Asia Minute: Politics and Outrage at Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Sep 28, 2018

Credit ABC (Australia) logo / Wikimedia Commons

It’s been a dramatic week at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The public broadcaster is now under investigation following two high profile departures and allegations of improper government influence.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is funded with taxpayer money, and its editorial independence is guaranteed by law. But this week, there are allegations of blatant political interference at the state broadcaster.

The developments began on Monday, when the network’s managing director Michelle Guthrie was fired, and no specific reason was given for the action. She’d been on the job for a little more than two years of a five-year term, and said she was “devastated” by the dismissal.

Initial speculation focused on questions about her leadership skills and communication style. Critics had previously pointed to Guthrie’s lack of background in journalism or public broadcasting — most of her career had been as a corporate lawyer for media companies.

But that all changed by midweek with a bombshell report.

Australia’s Fairfax Media published portions of leaked emails it said showed the chairman of ABC telling Guthrie to fire two of the network’s reporters – after complaints from the government.

That led to howls of protests in ABC newsrooms across the country.

ABC’s chairman, Justin Milne, was once a business partner of the former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. On Thursday, Milne resigned as chairman.

ABC building in South Bank, Brisbane
Credit Kgbo / Wikimedia Commons

The government has promised an internal investigation, but opposition politicians want an additional probe to be done by the Senate.

Meanwhile, the top two positions in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation remain vacant.