Aussie media legend Ita Buttrose has been officially named as the new ABC chair, ending months of uncertainty about the position at the public broadcaster.
The ABC announced the news on its website on Wednesday evening, confirming speculation Federal Cabinet had met in Canberra on Tuesday to approve the appointment.
Buttrose, who is only the second woman to hold the position in the media organisation’s history, will lead the ABC for the next five years.
The job became vacant following former chairman Justin Milne’s sudden departure last September after he was accused of interfering in the organisation’s editorial integrity and demanding that senior journalists be sacked, allegations he has strongly denied. Earlier that same week Milne and the board had fired Managing Director Michelle Guthrie, who is now suing the broadcaster for unfair dismissal.
Kirstin Ferguson, the ABC acting chair, is expected to step aside for Buttrose this week.
The high-profile job is yet another achievement in Buttrose’s already storied career. She made a name for herself in the early 1970s when she founded Cleo Magazine, and later went on to become editor of The Australian Women’s Weekly.
She also lead Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper in the 1980s, and was most recently a panellist on Network Ten’s morning program Studio 10.
Even when she hasn’t held a full-time position in the media, Buttrose’s insights and knowledge of the industry have been sought after and she regularly appears as a commentator across the media.
Speaking on ABC program The Drum last year, Buttrose commented on the turmoil within the ABC board and conceded anyone who took on the top job would face an uphill battle.
“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.”
She also criticised the board for its lack of media experience, noting that the current eight board members have very few media credentials among them, with most coming from business or legal backgrounds.
“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 said.
“And I think that is a failing of the board — they’re very well-credentialed, 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.”