Published: Thu, September 27, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Chairman ousted as Australia's public broadcaster hit by politics scandal

Chairman ousted as Australia's public broadcaster hit by politics scandal

While Australia slept, Mr Turnbull was interviewed in NY, where he denied pressuring Mr Milne to sack reporters at the national broadcaster.

Hours before Milne's resignation, the communications minister, Mitch Fifield, indicated that Milne no longer had the support of the government.

Around 70 per cent of Australians want a strong ABC, despite government spending cuts and daily withering criticism from its commercial rivals - who balk at unfair competition from the taxpayer-funded behemoth.

Mr Milne quit the board yesterday because he says the controversy around him was putting pressure on the ABC. "Nobody (from the government) ever told me to hire anybody, fire anybody, or do anything else", he told the ABC's current affairs program 7.30.

"Absolutely 100% not", he said.

It's hard to believe that former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie was sacked just a couple of days ago.

"Clearly there is a lot of pressure on the organisation, and as always, my interests, my aims, is to look after the aims of the corporation", he said.

"I have always respected the independence of the ABC".

Milne told the ABC the crisis had been a "firestorm" and said he "wanted to provide a release valve".

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"My concern has been on the accuracy and impartiality of news reporting".

The chairman is also said to have ordered Ms Guthrie sack Mr Probyn by telling her "you just have to shoot him", because Mr Turnbull hated the journalist.

How the dust settles remains to be seen, but the events are the culmination of rising political temperatures regarding the role and performance of the publicly owned ABC, which although it enjoys statutory independence from government has been under pressure for its perceived left-leaning political bias.

According to leaked emails, Milne unsuccessfully pressed for the sacking of two senior reporters over coverage that did not please his friend, then centre-right prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

As of this week, however, Australia's national broadcaster has an acting managing director and no chairman, all in a media and political environment which is heating up towards the next federal election due by May next year. "Like most members of parliament, I have, on occasion, raised with the ABC issues of facts in reporting, as indeed I've done with commercial media organisations", Mr Fifield told reporters in Melbourne.

But he rejects asking for specific reporters to be axed.

"I have never provided instructions that anybody should be sacked". "Australia's public broadcaster acts only in the interests of the Australian public and our independence is our most precious asset".

The revelations about ABC chair Justin Milne since Wednesday morning have painted a stark picture of his approach to the job.

Malcolm Turnbull, the now former prime minister, and Milne are former business associates.

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