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Australia to launch inquiry into embattled public broadcaster

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia will hold an inquiry into the crisis-ridden public broadcaster ABC following allegations its chairman succumbed to political pressure by calling for the removal of a senior journalist.

The revelations prompted labour unions, staff members and politicians to demand chairman Justin Milne’s resignation, only days after ABC fired its managing director, Michelle Guthrie – a decision Milne has publicly backed.

Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield said in an emailed statement he had asked the secretary of the department of communications and arts to undertake an inquiry to “establish the facts” around the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“It is important for community to have confidence in the independence of the ABC,” he said.

The ABC is funded by the government but is an independent body.

Fairfax Media’s Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday cited a May 8 email in which Milne urged Guthrie to sack one of ABC’s senior correspondents over her coverage of the government’s corporate tax policy.

“They hate her,” Milne allegedly wrote in the email. “We are tarred with her brush. I think it’s simple.”

Milne did not comment on the accuracy of the Fairfax report in a statement, saying instead he “did not propose to provide a running commentary on day-to-day issues”.

An ABC spokeswoman did not comment on the issue, directing all inquiries to the board spokesman, Andrew Maiden, who was not immediately reachable.

(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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