The ABC has increased the amount it spends on advertising by 40 per cent as its total marketing budget swells to more than $11 million.
The national broadcaster – which criticised government funding cuts in its annual report – spent $2.76 million on advertising in the 12 months to June 30, up from $1.98 million the year before.
The spending comes as the ABC steps up self-promotion on social media and invests in other mobile and online services in an effort to make its content more relevant to a modern audience.
The tactic has paid off. The ABC News Facebook page is the second fastest growing of any Australian media organisation, with 882,687 ‘fans’.
The increase in advertising spend comes as the broadcaster seeks to rein in expenditure in other areas, after the federal government cut its overall budget earlier this year.
“The Board was disappointed that, contrary to pre-election statements made by the Prime Minister, the 2014–15 Budget, handed down in May, included a 1 per cent reduction in the corporation’s base funding,” the board noted in the broadcaster’s annual report.
“Together, the announced cuts will amount to a budget reduction of $120 million over the next four years.”
The ABC’s spending on market research and promotion, which includes advertising, rose 16.6 per cent to $11.63 million in the 12 months to June 30. Its promotion spend increased 15.7 per cent to $3.3 million.
An ABC spokesman said the marketing budget fluctuated significantly each year, falling 6 per cent in 2012-13 and plunging 18 per cent in 2011-12.
He said increase in advertising in the past financial year, often on digital platforms, ensured audiences found the ABC’s “strong, distinctive, Australian content”.
“Where possible, we leverage our existing audiences on our own platforms, but like all corporations, we also need to find new audiences to keep evolving and growing,” the spokesman said.
“From a marketing perspective, we look for the most efficient way to target the appropriate audience for specific content and select relevant media based on that. It is often digital, as we can be quite targeted.”
About $60 million worth of “back office” savings were identified at the ABC in an efficiency report, which Mr Turnbull commissioned earlier this year.
Mr Turnbull wrote in a blog last month that the government’s cuts to the broadcaster would not threaten programming.
“The savings sought from the ABC are not of a scale that will require reductions in program expenditure,” Mr Turnbull wrote.
“The ABC may choose to cut programming rather than tackle back-office and administrative costs – but that’s the ABC’s call.
“There are spending cuts across government and the public broadcasters cannot reasonably expect to be exempt. All government agencies have a duty to ensure that taxpayers’ money is used as efficiently as possible.”
But ABC managing director Mark Scott – whose reportable remuneration rose from $805,392 a year to $823,613 – says there is no “magic formula” for cutting costs without affecting content.
And the board, headed by James Spigelman, was adamant that the ABC “provides value for money to the Australian community”.
“The full suite of services—radio, television and digital, both domestic and international—costs roughly $120 per household per year,” the board noted in its annual report.
“This compares to a cost of $300 per household for the basic pay-TV package—even after that was cut in half just before this [annual] report went to press—2.5 times more.”