Ita Buttrose Named Chair of Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Ita Buttrose - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of ABC

Long regarded as a media icon and ‘national treasure,’ Buttrose worked as a journalist and editor for both Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch and was 2013 Australian of the Year.

Former magazine and newspaper editor Ita Buttrose has been named as the new chair of Australia's public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the news Thursday, and Buttrose becomes only the second woman in the ABC’s 85-year history to hold the position, following in the footsteps of Dame Leonie Kramer in the 1980s. She told local media that it was “time to get the ABC functioning properly again”, following the announcement of her appointment. 

The ABC has essentially been leaderless since September following the board’s sacking of then-managing director Michelle Guthrie and the subsequent resignation of chairman Justin Milne, after allegations against him of editorial interference and his demands that senior journalists be sacked. Milne denied the allegations but resigned nevertheless while Guthrie is currently suing the ABC for unfair dismissal and is asking to be returned to the MD’s position. 

Buttrose told local media that her priority was “to restore stability to the management of the organization, to reassure the staff that life will go on as usual and to reassure the board, which has also been through a period of unrest, that it's time to get the ABC functioning again with proper, stable management and good, frank discussion between the chair and whoever is the managing director.”

"If there's not a close relationship between the chair and the managing director, you cannot make an organization work efficiently and well,” she added. 

Buttrose has had a stellar career in media in Australia, starting work as a copy girl in magazines when she was 15 years old, becoming became a highly successful editor for Australian media titans Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch

She was the founding editor of Cleo magazine in 1972, the Australian version of Cosmopolitan, and was a long-serving editor of the country’s largest circulating title The Australian Women's Weekly. She became the first woman to edit an Australian metropolitan newspaper, Sydney's Daily Telegraph, in the 1980s. She was also the first woman appointed to the News Limited board. 

Indeed her early career working for Packer and Murdoch was the subject of award-winning 2011 and 2013 ABC miniseries, Paper Giants. 

Buttrose was named Australian of the Year in 2013, acknowledged for her advocacy work for dementia and breast cancer. 

Prime Minister Morrison said Buttrose was an outstanding candidate to steer the ABC as chair.

“Ita is an extraordinary Australian who will bring decades of media and management experience to the ABC. I can think of no one better to lead the national broadcaster,” the prime minister said.

"I consider [the ABC] one of the most important cultural and information organizations in our country and I'm honored to be asked to lead it into the future," Buttrose said. "It is a voice of the Australian people. I think it reflects our identity, it tells our stories not just here in Australia but to the rest of the world, and I have grown up with the ABC."