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Australian Senate passes Bill to regulate ABC and SBS Board Appointments

A bill that will require the government to adhere to a merit-based process for appointing board members to both of its public service broadcasters was carried in the Senate last night, with the support of the Greens party. 

The National Broadcasting Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 still needs to be passed by the House of Representatives, and is likely to do so.

The laws will reinstate a staff-elected director to the ABC and create an independent panel to advise the government on suitable appointments for the ABC and SBS boards. The panel will provide a short list to the communications minister who makes the final choice.

The laws reverse a 2006 coalition government decision to abolish the staff-elected position on the ABC board in 2006 on grounds that it risked a conflict of interest.

To avoid claims of political bias, current or former politicians and senior political staff will be banned from appointment.

In the case of the ABC Chair, selection will be made by the prime minister after consultation with the opposition leader.

An amendment by the Greens to ban current or former politicians and senior political staff failed.