The sacked managing director of the ABC, Michelle Guthrie, says she is considering her legal options after the organisation’s board terminated her halfway through her five-year term.
The board said on Monday it was “not in the best interests” of the national broadcaster for her to stay, but Ms Guthrie has told Australian Financial Review journalist Phillip Coorey no issues had been raised.
“I am devastated by the board’s decision to terminate my employment despite no claim of wrongdoing on my part,” she said in the statement posted by Coorey online.
“When I joined the 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 programming for all Australians.
While my contract permits the board to terminate my appointment with immediate effect, I believe there is no justification for the board to trigger that termination clause …
“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 issued a statement on Monday saying long-standing staff member David Anderson will serve as acting managing director until a formal search process finds Ms Guthrie’s successor.
ABC chair Justin Milne said the decision followed discussions over several months that ultimately concluded with directors deciding to terminate Ms Guthrie’s tenure.
Mr Milne said the board believed new leadership would benefit the organisation, its dedicated employees, and the ABC’s audiences.
“We feel that we need different leadership to take us through what are obviously very challenging times,” he told ABC News 24 later on Monday.
“The board felt in the end that her leadership style was not the style that we needed going forward.
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.”
Ms Guthrie is a former Google and News Corp executive. Since taking the ABC job in May 2016, she has looked to restructure the broadcaster with an increased focus on digital content.
In March 2017, she announced sweeping changes to the organisation, including axing a fifth of management, spending millions worth of savings on making new content and beefing up the broadcaster’s presence in regional Australia.
In November of that year, she outlined a plan to dismantle the divide between the ABC’s TV, radio and online divisions to instead create content across all platforms.
Ms Guthrie’s initial replacement, Mr Anderson, is the ABC’s director, entertainment and specialist. He is responsible for broadcast television networks and associated services, radio music networks, podcasts and specialist radio content.
Mr Anderson has had a 30-year career in television and media.
“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.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield thanked Ms Guthrie for her service in a “challenging and rapidly changing media environment”.
“ABC managing directors are appointed by the board,” he said.
“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.”