Politics

The ABC Just Fired Managing Director Michelle Guthrie

"This decision has been driven by our commitment to deliver the best possible outcomes for our loyal audiences."

abc michelle guthrie fired

The ABC has fired managing director Michelle Guthrie, in a shock decision just two years into her term.

In a statement released this morning, the ABC Board announced that it believes Guthrie’s leadership is no longer in the best interests of the broadcaster.

“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,” ABC Board Chairman Justine Milne said.

“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,” he added, noting that Guthrie’s firing follows several months of discussions. “The board wishes to thank Michelle for her contribution to the ABC. We are very grateful for all her hard work.”

Appointed to the role in May 2016, Guthrie was the ABC’s first female managing director. Over the course of her term, she has received criticism for overseeing staff cuts, and for demonstrating what many considered to be a poor understanding of ABC values (in late 2016, for instance, she copped heat for suggesting the ABC’s investigative program Four Corners could improve by being kinder to businesses).

ABC Entertainment & Specialist Director David Anderson will act as managing director while the organisation searches for a permanent replacement for Guthrie. “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,” Anderson said this morning.

ABC staff were only informed of the decision to sack Guthrie after the news broke this morning. In an all-staff email, Milne told employees that “the Board has given long and detailed consideration to this serious matter. We appreciate that a change in leadership creates uncertainty, however, we are firmly of the view that this decision is in the best interests of the organisation.”

An ABC staff member told Junkee that Guthrie’s firing was “a surprise, but also not”.

“It did feel like she didn’t have a clear vision for the organisation, and if she did, it wasn’t well articulated to staff. So, people felt a bit let down by that. But I don’t think anyone was terribly aware of the conflict between her and the board.”

The staff member also pointed to recent cringeworthy initiatives Guthrie implemented at the ABC, like these supposedly morale-boosting Larry cards thanking employees for doing their jobs. “When those ridiculous Larry thank you cards came out a couple of weeks ago, I think we were all like, does she think we’re children? It was kind of telling that management couldn’t anticipate how those patronising cards would be received and ridiculed.”

Guthrie: “I Am Devastated By The Board’s Decision”

Guthrie has now released a statement responding to her firing, saying that she is “devastated by the Board’s decision to terminate my employment despite no claim of wrongdoing on my part.”

“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 quality programming for all Australians,” she said. “In the first two years of my five-year term, I have invested more in investigative journalism; more innovative content; and increased the efficiency and effectiveness of work across the ABC”.

“As the first female Managing Director of the ABC, I felt a tremendous responsibility and unique privilege to lead Australia’s most important cultural institutions. At all times I have promoted the ABC’s importance to the community, including having to defend and protect the ABC’s independence.”

“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”.

Guthrie also noted that her term as managing director was set at 5 years, and should have concluded on 4 July 2021. “While my contract permits the Board to terminate my appointment without cause and with immediate effect, I believe there is no justification for the Board to trigger that termination clause. I am considering my legal options”.