ABC boss Michelle Guthrie has revealed she’s “devastated” after being ousted from her role as managing director of the national broadcaster.
In an official statement, circulated via email and on their website, the ABC said the decision came after several months of discussions between directors. David Anderson will now serve as acting managing director until a permanent replacement is found.
While the statement said Guthrie, 53, had departed the role, The Australian reports she was sacked following tension between the managing director and chairman Justin Milne over the direction the ABC is going in.
“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,” the statement read.
Guthrie has revealed she’s “devastated” that her employment has been terminated despite there being “no claim of wrongdoing” on her part – and is now considering her legal options.
She said she was aware of the “enormous challenge in front of me to break down some of the internal barriers to progress as well as continuing to deliver quality programming for all Australians”.
However, she added: “I have invested more in investigative journalist, more in regional journalism, more in innovative content and increased the efficiency and effectiveness of work across the ABC.”
Pointing out that the ABC Act fixes her term at five years, concluding on July 4, 2021, she said: “While my contract permits the Board to terminate my appointment without cause and with immediate effect, I believe there is no justification for the Board to trigger that termination clause. I am considering my legal options.”
It comes after Milne said in the ABC’s official statement that the board had decided new leadership was now the best all-round option for both employees and the wider ABC audience.
“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,” 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.”
Guthrie first joined the ABC in December 2015, having previously worked at Google where she was managing director of agencies.
Anderson will serve as acting managing director while Guthrie’s permanent replacement is found. Anderson is currently Director, Entertainment & Specialist and has worked in the media industry for more than 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,” he said in a statement.
Guthrie replaced Mark Scott as managing director in May 2016, after he had previously remained in charge for a decade. She came under fire in March after it was rumoured she was cutting 200 journalists’ jobs in a massive restructure of the company, with the mass redundancies confirmed in the months afterwards.
It was also claimed in May that the ABC spent $2 million promoting online stories on Google and Facebook, all part of Guthrie’s digital-first approach.