Kim Williams (media executive)

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Kimberley Lynton Williams, better known as Kim Williams AM (born 1952)[1] is an Australian media executive and composer. He has headed a wide range of prominent organisations such as Musica Viva Australia, Foxtel, the Australian Film Commission, the Sydney Opera House Trust and News Limited (now News Corp Australia), but he himself is little known. Phillip Adams has said of him: "There is no-one harder, more complex and contradictory in Australian public life than Kim Williams. I don't even think that Kim understands his own complexities."[2]


Williams was born in Sydney in 1952. His father was David Williams AM (1925–2009), managing director of the Greater Union Organisation and recipient of the Australian Film Institute's Raymond Longford Award. His sister Candice is married to the cellist Nathan Waks.[3]

He attended schools in West Ryde and Ermington. During his youth he was an Australian Lego champion.[2] He studied the clarinet, and had tuition from Donald Westlake at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He won a Commonwealth scholarship to the University of Sydney, choosing to study music.[4] He also had private lessons with Peter Sculthorpe in 1969.[5]

He composed music from an early age, into his 30s.[1] His compositions include:

  • Chamber Concerto for clarinet and small orchestra (1969)
  • Sonata II for clarinet and 2 pianos (1969)
  • The Three Candles for small orchestra (1969)
  • Music for Flautist (1970)
  • Fun Music I for beginner's orchestra (1971)
  • Music of Space (1971), for clarinet, 2 percussionists and 6 loudspeakers
  • Song of Kathy (1972)
  • World Music (1972)
  • Portrait for clarinet and piano trio (1975; commissioned by Musica Viva Australia, premiered Canberra 27 May 1975, performed Sydney Opera House 8 September by Gabor Reeves, Ladislav Jasek, Nathan Waks and Romola Costantino)
  • Forever and a Day, for harp and chamber string orchestra (1976).[5]

He was invited by Donald Peart, inaugural Professor of Music at the University of Sydney, to be the concert organiser of the International Society for Contemporary Music.[1]

Williams was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, defending himself in court.[2] His impending imprisonment was averted when the incoming Whitlam Labor government abolished national service in late 1972.[5]

After graduation, he had a series of management roles in music: in opera; at the Sydney Conservatorium under Rex Hobcroft; as a member of the inaugural Australia Council Music Board (1973); and General Manager of Music Rostrum Australia, whose Artistic Director was Roger Woodward.[1]

Between 1975 and 1977 he studied composition in Italy with Luciano Berio and was assistant to Berio's ex-wife, the American soprano Cathy Berberian.[4] He also had significant involvement with the Israel Chamber Orchestra.[1] On return to Australia he became General Manager (1977–84)[5] and later board member and Chairman (1984–2004) of Musica Viva Australia.[1]

Williams was then CEO of the Australian Film Commission, he ran the TV production house Southern Star Group, and became a senior executive at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).[4]

In 1988 he was appointed Foundation Chairman of Film Finance Corporation Australia.[6]

In 1995, shortly after the last-minute failure of a deal for the ABC to provide two news channels to Rupert Murdoch's Foxtel, which Williams had spearheaded on behalf of the ABC, he left the ABC to accept Murdoch's invitation to head Fox Studios.[4] In December 2001 he became Chief Executive of Foxtel.[6] He remained until 2011 and was praised for reversing Foxtel's fortunes from a chronic loss-maker to high-profitability.[2]

He was a participant in the Australia 2020 Summit, as a member of the Towards a Creative Australia working group.

Williams has been Chairman of the Sydney Opera House Trust since 2005,[6] on the invitation of the then Premier of New South Wales Bob Carr.[7]

In 2006 he was canvassed as a potential successor to Russell Balding, after Balding resigned as managing director of the ABC.[8]

In December 2011 Kim Williams was appointed CEO of News Limited (which became News Corp Australia in July 2013). He resigned in August 2013 amid reports that his management style had alienated many staff members and executives, including members of the Murdoch family.[2]


In 2006 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), "for service to arts administration through executive roles with a range of cultural organisations, to music education and the formulation of arts related public policy".[9]

In October 2009 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by Macquarie University for his contribution to the arts and entertainment industry both in Australia and internationally.[6]

In 2010 he was Deakin University's George Fairfax Fellow in Arts and Entertainment Management.[1]

He gave the 2010 Ken Myer Lecture, titled "Growing up in Arts – a personal Australian perspective on film, television, music and management".[1]


Kim Williams has been married twice: in 1983 to Kathy Lette,[3] and in 1998 to Catherine Dovey, daughter of Gough and Margaret Whitlam and Kathy Lette's best friend.[10]

He and Dovey have endowed the Williams/Dovey Scholarship at the Centre for Social Impact.[11]

In 2011 he established the David and Joan Williams Documentary Fellowship in honour of his late parents.[12][13]