ABC chair resigns over Australian political interference claims

ABC chair resigns over Australian political interference claims

ABC chair resigns over Australian political interference claims

Canberra, Sep 27 The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has resigned following allegations of political interference.

Mr Milne seemed to have "misunderstood that the role of the ABC is as a public broadcaster, not a mouthpiece for the government", MEAA boss Paul Murphy said.

In May, Milne reportedly emailed ABC's managing director, Michelle Guthrie, insisting that Emma Alberici, the network's chief economics correspondent, be fired after complaints about her coverage from then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

ABC News Director Gaven Morris says he has told staff to hold their heads high and do their jobs well amidst the latest stories.

Mr Milne, who is a friend and former business partner of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, said it was not true that Mr Turnbull had rung him in a fury about Alberici's reporting.

Turnbull, who has been living in NY since being forced to resign as prime minister, said he had complained about the two journalists, but never asked for their dismissal, according to The Associated Press.

Mr Fifield said he has always respected the ABC's independence and had never sought to involve himself in staffing matters.

The government on Wednesday ordered a communications department investigation into the published allegations that Milne had pressured Guthrie to fire the two journalists, warning she was "putting the future of the ABC at risk" and jeopardizing $472 million in government funding the chairman wanted for his pet project to digitize the broadcaster.

Alberici suggested Mr Milne may have a conflict of interest, because he is also chair of a company she has written about regarding corporate tax.

"Time for the ABC to resume normal transmission, both independently and without bias", he said on Twitter.

"The ABC Board is meeting at noon today to decide who will be the acting chairman".

His denial, however, paled in comparison to a News Limited splash which claimed Mr Milne had phoned Ms Guthrie instructing her "to shoot" political editor Andrew Probyn. "They absolutely didn't", he said.

Board members had already been made aware of Milne's directives to Guthrie in a document she prepared for the board after she was asked to resign as managing director on September 13.

"These are not the actions of the Australian democracy", senior Labor frontbencher Penny Wong told ABC radio on Thursday.

Mr Turnbull personally complained about Probyn to Ms Guthrie at a gathering prior to last year's AFL Grand Final, as Fairfax Media has reported.

From New York, Turnbull denied that he sought to fire specific journalists, saying that he had only ever anxious about poor reporting standards rather than bias.

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