Former SBS CEO and managing director Michael Ebeid has slammed the ABC board in the wake of Michelle Guthrie and Justin Milne’s public row.
Speaking to Fairfax, Ebeid said it was high time the public broadcaster shook up its board, claiming the method both SBS and ABC currently use to pick board members and chairs was outdated.
For Ebeid, the board should be picked by an independent panel and the board should then internally pick its chair.
He said: “That’s how every board in the country’s done.
“I’ve never understood why the board of the SBS and the ABC cannot select their future board members [based on] people who have the right skills rather than connections to a government of either persuasion.
“As an independent public broadcaster, the government should have no say whatsoever in board members, including the chairman.”
Speaking about the unravelling chaos currently gripping the ABC – with former MD Michelle Guthrie last week accusing former ABC chairman Justin Milne of ‘inappropriately touching her’ – Ebeid said the ABC board should take more responsibility.
“The entire board needs to look carefully at the role that they played. It looks to me like they’re all responsible. They should probably individually consider whether they should also step down,” Mr Ebeid said.
Touching on the catalyst of Guthrie and Milne’s demise at the ABC; that being the hinted firing of Emma Alberici following a stern warning from then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, Ebeid said the ABC should have better defended its own.
“You just need to be ready and willing to defend it and fight for the position of the independent public broadcaster, as opposed to self-censoring in case the government doesn’t like it. I would never have self-censored,” he told Fairfax Media.
“I don’t think – from a journalistic and content perspective – the feelings of the government should be at the forefront of one’s mind. It does matter, but you shouldn’t change your behaviour for it.”
Immediately following the explosive interview, ABC news director Gaven Morris felt it necessary to show his support for ABC staff.
In a tweet, Morris said: “Staff and people across the organisation act with amazing integrity and professionalism every day. They’re devoted to serving our loyal audiences in the public interest.”
As well as Morris, Labour Leader Bill Shorten has slammed the ABC, calling it a “dictatorship” during a public address on Tuesday in Melbourne.
“The idea that you might have people at the highest level making behind-the-scenes phone calls and emails demanding this journalist and that journalist be censored because they criticised the government — we don’t live in a dictatorship,” he said.
“There’s clearly been a lack of accountability and also, in my opinion, too much interference with the ABC.”
B&T has approached the ABC for comment following Ebeid’s comments.