Some of Australia's most respected current affairs journalists and commentators declared war this week on Jonathan Shier, who took up the post of managing director of Australian public broadcaster, the ABC, in March.

Maxine McKew, Kerry O'Brien and Robin Williams were among eight senior employees of the ABC who made an impassioned plea to the public to help them stop budgets and programmes being slashed, on-line and other new media being idolised, and services being subjected to commercialisation.

Their press conference immediately followed Monday's meeting between Shier, ABC directors, staff representatives and union officials. Concerns have been increasing steadily for many months but this latest outbreak was prompted by the announcement late last week that the much-admired ABC science unit was to be disbanded.

Shier had replaced most of the ABC's senior management within three months of returning to Australia from Europe, where he had lived for many years. His experience embraces MTG-TV3 in Scandinavia, Nethold, and the UK's Thames Television and Scottish Television, but not public broadcasting.