ABC, SBS refuse to reveal staff salaries
The ABC and SBS yesterday refused to disclose the individual salaries of staff earning more than $200,000, putting it on a collision course with the federal government, which will attempt to force the disclosure via legislation.
ABC chairman Justin Milne cited the “integrity and independence” of the national public broadcaster as well as privacy issues in rejecting the request that the government made after striking a deal with One Nation to pass its media reforms.
“It is important to protect the privacy and safety of our employees, particularly our on-air talent, who occupy a unique position in the Australian media landscape,” Mr Milne said in a letter to the Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield.
“The board does not believe that the disclosure and reporting suggested in your letter is warranted or in the best interests of the Corporation and its employees.”
The ABC chairman said the board agreed taxpayers were entitled to a high degree of transparency about how their taxes were spent.
“The ABC is subject to a level of scrutiny well beyond that imposed on any other media organisation in Australia,” he noted.
“The requirements are onerous, exceed best practice in the public and private sectors, and will prove counter-productive. They will also require overriding the Privacy Act.”
The ABC agreed to be more transparent on some aspects of its salaries, to bring it in line with other public and private organisations.
From January the board will disclose total remuneration of its key management personnel, including the chair, non-executive directors, managing director, chief financial officer, and the directors of its TV, radio and news divisions.
The ABC will also agree to publish the number of staff earning more than $200,000, but not their names.
SBS has also written to the minister to reject his request, but did not make its letter public.
“SBS is already transparent and complies with existing requirements in its reporting of executives’ remuneration over $200,000. SBS does not plan to adopt the proposed increased disclosure framework to reveal personal employee details,” a spokeswoman said.
Senator Fifield said the government would now introduce legislation in an attempt to force the disclosures.
“Given the vast majority of funding for the ABC and SBS comes from taxpayers, the government decided that greater transparency of expenditure by the public broadcasters was warranted,’’ he said.