ABC chairman quits amid scandal

ABC chairman quits amid scandal

The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. resigned on Thursday over allegations that he pressured the independent national broadcaster to fire two political journalists because the ruling conservative government disliked them.

Communications minister Mitch Fifield has asked his department to launch an official investigation into the intrusion of the government in the editorial operations of the ABC.

Outgoing ABC chairman Justin Milne has denied he called for journalists to be sacked and says he stepped in over articles that "were not accurate nor impartial".

"The ABC is not the propaganda arm of the Liberal Party of Australia".

Mr Milne indicated on Wednesday he had no intention of quitting over the scandal, but has stepped down as chairman of the national broadcaster after a second board meeting in two days. She was criticized for her management style and told that her relationships with government "could have been better".

The dramatic fallout from Michelle Guthrie's sacking has put the ABC's board under the microscope.

Following Guthrie's departure, emails from Milne were leaked to The Sydney Morning Herald which suggested Guthrie "get rid of" Alberici following complaints from the then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about inaccuracies in her reporting of proposed company tax cuts.

Alberici has called the reports "disappointing".

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An open all-staff meeting was called at the ABC's Ultimo headquarters - which was described as "the most important" in nearly two decades - where a resolution calling for an independent inquiry into the matter was passed unanimously.

When asked if Mr Milne could remain as chairman, former ABC managing director David Hill told ABC News Channel "sadly, I think not". He said he did not remember telling Ms Guthrie to "shoot" political editor Andrew Probyn, but conceded raising "the Probyn issue" with the ABC's senior leadership team, which includes news director Gaven Morris and editorial director Alan Sunderland.

David Anderson, a 30-year ABC veteran, is appointed acting managing director while a formal search for a replacement begins.

Mr Milne was appointed as chairman of the ABC past year by the Turnbull government.

News Corporation, unsurprisingly, is also strongly critical of the ABC and its role in public life, a view which comes not only from the perception that the ABC is the political enemy, but also because the ABC is a strong media competitor.

The nearly century-old ABC is incredibly popular Down Under, with polls showing that it is not just the most trusted news organisation in the country, but also seen as a national treasure.

This week's events at the ABC show that Australia is not only in the midst of a culture war, but a media war is raging too.

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