Aussie stock czar to lead ABC

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SYDNEY -- Australian Stock Exchange chairman Maurice Newman has been appointed chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corp., replacing Donald McDonald, who retires this month after 10 years at the helm of the public broadcaster.

Newman, 68, whose appointment was announced Thursday by communications minister Helen Coonan, served as a director of the national broadcaster from 2000 to 2004 but quit in protest over boardroom leaks and concerns about funding levels.

He is one of the country's most respected businessmen and serves as chairman of the Australian Securities Exchange. He also is a director with Queensland Investment Corp., chancellor of Macquarie University, chairman of tourism for New South Wales, patron of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia and chairman of the Federal Treasurer's Financial Sector Advisory Council.

Newman said at a media conference Thursday that if the ABC is "true to our charter and we are able to maintain our reputation for independence, then we will clearly connect with the audience."

However, the ABC's biggest challenges will come as the broadcaster adapts to new digital technologies, he noted.

Newman said his concerns in 2004 about underfunding have been alleviated by the additional AUS$90 million ($69.3 million) a year provided by the government this year.

However, he later said, "more money's always needed in the ABC."

"I think, for the time being at least, there are funds available which will enable us to do what it is we have to do," he added.

Newman begins his five-year term as ABC chairman on Jan. 1.

He paid tribute to outgoing chair Donald McDonald saying: "I think Donald's done an outstanding job as the chairman. He's left the ABC, so far as I can see, in good shape. I don't see any need to go in there and start changing things."
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