The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has faced a number of challenges in recent months, including leadership changes, allegations of political interference and funding constraints.

Here is a brief roundup of the latest developments:

Changes at the top > In September, ABC’s managing director, Michelle Guthrie, was removed from post halfway through her five-year term, following disfatication with her leadership from the organisation’s board. Shortly after, the chairman of the board – Justin Milne – resigned, due to accusations of political interference. Milne was pressured to step down following reports that he had been influenced by the government on several occasions, including an accusation that he urged Guthrie to fire a senior reporter who was allegedly disliked by the government.  

Milne and Guthrie then spoke to ABC’s flagship investigative programme, Four Corners, where Guthrie claimed that Milne had engaged in inappropriate behaviour. These claims were denied by Milne, who reiterated that the board’s decision to fire Guthrie was solely based on her performance.

Meanwhile, David Anderson has replaced Guthrie as the public broadcaster’s acting-Managing Director.

In another change, ABC’s Chief Financial & Strategy Officer Louise Higgins resigned today, two months after Milne and Guthrie’s departure. Louise was commended by the organisation’s management, with Anderson saying: “Her strategic leadership, and her drive, enthusiasm and commitment to the ABC will be missed.”

Government inquiries > Since Guthrie and Milne’s departures, the government launched a dual inquiry into the interference claims, which took place last Friday. The inquiry has yet to clear up the conflict although it highlighted that issues in leadership had been brewing for a while.

A difficult financial situation > The public broadcaster has also seen a decline in funding over the last few years, starting in 2014. This year the government announced it will freeze ABC’s annual funding for three years starting in July next year, a move that will cost ABC $84 million. The organisation’s management recently warned that these financial constraints risk making the it ‘unsustainable’.

All claims of political interference have so far been denied and the ABC remains committed to ensuring its independence. In a statement to employees in September, Dr Kirstin Ferguson, Acting Chair of the ABC Board, said: “All ABC employees can be confident they have the full backing of the Board to carry out their work independently without any threat of political interference.”

Public service media organisations are indispensable pillars of informed democracies, but only if they are well funded and editorially independent. The Public Media Alliance works closely with ABC to promote these key values, and will continue to report on developments in Australia.

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