5 things we learnt from Ollie Wards’ testimony at the ABC Senate Inquiry

Former Assistant Editor

A Senate inquiry into political interference at the ABC is ongoing in Sydney.

Yesterday it was revealed that former MD Michelle Guthrie was paid $911,917 when she was sacked last year.

As The Guardian reports, triple j content director Ollie Wards was also the subject of questioning, specifically regarding the actions of former chair Justin Milne and the decision to move the date of the Hottest 100 countdown away from Australia Day.

Here’s what we learnt:

1. Wards met with Michelle Guthrie and Justin Milne after triple j listeners voted to change the date

Wards had a “heated discussion” with Milne when they met to decide the fate of the countdown, with the triple j CD pitching the move after it research showed it was what listeners desired.

Milne told Wards that moving the date was “too controversial”, and then compared Wards’ desire to move the date to when the astronomer Gallaleo had been burnt at the stake for suggesting that the earth revolved around the sun.

2. Milne insisted that the cost of moving the date should be reserved for his own ‘Jetstream’ project

Wards testified that Milne told him his ‘pet project’ called Jetstream was more important than the Hottest 100 countdown.

Milne directly linked the move to the funding of Jetstream, to invest in digital infrastructure at a cost of $500m.

3. Wards was told to ignore listeners and “take one for the team”

Milne put heavy pressure on Wards not to give in to the desires of the triple j listeners, but instead to “look after interests of the whole ABC” and “take one for the team” by not changing the date.

4. Michael Mason backed triple j’s position, but Michelle Guthrie did not

Wards told the inquiry that he was “disappointed and surprised” by how much pressure he was put under to reverse the decision.

When arguing the position of the station he said that Michelle Guthrie “didn’t say much” to back him up at the time.

ABC radio exec Michael Mason (who also resigned last year) said it would be “catastrophic to the Triple J brand” not to move the date following the listener survey.

5. Milne warned that the PM would get involved

The former chair warned Wards that moving the date would leave Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull no choice but to get involved in the matter.

Milne said words to the effect of “Malcolm will call me and tell me I’m crazy”.

The inquiry is ongoing, with more information including the program and submissions available here.

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6 Mar 2019 - 10:27 am

Mr Milne was either ignorant or speaking metaphorically. Galileo was not burnt at the state. He was persecuted by the Catholic Church, but died of natural causes.

6 Mar 2019 - 11:09 am

A CD being advised that the organisation needed to prioritise capital investment into digital infrastructure over jumping on a social justice bandwagon? What am I missing here?


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