NewsWritten by Emmy Mack on March 5, 2019
There’ve been some bloody explosive allegations at a Senate inquiry into political interference at the ABC today.
As reported by The Guardian, triple j content manager Ollie Wards told the committee he was pressured by former ABC chairman Justin Milne not to move ahead with plans to change the date of the Hottest 100, despite the station’s youth demographic voting overwhelmingly in favour of the move.
Wards alleged that Milne told him the federal government would refuse to give the ABC any more money if it pissed them off by shifting the iconic countdown away from Australia Day, describing the move as “too controversial” and pressuring him to “take one for the team” and “look after interests of the whole ABC” before those of the triple j audience.
Wards further told the committee that he was summoned to a meeting with Milne, as well as former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie and radio executive Michael Mason, after the results of two separate 2017 surveys found the triple j audience wanted the Hottest 100 moved away from January 26 out of respect for Indigenous Australians.
Wards described a “heated discussion” between the execs, with Milne telling him that “activists can get burnt at the stake” and that “[then PM] Malcolm [Turnbull] will call me and tell me I’m crazy [if triple J doesn’t back down]”.
Milne also allegedly argued that securing funding for his own $500 million digital infrastructure pet project ‘Jetstream’ was more important than the Hottest 100.
Wards confessed that he felt “disappointed and surprised” as well as “a little deflated” after being told that, after a year of extensive consultation with the triple j audience, he had to reverse the Hottest 100 decision.
Mason, for his part, said it would be “catastrophic to the triple j brand” not to stick to its guns and move the event.
The inquiry heard the board later discussed the issue and decided to allow triple j to make its own decision on the matter.
Back in 2017, the Libs were mighty pissed at triple J for announcing plans to change the date of the Hottest 100, and the government confirmed that it would ask triple j to “reconsider” the move.
It was later reported that Milne had actively tried to stop triple j from moving the Hottest 100 date away from Australia Day, but this is the first time someone from triple J has gone on the record to confirm these reports.
Music Feeds has hit up the PM’s office for comment on allegations of threatening to cut the ABC‘s funding if triple j proceeded with the move.