Australia state broadcaster chair resigns after denying government meddling in ABC

EPA-EFE  REX  Shutterstock A journalist prepares to do a cross from outside the ABC Ultimo Offices in Sydney New South Wales Australia 24 September 2018. ABC managing director Mi

CREDIT PETER RAE EPA-EFE REX Shutterstock

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.

Milne said his resignation was "absolutely, 100 per cent not" an admission that he had failed to safeguard the ABC's editorial independence.

"The bottom line is I've never called for anybody to be fired", he told reporters in NY. My view is we need to save the corporation not Emma.

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.

The ABC found nine errors in a news article by Alberici on the government's corporate tax policies, and significantly rewrote her analysis piece on the same topic.

He claimed, according to written accounts of the conversation provided to ABC directors, that the political journalist Andrew Probyn was so out of favour that the broadcaster's state funding was at risk.

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ABC journalists demanded Mr Milne go when the revelations became public on Wednesday.

Speaking to the ABC this morning, though, Milne said the decision to resign was his own, "because clearly there is a lot of pressure on the organisation".

"It's clearly not a good thing for everybody to be trying to do their job with this kind of fire storm going on, so I wanted to provide a release valve", Mr. Milne told the ABC in a television interview.

Mr Milne says the relationship between the ABC and the government is hard because the ABC is government funded but expected to stay impartial.

Several politicians have expressed their concern over the notion of political interference within the ABC.

Ms Guthrie's sacking - which she said left her "devastated" and considering her legal options - was just the beginning.

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Senior ABC journalist Ms Alberici says reports chairman Justin Milne told former managing director Michelle Guthrie to sack her after criticism from the government are "disappointing if true".

Mr Milne quit the board yesterday because he says the controversy around him was putting pressure on the ABC.

"The job of the ABC board is to independently govern the corporation, protect its best interests, ensure that it is well funded, well managed, and that our content is of the highest standards", he said.

"It's disappointing if true, obviously", she said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announces ABC board member Dr Kirstin Ferguson has been recommended to take over as acting chair.

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