Kim Williams
Former News Limited chief executive Kim Williams has been appointed to the role of ABC chair. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

‘Absolutely independent’: Kim Williams named ABC chair

January 24, 2024

Former News Limited chief executive Kim Williams has been named the new chair of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, replacing Ita Buttrose as controversy brews at the national broadcaster.

The prime minister made the announcement on Wednesday morning after Ms Buttrose revealed in late 2023 she would not seek reappointment.

“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,” Anthony Albanese told reporters.

“Kim Williams is a natural fit for the ABC.”

He is set to take over the position in March.

(L-R) Michelle Rowland, Kim Williams and Anthony Albanese
 Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Mr Williams would be a natural fit for the national broadcaster Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

Mr Williams has held a number of executive positions in organisations across the creative industry from the Australian Film Commission to Fox Studios, and other news media such as News Corp Australia.

He is also a prominent administrator of the arts, having been chair of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Australian Film Finance Corporation and the Sydney Opera House Trust.

Mr Williams has also dabbled in sports and was AFL Commissioner earlier in his career.

He thanked the prime minister and Communications Minister Michelle Rowland for his appointment.

“The role of chair of the ABC is clearly a solemn responsibility,” he said.

It comes as the ABC endures a PR storm with journalist Antoinette Lattouf launching an unlawful termination lawsuit against the national broadcaster after her contract was allegedly discontinued over a Human Rights Watch post about Gaza.

A number of high-profile journalists from diverse backgrounds including Stan Grant and Nour Haydar have also left the ABC within the last 12 months. 

Since then, unionised ABC staff members passed a vote of no confidence in managing director David Anderson.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance called on the incoming chair to immediately move to restore the national broadcaster’s reputation. 

“Public trust in the ABC as an organisation that will always pursue frank and fearless journalism has been damaged, and management under Mr Anderson has not demonstrated it is taking these concerns seriously,” the union’s statement reads.

Asked about the broadcaster’s responsibilities when it comes to Middle East reportage, Mr Williams reaffirmed his commitment to independence.

“At the core of all journalism at the ABC is the imperative of being absolutely, verifiably independent,” he said.

“Offering at all times true journalistic integrity and to the extent possible in human affairs, having an aspiration to freedom from bias.”

Michelle Rowland and Kim Williams
 Mr Williams emphasised the ABC’s commitment to independent journalism. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

Mr Albanese said he had full confidence in the ABC chair and Mr Anderson as he paid tribute to Ita Buttrose.

“She has shown steady leadership for five years as she has maintained a strong defence of the ABC’s independence,” he said.

“She was the right chair for the right time and we wish her well in all her future endeavours.”

Opposition communications spokesman David Coleman welcomed the appointment of Mr Williams who will face “important challenges” in his new role. 

“With annual funding provided by taxpayers of $1.1 billion, the ABC’s most fundamental obligation is represent all Australians,” he said.

“It must live up to its charter obligations – and most crucially it must ensure that its reporting in news and current affairs is independent and unbiased.”