Calls mount for ABC chairman Justin Milne to resign

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) and a number of high-profile media personalities have questioned ABC chairman Justin Milne’s understanding of editorial independence, after a leaked email revealed he tried to get rid of journalist, Emma Alberici.

A story in The Sydney Morning Herald this morning suggested Milne had asked ousted managing director, Michelle Guthrie, to “get rid” of Alberici, following complaints from the former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

Milne is under pressure to resign

Milne’s email, which urged Guthrie to ‘get rid of her’ was sent after Alberici released a series of articles related to company tax rates. At the time, the ABC removed an analysis piece by Alberici related to the proposed changes, and revised a news story which accompanied the piece. The analysis piece piece was later reworked and republished.

Today, the MEAA said the report was “deeply disturbing”.

“They would indicate Mr Milne has no understanding of editorial independence, proper complaints handling processes, or the appropriate distance a board chair needs to keep from staffing matters,” a statement said.

“If true, Mr Milne should resign immediately.”

The MEAA’s stance echoes comments by a number of journalists and ABC staff members across Australia today, who upon reading the email, have pressed for Milne to exit.

Former ABC radio presenter, Mike Carlton, said an ABC chairman had “no place” in making editorial decisions.

“ABC staff should pass a motion of no-confidence in him. Pronto,” he wrote.

A blog by Andrew Bolt in the Herald Sun this morning, also said Milne “had to go”.

“We have a close mate of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who got him the job, taking up a personal beef Turnbull had with one staffer to demand her sacking, when Alberici’s failings were not sackable offences,” Bolt wrote.

“This kind of political calculation is disgraceful. Shame on the board for not quashing it immediately.

“Milne must go.”

On ABC Melbourne radio this morning, Alberici said she was not aware Milne had tried to have her sacked. She said it was “disappointing”, arguing it undermined the independence of the ABC.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, shadow communications minister Michelle Rowland called Milne on Wednesday demanding an explanation. The paper reports she is not satisfied with the response.

The pressure follows the termination of managing director Guthrie’s contract on Monday. Guthrie is currently considering her legal options.

A response from Milne this morning, which sits on the ABC website, said: “The job of the ABC Board is to independently govern the Corporation, protect its best interests, ensure that it is well funded, well managed and that our content is of the highest standards. That is precisely what the Board has done and will continue to do. I do not propose to provide a running commentary on day to day issues which arise in pursuit of our duties.”


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