It’s absolute scenes at ABC offices around the country right now, but to understand why, we’re going to have to backtrack to Monday, when it was announced that the ABC’s Managing Director, Michelle Guthrie, was let go halfway through her five-year term.
Guthrie was a divisive figure both in and outside the organisation, with some ABC journalists celebrating the move, and others detailing how much their workplace had been negatively impacted by her leadership.
Excellent decision https://t.co/Xzo14iRDcM
— Sally Neighbour (@neighbour_s) September 24, 2018
At the time of the announcement, ABC Chairman Justin Milne said that the board’s primary consideration was the “long-term interests of our own people and the millions of Australians who engage with ABC content every week”.
That brings us to today. An exclusive report in the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that that same Chairman, Justin Milne, emailed Michelle Guthrie back in May, encouraging her to fire ABC journalist Emma Alberici.
In an email to Guthrie, Milne wrote:
“They [the government] hate her. We are tarred with her brush. I think it’s simple. Get rid of her. We need to save the ABC – not Emma. There is no guarantee they [the Coalition] will lose the next election.”
Cue uproar from ABC employees across the country. It’s easy to understand their concern – the Chairman instructing the Managing Director to intervene on the editorial side of things and fire a journalist because the Liberal government don’t like her is pretty terrible, and flies in the face of everything the ABC is meant to represent.
While it is a government-funded media organisation, it has long been respected and trusted for its independence, something it cannot maintain if journalists’ jobs are reliant upon the personal feelings of particular politicians about their coverage.
Meetings were quickly organised in ABC offices around the country, and motions were passed calling for Milne to resign as Chairman. The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the main union that represents the interests of journalists around Australia, also called for Milne to resign.
Passed unanimously by #ABC union members in Brisbane about Justin Milne:
“This meeting calls on the chairman to publicly acknowledge if the political interference in the reported email is true and, if so, immediately resign from his position”. pic.twitter.com/P8Pi07LDZg
— Matt Wordsworth (@MattWordsworth) September 26, 2018
Meanwhile, the meeting in Sydney had to be moved because there were puppies in the foyer. Seriously.
— Sebastian Dixon (@BicameralSlice) September 26, 2018
In addition to suggesting Emma Alberici be fired, The Guardian reported that Milne also tried to stop triple j from moving the date of the Hottest 100, arguing that “Malcolm will go ballistic” if the move went ahead.
Why Malcolm didn’t have bigger concerns beyond what day a youth-oriented radio station holds a countdown is beyond me, but I’ve never run a country, maybe I’m missing the bigger picture here.
Fortunately, Guthrie didn’t listen to Milne in either instance, and the Hottest 100 took place on January 27th this year, and Alberici is still employed by the ABC.
Russell Crowe has since weighed in, tweeting “Bye Justin. Thanks for your efforts.” so I guess that settles it?
Bye Justin . Thanks for your efforts. https://t.co/lO0ACludTf
— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) September 26, 2018
Once you’ve lost the respect of Russell Crowe, man of the people, there’s no hope for you.
(Original header photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)