ABC sacks MD Michelle Guthrie

SuppliedMichelle Guthrie
  • ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie is out.
  • The board of directors decided she had to go “in the best interests of the ABC”.
  • David Anderson, the director of entertainment, is acting managing director.

The ABC’s Michelle Guthrie has been dismissed as managing director by the board of directors.

The national broadcaster says the board of directors resolved that it was “not in the best interests of the ABC for Ms Guthrie” to continue to lead the organisation.

“In resolving to seek fresh leadership, the board’s foremost consideration was the long term interests of our own people and the millions of Australians who engage in ABC content every week,” Chairman Justin Milne said in a statement.

Guthrie is considering her legal options. “I am devastated by the board’s decision to terminate my employment despite no claim of wrongdoing on my part,” the now former managing director of the ABC said in a written statement.

Her departure, after serving less than half of her five year term, came after discussions with the board over several months.

“The board has given long and detailed consideration to this serious matter,” said Milne, who came in as chair after Guthrie was appointed.

“We appreciate that a change of leadership creates uncertainty, however, we are firmly of the view that the decision is in the best interests of the organisation.”

Milne and Guthrie reportedly had a frosty relationship, clashing over how to deal with a hostile government in Canberra.

David Anderson, the director of entertainment, will be acting managing director while the ABC conducts a search for a new chief.

“The board wishes to thank Michelle for her contribution to the ABC,” said Milne. “We are very grateful for all her hard work.”

Milne emailed ABC staff this morning, saying that Guthrie had “today departed” the ABC.

The chairman was meeting with the ABC leadership team today.

Guthrie, a lawyer who ran Star TV in Hong Kong and then worked at Google, came to the ABC in May 2016 to replace Mark Scott.

Her appointment as the first woman to run the ABC was criticised because she had no journalism or public broadcasting experience.

She also had an uneasy relationship with Canberra. The Federal Budget this year froze the ABC’s funding CPI indexation, resulting in a $83.7 million hole over the three years from July next year.

In an email to staff at the time, she said: “I am very disappointed and concerned that after the measures we have introduced in recent years to deliver better and more efficient services, the government has now seen fit to deliver what amounts to a further substantial budget cut. This decision will make it very difficult for the ABC to meet its charter requirements and audience expectations.”

Federal Communication Minister Mitch Fifield said today: “The Government thanks Michelle Guthrie and acknowledges her service as Managing Director of the ABC for the past two and a half years in what is a challenging and rapidly changing media environment.”

ABC Managing Directors are appointed by the Board of Directors.

The full text of the statement from the ABC:

    The ABC Board has announced that Michelle Guthrie today departed from the role of Managing Director.

    The decision follows discussions over several months that concluded when directors resolved that it was not in the best interests of the ABC for Ms Guthrie to continue to lead the organisation.

    Chairman Justin Milne said the Board believed that new leadership would benefit the organisation, its dedicated employees, and the ABC’s audiences.

    “In resolving to seek fresh leadership, the Board’s foremost consideration was the long-term interests of our own people and the millions of Australians who engage with ABC content every week,” Mr Milne said.

    “This decision has been driven by our commitment to deliver the best possible outcomes for our loyal audiences and the best possible experience for our own people.

    “We understand that transitions can be disruptive in the short-term. However, the ABC is fortunate to have an experienced and capable executive team that will provide continuity in the months ahead.

    “The board wishes to thank Michelle for her contribution to the ABC. We are very grateful for all her hard work,” Mr Milne concluded.

    The ABC Board has invited David Anderson to serve as Acting Managing Director until the role is filled on a permanent basis in coming months.

    Mr Anderson is currently Director, Entertainment & Specialist, responsible for broadcast television networks and associated services, radio music networks, podcasts and specialist radio content. He has enjoyed a successful career in the broadcast television and media industry for nearly 30 years.

    “I recognise the challenges involved in transitions of this kind but I am honoured to accept the Board’s invitation and look forward to working with our outstanding people to execute our strategy,” Mr Anderson said.

    Succession planning receives continuous attention from the ABC Board. It has commenced a formal search process that will involve internal and external candidates. By law, Managing Directors are selected by the ABC Board independently of the Government and Opposition of the day.

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