Right-wing commentator Janet Albrechtsen will not be reappointed to the ABC Board when her term expires in February.

Albrechtsen’s appointment, along with that of historian Keith Windschuttle, was the most controversial in the Howard Government’s systematic and counter-productive attempt to stack the ABC Board with conservatives. Until her appointment, Albrechtsen had been part of a group of right-wing commentators persistently critical of the ABC’s alleged left-wing bias. Upon joining the board in 2005, she undertook not to comment on ABC issues.

Ironically it was Albrechtsen herself who publicly called for the resignation of John Howard in the months leading up to the 2007 election, making her the ABC’s sternest critic of Howard.

Albrechtsen and Windschuttle, along with other conservative appointees like Ron Brunton, Leith Boully and, in the early Howard years, Michael Kroger and Donald McDonald, failed to temper incessant Coalition attacks on the ABC. Instead, they left the Board bereft of broadcasting and media experience, especially after the departure of McDonald — criticised by the Coalition as having “gone native” as Chairman — at the end of 2006.

The result, some say, was a virtual free hand for ABC management. The Rudd Government moved to address this with the appointment in March of former editor and senior journalist Julianne Schultz and arts administrator Michael Lynch.

Albrechtsen’s departure was subtly revealed last week when Stephen Conroy announced the appointment of Joseph Skrzynski to the Chairmanship of SBS.

“I am also calling for expressions of interest in a position as a non-executive Director on the ABC Board,” Conroy’s press release concluded.

Albrechtsen’s is the only appointment that will conclude in coming months. Steven Skala’s does not end until October next year, meaning Albrechtsen will be replaced as part of the Government’s complex “Nolan Rules” style board appointment process, in which candidates are vetted by a panel and a list provided to the Minister. Windschuttle’s appointment is until 2011.

Senator Conroy’s office today confirmed to Crikey that Albrechtsen would not be reappointed.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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