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ABC seeks teens and twentysomethings

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The ABC has become South Australia’s largest television production investor after making big investments in local shows this year – including Aunty’s first online-only show, Wastelander Panda.

The ABC’s head of TV, Richard Finlayson, spent yesterday talking to local producers and staff at the public broadcaster’s Collinswood base, where he spruiked the ABC’s $12 million annual investment in local production.

That includes miniseries Anzac Girls, which filmed in Adelaide this year, and Wastelander Panda – a show described as Mad Max with a panda.

Wastelander Panda is expected to premiere on the ABC’s online streaming service iview – part of a strategy described by Finlayson as an attempt to broaden Aunty’s audience.

“Really the core of our strategy at the moment is to broaden our reach so that we’re talking to a larger number, a greater percentage of Australians – particular younger Australians that we’re not getting to at the moment, and those Australians that live outside the inner cities and more highly educated areas of the community – we want to talk to everybody,” Finlayson told InDaily yesterday.

Multi-channelling – ABC2 and ABC 3 – was helping, but Finlayson said young audiences still remained stubbornly outside Aunty’s grasp.

“We do still have a gap around that 12 to 25 area, where we’re really finding it difficult. They’re a hard to find audience but we’re finding it difficult to get to them – and that’s because they’re all shifting very quickly onto social media platforms and onto online viewing.”

Finlayson said audience pickup would now be driven by two strategies – event television, such as the anniversary of World War 1, or the New Year’s Eve Fireworks, and engaging in national conversations on topics like mental health and gay marriage.

The $12 million local investment in 2012-13 generated $21 million of activity, Finlayson said – primarily through the $6-7 million Anzac Girls, just finished filming in Adelaide and the Hills.

“It’s a true story based on correspondence which we’ve got which follows four nurses and their journey to WWI. They travel to Egypt, they’re suddenly rerouted to the Dardanelles and Gallipoli and they end up on the Western Front.

“It follows their lives, their love stories – there’s a lot of love stories going on over there – and of course the tragic outcomes of war.”

The ABC’s recent significant investment, particularly through Anzac Girls, meant that in the space of a year it had become South Australia’s key film funder, said South Australian Film Corporation CEO Richard Harris.

“They have become so, just in this last year in particular. And a big chunk of that is in a project like Anzac Girls, that goes a long way.”

Harris put total activity in the South Australian film sector at around $50 million this year – the highest on record, he believed. Around $21 million of that activity flows from the ABC’s investment.

After a call earlier this month from Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi for cuts to the ABC’s $1.2 billion annual public funding ignited debate over the role of the broadcaster, Finlayson said while he  was concerned about the prospect he didn’t expect the Coalition to make deep cuts to its funding.

“We’re concerned about the prospect of funding cuts. I think the Government’s made it pretty clear that they are looking to create efficiencies wherever they can – that’s a reasonable position for a Government to take.

“I think we would have to ask ourselves why would we be exempt from that process?

“I don’t take seriously the prospect of any increased commercialisation. I don’t take seriously the prospect of any really significant cuts.”

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