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There
was so much hand-wringing within the ABC over the appointment of
conservative-leaning Janet Albrechtsen to the national broadcaster’s
board, yet potential politicisation of the ABC from within continues
unabated and completely sanctioned by senior ABC management. Funny how
it only makes headlines when a conservative, or perceived conservative
appointment, is made.

There are some funny things going on in
sleepy old Brisbane, I hear. The ABC’s News Editor in Queensland, Fiona
Crawford, is about to announce the appointment of a senior operative in
the Beattie Labor government to a sensitive editorial position in the
Brisbane newsroom. Understandably, some people are concerned and a
little confused about why this has been allowed to happen. Unlike
Albrechtsen, the former Beattie staffer will be assuming a senior
editorial role – Executive Producer of Radio News – in which she will
have not just day-to-day, but minute-to-minute control of what stories
are covered and how they are reported.

Brisbane newsroom staff
are also peeved at another external candidate being given a plumb
position, the kind that rarely becomes available in the sunshine state.
I’m told there were strong internal candidates – one with 30 years
radio experience – but all were overlooked in favour of the
ex-political minder.

The person in question is Fiona Reynolds
who was media adviser to Queensland police minister, Judy Spence.
Spence is one of Peter Beattie’s closer allies and of course her
portfolio is one of the most senior cabinet positions in George Street.
Certainly, Spence is part of the Beattie inner sanctum and by virtue of
that, Reynolds would have been involved in some of the Labor
government’s more sensitive political plays.

Prior to working
for Labor, Reynolds worked in the ABC’s parliament house bureau in
Canberra and in the Brisbane newsroom as executive producer for local
TV current affairs program, Stateline. And that’s another thing
that insiders say just doesn’t add up. How is it appropriate for ABC
management to reward someone who ditched the national broadcaster to
chase more money on the state government payroll, only to welcome her
back with open arms and an even bigger pay cheque? Oh, and did I
mention that she’s pregnant? So, Ms Reynolds will only be putting in a
short amount of time in the Brisbane newsroom before she heads off,
again, on lengthy maternity leave…leaving the unsuccessful internal
candidates for her job, doing her job, anyway! Only at the ABC!

The
Brisbane newsroom has been a fertile recruitment centre for the Beattie
government over the past couple of years. Highlights include senior ABC
journalist, Anne Delaney, walking out of the ABC to take up the
position of senior media adviser to the premier, no less, and from all
reports, she became something of a headkicker when her former
colleagues wrote nasty things about her new boss. She was preceded by
ABC television reporter, Alison Smith, who went to work for another
close Beattie ally, Paul Lucas.

Disgruntled Brisbane staff
aren’t expecting anything to change, even though they have apparently
made representations to the MEAA which have been forwarded to
management in a letter of protest. (An interesting sidebar to this is
the fact that Anne Delaney was one of the MEAA’s most vigorous house
committee members who was often heard voicing her disapproval of
political appointments in the ABC). Brisbane newsroom boss, Fiona
Crawford, has enjoyed a very close decade-long relationship with her
boss, the ABC’s director of news and current affairs, John Cameron.
According to long-time Brisbane staff, as long as Cameron is in charge
of the news division, Crawford is a protected species. While there have
been a couple of high profile resignations recently, most of the
unhappy journalists and producers aren’t in a position to draw a line
in the sand and leave. If they could, they would, and there’d be a mass
exodus.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-In-Chief of Crikey

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