Australia names media exec Kim Williams chair of national broadcaster ABC

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The Australian government on Wednesday named longstanding media executive Kim Williams the next chairperson of the country’s national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Williams is currently chair of the board of Thomson Reuters Founders Share Company, an independent body tasked with preserving the Reuters news agency’s independence.

He will replace Ita Buttrose at the ABC after her five-year term ends in March.

“Kim is such a perfect fit for the role, it’s almost as if he were made for it,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said during a press briefing. “Kim is someone who gets the ABC and he is someone who understands instinctively what a national broadcaster can and should be.”

Williams has held various executive leadership positions since the 1970s, including as chief executive at News Corp Australia, pay-TV operator Foxtel, Fox Studios Australia and the Australian Film Commission.

During the press briefing, Williams described the ABC role as a “solemn responsibility” and pledged to uphold its charter.

His appointment comes at a time when the ABC faces pressure over its coverage of the Israel-Hamas war. Union members on Monday passed a vote of no confidence in Managing Director David Anderson “for failing to defend the integrity of the ABC and its staff from outside attacks.”

The ABC, in a statement released on Tuesday, said the board passed a unanimous vote of confidence in Anderson but acknowledged “this is a very difficult environment for our staff with many societal issues that threaten to divide us.”

Asked for his view on the ABC’s coverage of the war, Williams said: “I think at the core of all journalism at the ABC is the imperative of being absolutely verifiably independent, offering at all times true journalistic integrity and to the extent possible in human affairs having an aspiration to freedom from bias.”

Thomson Reuters did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Jamie Freed)