The annual question of “how much does the ABC pay its personalities?” has arrived early this year, with The Australian reporting the broadcaster has declined to detail its salaries for some of its biggest names.
This is hardly the first time this issue had made the press, and it probably won’t be the last.
A Freedom of Information request was lodged more than two years ago by the Herald and Weekly Times, seeking access to documents “dealing with salaries, or any payments” paid to program makers working on 13 programs, including Media Watch and Four Corners.
The documents include individual employment contracts, Australian Workplace Agreements, Individual Transitional Employment Agreements, pay slips and other “payment records”.
But ABC lost its most recent appeal just before Christmas when the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruled against it, rejecting the ABC’s arguments and saying some evidence it had put forward was not relevant and “of little assistance”.
The ABC said the documents it had were exempt from FOI because they were either “program material” or “in relation to program material” but the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner rejected it. An appeal by the ABC was also unsuccessful.
ABC has previously claimed revealing such details could see talent undermined by more lucrative offers from commercial networks. In the past it has addressed such claims by grouping salary figures together, rather than detailing individual pay packets.
So far, nobody has ever bothered to apply the same questions of SBS.
For the 2012 financial year, 401 ABC employees earned more than $150,000 each, up from 312 the previous year.
The ABC has 28 days to lodge an appeal.