There seems to be little risk of harmony breaking out at the ABC any time soon. The boning of Director of Radio Sue Howard may have been welcomed by her enemies – and she has more than a few – but she also has friends and supporters, including some in senior positions who are seriously unimpressed and saddened by recent events.
This morning I have been contacted by a number of people – all, like Howard herself, Melbourne based – who are in her corner, angry about how she has been treated and wanting an explanation from Managing Director Mark Scott, who for the moment is remaining silent – probably due to ongoing legal negotiations.
I have learned over the last few years that any time I write about Howard or her area, I will be contacted by people with strong negative views about her. Two years ago when I wrote that rumours she was about to be removed were wrong, there were people who took this to mean that I supported Howard, and who peppered me with texts and emails that in some cases were close to abusive.
The strength of feeling about her puzzled me for a long while, because I have interviewed Howard at length in the past and found her pleasant and credible. But not all the people who have different views are ratbags or corporate climbers, and when there are enough of them one is inclined to at least weigh what they say in the balance.
However there is another, pro-Howard view that sees her as a strong manager and a strong woman who has suffered at the hands of other ambitious people, in part because she is based in Melbourne rather than at the centre of power in Ultimo.
And, even as I typed these words, I got a text message telling me that people are “reeling and very, very distressed” at her removal, and that my suggestion she is unpopular is “utter rubbish and obviously been fed to you by some self-serving malicious creep.”
One other thing: I wrote yesterday that a factor in Howard’s removal might have been a recent “360 degrees” exercise in which the ABC Directors’ peers and direct reports were encouraged to speak frankly about each other. I now understand that this is an ongoing process, and that the results so far are not yet out, and are unlikely to have influenced recent events.
The issues, and the future of public broadcasting in this country, will always be more important than the personalities. See my previous post.
But in the meantime and for the next little while, managing the dedications, passions and factions that make up the ABC is going to be an even more than usually difficult job.