A group of former ABC employees has warned the federal government against rushing to appoint a new ABC chair, especially one who has displayed bias against the national broadcaster.
In an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, ABC Alumni, which represents more than 200 former ABC staff, has appealed for him to respect the independence of the broadcaster and not appoint a new chair until after the Senate inquiry into ‘allegations of political interference’ delivers its report in a few months’ time.
“The current process of selecting and appointing board members is open to political influence and needs urgent reform, the letter said.
“The Communications Minister should not appoint ABC board members without complying with the current nomination process; nor should the Prime Minister make a “captain’s pick” for chair.
“The leadership of the ABC and the long-term future of the national broadcaster is too important for the government to rush a decision to appoint a chair.”
ABC Alumni argued that the “threshold public interest test” must be whether a candidate has a strong track record of support for the ABC and the concept of public media generally.
“Commercial media executives who lobbied to restrict the ABC’s online activities and confine it to areas regarded as uneconomic for commercial media should be disqualified from consideration,” the letter said.
Former Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood has previously lambasted the ABC for helping grow the profits of the likes of Google with taxpayers’ money, and threatening the future commercial media rivals.
However, the ABC and SBS were cleared of claims they are competing unfairly with their commercial rivals in December, following an independent inquiry commissioned by the federal government.
ABC Alumni also said it strongly believes that the new chair must commit to maintain the broadcaster’s output in metropolitan, rural and regional Australia, and to re-vitalise operations in Asia and the Pacific on all platforms, be it radio, television or online.