ABC searches high and low but finds the right managing director already in the office

By Stephen Easton

Monday May 6, 2019

A “national and international search that produced many impressive candidates” has only served to convince the ABC board it already had the perfect managing director acting in the role.

ABC directors unanimously chose David Anderson to be the new top executive, the recently appointed chair Ita Buttrose announced on Friday. “Mr Anderson is an exceptional media professional with strong content, digital and strategic experience,” she said in a statement.

The new managing director said it was “a privilege to be appointed” to the role, which has a five-year statutory term.

“I look forward to continuing to lead the ABC and allowing our talented teams to get on with what the ABC does best: serving the Australian people, delivering Australia’s finest agenda-setting news and current affairs, hosting conversations and telling stories that look and sound like Australia,” he said.

The decision ends a period of instability at the national broadcaster due to the acrimonious departure of former MD Michelle Guthrie, who was soon followed by then-chair Justin Milne after disclosures about his conversations with Guthrie about journalist Emma Alberici turned staff sharply against him.

ABC staff were livid when they heard Milne pressured Guthrie to sack Alberici, in an attempt to appease the government, but a review by Department of Communications and the Arts secretary Mike Mrdak found no evidence he was directly relaying an explicit demand from a minister.

Anderson is a safe choice, as a well known face with a lot of friends and supporters in the ABC, having worked his way up the organisation for decades.

“With almost 30 years of service, David’s knowledge of the ABC is unsurpassed,” said Buttrose. “He has a deep understanding of audience needs and the Board is confident he has the skills and ability to respond to the challenges of a changing media environment.

“We believe he is the right person to lead the Corporation at this time. David already enjoys the trust and confidence of the ABC leadership team and staff and he is ideally placed to continue to provide strong leadership and direction.”

The statement noted Anderson, who is now in charge of all editorial content, had “a strong track record” in both producing and commissioning successful television shows.

“Before stepping into the role of Acting Managing Director in September last year, David was the Director, Entertainment & Specialist, responsible for all ABC radio music networks (triple j, Double j, Classic, Country and Jazz), podcasts and specialist radio content (Radio National) as well as broadcast television networks (ABCTV, ABC Kids, ABC Comedy, ABC ME) and on-demand products and services (iview, ABC Listen, ABC Kids Listen, ABC Kids), and network websites and apps.

“During his tenure David has held several senior executive roles, including Director of Television, Director of the ABC’s Digital Network and Director of Strategy & Planning. In his capacity as Director of Strategy & Planning, David worked to redeploy expenditure towards audience-focused content, products and services; and as Director of Digital Network he led the Corporation’s digital transformation by identifying ways to engage new audiences and creating a personalised and connected online network.”

Top image: David Anderson and Ita Buttrose (ABC).

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