ABC managing director Mark Scott is stepping down

Mark Scott, ABC managing director.

The managing director of the ABC, Mark Scott, will step down next year.

Scott, 52, has run the national broadcaster since 2006, having previously been a senior executive at Fairfax Media.

He’s led the organisation through a time of enormous change in the media as digital transformed the way people consumed TV, radio and print, and expanded the broadcaster’s services while facing sustained attacks from rival commercial media organisations and budget cuts under the Coalition government.

He will finish up in mid 2016.

“I have made no secret of the fact that I think 10 years is a long time to run an organisation, particularly in a sector as dynamic and fast-changing as media,” he told staff in an email.

Earlier this month, his wife, Briony Scott, principal of the Sydney private school Wenona, revealed she had been diagnosed with lung cancer and would take leave for the rest of 2015 to seek treatment. She has never smoked and the cancer was detected just a few days earlier during a routine examination.

Mark Scott’s tenure as ABC boss has not been without controversy, most recently over the Monday night panel show Q&A. The managing director had to apologise to prime minister Tony Abbott last month over an offensive tweet published on the show, and the PM said the ABC “betrayed” Australia and “heads should roll” after Zaky Mallah, who was charged, but acquitted, under new national anti-terrorism laws in 2003, was allowed to ask an audience question on the show in June 2015. An inquiry into the show, led by Ray Martin, is currently under way.

The Chaser satirical TV shows have also caused a few headaches over the past decade, including a 2007 skit when comedian Chas Licciardello, dressed as Osama bin Laden, managed to breach APEC security with a fake motorcade.

Another 2013 show led to Chris Kenny, a political commentator at The Australian, launching defamation action against another Chaser show on the ABC, The Hamster Decides, over photoshopped image of him having sex with a dog. Scott apologised for the incident several months later, saying he regretted “the delay in making this apology”.

An early adopter of social media, with a cheeky sense of humour, Scott once tweeted “Showtime!” just before he appeared before Senate Estimates, the regular parliamentary oversight committees at which public servants turn up to be grilled by members of the upper house.

The managing direct just sent the following email out to ABC staff:

Colleagues,

I once answered a question on how I got my job at the ABC by giving the simple, honest answer: I responded to the position advertised in the newspaper.

This note is just to tell you that if you are interested in being the next Managing Director, keep your eye out for an ad in coming months.

Earlier this year I indicated to the Board that I was planning to leave the ABC at the end of my second term which is in the middle of 2016. (I don’t think this will come as a surprise to anyone as I have made no secret of the fact that I think 10 years is a long time to run an organisation, particularly in a sector as dynamic and fast-changing as media.)

To ensure a smooth succession and an effective handover next year, the Board will shortly commence the process to select the next Managing Director. Accordingly, I think now is the appropriate time to confirm to ABC staff my notification to the Board and my timetable for departure.

In the interim, there is lots to be done, with a number of big projects underway. I am particularly focused on our audience strategy, the development of our digital offerings, hitting our budget targets and making the case for tri-funding. I will update you on this work down the track.

Can I add how pleased I am with our commitment to the main priority this year, serving the nation as the independent home of Australian conversations, culture and stories? On television, we have broadcast remarkable dramas, documentaries and comedies. Our radio services continue to connect millions of Australians each day with Triple J having its best-ever radio survey ever last month. In news, we are breaking stories of significance every week; stories with great impact like the 7-Eleven investigation by Four Corners. Our focus on digital is being rewarded with strong and growing audience engagement. Our iview kids app is proving to be enormously popular.

The success of the ABC is due to the passion of its staff and a clear focus on delivering for our audiences everywhere; from the largest cities, to the smallest country towns and those tuning in around the world. That focus will be our continuing priority in the months ahead.

Kind regards,

Mark

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