50%? Surely the ABC’s economies of scale should work in its favour? Clearly not.
Australia’s largest commercial terrestrial station, Nine Network, has 3,100 employees against revenues of $1.237bn. So to put that into context, Nine can generate c. A$400,000 per employee whereas the ABC generates A$238,168 in tax dollars per employee. In a sense the ABC could be shut down, and each employee paid $108,000 in redundancy costs annually for two years simply by selling off the land, buildings and infrastructure. The SBS generates A$281,000 in tax dollars per employee. The ABC will argue it deserves $400,000/employee revenues rather than a 46% headcount reduction to be on equal terms with the efficiency in the private sector.
Stop throwing more money at the problem and get an aggressive MD who will make a real difference. Pay him/her millions to save $100s of millions. The taxpayer deserves no less. So do over half the 5,000 employees at the ABC who are dissatisfied with the very organization which is so terribly run.