The board of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has announced the departure of the organisation’s managing director Michelle Guthrie.
A brief statement from the ABC said “The decision follows discussions over several months that concluded when directors resolved that it was not in the best interests of the ABC for Ms Guthrie to continue to lead the organisation.”
ABC chair Justin Milne said “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.”
Guthrie’s CV includes senior roles at News International and Google, a combination of old and new media that was seen as positioning the ABC to continue its digital evolution. On her watch the ABC embarked on a transformation program that saw it invest in digital initiatives, often to increase output of “lifestyle” content, de-fund some “harder” traditional television and radio programs, and collaborated with commercial media organisations on major investigations. The changes have not gone down well: ABC staff have leaked some management communications and ridiculed HR initiatives.
The Corporation has also been the subject of fierce criticism from commercial media, which feels the ABC’s increasing online presence and promotion of its content reduces audiences available for advertising-supported outlets. It also earned the ire of politicians for occasional journalistic gaffes. The broadcaster lost substantial government funding on Guthrie’s watch, with many connecting the gaffes to the cuts.
The board’s statement doesn’t say why it lost confidence in Guthrie.
If it emerges that the board feels an emphasis on traditional ABC strengths – news, especially regional news - is required, it will represent a win for critics. If the board wants to double down on digital, the corporation will remain contentious.