After initially rejecting calls for an Inquiry, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has now announced that he will conduct an investigation into accusations that ABC Chairman Justin Milne sought to have journalist Emma Alberici sacked because the government did not like her reporting.
Minister Fifield said in a statement this evening:
Having met with the Prime Minister this afternoon, I have asked the Secretary of the Department of Communications and the Arts to undertake an inquiry to establish the facts in relation to today’s media reports surrounding the ABC.
The secretary will report his fundings to me as soon as possible.
It is important for the community to have confidence in the independence of the ABC.
The decision to hold an investigation comes after revelations that Chairman Milne sent an email to sacked Managing Director Michelle Guthrie urging her to “get rid of” Alberici.
“They hate her,” Mr Milne said in the email. “We are tarred with her brush. I think it’s simple. Get rid of her. We need to save the ABC – not Emma. There is no guarantee they [the Coalition] will lose the next election.”
After news of the email broke this morning, the ABC union called a meeting and resolved to request an Inquiry into political interference by Milne.
This prompted the Minister to initiate the departmental investigation.
The debate has now moved from a discussion of the merits of sacking an ABC MD, to a fight about journalistic integrity in the face of political interference.
As behind the scenes, off the record briefings take place from ABC and Guthrie lawyers and spin doctors, more revelations are likely to emerge as the sacking of the ABC Managing Director issue continues.
The latest revelations are likely to involve more leaked correspondence and phone calls showing that the Chairman sought to get rid of senior ABC reporters due to government dislike of their reporting and that he sought to reverse the ABC’s decision to move the Hottest 100 from Australia Day.