The ABC has today confirmed that Michelle Guthrie, an executive from Google in Singapore will replace Mark Scott as Managing Director of the ABC when he steps down from the role next year. Guthrie will start in May 2016.
The announcement, which was leaked to Fairfax, has surprised many in media circles. Ms Guthrie has zero journalistic experience but has previously worked as a lawyer for Allens in Sydney and Singapore in 1989, She has also worked at a number of media organisations including BSkyB, Foxtel, and Hong Kong-based pay TV broadcaster, Star.
The Chairman of the ABC, James Spigelman, today announced Ms Guthrie’s appointment, saying she is ideally credentialed to lead the national broadcaster in the digital era.
“The ABC Board made this appointment following a thorough local and international search that produced an outstanding field of candidates. Michelle is an exceptional media professional with strong content, operational and board experience within internationally-respected media companies.
“Michelle brings a unique local and global view to the role, having grown up in Sydney and worked at senior levels here and around the world. She brings to the ABC her business acumen, record in content-making across an array of platforms, a deep understanding of audience needs and corporate responsibility for promoting issues like diversity.
“We have no doubt she is the right person to succeed Mark Scott next year and to lead the Corporation in its broadcasting and digital work as both are defined by the ABC Charter.”
It is has been reported that Ms Guthrie will receive a salary of approx $900,000 per year for the new role, that’s an increase on the $823,000 Mr Scott earned, but its considerably lower than what Ms Guthrie is currently receiving from Google.
Ms Guthrie said it was an honour to be chosen by the ABC Board to serve as the next managing director.
“Having grown up with the ABC and having been a professional observer of it over the last three decades, I have profound respect for the important role the national broadcaster plays throughout Australia and internationally,” Ms Guthrie said.
“I would also like to acknowledge the leadership provided by Mark Scott during his tenure as managing director. It is fortunate that I will be able to work closely with him during the handover next year.”
The appointment has attracted some criticism with Labor Senator Sam Dastyari telling The Australian:
“I hate to think that somebody who may be responsible for minimising taxes in Australia is going to be rewarded with one of the most plum jobs in Australian broadcasting. The actions of Google, particularly through its Singapore operation, are one of the most prominent examples of tax minimisation in the world.”
Ms Guthrie will officially join the ABC in early April for a month-long handover with Mr Scott. Within the guidelines set by the Remuneration Tribunal, Ms Guthrie will receive a salary package of $900,000pa. As Managing Director, Ms Guthrie will retain ultimate responsibility for all editorial content, as specified in the ABC Act.
Ms Guthrie has been based in Singapore in the past few years in a senior executive role with Google.
She began her career as a media lawyer in Sydney and has worked with a range of media companies in Australia and abroad, including Foxtel, BSkyB and the Asian-based STAR television network. In 2007, she was appointed Managing Director for Providence Equity, a global investment firm focused on media, entertainment, communications and technology.
She joined Google in 2011 and is currently the firm’s managing director for Agencies in the Asia-Pacific. Ms Guthrie has played a key role in the development of broadcasting channels and content strategies across a range of platforms, including STAR’s 24-hour news channel in India with its complex stakeholder base and huge audience.
Ms Guthrie has held a number of non-executive positions in commercial and not-for-profit organisations. She was instrumental in setting up the Hong Kong office of Plan International to drive global donations for children’s development projects and programs in mainland China and other Asian nations.