EXCLUSIVE: Incoming ABC managing director and former Google executive Michelle Guthrie has hatched a bold plan to begin Advertising on the ABC.
The secret plan, leaked to TV Tonight, reveals key programmes will carry advertising from May. But they will be “Sponsorships” to avoid contravening Section 31 of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act (1983).
Guthrie, who is a former managing director, partner business solutions at Singapore-based Google and Executive vice-president, business development at Star TV in Hong Kong, has plenty of experience in monetisation. She succeeds Mark Scott from April 29.
Programmes including Q & A, 7:30, Insiders, Lateline and Australian Story will top and tail with brand sponsorship from blue chip companies such as Qantas, Commonwealth Bank, Telstra and CGU.
The move is understood to have the backing of the ABC Board after signals from Canberra of impending funding cuts and staff culling.
“The writing was on the wall from the Abbott government’s war on the ABC. It set this ball in motion now under the watch of a former Communications Minister who has already abandoned Community Broadcasting,” one insider said.
“Once it was clear that funding would be chopped at the knees the Board embarked on a rescue plan. That fell into place with a white horse named Google.”
After a “soft launch” with key ABC shows in May, sponsorships will extend to other programming in June.
There are plans for Coles to sponsor The Checkout, KFC to sponsor Mad as Hell and Carmen’s Museli to endorse ABC News Breakfast. 7-ELEVEN stores are in negotiations to stitch up the Four Corners position to deter a second investigation in planning. The Australian wants first dibs on Media Watch while Sportsbet has Play School‘s 50th Anniversary in sight.
Drama programmes will be subject to product placement, including digitally inserted “period” logos into new seasons of The Doctor Blake Mysteries and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.
International shows will not be spared commercial branding either. Bunnings will sponsor Grand Designs, Channel Nine will back all David Attenborough programming and Hungry Jacks will sponsor Peppa Pig.
The only show sheltered from sponsorship is Gruen to ensure editorial independence and appease Wil Anderson’s ego.
“It’s the beginning of the end” an insider warned.
“Public broadcasting is walking out the door with Mark Scott. Sponsorship, pop-ups, product placement, it’s a deal with the devil. Decades of integrity are on the line.”
Angry ABC staff are hoping outgoing boss Mark Scott can jettison the plan at his final Board meeting next week, and a furious Barrie Cassidy is already on a hunger strike.
An ABC spokesperson declined to comment.
Photo: Roberto Parlavecchio.