Harold Mitchell becomes chairman of Free TV


UPDATED: Days after stepping back from Aegis Media, Harold Mitchell has been revealed as the new chairman of industry body Free TV.

Mitchell takes the chair four months after the resignation of former Nine managing director Jeff Brown, who chose to step down after infighting among the major television networks over proposed changes to the media ownership rules made his position untenable.

One of Australia’s longest serving and most senior media buyers, Mitchell’s appointment comes days after he formerly stepped down as chairman of Aegis.

“There is a great energy and confidence within Australian Free TV networks, and this is a great opportunity for me to remain involved with the free-to-air television industry at a time of real change,” said Mitchell in the announcement. 

Mitchell created Australia’s biggest media buying agencies in Mitchell & Partners, which he went on to sell to Aegis Media, making him one of the group’s biggest shareholders. He then became one of Australia’s wealthiest people when Dentsu bought Aegis.

“Commercial television is part of the fabric of Australian life; it’s in 99% of homes and is the major investor in Australian content. Free-to-air TV is reaching more consumers on more platforms than ever before, a position of strength that equips it for the challenges of our digital world. It is uniquely placed to remain the leading source of entertainment and information for all Australians,” said Mitchell.

As chairman Mitchell will work closely with the Free TV board and with the organisation’s chief executive, Julie Flynn, on issues affecting the commercial free-to-air television industry. With his decades as of experience as a senior media buyer he also has strong relationships with all the television bosses.

Flynn said: “We are delighted that Harold has agreed to take on the role of chairman. Nobody has more extensive experience and understanding of our business and the wider industry landscape. We look forward to his leadership and advice as we complete the transition to digital television and progress Free TV’s mission to continue to deliver the best entertainment, news and sport to all Australians for free.”

Mitchell’s ties to the major networks go back decades. The then owner of Nine Kerry Packer saved Mitchell from bankrupcy when a business investment went wrong. He is close to current Nine boss David Gyngell, as well as Seven part owner Kerry Stokes. He is also close to the Murdoch family. Lachlan Murdoch is the current chairman of Ten.

Mitchell’s appointment is effective immediately.

Seven CEO Tim Worner said: “Nobody really believed Harold when he said he was going to retire, he’s got way too much to contribute. Harold and retirement does not compute. It is a telling sign for the media industry that someone who gets it as well as he does is prepared to endorse the power of free TV. We are all looking forward to working with him.”

Kerry Stokes, chairman of Seven West Media, said: “Harold is an icon and has been a long and passionate supporter of our industry. He will be terrific in his new role as Chairman of Free TV Australia.”

Ten CEO Hamish McLennan said: “Harold is a great marketing and media industry executive and a great Australian. Harold’s experience, talent and enthusiasm will be a tremendous asset and he will help advance the cause of the free-to-air television industry at all levels.”

Nic Christensen 


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