Shadow Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy’s office has been in touch following yesterday’s item about Labor’s media policy.

Conroy’s people point out that since 2003 it has been ALP policy to have an arm’s length process for appointing the ABC and SBS Boards.

In the present term, the policy has been restated herehere  and here.

This is one to watch – because in the past Labor Governments have stacked the ABC Board with their own, just as the Coalition likes to do.

It is true that the present Government’s stacking of the ABC Board has been worse than Labor’s attempts, largely because it has been ideologically driven, rather than merely a collection of sympathetic political fellow travellers.

The Coalition’s appointments include Michael Kroger, acknowledged by the Prime Minister in an interview for Ken Inglis’s history of the ABC to have been a political appointment, and later Janet Albrechtsen, after she had been “caught out” by Media Watch, followed by Keith Windschuttle, described by Inglis as the most provocative appointment in history.

Former ALP appointed Board Member Janine Walker argued the difference between political and ideological stacking earlier this year. She wrote:

My name is frequently pulled out as evidence of the political stack on the Board in the Keating Hawke years. In my humble opinion, political acumen and nous are critical capabilities for any member of the ABC Board and mostly you acquire these by engagement with political processes one way or another.

One of the ABC’s least capable Boards in recent history was one whose members were much heralded for their distance from the political party of the day…. However, there is a difference between a political and an ideological stack and the current Board is rather more of the latter.

It is one thing to share a broad political affiliation, it is quite a different matter to make common ideological purpose.

All of which reminded me that Mark Latham suggested that a proportion of the ABC Board should be popularly elected, as recalled by Tony Moore here.

Moore makes the point:

In fact, so club busting were Latham’s instincts that he would have liked all boards elected. In the end Federal Labor supported a worthy compromise policy of arm’s length appointment to public boards.

But this policy did not stop state Labor appointing the usual party hacks, fellow-travelling grandees and undeserving spouses to important public boards – just like the Coalition does federally.

So, the current ALP policy is good. The trick will be to hold Labor to it, should they ever get the chance to implement it.