Trust is an important metric in an increasingly fragmented media environment, where disinformation travels fast and the public is searching for reliable information sources. The majority of Australians distrust Facebook and social media, but they trust the ABC, followed by SBS and Fairfax Media, according to Roy Morgan research. The ABC is valued by 81 per cent of the community.
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Since Justin Milne was appointed for a five-year term in early 2017, he has introduced more traditional governance approaches at the 86-year-old national broadcaster, including appointing a company secretary, improving committee structures and introducing an annual meeting for community stakeholders.
Milne, who also chairs MYOB and NetComm Wireless, and is on the board of the NBN and Tabcorp, says social licence is on everyone’s agenda and that’s a good thing. “We need democracy to work and we need capitalism to work.”
Managing the intense debate over the ABC’s coverage, its value and its future requires the organisation to hold tightly to its charter and for the board in part to rise above the fray, he says. With five primary broadcast channels, round-the-clock news and online platforms pumping out content, “it’s not only possible, but likely, that we will offend someone. Trust to me is this: I trust you, no tricky terms and conditions, to be straight-up and speak to me in a way I can understand.
A trusted friend will occasionally tell you things you don’t want to hear.
“The real job of the board is to ensure we have an ABC that’s fit for purpose in the digital age. We’re heading into a world where most of our content is coming to people in IP (internet protocol), but we have a network that is mostly built on broadcast networks. We’re working to ensure we have a digital ABC that will be here for the grandkids.”