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New ABC head talks up partnerships

AAP logoAAP 27/07/2016 Jennifer Rajca

Michelle Guthrie realises speeches from new heads of the ABC are dissected with the same fervour that religious scholars apply to biblical texts.

So she avoided any temptation to outline a master plan for change when she gave her first big speech since taking over the helm of the public broadcaster.

Instead the former Google executive shed light on the potential areas where the ABC can improve and innovate.

Key to providing content to people wherever and whenever they want it was partnering.

"It will help solve the distribution end of the equation, creating new pathways for our content to reach audiences and also, over time, yielding additional efficiencies that can be poured back into content investment," Ms Guthrie said in her address to Creative Country in Melbourne on Thursday.

"I have made no secret of the fact that I think the ABC should be leveraging its clout in this space."

Partnering with other organisations offered potential new revenue streams, welcome after recent years of declining retail returns and cuts to government funding.

But Ms Guthrie stressed any changes would be implemented fully in accordance with the ABC's obligations.

The new managing director has had discussions with her SBS counterpart Michael Ebeid about the need for both public broadcasters to renew efforts to collaborate on finding efficiencies.

"The public expect no less. As sibling broadcasters, we must actively help each other."

Ms Guthrie repeated her earlier calls for the ABC to increase diversity in staffing and content.

But that does not mean she will remove well-loved existing faces.

"Over time, you will see or hear from many more like Costa, Jeremy Fernandez, Charlie King, Patricia Karvelas, Kumi Taguchi, Del Irani, and Christina Anu," she said.

Talking up results from an OmniPoll - which showed 86 per cent of the community believes the ABC provides a valuable service - Ms Guthrie pledged to use all the levers available to her to ensure the broadcaster meets future challenges.

"The first and most important lever is culture," she said.

She dismissed perceptions the ABC was lucky or safe in comparison to media organisations in the digital age.

"I acknowledge that the ABC has not suffered the savage downsizing of some media companies, although that is no consolation to the staff who have been forced to leave the corporation over the past few years - almost 10 per cent overall."

Ms Guthrie insists the ABC needs to offer distinctive and relevant content to not only the under 12s or over 45s, but to all Australians.

"I do see my role at the ABC as being a catalyst for fresh thinking, encouraging a degree of risk-taking and a questioning of the status quo."

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