Kim Williams is back - good; Call for proposals for our AI Upfronts
Welcome to a rapidly rewritten midweek update from Unmade to take in the big news that Kim Williams will chair the ABC. Plus, we today launch our call for presentations at our humAIn AI Upfronts, and another good day on the Unmade Index.
Unmade’s paying members get discounts to all our events including our retail media conference REmade on October 1, and our AI-led focus on the cutting edge of media and marketing, humAIn on May 28. Upgrade today.
The AI Upfronts return to humAIn: Call for presentations
Cat McGinn, curator of humAIn, writes:
Our inaugural AI for media and marketing event in June 2023 saw live demonstrations from five AI-powered marketing solutions: AdGPT, Adobe; Time Under Tension, Dashi, and RAGE.
As part of the program, the AI Upfronts feature rapid pitches from organisations showing off new AI-driven applications for the media and marketing industry. We are now inviting applications to participate.
Among the presenters at the first AI Upfronts was Pip Bingemann, founder of springboards.ai, who presented AdGPT last time round. He says: “HumAIn was a place where AI conversations and creativity collided - the good parts, the bad and the interesting. For us as a business though it was much more than that, it was both a deadline to kick ourselves into gear and the stage to test if we were full of shit or onto something interesting.”
Pitches can be sent to Cat McGinn, curator of humAIn via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Early bird tickets, with a saving of 20% of the full price, are available until 16 April 2023. Unmade’s paying members get an extra 30% off.
Kim Williams returns to the ABC, the place he said was ‘mired in internal factions, divisions and industrial rigidities’
Tim Burrowes writes:
Kim Williams is set to be the next chair of the ABC.
For staff, and the ABC audience, things are about to get very interesting indeed.
Prime minister Anthony Albanese has a fair point in today’s announcement: “Kim is such a perfect fit for the role, it’s almost as if it were made for him.”
And that’s true. Williams has the perfect resume. He’s a heavyweight. He was CEO of the Australian Film Commission (the precursor to Screen Australia); he started production house Southern Star Entertainment (the people who brought us Big Brother); he set up Fox Studios; he took Foxtel on a path to (extreme) profitability; and he was boss of News Corp Australia.
But it doesn’t tell the whole story. That last big role ended in failure after he fell out with the editors who mounted an insurgency against him.
There are two Kim Williams - the brilliant, erudite polymath, and also the imperious, impatient man-in-a-hurry.
Just over a decade ago, Williams was at the centre of the action in Australian journalism’s worst week. Fairfax Media cut 1900 jobs, two days later, as boss of News Corp, Williams cut 1600.
At the time, Williams’ strategy was about helping News Corp survive the digital disruption which had ruined he business model of newspapers. But his challenges to the fiefdoms of News Corp were what did for him: the editors still had the ear of Rupert Murdoch.
The path News Corp would have taken had Williams remained in place to complete his changes is one of the great unanswered questions of the last decade.
What will be fascinating about Williams now, is what lessons he takes to the ABC from his failure at News Corp.
You might assume it’s to show a greater degree of emotional intelligence, and to work harder to take people with him.
But that might be an incorrect assumption. One opinion Williams took from News Corp was that he should have sacked The Australian’s editor Chris Mitchell and Victorian chief Peter Blunden sooner, before they could take him down. That might see him go into the ABC role with zero tolerance for opposition.
Chair is different to MD or CEO of course.
The role of the ABC chair is to be a backstop to the managing director and one half of a double act in the corridors of power. They need strong political relationships to win funding, whilst standing firm against any interference with news output. The last duo who did that really well was managing director Mark Scott alongside chair Maurice Newman.
By contrast, the low point was the disaster of MD Michelle Guthrie alongside chair Justin Milne, which ended in disgrace for both of them, with Guthrie sacked before taking down Milne on the way out.
Current MD David Anderson was the subsequent, uninspired insider appointment to calm the troops.
It’s also not Williams’ first time at the ABC. He led the organisation’s failed attempts to set up a pay TV operation two decades ago. It was an unhappy time.
He covered it in his book Rules of Engagement: “The ABC was an enormously harsh and difficult place to work. It was almost incapable of considering its audience as it was so mired in internal factions, divisions and industrial rigidities of the most arcane kind.”
I’m not sure things have changed much since then.
The last time the ABC could claim to have been led by anybody with vision was eight years ago, under MD Mark Scott.
Williams has the potential to be the next. But if he succeeds, it will be on his terms. It will mean radical restructures, staff cuts, a disruption to the culture of complacency and, probably, war with those fighting for the status quo.
The appointment makes me feel more optimistic about the ABC than I have for years. But it will be turbulent. But Williams’ success is far from certain.
Listen to the audio version of Tim Burrowes telling of the ousting of Kim Williams’ from News Corp a decade ago:
Unmade Index up again
The Unmade Index nudge up another half percent on Tuesday, rising to 614.7 points, it’s third positive day in a row.
IVE Group did best, up nearly 4%. Ooh Media was the only stock to fall, losing just over 1.5%.
Tim to leave you to your day. We’ll be back tomorrow with an audio-led edition, featuring the Melbourne content from our Unmade Compass event.
Have a great day.
Publisher - Unmade