Monday 3 July 2017

National Film & Sound Archive CEO Appointment - Time to Extract the Digit

Let's move on from all the movies, the meals and the convivial conversation. The word out of Bologna creates a certain urgency for the National Film & Sound Archive. 

Malcolm Turnbull and his team, especially Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield have to know a few things  and get something happening fast. Everyone needs to be apprised of some particular facts. Most notably they should know that governments around the world  are greatly underestimating the real, long-term costs of digitisation of their collections (especially now including the costs of storing and migrating the data) ! This is far more than earlier estimates  though costs now includes the digital preservation of all screen heritage (so scripts, posters and files and equipment as well as film). 

On 14 November 2016 the National Film & Sound Archive announced that the then CEO Michael Loebenstein had resigned. The Board of the NFSA announced that it would conduct an international search for a new CEO to lead the unique national cultural institution.

Seven and half months later there is still no news of an appointment. There may not of course be any cause for alarm. The Acting CEO, in answer a question from ACT Senator Katy Gallagher, informed a Senate Estimates Committee in late May that all was going pretty well. …. But still, nothing and no one has been announced. If it's going pretty well then why not just make the Acting CEO the CEO... well she said she was not an applicant and the job requires someone prepared to butt heads, including publicly, with Ministers and Departmental bureaucrats to make the case for the NFSA to get the money it needs. This is not a trait demonstrated by either the NFSA Chair, her Board or any previous CEO.

No one thought to ask the Minister how things were going but probably he would also have said “pretty well”.

It’s not as if Mitch has not made portfolio appointments since the Loebenstein departure. All up there have been public announcements of 23 separate appointments in his portfolio covering Australia Post, the National Library of Australia, Old Parliament House, the National Maritime Museum, the NBN, SBS, the ABC, the Children’s eSafety Commission, the National Gallery and the NFSA Board itself.

But as for getting a permanent CEO in situ to address what the Acting CEO reiterated. (“Our biggest challenge is what we raised last time—that is, turning an analogue collection of a century's worth of film and sound into digitally accessible material now.”) …..Well, it’s just taking too long and if needs be Mitch or someone from Mitch’s office should put a rocket up someone else to get the matter done and dusted as a matter of urgency.

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