If ABC didn’t outsource we would never have had this

To outsource or not to outsource? Paper Giants is a prime example of ABC money well spent.

The Chaser’s Julian Morrow stood up for the independent production sector yesterday at a Senate inquiry on the ABC.

The public broadcaster has been under fire from Public sector unions for outsourcing too many productions at the expense of internal productions.

Morrow said outside producers brought extra dynamism and innovation to the national broadcaster and posed no threat to the ABC’s values. He listed Frontline, SeaChange and Enough Rope as programs the public loved but were produced by independents.

”We don’t come with an agenda to commercialise,” he said. ”We come because we want to be part of the ABC’s editorial environment.”

Managing Director Mark Scott told the inquiry ABC’s drama output would drop significantly if it could not produce drama from the independent sector.

”We can do drama with the independent production sector… or we can do less,” he said. ”We are making the ABC dollar go further so we can show more drama on ABC television.”

But Graeme Thomson, the ABC secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, told the inquiry was “chasing a mass audience” rather than “distinctive” programming and was confused about what it was meant to be.

7:30 NSW Stateline presenter, Quentin Dempster, went as far as to brand Crownies as being ”diverted to nudity and sexuality in a requisite voyeuristic formula”.

Sure, episode one was. That’s why it didn’t too so well with ABC audiences. But it’s improved a lot since then.

Of course, the current debate is happening in a climate when the 22 episode Crownies is being moved from 8:30pm to 9:30pm and At Home with Julia divides the nation.

But next week’s premiere of The Slap should help restore some faith that the broadcaster’s drama slate is actually the most diverse on the box -it is all outsourced, as it has been for donkey’s years.

A slate with Paper Giants, Crownies, Rake, The Slap, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, The Straits, My Place, Dance Academy, Redfern Now, Laid, Angry Boys, Lowdown, At Home with Julia, twentysomething, Jack Irish and Resistance is pretty distinctive in my book. There is populist stuff and there is niche stuff. Good shows and bad shows. Comedy and drama. Contemporary and period. Big budget, low budget. City and rural. Kids and adult. I could go on…

The problem here, if there is one, is that as internal shows such as Spicks and Specks are disappearing they aren’t always being replaced by internal production.

That’s an argument worth having.

But when the audience swarms to a quality production like the outsourced Paper Giants, that’s a model worth saving.

Source: smh.com.au, The Australian

10 Responses

  1. @ AJ –

    I’ve been wondering about that, and about Woodley too. Turns out that Spicks and Specks and Hamster Wheel are both continuing until the end of the survey year, while Gruen Planet will continue until the penultimate week of the survey year, with a one hour episode of Spicks and Specks replacing it the following week.

    So with no space left on Wednesdays this year, I figure there are four possibilities:
    1. Outland and Woodley will be shown sometime next year,
    2. during the summer period,
    3. this year but on a different night, or
    4. this year but on ABC 2. (unlikely)

  2. Outsorcing is fine, but dont outsource everything. The landscape will be a worser place if we dont have the great institution of The ABC able to make its own programs. The problem is, the trend is going so much in the direction of outsourcing. I like many outsourced shows but then you have Crownies, one of the biggest wastes of money in living memory.

    Inhouse prodcution can work and in any genre but they nead to rebuild the culture of doing so. Perhaps that needs leadership.

  3. @John

    Never a truer word said:- ‘A major problem at the ABC is that there is far too much management and once people are employed there they do not leave. Mediocrity becomes entrenched.

    The ABC should never have been corporatised when it was in the early 80’s. Since that time, the place has been an accountable fiefdom of the Executive Directors. Time they were all brought to account,

  4. Plus there’s also Kath And Kim and the Chris Lilley shows… all outsourced.

    In fact, even GP and Brides Of Christ… two significant and very successful dramas for ABC were co-produced by the ABC with Roadshow, Coote and Carroll. So external series production for ABC is not exactly new, either. GP dated back to 1989 and Brides Of Christ was 1991.

  5. Graeme Thomson representing his Union, the CPSU is doing his best to represent the interests of his members but not those of the ABC and the taxpayer who funds it. However there is no nexus between the quality of ABC output and who makes it which seems to be his argument. The independent sector can make many genres just as well and more cheaply than in-house ABC staff but even these productions must be properly resourced and not just regarded as a means for the ABC to create more but not necessarily better product. Independents work under the control of ABC commissioners. The quality of the ABC’s output lies solely with the commissioning editors and if there are any complaints it is ABC senior management which must accept responsibility. A major problem at the ABC is that there is far too much management and once people are employed there they do not leave. Mediocrity becomes entrenched. The ABC has failed in recent years and become the subject of much criticism because it has not had a coherent vision for its content. Such a vision is dictated by its CEO and its Head of Television and Head of News. Its complete failure to articulate its vision for arts programming and drama are two very good examples and the resulting productions reflect this. Perhaps the Senate can ask these questions and not be fobbed off with boiler plate statements. There should be a comprehensive inquiry into how the ABC operates, its employment policies for senior and middle management and an interrogation of its role. Such inquiry should occur every three years prior to the renewal of its Triennial funding. There should be some consensus between the government and opposition as to these mechanisms for accountability and for excellence. Finally the issue of continual renewal is not confined to a public broadcaster, just ask the Nine Network. But a process of good governance must apply when the tax payers are the shareholders.

  6. There is a serious risk of jeopardising the ABC’s diverse drama output if outsourced productions are limited or cease to be viable. The ABC have made some brave and interesting programming choices over the years and continue to do so. It would be such a pity for that tradition to be stifled and would set our national broadcaster back, not forwards. Go Julian Morrow!

  7. I cannot argue with your eloquent observations on this subject, David. I cannot recall the last drama that the ABC made that was fully inhouse. The drama department lost all its directors and producers by the early 90’s. from my recollections and first hand expereince of working there. Colleagues of mine in their countless numbers witnessed the end of their careers as the work went to the private sector. I am not that recalcitrant, that i ignore the quality of many of the ABC dramas of the past two decades, but the ground breaking stuff, to me, anyway, felt as if it had occurred in the earlier decades, and for the better part of 20 years, it has been trying to emulate populist fare, or bizarre boutique narratives that neither found an audience or acclaim. For every Seachange or Brides of Christ, there has been Fireflies, Seven Deadly Sins, The Last Resort, East of Everything, Bed of Roses. Even the wonderful and long running GP – 1989-1996 was a co-pro, yet it looked and felt like an ABC series of the traditional kind. Spicks and Specks was in the minority on the slate as a light ent/comedy being made inhouse. The horse has bolted, albeit gradually over a number of years. Sadly.

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