Sacked ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie has threatened to sue the national broadcaster after the ABC board dismissed her only two years into a five-year term.
Guthrie has publicly responded to her dismissal with a statement: “I am devastated by the board’s decision to terminate my employment despite no claim of wrongdoing on my part. When I joined ABC in 2016, I knew I had an 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. As the first female Managing Director of the ABC, I felt a tremendous responsibility and unique privilege to lead Australia’s most important cultural institution.”
“While my contract permits the board to terminate my employment without cause and with immediate effect, I believe there is no justification for the Board to trigger the termination clause. I am considering my legal options.”
In ABC’s statement to announce Guthrie’s departure, 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. 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.”
ABC executive David Anderson has been appointed Acting Managing Director. Anderson has almost 30 years experience in television and the broadcast industry.
Guthrie’s departure has sparked some rather blunt reactions from those within the broadcaster. Four Corners executive producer Sally Neighbour tweeted “Excellent decision”, while Melbourne radio host Jon Faine slammed Guthrie’s tenure as an “astonishing fail”.
Media Watch host Paul Barry said, “Are the staff going to mourn her passing? I think the answer’s ‘no’… Are we losing a passionate advocate for public broadcasting? Again the answer’s ‘no’, I think.”
Sydney-born Guthrie came to the ABC role after executive positions at News Corporation, including as CEO of Asian broadcaster Star TV, and Google. It was this background that led to many to criticise her for being a “Murdoch plant” at the broadcaster, while at the same time others criticised her emphasis on diversity within the organisation and for not aggressively advocating for the broadcaster at the federal government level.