ABC Board

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The ABC Board is the body responsible for the operations of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.[1] It is made up of five to seven directors chosen by the Australian government and a Managing Director who is appointed by the Board itself.[1][2][3] At various times, ABC staff have been granted rights to elect a nominee for appointment to the Board; and as of April 2013 staff elected a nominee-director.[4]


The Governor-General, on the recommendation of the Federal Government, appoints members, as specified in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act, 1983, commonly called the ABC Act.[5][6] The ABC Act specifies that Directors must be experienced in broadcasting, communications or management, or have expertise in financial or technical matters, or have cultural or other interests relevant to the provision of broadcasting services.[7] Each director serves a term of five years, with eligibility for reappointment at the end of this term.[7]

Directors are expected to follow the ABC Board Protocol, which stipulates responsibilities, expectations, rights, and benefits.[7]

Current Board members are:[8]

Name Functional role Term start Notes / Reference
Justin Milne Chairman 1 April 2017 [9]
Michelle Guthrie Managing Director 1 May 2016 [10]
Dr Kirsten Ferguson 12 November 2015 [11]
Dr Vanessa Guthrie 23 February 2017 [12]
Peter Lewis 2 October 2014 [13]
Jane Connors Staff Elected Director 1 May 2018 [14]
Georgina (Georgie) Somerset 23 February 2017 [15]
Donny Walford 24 November 2015 [16]

The board maintains an Advisory Council, which advises it on matters concerning the Corporation's programming.[17] The Council is made up of twelve members, broadly representative of the Australian community, which serve staggered four-year terms. Vacancies are advertised in September–October each year. The Advisory Council's current Chair is Dr Jane Munro, Head of International House at the University of Melbourne.[17]


The Minister for Communications nominates candidates to the Governor-General for appointment to the ABC Board; based on a shortlist prepared by an independent nomination panel. As of April 2018, members of the panel were former Treasury Secretary and Westpac Chair, Ted Evans AC (Chair); company director and lawyer, Dr Sally Pitkin; public relations media director and former broadcaster, Anne Fulwood; and former Australian Public Service Commissioner and departmental secretary, Helen Williams.[18]

Appointments to the board made by successive governments have often resulted in criticism of the appointees' political affiliation, background, and relative merit.[19][20] From 2003 the Howard government also made several controversial appointments to the ABC Board, including Albrechtsen, a prominent critic,[21] Ron Brunton,[22] and Keith Windschuttle.[20][23]

During their 2007 federal election campaign, Labor announced plans to introduce a new system, similar to that of the BBC, for appointing members to the board.[24][25] Under this new system, now in place, ABC candidates are considered by a panel established "at arm's length" from the Communications Minister.[26] If the Minister chose someone not on the panel's shortlist, the Minister would be required to justify their selection to Australian Parliament. The Chairman of the ABC is nominated by the Prime Minister and endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition.[24][27]

Key people[edit]

Board members[edit]


Order Title Name Term
1 General Manager Sir Charles Moses November 1935 January 1965 [54][55]
2 Sir Talbot Duckmanton 26 February 1965 1 July 1982 [56]
3 Keith Jennings August 1982 1983
4 Managing Director Geoffrey Whitehead 23 January 1984 31 December 1986 [57][58]
5 David Hill 1987 25 February 1995 [59]
6 Brian Johns 17 March 1995 17 March 2000
7 Jonathan Shier 17 March 2000 31 December 2001 [38]
8 Russell Balding 29 May 2002 25 March 2006
9 Mark Scott 5 July 2006 29 April 2016
10 Michelle Guthrie 1 May 2016 present [10]


Past appointments have associated directly with political parties—five of fourteen appointed chairmen have been accused of political affiliation or friendship, include Richard Downing and Ken Myer (both of whom publicly endorsed the Australian Labor Party at the 1972 election[60]), as well as Sir Henry Bland. David Hill was close to Neville Wran, while Donald McDonald was considered to be a close friend of John Howard.[61]

In the past, appointments of commissioners and directors also drew criticism.[20] In the 1932, a majority of the commissioners were publicly conservative.[citation needed] This continued to 1942, when the Curtin and Chifley administrations appointed a more 'politically balanced' commission.[citation needed]

Once elected to power, Labor prime minister Whitlam replaced the entire board—appointed by Liberal governments over the previous 23 years—with supporters of the Labor Party.[61] His successor, Malcolm Fraser, attempted unsuccessfully to take similar action by replacing the board with politically conservative commissioners in 1976,[61] but was only able to make new appointments by adding two extra director positions onto the board.[54][61]

In 1983, Minister John Button referred proposed board appointments to an all-party committee for the first time.[61] This practice was discontinued before the end of Paul Keating's government.[61] Alan Ramsey, in a 1996 article for The Sydney Morning Herald noted that:

A 2006 restructure of the ABC board, undertaken by the Howard government, abolished the position of staff elected director.[3] The elected director was previously nominated and elected by employees of the ABC. Nominees for this director office were to have been employed at least 24 hours a week by the ABC and the term of office was two years with eligibility for re-election to a second term. An elected director was not eligible for a third term of office. Broadcaster Ramona Koval had occupied the position for the previous four years prior to its abolition amid ongoing intense controversy.[62] This drew criticism from the Labor Party, Australian Greens, and the Democrats, who saw it as a 'revenge measure' taken against the Corporation.[63][64]

In July 2007, Labor announced plans to make the system of appointments to the board independent of the Minister for Communications;[24] and also reinstate the staff election of a nominee director.[4] Initial members of the independent panel were Gonski, Smith, Allan Fels and Leneen Forde.[15]


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