The ABC will undergo a “significant transition” towards digital transmission, reducing the resources invested in AM radio stations and programs, and broadcast TV channels, by 2028 and increase podcasts and on-demand programs instead.
The ABC says it will continue to broadcast on AM and FM bands because some listeners – particularly elderly people – rely on them but resources will be diverted towards digital delivery of all content.
The public broadcaster’s five-year-plan, released on Friday, stops short of following the BBC’s lead in planning to shut down its traditional television and radio broadcasts to be digital first.
“Our television multi-channels will be re-positioned to align more closely to audience preferences,” the plan says. “We will have reduced overlaps across broadcast audio services and reduced our investment in AM band transmission.
“We will consolidate and rebrand some broadcast services as more of our audiences move to digital platforms.”
The ABC will divert resources away from traditional broadcasting towards improving its digital platforms – ABC iview, ABC Listen and ABC News – and promoting their use.
The ABC has had to manage its digital transition within fixed funding and in spite of multiple Coalition budget cuts over 10 years.
The number of live radio programs will be reduced over the next few years because “technology is changing media”, the managing director, David Anderson, said.
The ABC has 60 local radio stations as well as national networks including News Radio, Radio National, Triple J, Classic and Radio Australia.
Asked in an interview if radio was “under threat” Anderson told ABC Radio Perth it was “inevitable” that audiences for some programs will be “so small” they will be “rationalised” because most of the audience will have moved to digital delivery. He did not say which networks or programs would be rationalised or when.
“I think the ABC has done a fantastic job over its 90-year-plus history and has evolved and adapted over time … and continues to be the most trusted media organisation in the country,” Anderson said.
“But it’s past the tipping point across the market, not just for the ABC. More people are consuming video via on demand and streaming services than they are for broadcast and it’s similar for audio.”
Anderson said the percentage of 65 to 75 year olds who regularly watch TV on demand is now 65% and will increase to 88% in three years.
However, local radio, which has always been the “spine” of the ABC, “will not change”, he said.
Anderson said ABC Radio networks reached five million people every week and one million that listened to audio via a digital service but online listening was growing.
The digital-first approach will be applied to commissioning, producing and distributing content, which means programming for the traditional TV schedule will become less important, Anderson said.
The corporation is undergoing a major restructure by 1 July which will see the abolition of the separate regional and radio division and lead to redundancies of management and staff.
• This story was updated on 9 June 2023. The ABC says it will not be closing any AM radio stations or TV stations under the five-year plan.