Can Ita save the ABC?

“Australians trust Ita,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “I trust Ita and that’s why I have asked her to take on this role and I’m absolutely thrilled that she has accepted.”

The PM will officially recommend media icon Ita Buttrose to the Governor General as the ABC’s new leader – only the second woman ever to chair ‘Aunty’.

After five months of management turmoil, Ita will captain a ship that is still sailing, but one that may be slightly flailing in the public’s eye.

She certainly has the PM’s backing.

“Ita, as we know, has the strength, the integrity and the fierce independence that she is known for to take stewardship of this important Australian institution,” said Mr Morrison.

“But it is not just her extensive experience in publishing and broadcasting which equips her for this role.

“The reason she has been so successful in publishing, in broadcasting, is she has always put her viewers, her listeners and her readers first. And you know what? That’s what the ABC needs to do too.”

At 77, Ms Buttrose’s resume is impressive. She was the founding editor of Cleo Magazine in 1972, editor of The Australian Women’s Weekly, the first woman to edit Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, and the first woman appointed to the News Limited board.

The former Australian of the Year is also an advocate for Australians with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Ms Buttrose says her top priority is to restore stability to the public broadcaster and get it “functioning again”.

“I think my most important role is to restore stability to the management of the organisation, to reassure the staff that life will go on as usual and to reassure the board, who has also been through a period of unrest, that it’s time to get the ABC functioning again with proper stable management and good frank discussion between the chair and whoever is the managing director,” said Ms Buttrose.

“If there’s not a close relationship between the chair and the managing director, you cannot make an organisation work efficiently and well.”

A self-declared life-long ABC fan, Ms Buttrose also wants to ensure the community retained its trust in the organisation.

“I consider it one of the most important cultural and information organisations in our country and I’m honoured to be asked to lead it into the future,” she said.

“It is a voice of the Australian people. I think it reflects our identity, it tells our stories not just here in Australia but to the rest of the world, and I have grown up with the ABC.

“I’m a passionate believer in the independence of the ABC and I will do everything in my utmost power to make sure it remains that way.”

Even though Ita has solid publishing and media credentials, some still doubt that she has what it takes to run a digital media empire – a suggestion Ms Buttrose rejects.

“I have never been frightened of what technology offers to us in the media,” she said.

“It is the way of the future. We all know that. And the ABC has a part of that and it’s already working very hard in this field and I don’t intend that it shouldn’t keep doing so.

“We have a right to be there. It is the way of the future and the ABC must have that future.”

Ms Buttrose suggested that the lack of media experience on the previous board may have contributed to ‘Aunty’s’ recent woes.

“If I look at the board, and I look at [former managing director] Michelle Guthrie’s CV, I don’t see anybody there with a lot of media experience,” she told ABC’s The Drum.

“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.”


Ita Buttrose certainly has the skills and background required to lead such a precious public institution, but does she have what it takes to save the ABC? Does it even need saving?

Tell us what you think in our Friday Flash Poll: Does the ABC need ‘saving’?


What is wrong with the ABC? What do you think of Ita Buttrose? As always, we welcome your opinions in the comments section below.

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.