Former News Corp, Google Exec Named MD of Australia's ABC

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Michelle Guthrie becomes the public broadcaster's first female managing director.

Former Star TV CEO and Google Asia-Pacific executive Michelle Guthrie has been named managing director of public broadcaster the Australian Broadcasting Corp, replacing Mark Scott, who is retiring after ten years in the post in May.

The highly credentialed Guthrie has also been managing director at private equity group Providence Equity Partners, head of business and legal affairs at the News Corp-managed Australian pay TV service Foxtel, and a former BSkyB executive. She becomes the national broadcaster’s first ever female MD, and arguably the top-ranking female media executive in Australia.

While Guthrie has extensive commercial media experience, it's her current tenure at Google in Singapore, where she is currently the managing director, Agencies, APAC responsible for driving the company’s strategy and relationships with marketing and advertising agencies across Asia, which drew her to the ABC job, indicating that she will carry on the ‘digital first’ strategy  which provides ABC content on a wide variety of platforms to allow users to view whenever and wherever they want  that was implemented by Scott.

As well as Guthrie's strong resume, ABC chair James Spigelman said in a statement that she brings to ABC a "record in content-making across an array of platforms, a deep understanding of audience needs and corporate responsibility for promoting issues like diversity."

The ABC operates four free-to-air TV channels, a raft of radio services and digital services including the most-watched catch-up TV service in the country, iView. Guthrie will be responsible for the $788 million (AUS$1.1 billion) a year in government funding it receives, as well as having ultimate editorial responsibility as editor-in-chief.  A statement from the broadcaster said Guthrie will be paid $645,000 a year.

Local reports have commented on Guthrie’s long career trajectory at various News Corp-owned and -managed entities, having worked at pay TV services Foxtel and BSkyB  before she succeeded James Murdoch as CEO of Star TV in Hong Kong. She also worked with Lachlan Murdoch at Providence Equity Partners on an aborted bid for Murdoch friend, James Packer’s, private company, Consolidated Press.

Despite the apparent closeness to News Corp and its leaders, colleagues have said she would not let her former employer's commercial interests influence her role at the ABC.

"She knows James. She knows Lachlan. She knows Rupert," Fairfax media quotes chief executive of the Knowledge Society, Elena Douglas as saying. "They've been colleagues. She just knows where they are coming from. That's all."

For her part Guthrie sad the national broadcaster should remain independent from both commercial and government interests.

She told the ABC’s 24-hour news channel that "Having the role as being a true independent public broadcaster and being able to really deliver fantastic content across platforms, across digital, mobile, television, radio, to all Australians is extraordinary and my hope is that I can really contribute to the organization."

"The important thing for me around the ABC is that sense of being an independent public broadcaster rather than a state broadcaster, and I think that's an important distinction."