ABC News boss Gaven Morris has shocked staff by announcing he is quitting the national broadcaster to seek a new challenge – but insiders say there’s far more to it.
Mr Morris, 49, took the Director of News post in 2015, five years after the launch of the ABC News channel, but has overseen one of the most turbulent eras in the broadcaster’s history.
In an email to staff confirming his exit, he admitted: ‘It’s without doubt a challenging job, but also fulfilling and worthwhile.
‘I’ve given it my all.’
ABC veterans say Mr Morris’ last line hints at a much bigger story, where he has had to balance political pressure from above and below in the face of intense scrutiny.
They suspect he is simply exhausted after enduring a non-stop – and accelerating – series of controversies and crises that have finally taken their toll.
ABC News boss Gaven Morris (pictured) has shocked staff by announcing he’s quitting the national broadcaster to seek a new challenge – but insiders say there’s far more to it
‘I reckon he deserves a medal for lasting six years,’ one insider told. ‘It’s a nightmare. He’s done a good job, considering.
‘It’s one of the toughest editorial jobs in the world, what with the conflicting agendas of some staff and political stakeholders.’
Another added: ‘He’s well and truly over it.’
During his six-year reign, he’s had the added complexity of editorial staff on social media which has brought a new level of criticism, legal issues and political rows.
At times, parts of the taxpayer-funder broadcaster has appeared at war with the Coalition government, attracting increased political pressure on its content.
Lateline host Emma Alberici (pictured) was forced out of the ABC after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull criticised a 2018 article she wrote on company tax and the economy
Lateline host Emma Alberici was forced out of the ABC after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull criticised a 2018 article she wrote on company tax and the economy.
It was alleged to be riddled with errors and was at one stage taken down from the ABC website for ‘not meeting editorial standards’ before later being reinstated.
Ms Alberici became embroiled in a two-year pay off saga with the ABC in the wake of the saga.
In a leaked letter to the ABC managing director, her lawyer alleged Mr Morris told Ms Alberici that ‘she was the cause of the Prime Minister ringing him with complaints’.
The day after she finally left the ABC in 2020, Ms Alberici tweeted: ‘Despite the enormous toll his actions have taken on my mental health, Gaven Morris wanted to call it a termination payout.
‘No doubt so he could tell the world I was fired for incompetence or some such.’
Emma Alberici arrives at the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation in 2014
Four Corners episode ‘Inside The Canberra Bubble’ which probed the private lives of some Coalition MPs deepened the rift with the government and raised the stakes in terms of scrutiny.
It ultimately led to the legal row with former Attorney General Christian Porter, which cost the ABC $780,000 in legal fees and mediation costs over an article by investigative reporter Louise Milligan.
The result of the settlement also sparked a social media storm over tweets made by executive producer Sally Neighbour which led to an internal investigation.
Ms Milligan was soon embroiled in another legal row over tweets she made about Andrew Laming MP which cost the ABC another $130,000.
The legal row with former Attorney General Christian Porter cost the ABC $780,000 in legal fees and mediation costs over an article by investigative reporter Louise Milligan (pictured)
Meanwhile a key decision by Mr Morris to move flagship political debate show Q+A from its Monday night slot to Thursday has horribly backfired with a massive ratings slump.
The discontent between management and the editorial staff heightened in June when a Four Corners investigation into alleged links between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and a QAnon supporter was delayed.
Mr Morris also signed off on the controversial investigation into the 1979 Luna Park Ghost Train fire tragedy which was widely lauded, until the final episode embroiled former NSW premier Neville Wran into an unlikely conspiracy.
And last month an ABC miniseries into the 1975 disappearance of Sydney heiress Juanita Neilsen was also pulled from air after the first episode following doubts raised about claims made by the program.
In the wake of a damning external review into the Luna Park series, Mr Morris had had enough and just weeks later has announced his exit.
In the email to staff on Thursday, he added: ‘I have decided not to pursue a new contract when my current one ends…I am keen to seek my next challenge.’
But he insisted: ‘Through the work of all of you, I believe we’ve made more progress here in the past five years than was made in the 50 years before.’
In the wake of a damning external review into the Luna Park series, Gaven Morris (pictured) had had enough and just weeks later has announced his exit
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