Is Mark Scott, the newish managing director of the ABC, nursing delusions of grandeur? Fresh from announcing new editorial standards for the organisation to reduce bias, Mr Scott has tangled with Labor Senator Stephen Conroy over his use of the title “editor-in-chief”.
There no dispute that the role of editor-in-chief is part of the MD gig, but in recent times it’s been given less emphasis. According to one ABC watcher, the most recent managing director to actively use the title was Brian Johns.
Scott’s decision to reclaim it has already won approval from staunch ABC critic Gerard Henderson and also many within the ABC who believe his predecessor Russell Balding failed to come to terms with the editorial leadership aspects of his role.
Stephen Conroy is much less easily impressed:
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Mr Scott—Yes. I have looked at the names and the numbers of people who have come to Senate estimates hearings in the past, and I think it has varied from time to time. I have brought along with me today Mr Pendleton, the chief operating officer, who has a number of key operational areas of the organisation reporting through to him; and Mr Green, who looks after strategy and communications work and who was for a period of time the acting managing director. I am here as managing director and also in my role as editor-in-chief of the organisation.
I believe Senator Ronaldson made a reference to news and current affairs, so if there are particular issues to do with our news and current affairs performance I am happy to attempt to answer those questions in my role as editor-in-chief. I am also happy to answer any questions and to speak on the output of the ABC operation across radio, television, news and current affairs and our new media and online division….
Senator CONROY—I concur. I notice that you describe yourself as editor-in-chief. Is that a new title for the CEO, or is it the same title?
Mr Scott—It is the same title. It is a role that I believe is carried in the legislation.
Senator CONROY—I have just never heard it before for someone in your position.
Mr Scott—It has been established since the corporation.
Senator CONROY—As I said, no-one else has ever described themselves as that when they have appeared before us.
Mr Scott—My background is as a journalist. I am comfortable in and around news and I am comfortable discussing news matters. That is part of my responsibility as managing director and, as such, I am happy to speak to it.
Senator CONROY—So it is encompassed within your role as managing director?
Mr Scott—As managing director, yes.
Senator CONROY—So your actual title is managing director?
Mr Scott—Yes, that is true, but my role does encompass the role of editor-in-chief of the organisation. If you look at the recent history of the ABC since it became a corporation in 1983, you will see reference to the title throughout.
Senator CONROY—But you are actually employed as the managing director?
Mr Scott—Yes, that is true.
Senator CONROY—But you preferred to be called “editor-in-chief”? I just want to make sure I call you the right thing; that’s all.
Mr Scott—You can call me “Managing Director”, Senator!