Guthrie's messy departure shows ABC more risky than Murdoch

He made these comments an hour after releasing a statement saying it was not in the best interests of the ABC that she continue in that role.

Ms Guthrie, at a Senate estimates hearing, rejects suggestions made in an opinion piece by former ABC presenter Johnathan Holmes that the public broadcaster is biased towards the left. In the first two years of my five-year term, I have invested more in investigative journalism; more in regional journalism; more in innovative content; and increased the efficiency and effectiveness of work across the ABC.

"The board wishes to thank Michelle for her contribution to the ABC", said Milne.

The ABC managing director is appointed by the broadcaster's board, independent of government.

News of Guthrie's departure was reported by The Australian before the decision had been communicated to ABC staff.

Australian-born Guthrie trained as a lawyer and worked at Foxtel and BSkyB, before taking pan-Asian roles at Star TV in Hong Kong and latterly at Google, in Singapore.

ABC chair Justin Milne said "In resolving to seek fresh leadership, the Board's foremost consideration was the long-term interests of our own people and the millions of Australians who engage with ABC content every week".

The Australian has been told flashpoints include two key initiatives of the chairman, the ABC Annual Public Meeting, held in February, and July's announcement of Project Jetstream, a multimillion-dollar idea created to provide a digital infrastructure base for the ABC decades into the future when broadcast television shuts down. Her background in commercial media, and lack of experience in broadcast journalism, gave rise to concern that her appointment would lead to a covert introduction of Rupert Murdoch's culture at the national broadcaster. Why did the ABC board move so decisively and why now?

Last June, she took these criticisms to task, arguing the ABC had become "a punching bag by narrow political, commercial or ideological interests" during a speech to the Melbourne Press Club.

It was enough that the board wanted to implement a different strategy and that it didn't like her Canberra lobbying efforts or her management style.

The challenges are nothing new - the ABC has always received pressure from the government of the day over its news coverage.

Milne said the ABC must now push ahead with its "Jetstream" project, which involves building the digital infrastructure of the future.

In contrast to her predecessor, who was a tireless public advocate, Ms Guthrie felt her strength was achieving results quietly.

In a statement Guthrie has said she is "devastated" by the decision "despite no claim of wrongdoing" on her part and is considering her legal options.

  • Kyle Peterson