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Australia’s ABC to introduce role of ombudsman

(Photo: ABC)

Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC, will introduce the new role of an ombudsman in an overhaul of its complaints handling procedures.

The ombudsman will head an expanded Editorial Complaints Unit and have the power to review a complaint finding.

ABC chair Ita Buttrose said the ombudsman would report directly to the board and the process would be separate to editorial management.

“The review reckoned that the ombudsman should report to the board and managing director, but the directors felt that this would simply be continuing the system we already have and we wanted a different approach.”

This follows the completion of an independent review where the ABC board accepted all its recommendations.

She said the ABC was looking for an external candidate to fill the new position.

“We would appoint someone who does not necessarily work within the ABC. I mean this person might work within the ABC but [we] are really looking for someone outside of the ABC, and I think that’s what we’ll find.”

Ms Buttrose said the changes would not interrupt the way journalists work.

“If the facts are correct and the story is right, there’s no reason why a story shouldn’t be published.”

She said it was “good practice” and “good management” to review.

The independent review was conducted by former Commonwealth and New South Wales Ombudsman Professor John McMillan and former SBS Director News and Current Affairs Jim Carroll.

The review also recommended that the ABC should make corrections more visible to audiences that may have an interest in receiving them and provide clearer guidance on the complaint investigation procedure.