I can update and firm up some aspects of my Crikey piece on the departure of Sue Howard as ABC Director of Radio, and the context.

But far more worrying than any of this for the ABC is what I have heard from Canberra this afternoon. The muttering in the corridors of power tends to confirm what I suggested in today’s  Crikey story and this one earlier in the week. That is,  that the Prime Ministerial launch of the public affairs channel A-Span was a  bad sign for the ABC, and not pure cock-up.

Apparently in the lead-up to the launch part of the Skynews consortium’s pitch to Rudd was to criticise the ABC for asking for more funding, because, they said, a public affairs channel could be done cheaply and quickly. The impression was that this fell on receptive ears – and that impression was confirmed in the minds of those concerned by the fact that Rudd went on to launch A-Span.

The feeling is reported to be that the Government wants the ABC to just get on and do stuff – which will not sound good to those ABC content makers who already feel the vegemite is spread far too thin on the ever expanding toast.

On the other hand I have also been told that the Skynews consortium at one stage sought public money to help launch A-Span, and this was refused. So perhaps the government is giving the ABC a tickle-up, more than a slap. And Skynews, who to be fair have been toying with this idea for a long while, are enjoying themselves far too much.

As for Sue Howard, in no particular order:

  • It is true that lawyers are involved in negotiating a package for Howard’ s departure. This is the reason that announcements have been delayed, and both ABC Management and Howard herself are silent.
  • A factor in her removal is said to be a recent “360 degrees” exercise in which each manager’s peers and direct reports were asked to speak frankly and confidentially. UPDATE: I am now told that the results of this exercise are not in, have not been distributed and were not a factor.
  • Well informed Insiders are predicting that this will not be the only departure.
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