Former student radical to be appointed ABC chairman

They don't mention below that he was a student radical but he was. I was there at the time

The former chief justice of the Supreme Court of NSW, Jim Spigelman, is to be appointed chairman of the ABC. An announcement is expected to be made by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, today or tomorrow, sources say.

Cabinet approval was given on Monday for Mr Spigelman to take up the part-time $151,000-a-year post.

Mr Spigelman, who retired from the bench last May, replaces the former stockbroker Maurice Newman, who stepped down at the end of last year.

Mr Newman's tenure at times was marked by controversy. He said journalists had succumbed to groupthink because they failed to predict the global financial crisis and his parting shot was a suggestion to merge the ABC and SBS to save money.

Facing Mr Spigelman will be a long list of issues, the top of which is how the ABC remains relevant in a changing media landscape and its response to the government's review on convergence in the media.

He will also have to negotiate another round of triennial funding and ask for more money as the corporation expands its reach with new channels and appears on more digital devices.

The appointment completes a circle in a career that began with the then nascent area of communications in the Whitlam government.

Mr Spigelman's long association with Labor - he was an adviser to Gough Whitlam and in 1975 was appointed secretary to the first department of the media - will inevitably attract some accusations that he is a political appointee, a charge often levelled at his predecessor, who was a close friend of John Howard.

Mr Spigelman dropped a heavy hint that he was heading for the role at a breakfast talk a fortnight ago. He was asked what he thought about the corporation moving into new genres. "That's also something I don't have an informed opinion about but I'm looking forward to developing one," he replied.


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