ABC drama series Pine Gap ‘sold off’ in dud digital deal with Netflix.
ABC drama series Pine Gap ‘sold off’ in dud digital deal with Netflix.

Guthrie’s replacement: I want the top job

ABC'S acting managing director David Anderson says he wants to stay in the job permanently following the shock sacking of Michelle Guthrie.

Giving his first interview since the drama unfolded yesterday, Anderson said Guthrie's leadership was "dynamic" and she was someone who "challenged us in many ways to be better, challenged us to free up more money for content".

"Her leadership style was there for everyone to see and there'll always be different opinions about people and how they lead," he told ABC News Morning Breakfast.

Mr Anderson said Guthrie "did some good things as managing director" noting the ABC's Leadership In Audiences strategy, freeing up funds for content and a team reorganisation.

Pressed on whether he wanted Guthrie out he simply said "No", adding "Look, I can't speak on behalf of the rest of the leadership team."

He also said the board didn't need to give a more detailed explanation for the dismissal.

"I don't think the board deliberations ever come out in public and I really think it's a decision for the board."

David Anderson wants to stay in the job of Managing Director permanently.
David Anderson wants to stay in the job of Managing Director permanently.

He also refused to comment directly on Ms Guthrie's relationship with the Federal Government, with a new managing director needed in the lead-up to an election.

"I wasn't necessarily with her for a lot of that interaction. Look, I think that it's always important for the ABC to be engaged with the government.

"I think no matter who is governing at the time and no matter who is in opposition, I think all sides of politics need to be able to engage with the ABC, to be able to form valued feedback. It's important to explain who we are doing and why for positive reasons," he said.

A replacement for Ms Guthrie is expected by Christmas, with Mr Anderson saying he was "certainly" interested.

"I've set my life at the ABC, I love the ABC and public broadcasting and its purpose and what we deliver to the Australian people," he said.

Anderson, who has been with the ABC for 29 years, described his leadership style as "inclusive".

"I think it's important that people know that the ABC is in good shape," he said.


Former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie. Picture: AAP
Former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie. Picture: AAP


The latest developments come as News Corp Australia exclusively revealed ABC viewers will lose online access to taxpayer funded Australian drama productions, in a dud digital rights deal with US streaming giant, Netflix, negotiated under Guthrie and Anderson.

Pine Gap, previously celebrated as the first co-production between the ABC and Netflix, and set to premiere next month, will only be available for free on the public broadcaster's main channel and digital platform, iview for just 12 months before exclusive broadcast rights are to pass permanently to the subscriber-only streaming service.

ABC's zombie hit, Glitch, which last week began production of its third season in another co-funding arrangement with Netflix, as well as rights to comedy series, The Letdown, are believed to have been negotiated under the same terms.

It means public investment in producing the series is then lost to the international streaming platform, which leverages revenue by charging viewers for access.

It is understood the ABC would not receive any share in subscription revenue from Netflix, which is not bound by the same local content obligations as commercial networks and established subscription player, Foxtel.


The cast of ABC series, Pine Gap.
The cast of ABC series, Pine Gap.


At the time Pine Gap began filming - with financial assistance from state filming bodies in South Australia and the Northern Territory - ABC's then director of television, now acting MD, David Anderson argued the Netflix partnership "enables a high-end Australian drama to be produced for all Australians, and for locally produced content to be delivered to an international audience."

Charging for digital services was ruled off limits for the public broadcaster by Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield, when he announced an efficiency review of the ABC and SBS as part of the May budget.

At the time, Minister Fifield said: "in the fast-evolving world of media organisations, it is important to support our public broadcasters to be the best possible stewards of taxpayer dollars in undertaking their important work for the community."

Former Australian Communications and Media Authority chairman Richard Bean and ex-Foxtel boss Peter Tonagh were appointed to lead the review and are believed to be four weeks into their investigations, with a report expected to be delivered to government later this year.

ABC management has been contacted for comment.