What’s going on at the ABC? (pt 1)

Greg Smith is an inductee into the Australian Radio Hall of Fame, and a Director of Radio Today.

Today we publish Part 1 of Greg's piece about 'what's going on at the ABC'.

Let’s start with television.                                                                          

Why is it that ABC1, 2 & 3 are all doing kids programs weekday afternoons? 

If you watch a kids program on ABC2, they say ABC2 is 4 kids.  In the daylight hours, ABC2 is all kids programming. I thought ABC3 was the kids’ channel?

Why would you broadcast news (ABC 24) in high definition?

How would you position each of the channels?

Personally I would keep ABC1 as the main channel, move news to ABC2 & have the HD channel as a 2 hour time shift version of ABC1.  ABC3 would stay as the kids’ channel with pre-school programming for those under 6 during school hours.  

Scott Muller, Director of MBOS Consulting Group, worked in the U.K for many years and has a good overview of both the BBC and ABC networks;

“Obvious differences between the two organisations aside, the ABC channels and programmes aren’t as clearly positioned and differentiated as the equivalents on the BBC in the U.K”.

“For example, the BBC has its children’s programming on CBBC and CBeebies – two distinct channels for children of different age groups. Although the ABC separates its children’s programming services on its website, on-air the distinction between channels isn’t clear. By comparison with the BBC, it’s confusing to the viewer”.

“And you can extend that observation beyond children’s programming. While there are other factors to consider, purely in positioning and perception-building terms, ABC 24 is a premium quality news service that, on HD, is currently a missed opportunity. So, yes, each BBC channel is more clearly defined and better positioned than the ABC channels are. The ABC, as a whole, isn’t the sum of the clear, distinct and powerfully positioned parts that the BBC is.”

I asked Lesna Thomas, the Head of Publicity for ABC TV, to explain the rationale behind the programming of the 4 digital TV channels and if there will be any changes when the analogue signals are finally switched off.

GS: Why is it that ABC1, 2 & 3 are all doing kids programs weekday afternoons?

LT: The overlap is between 3-5pm. While most households have now switched to digital TV, the ABC acknowledges that some families are yet to convert to the new technology and there are also some areas where terrestrial digital transmissions have not yet commenced.

ABC was keen to ensure that we did not leave behind families who have not yet, or are currently unable, to switch from analogue to digital TV.

GS: If you watch a kids program on ABC2, they say ABC2 is 4 kids.

LT: This is obviously a play on words/letters. 

GS: In the daylight hours, ABC2 is all kids programming. I thought ABC3 was the kids’ channel?

LT: ABC4Kids on ABC2 is aimed at the pre-school audience (aged up to 6 years) with age-appropriate programming from 6am to 7pm, seven days per week. ABC3: 6am – 9pm School aged 6-15 cored demographic is 8-12 year olds.

GS: Why would you broadcast news 24 in high definition?

LT: that is the way ABC has decided to use the current allocation

GS: Any changes when the analogue signals are finally switched off?

LT: This will not affect our current channels’ strategy.

The Network’s rationale; see below a quote from each controller;

Brendan Dahill, Controller ABC1 (pictured)

“ABC1 provides entertaining, quality programs that everyone can enjoy – it’s the touch point of our lives.” 

Stuart Menzies, Controller ABC2: 

“With hand-picked programming from around the world, ABC2 is the surprise package; entertaining TV for the young and young at heart.”

Tim Brooke-Hunt, Controller Children’s
ABC for Kids (screens on ABC2)

“Australia’s most loved and trusted home for pre-schoolers, enjoyed by children and parents alike.”

Tim Brooke-Hunter, Controller Children’s
“ABC3 will continue to be Australians’ number one destination for the school-age audience, both on TV and online.”

Gaven Morris – Head of ABC News 24
“ABC News 24 gives Australians the most comprehensive, independent news service 24/7, on TV, online and on the mobile.”


In Part 2 this Friday, Greg asks Kate Dundas, the Director of Radio at the ABC, the tough questions and gives an insight on how to score a job at the ABC.

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