ABC boss weighs in on Waleed’s future

Waleed Aly has been linked to a move back to the ABC. Picture: Mark Dadswell
Waleed Aly has been linked to a move back to the ABC. Picture: Mark Dadswell

MANAGING director Michelle Guthrie has poured cold water on talk that Waleed Aly is leaving The Project and joining the ABC fulltime.

"Waleed Aly is not about to be announced as the new host of 7.30," she said.

Ms Guthrie told the Screen Producers Australia conference in Melbourne today that she did hope personally that Aly would be back at the ABC at some stage in the future.

"He is a fantastic panellist on Offsiders," she said.

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Waleed Aly won’t be heading back to the ABC.
Waleed Aly won’t be heading back to the ABC.

Mr Aly left the ABC as its Radio National drive host in 2014 to co-host Channel Ten's The Project.

The 2016 Gold Logie winner is an occasional guest on the ABC's Sunday morning sports show Offsiders. He also presents a one day a week show and podcast for Radio National with Scott Stephens called Minefield.

Ms Guthrie's comments came amid rumour Aly was "over" his job on The Project and was "eyeing off" Leigh Sales job as host of ABC 730.

Ms Guthrie also said she wanted to dispel myths about ABC salaries.

"ABC presenters are not paid more than Lisa (Wilkinson) and Karl (Stefanovic). And they are certainly not paid as much as our cousins at the BBC."

Her comments come after ABC chairman Justin Milne said the broadcaster had no plans to turn off radio or TV broadcasts as it develops on-demand services.

Those services would continue far into the future, he also told the Screen Producers Australia conference.

While yesterday delivering the keynote speech, the Hector Crawford Oration, Mr Milne said a modern and exciting on-demand service would be added progressively.

He was commenting on the ABC reorganisation of content teams announced by Ms Guthrie.

Managing Director of the ABC Michelle Guthrie during Senate Estimates at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, October 24, 2017.
Managing Director of the ABC Michelle Guthrie during Senate Estimates at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, October 24, 2017. MICK TSIKAS/AP

Mr Milne said this was a response to dramatic shifts in audience behaviour.

"The new structure encourages collaboration and creativity," he said.

"It eliminates duplication and siloed thinking. It recognises that audiences just want to immerse themselves in better content at a time and place convenient to them.

"It enables our content teams to organise and work together in ways that accord with the way audiences think. So for example, you'll have one arts team, not several.

"By bringing together our specialists, we'll produce better content and reach more people. All of which aids the broader industry.

"The more impact we have, the better opportunities exist for the independent producers who help make our great content."

He said it was hard to predict exactly how technology would play out over the next 20 years in the business but there was no doubt big data and machine learning would be important.

"I'm not saying for a minute that there's no place for human talent, intuition, and experience," he said.

"There really is, but talented producers and writers combined with great data analysis will become an increasingly successful combination.

Chairman Justin Milne says the ABC is moving to respond to changes in audience behaviour. Picture: Renee Nowytarger.
Chairman Justin Milne says the ABC is moving to respond to changes in audience behaviour. Picture: Renee Nowytarger.

"Should Australian producers be afraid? Not so much in my view. In Australia we have always had to punch above our weight to compete with the US.

"I think the opportunity exists for Australian producers to find ways of working with these new big guys - as some are already doing - and bringing the unique blend of can-do, creativity and quirky irreverence to the equation.

"I do think big data and machine learning will be added to the media mix but I don't think that means the end of days for Australian producers. Look how well our local animation houses are succeeding on the world stage in production and computer-generated imagery.

"Now we are entering a new phase with the arrival of Netflix, Amazon et al it is important that they too are required to make a strong contribution to the local industry, as indeed Europe and Canada are requiring them to do."

"Many businesses, executives and even politicians long for what seem like simpler times but this fast-evolving technology world is the new normal.

"I know that the production industry has always been especially good at dealing with change, embracing it and moving forward. I for one, look forward to the future."

Screen Producers Australia chief executive Matthew Deaner said he welcomed the statements by Michelle Guthrie and Justin Milne on the restructure.

"The managing director's plans will help to ensure that the ABC continues to delivery quality Australian content to Australian audiences," he said.

"Together with David Anderson, who will lead the Entertainment and Specialist team, the ABC is in good hands as it deals with digital disruption."

Mr Deaner said Justin Milne's strong commitment to the ABC and content was evident today.

"Justin outlined the challenges facing the ABC and producers, digital disruption and set out new opportunities for Australian content," he said.

"I am encouraged by his announcement of an 18 per cent increase of expenditure on production.

"I am also heartened by Justin's comments on regulation and the need for Netflix, Amazon and the new market entrants to make a strong commitment to local industry, as has happened in Europe and Canada."

Topics:  channel 10 michelle guthrie television waleed aly

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