‘Right chair for the right time’: Ita’s ABC term to end

Andrew Brown |

Ita Buttrose has called time on her position as ABC chairperson, with a replacement due in 2024.
Ita Buttrose has called time on her position as ABC chairperson, with a replacement due in 2024.

Veteran broadcaster and magazine editor Ita Buttrose will step down as chair of the ABC after five years in the role.

Ms Buttrose has told the federal government she will not seek a second stint as the head of the public broadcaster when her term comes to an end in March 2024.

The government will soon begin the search for Ms Buttrose’s replacement, with selection to be carried out by an independent panel.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said Ms Buttrose had shown outstanding leadership at the broadcaster during her tenure.

“Ms Buttrose was the right chair for the right time. Ms Buttrose is a giant of Australia’s media industry and the government thanks her for her exemplary service,” the minister said.

“She has much to do in the remainder of her term and will leave the ABC stronger than when she was entrusted with the role in 2019.”

The 81-year-old former magazine editor and TV host was appointed to the position by former prime minister Scott Morrison.

It followed the resignation of previous chair Justin Milne, following a fallout from the sacking of former managing director Michelle Guthrie and allegations he interfered with the broadcaster’s editorial independence.

Ms Rowland said the government respected Ms Buttrose’s decision to step down.

“Ms Buttrose is a formidable corporate leader who has served with distinction, speaking truth to power and upholding governance standards to protect independent public broadcasting,” she said.

“She navigated the public broadcaster through a challenging period that included strident political criticism, the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing transformation of the ABC so it can remain an essential part of Australian life in the digital age.”

Ms Buttrose was a successful journalist during a long career in newspapers, magazines, television and radio.

She left school at 15 to become a copy girl at the Australian Women’s Weekly, and then jumped over to the Daily Telegraph where she became women’s editor.

Ms Buttrose later launched Cleo magazine, and in 1981 became the first female editor-in-chief of an Australian metropolitan daily newspaper when Rupert Murdoch appointed her to the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph.