Australian broadcaster's chairman quits over politics claims - 9/26/2018 11:43:43 PM

30 September, 2018, 12:43 | Author: Clarence Schmidt
  • Justin Milne resigns from ABC chairman role

The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has stepped down amid allegations that he ordered the firing of journalists deemed too critical of the government.

ABC chairman Justin Milne says Ms Guthrie's relationship with the government was a factor but there had been no government pressure.

Milne's departure comes just days after the ABC sacked former managing director Michelle Guthrie.

In another example, government complaints about Canberra political editor Andrew Probyn saw Milne tell Guthrie by email that "you have to shoot him".

Milne had directed Guthrie to fire ABC chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici.

The ABC found nine errors in a news article by Alberici on the government's corporate tax policies, and significantly rewrote her analysis piece on the same topic. Get rid of her.

"At all times I have promoted the ABC's importance to the community, including having to defend and protect the ABC's independence", she said, according to ABC.

Around 70 per cent of Australians want a strong ABC, despite government spending cuts and daily withering criticism from its commercial rivals - who balk at unfair competition from the taxpayer-funded behemoth.

The sacking led to an inquiry into Milne's actions and enormous public pressure, including from the broadcaster's employees, who are understood to have been considering industrial action had the chairman remained in his job.

He says he never demanded anyone be sacked because the government didn't like their reporting, but maintains he was entitled to intervene in editorial issues.

"Nobody ever told me to hire anybody, fire anybody or do anything else", Mr. Milne said.

"It would be naive not to understand that the relationship between the government and the ABC is a hard one", he said.

"Yes, I have had questions about it, but they are the same questions that Australians have asked", he said.

After an emergency board meeting held without Milne, the ABC board thanked him for his "experienced leadership" and said it was "grateful for his willingness to put the ABC first in coming to his decision to resign".

Ms Wong said despite Mr Turnbull's claims, it appeared Mr Milne spoke with the former prime minister and a Liberal minister before seeking to have a journalist sacked.

But the Labor opposition party said the government had "bullied" Mr Milne and interfered with the ABC's independence.

Mr Milne, who resigned on Thursday, is also the chairman of two ASX-listed companies - accounting software giant MYOB and communications technology business NetComm Wireless.

Mr Milne said while he was resigning, he had always defended the ABC's editorial independence.



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