After meeting without Milne, the ABC board this morning asked its chairman to step aside following a controversial few days.
His resignation marks a significant change in direction since a phone conference on Wednesday afternoon between some board members ended with "support" for Milne's position and affirmation of the board's decision to sack former managing director Michelle Guthrie on Monday. Asked Thursday in an interview with ABC if his resignation was an acknowledgement of a failure to protect the network's independence, Milne responded: "Absolutely 100 percent not".
"Nobody from the government has ever rung me and told me what to do in relation to the ABC".
News Corp., citing ABC board documents, reported Milne told Guthrie in a June 15 telephone conversation that Turnbull "hates" Probyn and: "You have to shoot him".
This chaotic week has exposed the increasingly politicised climate in which the ABC now operates and the inconsistencies in the government's narrative about the independence of the national broadcaster.
Guthrie, who says she is considering her legal options, was seen by staffers who spoke to Asia Times as a weak and ineffective leader and a poor advocate for the organization in Canberra, even though this week's revelations show that she did push back against the political interference of her chairman. The ABC is many Australians' most trusted news source.
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'They have dumbed down ABC's news and current affairs and gone for this lifestyle platform, ' he said.
"The ABC is, and always has been, a fiercely independent news organization and it is of no concern to our program makers or journalists whether they are hated by any government", the motion passed by ABC Melbourne said. According to the act, the board's duties include ensuring the functions of the ABC are performed efficiently, maintaining the integrity of the organisation, and ensuring news reporting is accurate and impartial.
The communications minister's comments came after a similar denial from former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. "We need to save the ABC not Emma", he added.
From New York, Turnbull denied that he sought to fire specific journalists, saying that he had only ever anxious about poor reporting standards rather than bias.
Mr Turnbull personally complained about Probyn to Ms Guthrie at a gathering prior to last year's AFL Grand Final, as Fairfax Media has reported.
The Greens and Labor are seeking a Senate inquiry into allegations of political pressure on the ABC, saying the internal departmental probe could not be relied upon to uncover the full story.
Milne and Turnbull, who was ousted amid inter-party wrangling in August, are described by Australian media as "long-term [friends]".
"The ABC is not the propaganda arm of the Liberal party of Australia".