Less than a week after officially retiring from the stewardship of Aegis Media in Australia Harold Mitchell has returned to the fray as chairman of Free TV Australia.
The industry body has been without a chairman since Nine’s Jeffrey Browne was deposed in April amid claims of bias towards his own network. At one point speculation had linked former Prime Minister John Howard to the post.
As exclusively revealed by B&T Mitchell, probably the most famous name in Australian media buying, stepped down as chairman of Aegis Asia-Pacific last week.
He said: “There is a great energy and confidence within Australian Free TV networks, and this is a great opportunity for me to remain involved with the free-to-air television industry at a time of real change.
“Commercial television is part of the fabric of Australian life; it’s in 99% of homes and is the major investor in Australian content.
“Free-to-air TV is reaching more consumers on more platforms than ever before, a position of strength that equips it for the challenges of our digital world. It is uniquely placed to remain the leading source of entertainment and information for all Australians.”
His appointment comes just a day after it was revealed free TV has been deposed by the internet as the most dominant forum for advertising dollars, with the medium facing unprecedented levels of change.
Free-TV’s chief executive Julie Flynn said: “We are delighted that Harold has agreed to take on the role of chairman.
“Nobody has more extensive experience and understanding of our business and the wider industry landscape.
“We look forward to his leadership and advice as we complete the transition to digital television and progress Free TV’s mission to continue to deliver the best entertainment, news and sport to all Australians for free.”
The free TV networks have also been giving their reaction to the appointment, with Nine’s head of sales Peter Witshire tweeting “unrivalled experience & lobbying power”.
Seven’s CEO Tim Worner added in a statement: “Nobody really believed Harold when he said he was going to retire, he’s got way too much to contribute. Harold and retirement does not compute.
“It is a telling sign for the media industry that someone who gets it as well as he does is prepared to endorse the power of free TV. We are all looking forward to working with him.”
His boss Kerry Stokes, chairman of Seven West Media chimed in: “Harold is an icon and has been a long and passionate supporter of our industry. He will be terrific in his new role as chairman.”TV Australia.”