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Kim Williams to be new ABC chair, described by Albanese as ‘a true renaissance man’

The new chair of the ABC will be experienced media executive Kim Williams, replacing Ita Buttrose, whose term ends in early March.

Williams brings to the role not only a media background – including being appointed CEO of News Ltd in 2011, a position from which he resigned in 2013 – but very broad interests in the creative industries generally.

He takes over the ABC at a fraught time, with vocal division among staff about its coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict. These reached a flashpoint when journalist Antoinette Lattouf, who had a week-long contract as a presenter, was taken off air prematurely after she reposted a Human Rights Watch post that accused the Israeli government of using starvation of civilians as a weapon of war in Gaza.

This week 128 staff members voted no confidence in managing director David Anderson, a move strongly condemned by Buttrose.

Williams is presently chair of Thomson Reuters Founders Share Company, Co-chair of the State Library of NSW Foundation Board and Director of Stradivarius Pty Ltd.

He has had various chief executive posts across the creative industries including the Australian Film Commission, Southern Star Entertainment, Fox Studios Australia, and Foxtel, as well as News Corp Australia.

His previous non-executive positions include chair of the Copyright Agency, the Sydney Opera House Trust, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Australian Film Finance Corporation, Musica Viva Australia, the Richard Gill School, Deputy Chair of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music, and an AFL Commissioner.

Anthony Albanese described Williams as “such a perfect fit for the role, it’s almost as if he were made for it. He is as much at home running media companies as he is running arts organisations and, indeed, [was a] former AFL Commissioner so engaged in sport as well.

"There aren’t too many Australians I can think of who have both studied composition in Italy and been an AFL Commissioner. Kim is a true renaissance man. The breadth of his experience is matched by its depth and his intellect, his energy, and his insatiable curiosity of all men that he’s been able to devote himself to a great diversity of passions.

"Kim is someone who gets the ABC and he’s someone who understands instinctively what a national broadcaster can and should be.”

In their statement announcing Williams’ appointment, Albanese and Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said Williams was “nominated for appointment by the Independent Nomination Panel as part of the merit-based appointment process for the ABC and SBS Boards, and the Leader of the Opposition was consulted on the appointment in accordance with the legislated process.”

Asked about the ABC’s responsibilities in reporting the Middle East conflict Williams, appearing at a news conference with Albanese and Rowland, said: “I think at the core of all journalism at the ABC is the imperative of being absolutely verifiably independent, offering at all times true journalistic integrity and to the extent possible in human affairs having an aspiration to freedom from bias.”

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This article is republished from The Conversation is the world's leading publisher of research-based news and analysis. A unique collaboration between academics and journalists. It was written by: Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra.

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Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.