Veteran ABC Victorian News Editor Marco Bass has quit this afternoon. In his official resignation email, obtained immediately by Crikey, Bass says that after 11 years in the role it was simply “time to move on.”
Bass had worked for Aunty for the best part of 25 years, serving in both the Radio and News Divisions and setting up a number of flagship initiatives including Stateline, Australia Network News and more recently News Breakfast.
In his statement, the Southbank heavyweight didn’t give a clear reason for the departure or say what his next move might be — unusual for a well-regarded media figure in the prime of their career. However, an ABC source told Crikey that Bass had toiled for years in the demanding role and that recently, had become concerned about his health.
“Marco worked very hard and it’s a good move to get out now before he had a heart attack,” they said.
The statewide News Editor gig is regarded as one of the most demanding in journalism with days regularly stetching well into the night when big events like Black Saturday hit.
Bass rejected any suggestions of ill health when the claim was put to him, but did confirm that he’d told colleagues that “it’s good for your health to know when to go.” And so, after more than a decade in the hotseat, he did.
In an email sent to staff 15 minutes after Bass’ missive landed, ABC News Director Kate Torney said her Victorian chief had “shown a passionate commitment to regional news, and has actively worked to strengthen news coverage for ABC audiences across Victoria. During this time, ratings for the ABC’s radio and television news programs in Victoria have enjoyed strong growth.”
Bass was a producer at the 7:30 Report when Alan Kohler was its business and finance correspondent between 1995 and 2002. Kohler told Crikey he remembered his colleague fondly.
“We worked very closely together and he taught me a lot about TV,” he said.
“He was fantastic person to work with. We set up Inside Business together in 2002 and turned it into a great show.”
ABC Mornings presenter Jon Faine told Crikey that he had also worked closely with Bass for years and that while they had the occasional “robust exchange” the relationship “was one of mutual respect.” “But when it’s time, it’s time,” Faine added.
Bass has sometimes courted controversy. In 2001, the pugnacious editor got into a brawl at the Walkleys with colleague Mike Sutherland. Crikey reported the incident thusly:
“Marco…reportedly called Sutherland a disgrace for accepting a redundancy when he had another job to go to. Marco’s glasses went flying and Mike’s nose was badly broken in the ensuing fracas.”
Sutherland was subsequently charged over the incident while Bass escaped the police investigation unscathed.
Bass was also at the centre of bullying allegations in 2005 after Inside Business executive producer Neheda Barakat complained to the industrial relations commission that her editorial control was interfered with and that ABC management mishandled a subsequent complaint.
Bass was cleared — by both the commission and the ABC’s own internal processes. However, the ABC was found to have breached its own processes in dealing with the complaint.
Here is the full text of this afternoon’s emails from Bass and Torney:
From: Marco Bass
Sent: Friday, 3 June 2011 3:00 PM
To: Marco Bass
After 11 years in the Victorian News Editor seat I have decided it is time to move on.
For the past 25 years, aside from a brief stint in commercial television in the mid 90s, I have worked at the ABC in both the Radio and News Divisions.
I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to play a key role in some major projects and innovations including the relaunch of the state based current affairs program Stateline back in 2000; the co-location of the separate Radio and TV Newsrooms; the establishment of the Australia Network News and most recently the establishment of the News Breakfast program.
But most importantly, as Victorian News Editor, I have been in the privileged position of playing a key role in recruiting and mentoring dozens of journalists: many of whom have gone on to achieve great things and are now recognised as being amongst the best in the business.
Watching and assisting the next generation of reporters develop through the ABC’s regional offices has also been a great personal and professional reward particularly given my career with the ABC started in Sale.
In the metro context, Victorian ratings have grown enormously over the past decade and have remained consistently high because we produce a top quality product. Once again this is largely due to the dedication and talent of ABC News staff and a newsroom ethos of breaking stories rather than following a preordained news agenda.
On a more personal level, I would especially like to thank those who have shown me unwavering loyalty and support over the years, particularly during some of the more challenging times.
My last day of service with the ABC will be Friday June 17.
I hope to catch up with many of you before then and I wish everyone all the best for the future.
From: Kate Torney
Sent: Friday, 3 June 2011 3:15 PM
Subject: Marco Bass
The ABC’s Victorian News Editor, Marco Bass, has resigned after 11 years in the job.
Marco’s career in the ABC has spanned the last 25 years and he has worked in both the Radio and News Divisions. He began his ABC career in the regional office in Sale and was the Victorian Bureau Chief for The 7.30 Report before becoming the State News Editor. He has also served on the ABC News Executive in a number of roles.
Under Marco’s leadership, ABC News in Victoria have expanded considerably. Marco played a key role in the establishment of Insiders, Inside Business, Offsiders and Australia Network News. He helped relaunch ABC state-based television current affairs in 2000 and oversaw the co-location of the Melbourne radio and television newsrooms at Southbank.
Marco has led a series of significant technology and work practice changes in ABC News, including the use of automated studio technology. In 2008 Marco helped launch News Breakfast, the ABC’s first rolling television news programming and one of the first ABC programs to use studio automation.
Over the last decade Marco has recruited and mentored dozens of journalists and has helped develop and shape the careers of some of our best reporters and producers. As News Editor, he has shown a passionate commitment to regional news, and has actively worked to strengthen news coverage for ABC audiences across Victoria. During this time, ratings for the ABC’s radio and television news programs in Victoria have enjoyed strong growth.
Please join me in thanking Marco for his significant contribution over many years of service. I wish him all the best for the future.