Justin Milne has resigned as chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. His departure deepens the leadership crisis at the public broadcast group, following the sacking of managing director Michelle Guthrie on Monday.
Shortly after the dismissal of Guthrie, Milne’s own position was called into question by the leaking of a series of emails that appeared to show Milne putting pressure on Guthrie to “get rid of” ABC financial journalist Emma Alberici. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is said to have complained to Milne about inaccuracies in Alberici’s reporting of federal government tax policy. Milne and Turnbull are friends of long standing.
ABC staff have asked whether the chairman damaged the corporation’s editorial independence. Some staff organizations called for an investigation. Staff in Brisbane unanimously voted for Milne to resign.
On Wednesday, Milne insisted that he would not resign. But he changed course Thursday morning as pressure mounted within and without the corporation. He said it was preferable for him to resign than simply step aside while an investigation took place.
“Clearly there is a lot of pressure on the organization, and as always my interests have been to look after the interests of the corporation,” Milne said in an interview given to the ABC’s own “7.30” current affairs show. “It is clearly not a good thing for everybody to be trying to do their jobs with this kind of firestorm going on.”
Guthrie, one of the highest-profile female executives in international television, was fired less than two and a half years into a five-year contract. She was criticized for her management style and told that her relationships with government “could have been better.”