Project Timeline 2005–2010

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Steering Group Meeting #4

Categories: Meetings, Steering Group
Date: 26 March 2008
Contributors: , , , , ,

Boardroom, Faculty of Business, UTS
CM05B.05.03
Haymarket campus, Quay Street.

For a map of the campus please visit this link.

The entrance to use is the Faculty of Law building (CMO5B) from Quay St. Haymarket. Please take the elevator to level 5 and the room is the first on your right when you get out of the elevator. Phone Annmarie (0402691599) if you have problems finding the room.

Agenda

Members: Andy Lloyd-James (Research Leader), Raphael Pustkowski (FOXTEL), Lesley Osborne (ACMA), Ross Gibson (Chief Investigator, UTS), Phillip Bell (UNSW), Hugh Pattinson (UTS), Annmarie Chandler (UTS), Ben Goldsmith (AFTRS).

Chair: Ross Gibson

1. Apologies
2. Academic Research Leader’s report and discussion (Ross) page 2
3. Report on interviews and discussion (Andy) page 5
4. Discussion on project activities for 2008, including developing scenario matrices.
5. Budget
6. Other business

Ross Gibson Report to Steering Group

Summary of original objectives of project at commencement  (June 2007)

‘Outside the Box’ will scope and analyse the political, economic, social, technological and environmental influences shaping television and other audio-visual media in Australia from now until 2016.  Using ‘Scenario Planning’ methods to make rigorous, supportable speculations about the future of television (on interrelated national and global scales), the project aims to provide government, the communications industries and the general public with vital information and ideas about the emerging directions of electronic communication and entertainment in Australia and abroad.  As a result we will provide knowledge and nationwide preparedness concerning one of the most influential, volatile and rapidly expanding industries worldwide – the digital content and information industry.

As an extra objective, we aim to analyse and propose new directions for the practice of scenario planning in complex corporate situations.

Executive Evaluation from Chief Investigator Prof Ross Gibson, as of March 2008

Thus far the project has been remarkably cohesive and ‘ecumenical’ in an industry where all professionals are severely pressed for time and are presumed to be intensely competitive.  Through the remarkable agency of Andy Lloyd James, the project has managed to bring together (in dozens of individual one-on-one sessions and in two very fruitful plenary days of workshop discussions) a cohort of some of the most influential and prescient people in broadcast media in Australia.   These gatherings have been enormously valuable in themselves insofar as the workshops have facilitated inter-personal networking and knowledge-transfer which several participants acknowledged to be both extremely rare and intensely valuable.

Moreover, real and rich data-set have now been accumulated out of the discussions and interrogations.  Key themes and patterns of speculation are beginning to emerge, allowing the Research Team to elicit the first round of scenarios and narratives from the industry participants.  Crucially, this means that we are well on track to deliver the first batch of scenarios to the wider community well before the end of 2008.

Not only is this process informing us about the strategic conversations that need to be conducted around television now and in the future, we are also learning a great deal both about the future evolution of narrative as a social practice and about scenario planning as a corporate practice.

All in all, the project has delivered more than anticipated in the first nine months of its duration

Summary of Achievements and Milestones to March 08:

Andy Lloyd James Report

A. The Participants

Since the beginning of this year I have been engaged in interviewing 18 of the 20 current participants/partners in the project. The full list of current participants is:

(*Partner and Participant)

n.b. Lesley Osborne was not interviewed but Giles Tanner was, as a founding contributor to the project. John Maynard was unavailable as he is preparing a major feature film.

B. The New Participants

The three new participants are:

C. The Interviews

The interviews were all focussed on the five key influences identified by the forums: people, content, funding, technology and governance. The order in which those were addressed differed in each case. There were not expected to be, nor were there, insights into every influence by each interviewee.

The purpose of the interviews was to give each participant an extended opportunity to explore some of her/his own thinking about the future. In so doing, to give the research team some real insights into building the rationales for the scenarios.

The range of responses was fascinating and has provided a multiplicity of ideas for future scenarios.

I started each interview asking participants to reflect on the last 8-10 years and to tell me what had truly surprised them. Responses included:

Implicit in many of these responses (though, interestingly, never actually stated) is the addictive nature of new media.

Addictiveness, of course, is digital media’s huge threat to traditional Television, which, until recently, has been the most addictive of media. E-ecstasy overwhelming TV-tranquiliser, perhaps, as the internet’s constant offer of surprise feeds the addiction. (Interesting to see that for the first time, in mid-March, Goldman Sachs are forecasting zero growth for print, radio and television advertising revenue (fiscal 09) but a 20-30 growth for online).

D. The Influences

“People”

raised great riches and one significant pointer for the whole shape of our scenarios. The riches included:

The significant pointer is this:

“Content”

delivered a real wealth of ideas covering both content and the future for those who conceive, create, produce and distribute it. Many positives were expressed particularly surrounding

Importantly, Content must be taken to include advertising, given that it will now be increasingly woven into “programming” on every platform.

There were also two potential “strategic negatives”: journalism and privacy… and one strategic question mark, Public Service broadcasting.

Several participants expressed concern about the future of quality journalism. Apart from anything else it’s useful reminder to keep looking OUTSIDE audio-visual media for answers to the future of Television. Even more than traditional TV, Newspapers are seeing their business models decline in the face of the web. Newspapers are at the heart of quality journalism and Television relies on the print press to deliver an enormous number of its story ideas and to train journalists at all levels. If the Press is compelled to reduce its investment in quality journalism then television will suffer and more particularly some of the current underpinnings of our civil, democratic society will be jeopardised. As long as news media continue to be free on the web, this is likely to become an increasingly serious issue.

Privacy is signalled as a serious strategic issue as well. Finding individual consumers and understanding their tastes and activities means discovering far more about individual citizens than is currently the case. This is a two-edged sword and we may well see serious consumer push-back at being directly targeted.

Public Broadcasting may be the signal beneficiary of media changes over the next ten years or may be the victim. Interesting to consider a globalisation of the basic role of public broadcasting which, to misappropriate the words of Andrzej Wajda, is “to forge a civil society out of an anonymous crowd”.

“Funding”

Needless to say, this area weaves in and out of both “content” and “governance”. There were a range of valuable pointers and insights, including:

“Governance”

Again there were many issues. This heading may still be too inexplicit as it captures so much, but inter alia participants were interested in:

Summary

First, I have not included Technology because the research group is only just coming to grips with the issue. We have had special sessions with Trevor Barr and Mark Pesce that have been useful and enlightening. So…more on this later.

The above headings are really only a handful of the issues raised and will not be fully summarised until all the interviews have been fully annotated in early April.

But it is clear that they are delivering invaluable content for the scenario building process.
The next stage is to feed back to the participants a summary of their interview. At the same time they will each be asked to write a short ‘story’ describing a day or evening of media use in their household imagining it as 2018. Those stories will be circulated anonymously to the whole group. It should be a wonderful eye-opener!

At the Steering Committee I’d like to include some early thoughts about matrix development.