Today at the Cultural Ministers Council-a meeting of Commonwealth, State and Territory arts ministers-there was unanimous support for a model which will see each ABC State orchestra established as an ABC subsidiary company over the next three years.
This model will give the orchestras potential for greater local ownership, autonomy and operational and administrative flexibility. It will also maintain the benefits of a national orchestra network and continued association with the ABC recording and broadcasting functions.
Ministers welcomed the agreement of the ABC Board to transfer existing orchestra funding to the proposed new structure.
In reaching the agreement, Ministers indicated their expectation that the total level of Commonwealth funding currently provided through the ABC for the orchestras ($32m) would be fully transferred and indexed. Ministers agreed that approximately $500,000 of that amount could be allocated over three years for any costs associated with corporatisation and that any costs of structural adjustment beyond that level particularly associated with redundancies would be subject to further consideration by the Commonwealth.
Ministers agreed to monitor the corporatisation process to ensure that no orchestra was financially disadvantaged.
Each orchestra will be established with its own board to pursue artistic and operational practices tailored to local circumstances and requirements. Under the proposal, the National Concerts Office of the ABC will also be established as an ABC company called Symphony Australia. It will be more responsive and accountable to the orchestras in providing central services and will oversee the corporatisation process.
Both the Dix Report in 1981 and the Tribe Report in 1985 recommended increased local ownership of the orchestras. The Ministers' agreement is the first time a model for realising that objective has been supported by all parties.
The model has been developed through consultation and discussion between the ABC, all State Governments, orchestra general managers and orchestra players, and the Department of Communications and the Arts.
Expected benefits of the new model include:
each orchestra will have the maximum opportunity to develop its own particular identity and develop to its highest capability;
increased partnership opportunities and the potential for increased local ownership and control;
the benefits of a national orchestral network and close broadcasting and cultural links with the ABC;
establishing the relationship between the orchestras and services provided by Symphony Australia on a more commercial, accountable and responsive basis; and
Commonwealth consideration of orchestra issues, particularly funding, will be separated from consideration of other ABC issues.
Ministers noted that the Darwin and Canberra Symphony Orchestras were the only capital city orchestras that were not part of the present funding arrangements.