Ita Buttrose to be named new ABC chair, ending months of leadership uncertainty at the public broadcaster

| 27.02,19. 08:07 PM |

Ita Buttrose to be named new ABC chair, ending months of leadership uncertainty at the public broadcaster

Photo: Ita Buttrose brings journalism credentials to the role of chair. (AAP: Alan Porritt)

Australian media doyenne Ita Buttrose will be named the new chair of the ABC on Thursday, ending a five-month search for a new leader for the public broadcaster.

Ms Buttrose becomes the second woman to take the reins of the ABC, after Dame Leonie Kramer in the early 1980s.

Federal Cabinet met in Sydney on Tuesday, and approved the appointment of Ms Buttrose for the next five years.

Widely regarded as a trailblazer for women in the media, Ms Buttrose's name was floated as a candidate despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirming she was not on a shortlist put forward by an independent panel commissioned by the Communications Department to fill the role.

David Anderson, the ABC acting managing director, said Ms Buttrose was an "eminent Australian with vast experience as an editor and media executive".

"Her leadership of the ABC, a highly valued and trusted cultural institution, is welcomed," he said.

Kirstin Ferguson, the ABC acting chair, said Ms Buttrose would be a valuable addition to the ABC board.

"Ita Buttrose is one of the greats of Australian media — and an iconic, widely admired Australian," she said.

"She will bring valuable experience to the ABC board and I look forward to working with her."

The ABC's management was plunged into turmoil when chairman Justin Milne resigned in September last year, following a week of revelations about his alleged interference with editorial decisions and demands senior journalists be sacked — charges he strongly denied.

Mr Milne and the ABC board of directors sacked managing director Michelle Guthrie earlier that week. She is now pursuing the public broadcaster in the courts for wrongful dismissal.

The ABC started the recruitment process for a new managing director earlier this month.

The recruitment process was kept under wraps, with former media executives Kim Williams and Greg Hywood joining Sydney lawyer Danny Gilbert as the favourites for the role.

Senate estimates heard the company running the initial vetting of candidates for roles at the ABC and SBS was initially paid $160,000, with a further $15,000 charged later in the process for extra work.

Some have criticised the independent panel's nominations for the role being dismissed, arguing there was little point spending the money if the findings were going to be ignored.

Buttrose brings journalism credentials to the role

Ms Buttrose was the founding editor of Cleo Magazine in 1972, and later the editor of The Australian Women's Weekly.

She was also at the helm of Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper in the 1980s, and most recently a panellist on Network Ten's morning program Studio 10.

The 77-year-old is a former Australian of the Year, lauded for her work in the media and as an advocate for Australians with Alzheimer's and dementia.

Last year, Ms Buttrose lamented the credentials of those currently among the ABC's directors.

"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," she told ABC's The Drum, after Ms Guthrie's dismissal.

"And I think that is a failing of the board — they're very well-credentialled, don't get me wrong.

"But there's not a lot of media experience there, and I think you must have media experience if you're going to run the ABC because of the very nature of the ABC."

Ms Buttrose also warned of the task facing future leaders of the public broadcaster, and said those filling the roles of chair and managing director must be able to "talk honestly and frankly" with each other.

"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," she said.

"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."


(Votes: 0)

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