As anyone who’s met her would attest, media doyenne and current ABC chair Ita Buttrose is never backwards in coming forwards.
The 77-year-old Australian of the Year was a somewhat left-of-centre appointment when she took the reins of the public broadcaster in February this year following the sacking of managing director Michelle Guthrie six months earlier.
Yesterday, Buttrose – who was awarded B&T’s Women In Media’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018 – used a public speaking engagement in Sydney to offer some insights into dealing with ABC staff.
Speaking as part of a panel at an Aussie Home Loans conference (Buttrose wasn’t there in an official ABC capacity), she was asked about the upheaval at senior level at Aunty and how it had affected staff.
“Creative people, the kind of people who work at the ABC, are very sensitive people,” Buttrose answered.
“You’ve got to understand that – that’s why they do the sort of things that they do.
“So they’re a little more fragile than some workers. They have to be patted a bit, and reassured that all is well,” she said, apparently to ripples of laughter from the audience.
Not that Buttrose should be antagonising the ABC throng.
Just prior to Guthrie’s sacking last year, a survey of her performance was conducted by her senior colleagues and board directors and later made public at a Senate enquiry.
The survey found that she was ranked in the bottom four per cent of CEOs for integrity.
She was also judged to be “arrogant”, “autocratic” and “distant” and had delivered an “extremely poor” performance according to the survey’s findings.
Guthrie later threatened to sue the ABC for false dismissal, but settled out of court for a figure rumoured to be just shy of $1 million.