Axing exposes the ABC’s Mean Girls
“Their main issue seems to be that she loved Gogglebox. But
After the Australian Broadcasting Corporation was set ablaze this week by the surprise axing of managing director Michelle Guthrie, the cruel wind of irony blew through the ashes and into the faces of a smug few.
It turns out the woman some high-profile staffers publicly sought to bring down wasn’t the enemy they should’ve feared most.
The mess that unfolded highlighted some serious concerns. Government meddling in the independent public broadcaster was one.
But taking a step back, something more serious came into focus: the Mean Girl dynamics of the ABC — a place where Jon Faine is the Regina George and Michelle Guthrie is the Cady Heron. Or maybe she’s that kooky goth girl Janice. I don’t know, I’ve lost myself with my own analogy. But Jon is definitely Regina.
Earlier this month, former foreign minster Julie Bishop called out the “appalling behaviour” that goes on in Canberra. She said the “bullying, intimidation, harassment” that goes on “would not be tolerated in any other workplace across Australia”.
But it’s going on somewhere far more shocking — right under the watchful eye of the ABC’s Big Ted, who sat by and did nothing.
Guthrie was hated. But why? Mainly because she wanted to digitise the ABC and that meant doing a bunch of computer stuff that old people who have worked there for a million years didn’t know how to do.
The old staffers hated her because they didn’t know what streaming was. And younger staffers hated her because they had to show all the old people how to update iTunes.
In the wake of Monday’s firing, staffers gleefully and anonymously shared all the reasons the former Google executive was unfit for the top job.
Their main issue seems to be that she loved Gogglebox. But who doesn’t?
“She kept telling us all the time her favourite program was Gogglebox, and why couldn’t we have more cheap shows like that?” one former ABC executive producer told The Australian.
The idea honestly isn’t that stupid. If you say you wouldn’t watch Leigh Sales, Annabel Crabb and B2 (pictured with B1) sitting on a couch making bitchy comments about Commando on Survivor then you’re lying.
Staffers wailed that in a meeting for current affairs program Four Corners, Guthrie suggested they produce “more positive profiles on successful business leaders”.
Again, terrific idea. I’d watch anything involving that Boost Juice lady Janine Allis. In fact, put her on the Q&A panel with a bunch of other millionaire entrepreneurs and have politicians come in one-by-one to pitch their new inventions for weird kitchen utensils.
In the hours following Guthrie’s axing, staffers proudly told reporters their former boss was totally incompetent.
“She had gone to Google with a good-looking CV, too, but apparently she was such a disappointment there as well that she had been sidelined on special projects in Singapore with just a handful of direct reports,” someone sneered to The Australian.
So what? Don’t pretend you haven’t lied on a CV. It’s how I became 2IC of a Sunglass Hut and apparently it’s how Guthrie got the top job leading Australia’s independent broadcaster. You do what you have to do in this cutthroat world, and if saying you invented the Google Doodle gets you the job then I applaud your pluck.
It was only in the days that followed that staff began to realise their nemesis may have been their crusader.
A leaked email surfaced, apparently from chairman Justin Milne to Guthrie, demanding she fire political editor Emma Alberici because the government hated her. Guthrie told him to jam it.
Turns out she was on her employees’ side all long.
But Guthrie’s bold move got lost in the drama and staff now had something else to be furious about — government interference.
They took to the streets in protest, armed with signs. The signs weren’t as good as they could’ve been. Made from scraps of computer paper grabbed out of the recycling bin, they featured pretty lacklustre slogans.
“Hands off the ABC,” read the handwritten scrawl on one sign. I’m sure The Chaser boys could’ve come up with something edgier if asked.
They hit the streets and Milne resigned. But as staff stood holding their computer paper signs, one thought lingered in their minds.
Is Gogglebox really that bad?
Where was The Chaser team when ABC staff were designing their protest posters?