Russell Balding has been appointed to the most important role in Australian public broadcasting: that of managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. An accountant by training, he joined the ABC in 1996 and is currently deputy managing director. The board's decision was unanimous.

Former managing director Jonathan Shier and the board parted ways last November, just two years into his five-year contract. His stormy reign, lack of acceptance by staff and controversial departure, meant there was an inordinate amount of interest in who would replace him - and continuing debate about the organisation's political independence (or lack thereof).

"In the last six months, while Mr Balding has been acting managing director, the ABC has enjoyed a period of particularly strong growth in all its audiences, with market share in television, radio and online services increasing significantly," said chair Donald McDonald.

Now that the selection process has been concluded, it was imperative that the ABC should be permitted to get on with what it is good at, which is making and broadcasting programs of the highest possible quality throughout the entire country and the Asia Pacific region, he added.