The Board of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has announced that Michelle Guthrie has 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.”
Ms Guthrie, however, has said that she is “devastated by the Board’s decision to terminate my employment despite no claim of wrongdoing on my part.”
In a written statement, 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.
“I wanted to continue the transformation of the ABC and to support the great work of ABC’s dedicated and passionate employees to ensure our continuing trust, quality and distinctiveness as the source of Australian culture, conversations and stories. To me, it is the content produced by the ABC that is of primary importance to Australians, with the technology to deliver that content a distant second.
“At no point have any issues been raised with me about the transformation being undertaken, the Investing in Audiences strategy and my effectiveness in delivering against that strategy.”
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.
The ABC Board has commenced a formal search process for a new MD 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.
Australian Minister for Communications, Senator Mitch Fifield, issued a short statement on Ms Guthrie’s departure.
“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,” said Minister Fifield.
“ABC Managing Directors are appointed by the Board. The ABC Board has legislated independence in relation to management appointments and the Government respects the duty and role of the Board in these matters.”