ABC's Philip Williams retires | radioinfo

ABC's Philip Williams retires

Wednesday 28 April, 2021

After 46 years working for the ABC, radio and tv reporter Philip Williams has decided to retire.

Beginning as a junior stage hand at the ABC's Northbourne Ave studios in Canberra in 1975, Williams moved across to the News Department and has had an illiustrious career since then.

He has been the ABC's chief foreign correspondent since late 2016. Previous to that, he was the ABC's Europe correspondent based in London. It was Philip's second stint in London for the ABC. He was previously there for four years from 2001 to 2005, a time marked by the issue of terrorism. Philip covered the 9-11 attacks on New York, the Madrid Bombings, the Iraq war from Baghdad and Europe's response to that conflict.

He reported from the Beslan siege in which so many innocent children and parents were slaughtered, and covered the Boxing Day Tsunami from Phuket in 2004.

Philip was the ABC's Tokyo Correspondent from 1990 to 1993. He covered many major events in the Asia Pacific region including the Kobe earthquake in Japan, French nuclear tests in the Pacific, APEC summits, the fall of President Suharto in Indonesia, events following the 1999 referendum in East Timor and the 2000 political crisis in Fiji.

He was a founding producer on Australian Story, worked as a reporter in Canberra for The 7.30 Report and spent many years travelling rural Australia with Countrywide.

Prior to his first posting to London in 2001, Philip covered Australian national politics in Canberra, where he was Chief Political Correspondent for the ABC's national radio current affairs programs. Before that he was the ABC's diplomatic and defence correspondent.

After returning from London in 2005, Philip presented the local Canberra Stateline.

Philip was awarded the prestigious Dart Centre Ochberg Fellowship 2006, in recognition of excellence in reporting in hazardous working conditions and the dangers involved in covering particular news stories.

ABC Director News Gaven Morris has paid tribute to Williams on the eve of his retirement:

“Philip Williams is one of Australia’s most accomplished foreign correspondents, one of the best storytellers in the ABC’s history and one of the most experienced and skilled field reporters of his generation. In the echelons of Australian journalists, and in the ABC pantheon, he sits at the very top.

“He is genuinely loved by ABC audiences. He’s always considered their needs and committed himself to thoughtfully explaining complex issues and disturbing events with care, clarity and compassion.

“He is loved and admired by his colleagues and peers for the quality of his character, his professionalism, his humility and the personal integrity he brings to every story and role.”

Williams said:

“I have been incredibly lucky to have been given extraordinary opportunities to report around the world over a 46-year career. I feel so privileged to have been allowed to tell so many peoples’ stories of disaster, heartbreak and, occasionally, pure joy. I have always tried to keep front of mind my tribe – the Australian people – who have enabled my career through the ABC.

“Everything I’ve done, from the steps of Parliament during the dismissal in 1975 to the extraordinary defeat of Donald Trump in last year’s US election, has been a collaboration with wonderful colleagues. I’m proud of what the camera people, the editors, the producers, the executive producers, management – and everyone else I’ve had the good fortune to work with over four and a half decades – have achieved. My work is their work and I’ve learned from the best.

“For all its foibles, the ABC remains the most important media institution in the nation. It is a vital part of our democracy and must be protected and preserved."



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Anthony The Koala
29 April 2021 - 3:08pm
Listening to the Richard Glover show on 2BL (it's still the registered callsign according to the ACMA), 28-04-2021, 1800-1815, in addition to describing the trauma suffered during the massacre at Beslan and the appreciation of other broadcast personnel accompanying Mr Williams as not only technical support but moral support.

It made me think of other journalists who never returned home such as Mr Tony Joyce who was murdered in Zambia in 1980 in the course of reporting, ref: and .

That is the risk of being an international journalist: the risk of death, the risk of trauma a close shave:

Some journalists are within millimetres of dying due to a stray bullet lodging near a critical artery, references,, and .

There is another issue that retirement of Mr Williams. We take journalists like Mr Williams for granted, like turning on or off the light switch. They'll be there forever. Then there comes a time to retire.

In addition, we should appreciate the role journalists play in being the eyes and ears to Australians on overseas events.

Moreover with the sizes of newsrooms particularly on commercial radio and TV diminishing, we cannot rely on commercial broadcasters reporting on the spot. The US and UK are not the only news centres.

Currently, India and South America are experiencing another wave of covid infections. Thirty years ago, Macquarie News had a correspondent in New Delhi, India, Mr Raja Gupta. I doubt there's anyone from commercial radio with their own reporters.

Ironically, it is the commentators on commercial radio who criticise the ABC such they want it closed, reduced in size or put on subscription. Perhaps they are valid statements.

Then, if the ABC is closed, reduced in size or put on subscription, will commercial media come to the fore and send journalists to report in non-US and non-UK zones?

Methinks not. That's why we need credible reporting from providers such as the ABC.

News is a public good not a privilege. Commercial media is downsizing and is unlikely to send journalists.

Media organisations cannot rely on external providers of news services. Remember the threat of AAP closing down?

Our ABC is our modern "town cryer", our modern version of the colonial "Gazette", published by Authority.

Thank you,
Anthony of exciting, dynamic Belfield
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