Submission: An independent ABC for a strong democracy

Submission to review of options to support the national broadcasters' independence
by Benjamin Walters and Bill Browne

Australia’s public broadcasters (the ABC and SBS) should remain independent and free from political interference.

The public broadcasters play a vital role in our democracy and are critical to maintaining strong, public interest journalism in Australia. Greater transparency and oversight are required in order to ensure the decision-making bodies of the public broadcasters – and the body that helps appoint them – are shielded from partisan influence.

Ministers should not be able to bypass the merits-based appointments process for ABC Board members. Consultation should be expanded and formalised. The Nomination Panel itself should either be replaced by or overseen by a cross-party committee, and whichever nomination process is used should only be able to be bypassed by the minister in genuine consultation with the shadow minister.

Greater public participation in the appointments process should be encouraged. This includes better publicising upcoming vacancies and giving consideration to an ‘audience supported board member’.