Measures to ensure strong and independent national broadcasters

Photo of Senator Stephen Conroy

Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy

Measures to ensure strong and independent national broadcasters

The Rudd Government today announced a public consultation and new board appointment processes to ensure the future strength and independence of Australia's national broadcasters.

"For the next two months, the Australian public will have its say on how the ABC and SBS are positioned for the next decade," the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said.

"The ABC and the SBS are two of Australia's most important and loved public institutions. They have entertained, educated and informed generations of Australians. It is incumbent on all of us to ensure their future strength and independence."

The Government has released a discussion paper, ABC and SBS: Towards a Digital Future, canvassing some of the key issues facing the two broadcasters during the next decade.

"Australians are passionate about their national broadcasters and I expect there to be some strong views about ensuring the ABC and SBS are well placed to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the emerging digital, online and global media environment," Senator Conroy said.

The Rudd Government will also restore independence to the ABC and SBS Boards. The Government is today calling for applications from Australians to fill four vacancies on the Boards. Applications will be assessed on merit by a Nomination Panel established at arms-length from the Minister.

"For too long the process of appointing directors to the ABC and SBS Boards has been open to political interference. It is time to restore independence," Senator Conroy said.

"The new selection process will ensure that all future appointments to the ABC and SBS Boards are conducted in a manner that fosters independence, transparency, accountability and public confidence."

The Government will also reinstate the position of staff-elected director on the ABC Board.

"The position of staff-elected Director makes an important contribution to the ABC's independence by providing the Board with a unique and important insight into ABC operations," Senator Conroy said.

Discussions on the future of the national broadcasters formed part of the agenda at the Australia 2020 Summit, held in Canberra in April 2008. The Rudd Government now wants to extend that dialogue to the wider Australia community.

The outcomes of the public consultation will be considered by the Government ahead of the next three-year funding round for national broadcasters, which commences in July 2009. The outcomes will also contribute to policy decisions for the long-term future of national broadcasting.

Submissions can be made to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy beforeFriday 12 December 2008. The discussion paper is available at www.dbcde.gov.au/abcsbsreview or by calling 1800 025 145.

Further information about the merit-based appointments process is available from the Department of Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy's website at www.dbcde.gov.au/abcsbsboards.

ends

Date: 16 October 2008
Contact: Tim Marshall 0408 258 457