Government considering Janet Albrechtsen for the selection panel of the ABC and SBS

ABCConservative commentator and culture warrior Janet Albrechtsen is under consideration to join the nomination panel for the boards of public broadcasters the ABC and SBS, Mumbrella can reveal.

If appointed, the move would be interpreted by many as an attempt by the Abbott government to bring more conservative voices onto the board of the broadcasters, with Albrechtsen one of four people on the panel, which is designed to provide an independent shortlist of board members to the Minister for Communication Malcolm Turnbull.

sbs logoThere are currently two vacancies on the selection panel with the retirement this year of Professor Alan Fels and Leneen Forde.

“I don’t know that that has been finalised yet”, Albrechtsen told Mumbrella when asked about her invitation. “They have certainly been chatting to me but I don’t know that it has been finalised.”

Asked if she was willing to serve, she said: “If they want me to, and once I’ve talked to them, then sure. ”

Albrechtsen herself is a former board member of the ABC and also is regular opinion columnist for News Corp’s The Australian.  She was appointed by the Howard government in 2005 to the board along with other conservative voices, including conservative historian Keith Windshuttle.

The move comes at a time of heightened tensions between the government and the public broadcasters. The ABC and SBS are currently looking for savings in the face of the recent budget which imposed $43.5m in spending cuts on the broadcasters, with the ABC also losing its 10-year contract for the Australia Network which is worth $223m. Further cuts are also widely rumoured.

In February, the government decided that SBS chairman Joseph Skrzynski should not be appointed to a second term as SBS chairman stoking expectations that the government would appoint more members who were of a right of centre political persuasion. 

In 2007 the Rudd Government announced the independent nomination panel as an attempt to depoliticise the appointments to the ABC.

The move comes ahead of the expiry of the terms of ABC board members Cheryl Bart and Steve Skala.

Albrechtsen rejected the suggestion that her appointment was part of attempt by the government to appoint conservative voices. “I don’t think my objective in relation to the ABC has been to turn it into a right wing propaganda unit. I think what I’ve always wanted was for the ABC to be balanced, entertaining and unpredictable,” she said.

A spokesman for Turnbull confirmed that the appointment process was being run by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. At the time of posting the office had not responded to requests for comment.

Nic Christensen 


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