What is the ABC’s Project Jetstream, the scheme that doomed Michelle Guthrie?

Disagreements with chairman Justin Milne over 'Project Jetstream' have been listed one of the key reasons for ex-ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie's sacking. But what is this mysterious project? Mumbrella's Paul Wallbank explains.

In an interview on ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie’s abrupt termination today, chairman Justin Milne constantly referred to Project Jetstream, an idea he first floated in an interview with The Australian earlier this year. The interview left little doubt Guthrie’s opposition to the project had sealed her fate.

“We need to embrace Jetstream wholeheartedly and move forward,” Milne told ABC News’ Joe O’Brien. “It’s a big infrastructure project and it’s a difficult thing to decide to do because we’re building infrastructure that won’t be used for three years.

“This is a difficult moment for the ABC and is not a reflection on Michelle. The difficulty we have here now is we have to plan for the next ten years.”

So what is this mysterious and apparently career-limiting project?

The details around Project Jetstream are sketchy. Milne didn’t mention the project in his address to the ABC’s Annual Public Meeting in February or in his speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in July.

Following his July speech, Milne did speak to The Australian’s Andrew Leigh where he first publicly disclosed the project, saying: “To build the ABC of the future we will essentially use a bunch of different technologies.

“There will be a big database into which we will pour audio video assets, complete shows, rushes, news footage, news segments and archival footage. Audio-visual pieces of content will live in that database.”

In today’s interview, Milne underscored his commitment to the project which he sees as setting up the organisation for a future when broadcasting becomes a thing of the past.

“We have an overarching challenge that all media organisations have which is modernisation. We’ve talked about a project call Jetstream.

“Jetstream is a project that will be expensive, it will require support from the government of the day for it.

“The idea of Jetstream is for us to build a digital infrastructure which will allow this organisation to function more efficiently and more rapidly and provide audiences with what they want in the all digital environment which we are heading for.”

Mumbrella has contacted the ABC for details on when Project Jetstream was first proposed, what discussions the board has had on the idea and whether its feasibility has been assessed.

For the moment however it’s hard not to think the project is little more than a chairman’s pet idea.

Paul Wallbank - Mumbrella CommsCon Conference

Paul Wallbank is Mumbrella’s news editor. 


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