Ita Buttrose named ABC Chair

The government has named Ita Buttrose as the new ABC Chair.

Federal Cabinet met in Sydney yesterday, and approved the appointment for the next five years, then the decision went through an approval process, consulting the opposition and taking it to the governor general for assent.

Recruitment company Korn Ferry was commisssioned by the government to compile a short list, but Buttrose’s name was not on it.

The appointment process was rushed through after the sacking of Managing Director Michelle Guthrie and the resignation of Chair Justin Milne.

The ABC Alumni group urged the government to hold off on an appointment until after the Senate Inquiry into ‘allegations of political interference’ delivers its report in a few months’ time, but it appears that advice was not heeded. If Buttrose is appointed as soon as expected, she will take office before the next federal election is called.

Ita Buttrose will become the second woman to be Chair of the ABC, after Dame Leonie Kramer in the 1980s. The 77 year old Australian media legend was the founding editor of Cleo Magazine in 1972, and later the editor of The Australian Women’s Weekly. Her career was profiled in a 2011 ABC mini Series called Paper Giants.

Commenting on the turmoil in the top levels of the national broadcaster last year, Ita Buttrose told The Drum:

“If I look at the board, and I look at Michelle Guthrie’s CV, I don’t see anybody there with a lot of media experience, and I think that is a failing of the board — they’re very well-credentialled, don’t get me wrong…

“When you come into an organisation like the ABC, which is very set in its ways, with some very high-profile and high-ego-driven people who have a very set point of view on what they want to do, they don’t like change, so anybody who comes to the organisation like the ABC and has to make change is going to get a very rough ride.

“All media organisations have their cultures, and you either fit into it or you don’t fit into it … and if you don’t fit the troops, as we like to call them, make it very tough on the incumbent.”

As well as her commercial background, Ita has a pedigree in the ABC as well. Her father was a reporter then bureau chief for the ABC in America, then when he returned to Australia he became an assistant general manager at the national broadcaster.

“I wish my dad was alive to see me here today,” she said in her press conference. “I’m a passionate believer in the independence of the ABC. And I will do everything in my utmost power to make sure it remains that way.”

Announcing the appointment of Ita Buttrose today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said:

“The ABC plays a pervasive role throughout Australian life from our youngest to our oldest. All across the generations. And we have all had our own direct association and wonderful stories that we can tell about the ABC. So when you ask someone to take on the role as chair of the ABC, it needs to be someone you know to be trusted with that important institution. And in asking Ms Buttrose to take on this role, that’s exactly who I believe we have been able to find. I’m very appreciative of her willingness to take on this role.”

See her press conference as she was announced at the ABC Chair here.



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