Ita Buttrose reveals reason for departing ABC

Ita Buttrose reveals reason for departing ABC

Ita Buttrose, Women in Media Conference 2023

Exiting ABC chair, Ita Buttrose has revealed that her decision to step down from her role had nothing to do with the controversial termination of Antoinette Lattouf from the national broadcaster in December last year. 

Speaking to News Corp’s Stellar, the 82-year old said she had notified the government and the minister Michelle Rowland last August that she was not seeking another term and that her decision had “nothing to do with current events.”

In January, ABC union members passed a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Managing Director David Anderson for his handling of Lattouf’s sacking, after she launched a wrongful termination case against the national broadcaster. The ABC’s board later rejected the union’s vote, with Anderson securing the backing of Buttrose. 

“David Anderson has always been strong a supporter of the independence of the ABC and its journalists. He has encouraged them to report without fear or favour and has never weakly surrendered to criticism as some critics have alleged,” Buttrose said in a statement

Just days before she departs the top role, Buttrose suggests she is ready to “step aside.” 

“Five years is quite a long time to serve the ABC,” she said.

“I know some chairs have gone on and done a second term, but I’m conscious that I’m a woman of a certain age. And despite [US president] Joe Biden thinking he should run another term – I don’t think he should – sometimes you need to examine yourself and say, ‘Well, I am a person of a certain age and everything’s fine, and cognitively I’m good’ but still, weigh it up. Another five years. What would it be like?”

“You have to know in yourself when you need to step aside. I felt that. It had nothing to do with any current events.”

Buttrose, who has held the position since 2019, reiterated her support for Anderson in another interview with the Herald

“The board and I have expressed our full confidence in David,” she said. “We know that he has staff safety top of his mind and, as editor-in-chief, has stressed that our coverage of the Israeli-Hamas conflict be impartial. That has been supported by the most recent report from the ABC ombudsman.” 

When she was asked about the accusations of the broadcaster’s bias, she replied, “I reckon every chair since 1932 has had to face allegations of bias. But it’s still the most trusted media organisation in Australia.”

“It has always been to focus on the truth, and that’s the principle we apply to everything now, and it’s my role as chair to highlight that responsibility and the need to deliver news impartially. I remind journalists, especially younger journalists, “If you want to report the news, you have to leave bias at the door. You have to report the facts. Only the facts, no opinions”.

Continuing her defence in her Stellar interview, Buttrose said: “The role of independence of the national broadcaster is paramount to what we do. It’s enshrined in legislation.”

“The ABC and I have never been influenced by outside lobbyists, people passionate about their particular cause as politicians, commercial interests, you name it. The ABC has never caved in. I’ve never caved in. Neither has the managing director nor the board.”

Responding to a question about her leadership as a woman, Buttrose said she hasn’t encountered a ‘boys club’ at the top, but that she has observed it. 

“It’s certainly still there,” she remarked. “It’s not as strong as it used to be, but it’s fair to say some women are discriminated against because of their age, their nationality, their skin colour. I think that bias still exists. Just have a look at the board make-up; you can see for yourself. Mind you, men suffer the same. We’re not a great embracer of diversity in the boardroom, I don’t think.”

Former News Limited CEO Kim Williams is set to replace Buttrose this week. 


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