ABC boss Mark Scott set to go out swinging taking aim at News Corp and Peter Costello

Outgoing ABC managing director Mark Scott appears to be starting a valedictory lap as he enters his last six months in the role by taking aim at opponents of the public broadcaster.

Mark Scott ABC landscape

Mark Scott appears to be preparing to defend his legacy.

Just days after the ABC board named Google executive Michelle Guthrie as his replacement, Scott has challenged both former treasurer Peter Costello over an attack on ABC spending, and The Australian over criticism his successor is not qualified to be in charge of editorial.

Scott today accused The Australian of hypocrisy, tweeting: “The Australian’s editorial is outraged the next CEO of the ABC is not a journalist. Meanwhile at News Corp…” and linking to a story about the appointment of Peter Tonagh CEO of News Corp Australia, who does not have editorial experience.

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 11.17.01 am

He also penned a response to former treasurer Costello in which he defends his legacy and argued in favour of the ABC’s expanding capabilities in the digital space.

“The ABC is a digital public broadcaster because the law says it must be – it is in the ABC charter. And the ABC’s most important stakeholder and owner, the Australian public, have demanded it be digital to remain relevant to audiences today and in the future,” he wrote.

“If you want to be a contemporary media organisation, you have to have a digital strategy that allows you to deliver across multiple channels to different audiences on different devices.”

Costello had questioned some of the recent programming decisions on youth focused multichannel ABC2 writing: “A fortnight ago ABC TV programmed a whole week for voyeurs on its ABC2 channel. There was a program called Australians on Porn and a BBC documentary, Twilight of the Porn Stars. There was Websex: what’s the harm?

“There was a three-part, three-night series, Strippers, filmed in various Scottish lap-dancing clubs. To show a bit of cultural diversity, there was an Australian who showed what it was like to work in an Australian brothel and a program on a very British brothel.

“Nor is the ABC sexist because there was another program called Male Hookers Uncovered and one on transgender called Ladyboys.”

Scott today fired back noting it catered to a variety of audiences.

“Mr Costello may find some programming that is not to his taste and sensibility sometimes – at times, so do I,” he wrote.

“Not everything is for everyone. I suspect he is not a great listener to triple j – but on Australia Day millions of younger Australians will party and listen to the hottest 100 countdown. And they will not even blink at the language warnings … Overwhelmingly the Australian public believes the ABC does a good job in the service of the community.

“This year has given many great examples on television, radio, online and mobile.

“The vast majority of Australians are thankful they have a strong, robust, independent public broadcaster in the ABC, delivering in new ways for the digital era. There will always be some who want to weaken it, harm it, shrink it – and ultimate see if fade away. The Australian public know better.”

The stoush comes in the same week Guthrie has faced questions about her ability to serve as editor-in-chief of the ABC, a role which comes alongside the managing director title, and where she signalled a willingness to explore new avenues for the monetisation of content.

Related content: Why commercial media shouldn’t fear a Googler at the helm of the ABC

Nic Christensen


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.