Independence concerns grow for Australia’s public broadcaster

Following the dismissal of Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) managing director and the resignation of the chairman in September 2018, concerns about the future of the ABC and political interference have continued to grow. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) have called for an overhaul of the ABC board and management processes to ensure editorial independence and freedom from political interference.

Rallies at the ABC following allegations of political interference in September 2018. Credit: Twitter

Concerns and allegations of political interference have been raised against the former ABC chairman Justin Milne. They were again raised in a report on ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday, November 12.

On Tuesday, November 13, the secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU),    Sally McManus accused the ABC of refusing her entry to the Sydney offices on Wednesday, November 14. Sally was invited to attend a union meeting tomorrow, but permission for her entry had not been granted by management.

MEAA said the Four Corners investigation of the ABC has revealed the need for urgent changes to be implemented at the public broadcaster. MEAA believes that appointments to the Board must be made only after the consideration and recommendation of the Independent Nomination Panel (INP). Politically-aligned persons should be precluded from being members of the INP and no person who has an official role as a lobbyist should be eligible for appointment to the Board. In addition, external independent advisers should assist in setting triennial funding.

MEAA chief executive Paul Murphy added:  “We all owe a big vote of thanks to the hard working ABC staff who’ve kept our public broadcaster running despite the extraordinary dysfunction and incompetence that has been going on at the highest levels of the Corporation.”

The IFJ said: “The independence of the ABC from political interference is absolutely vital to function of the ABC as a public broadcaster. We stand in solidarity with the staff at the ABC who continue to fight for the ABC and its role in Australia.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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