Michelle Guthrie pushes ABC’s international reporting credentials

Michelle Guthrie has pushed the role of the ABC on reporting on international matters, while also taking aim at “new wave media companies” in what appears to be a swipe at Buzzfeed at the Lowy Institute Media Awards tonight.

Guthrie, who presented the keynote address at the Awards’ dinner, said in a world in which “consumers hold the power” it has become important for the ABC to find new ways to connect and ensure that the ABC and the ABC Charter are relevant to its audience’s lives, every day.

Guthrie to take the reins of the ABC next week.

“Consumers today hold the power, instantly demanding information and entertainment from anywhere in the world. They demand a seamless audience experience and expect a constant improvement in that experience,” she said.

“At Google, my previous employer, that meant not being complacent about being an information service or search engine.

“At the national broadcaster, it means being able to deliver content that is distinctly ‘ABC content’, regardless of the platform on which it is being carried and consumed. It means finding new ways to connect with audiences to ensure that the ABC and its Charter are relevant to their lives every day.

“I remain to be convinced of the long-term prospects of some of the new wave of media companies. They offer quick ‘hits’ for their target audiences, via short, attention-seeking news items and clips, or listicles that generally lack substance. It could be argued that their content is as shallow as their revenues.”

Despite the loss of the Australia Network contract – which was aimed at pushing Australian content to the Asia-Pacific – in 2014, Guthrie said her aim is to ensure that the ABC uses “the best of our multi-platform prowess and the content that is carried on it to better service our overseas audiences”.ABC news

“There are obvious rights issues to work our way through but my goal is to develop a responsive and customisable international service utilising the best of our apps, our catch-up service iview, and our main online site,,” she said.

“This would allow an ‘international view’ of the ABC to be curated and for international audiences to ‘personalise’ that service to meet their individual needs, such as for in-language content.”

Guthrie denied her comments were a “push by the ABC for more funding”.

“I simply say that Australia needs an informed and comprehensive debate about how best to position itself in this increasingly competitive world,” she said.

Highlighting some of the ABC’s journalistic success – notably Four Corners’ ‘Australia’s Shame’ episode which revealed the poor treatment of children in juvenile detention, Guthrie reminded the audience that “quality journalism at the ABC is not confined to our shores”.

Four Corners Australia Shame episode

“At a time when other media companies have whittled away their overseas reporting capacity, the ABC has maintained a strong level of investment and service,” she said.

“Despite the pressure of overall budget cuts and the need to better align our internal news investment, the ABC dedicates more than $13m annually to overseas reporting, with a footprint unmatched by any Australian commercial operation.”

Guthrie emphasised that this investment in overseas reporting runs “against the trend of a massive contraction in international coverage”.

“No doubt because of this, the ABC has increasingly become the destination for big-breaking news events. The village might have become global in the digital world, but it still requires our presence to bear witness and to provide audiences with knowledge of events as they occur,” she said.

Guthrie rejected the notion that “instant access to a world of information” has made “obsolete the need for the ABC to invest in its own coverage and to devote the time, energy and money to explain complex global events”.

“Yes, it is possible to go straight to the New York Times website for the latest Donald Trump outrage or to London’s Financial Times for the next Brexit development,” she said.

“However, context and relevance are important. What the ABC does through its investment in programs like Q&A and its international reporting infrastructure, is provide Australians with a continuous rich flow of information and analysis, explaining the relevance of events and issues.

“It is important, also, that in acting as a town square, the ABC does its best to bring international perspectives to its own debates.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.