The chairman of the ABC tried to get former managing director Michelle Guthrie to sack the national broadcaster’s chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici in an attempt to assuage the federal government, according to a report in Fairfax Media.
Board chair Justin Milne emailed Guthrie in May with the extraordinary request, which highlights the tensions between Guthrie and the board and the political pressures from the government on the national broadcaster.
In May, after emailing Milne to outline a complaint from then-Prime Minister Turnbull about Alberici’s coverage, Guthrie was told: “They hate her”.
“We are tarred with her brush. I think it’s simple. Get rid of her. We need to save the ABC – not Emma. There is no guarantee they [the Coalition] will lose the next election,” Milne wrote.
The exchange was circulated to board members last week as relations with Guthrie were deteriorating, according to the report by Michael Koziol and Jennifer Duke.
Turnbull and his Communications Minister Mitch Fifield made a series of complaints about Alberici’s reporting earlier this year, most notably coverage of the government’s proposed company tax reforms in February which was heavily revised after publication.
The managing director’s role also involves being editor-in-chief of the broadcaster with ultimate responsibility for the independence and fairness of its content. The ABC’s independence is enshrined in its legislated charter, and its editorial standards require that “decisions are not improperly influenced by political, sectional, commercial or personal interests”.
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