As the ABC searches for a new managing director, newly-appointed ABC chair Ita Buttrose has been hailed as a “formidable advocate” for the ABC who will be influential in Canberra, former ABC chief Mark Scott AO said in an interview at the Australian Governance Summit (AGS).

    AGS 2019: Your Money Interview Mark Scott07:06

    “I think every politician in Canberra will want to meet her (Ita Buttrose) and spend time with her. She will have no trouble getting meetings in Canberra… I also think she will be a trustee for the trust that exists at the ABC,” Scott said.

    At her press conference when she was appointed in February, Buttrose said the ABC is the most trusted institution in the country. So when an expenditure review committee is tempted by a funding cut to the ABC, they know they will have to take on Ita Buttrose, Scott told Your Money in an interview conducted on the sidelines of the AGS in March.

    Scott applauded the appointment of Buttrose, who he says will make a “formidable contribution round the boardroom table” and said he hopes the ABC can now rebuild. Now the Secretary of the NSW Department of Education, Scott said he worked with three different chairs in 10 years when he was managing director of the ABC between 2006 and 2016, and said responsibilities seemed to have blurred since he left. “I never had a chair that wanted to do my job, I never wanted to do the chair’s job.”

    Turmoil hit the public broadcaster last year, resulting in the departure of both managing director Michelle Guthrie and chair Justin Milne. “What you can see in some of the coverage is a blurred sense of responsibilities between the chair as it existed and the managing director role as it existed in the last year or two,” Scott said.

    “When you get the sense that the chair has clear management views and is not just second-guessing management but getting quite involved in management… that sends a warning signal,” he explained.

    At a press conference when she was appointed, Buttrose said she is a passionate believer in the ABC and will protect its independence. Her priority is restoring stability at the top of the organisation after the high-profile departure late last year of the ABC leadership team.

    This year, a federal parliamentary hearing questioned in March why the ABC board didn't act sooner over last year’s concerns about political interference in editorial matters by former chair Justin Milne. Deputy chair Kristin Ferguson FAICD told the Senate committee investigating the claims of political interference that the board decided on September 23 to appoint an independent expert to investigate allegations made by Ms Guthrie about Mr Milne's conduct. However, Ferguson said Guthrie then decided not to participate, so the investigation could not go ahead.

    The Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications inquiry is due to report this week - by 29 March.

    The future – now for a new MD

    Up to seven directors of the ABC Board are appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the government. The board has three committees – the Risk and Audit Committee, the People and Remuneration Committee and the Editorial Committee. However the Managing Director is appointed by the Board.

    The ABC began its search for a new Managing Director in February, with executive search firm Spencer Stuart undertaking a global search. The Sydney-based role reportedly commands a salary of about $1 million a year.

    In the running for the position are two former senior Fairfax Media editors - Darren Goodsir and Peter Fray - State Library of Victoria chief executive Kate Torney and the current acting managing director David Anderson, who has publicly indicated his plans to apply.

    Applications for the role closed after two weeks of advertising. Executive recruiter Spencer Stuart, on behalf of the ABC, is seeking a strong leader to fulfil the “function of editor-in-chief" and to have "ultimate editorial authority and responsibility for all content published".

    According to the public advertisement, the recruiter is seeking applicants with “success as a compelling and financially astute CEO with experience reporting to a board of a complex organisation” and “ideally” a background in content.

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