The head of Australia’s public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, was dismissed by the board over leadership dissatisfaction.

ABC chairman, Justin Milne, made the announcement today after the board decided that Guthrie’s leadership was not in the best interest of the corporation.

“The board felt in the end that her leadership style was not the style that we needed going forward,” Milne said.

ABC stated the decision was the result of several months of discussions and was ultimately taken for the benefit of the organisation as well as the citizens it serves.

“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,” Milne said.

Guthrie – ABC’s first female managing director with many years experience working for Australian and international media companies, including Google, News Corp, and Foxtel –  was only halfway through her five year contract.

During her time at the ABC, Guthrie worked to guide the organisation through the rapidly changing media landscape, launched a $50 million Great Ideas Grant and also started a major restructure of the public broadcaster.

However, she also faced criticism over the organisation’s coverage and management from both the Government and employees. Indeed Milne said Guthrie’s relationship with the Government “could have been better”, while members of the ABC criticised her for not standing up for the ABC enough and her “unwillingness to engage”.

Guthrie said she was “devastated” by the board’s decision and was considering her legal options.

“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,” she said. “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 added.

“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,” – Justin Milne

Milne and the board said they’re “very grateful for all her hard work” but that it wasn’t working out the way they were hoping for. According to Milne, there has been no political pressure or involvement in this decision. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Government would not ask for an explanation from the broadcaster but other politicians, such as Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, said the reason for her dismissal should be made public.

Guthrie was praised for her work during challenging times for the ABC, with the pressures of competing in a concentrated media landscape, strains from the government and the various budget cuts ABC faced.

Yet a number of personalities within the organisation welcomed the decision as being in the best interest of the ABC.  Jon Faine, a broadcaster for ABC Melbourne, said he had never seen morale so low and that Guthrie showed very little interest in the core journalism and content aspects of the organisation.

“If you went to meetings with her you would never say anything, you’d look for leadership and inspiration, you’d look for a contribution and you would never get one,” he said on this morning’s radio programme.

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) – the union representing ABC’s editorial staff – said that Guthrie’s successor must be ready to fight for better funding and independence and to uphold public media values as well as backing its staff in a political environment that has become increasingly hostile.

“They must be a vocal public advocate for the ABC, who is prepared to tackle head-on the historically low levels of ABC funding with meaningful engagement with the Federal Government,” said Katelin McInerney, MEAA Media’s director.  “They must be 100% committed to public broadcasting and to fend off any attempts to privatise the ABC either directly or by stealth.

Meanwhile, David Anderson – the organisation’s director of entertainment – will be the acting managing director until a formal recruitment process is established to appoint ABC’s next managing director, who will selected by the board and independently from the government.

Header Image: ABC South Brisbane. Credit: Ash Kyd/Creative Commons