The current head of 702 ABC Sydney and local radio NSW, Jeremy Millar, is the new manager of the metropolitan local radio division, and present manager of network development Tony Rasmussen has been appointed head of regional local radio. Former head of local radio, Michael Mason, will take on the role of group program director, the first time the ABC has had such a position, and will focus on talent and content development across all ABC radio platforms, AM, FM and digital.
The new appointments by Kate Dundas, who is the ABC's director of radio, come after she took over from Sue Howard this year and coincide with a review of the organisation's radio strategy plan. They also come as the regional radio division prepares to expand its reach with the launch of new regional broadband hubs, to which the federal government committed $15million in the May budget.
ABC regional radio's future role as an emergency broadcaster is also expected to be addressed in preliminary findings of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.
Meanwhile, the local radio network will consolidate its digital offerings and strong 2009 ratings performances across the country. ABC Local Radio is a strong third in Sydney (ABC702) and Melbourne (ABC774) and has won the past three ratings surveys in Adelaide (ABC891).
Millar said the national broadcaster was preparing to enable the audience to have more influence over the content it put to air. "One of the things facing all media today is people wanting the content they want, when they want, on the device they want," Millar said. "In the old days, a program director would say, 'here's a best estimate of what you should consume' and that model has gone.."
As a consequence, ABC Radio is ramping up online content, where the audience tells the broadcaster what it wants to listen to. The ABC recently trialled an online program with ABC702 afternoon presenter James Valentine, in which callers spoke over the internet via Skype. The result was promising and displayed ways in which the ABC could enhance its new role as "the town square".
"Complacency is a real danger, that's why we're trying to keep up with the wave rather than get left behind," Rasmussen said of the digital initiatives.
"So we'll put stuff out there and some stuff may stick."
Interactivity with regional and rural audiences will be a key push in the short to medium term, Rasmussen said.
"The rollout of fast broadband will be of big impact to regional Australia, so there will be major demand for people in rural Australia for rich content," he said. "We're very well placed to provide that content."
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