The Australian reports he resigned by email after the newspaper published a report that members of the commercial Free to Air lobby group were planning to oust him. It follows claims that Nine was pushing for the government to drop its ‘reach rule,’ thus allowing networks to merge with affiliates.
“It was very disappointing to read yesterday’s Media section … very damaging for us as an industry,” he wrote.
“To assist a fresh start, I now resign the position as chair. I do so acknowledging this will be construed as a victory for the faceless critics, but I do so in the hope that we never again have to read press like the type we woke up to yesterday (Monday).”
“I accept that anyone (sic) of us occupying the chair can be open to the soft charge of perceived bias,” Mr Browne said.
“None of us could avoid that as we all have our day jobs. However, I can assure everyone that I have not acted to try and advantage one of us over another, save by arguing strongly for the two-for-one multi-channel drama credit, which was very specific to Ten.”
But the lobby group may have inflicted irreparable damage to itself.
Browne said Nine “will consider its ongoing participation in the light of what now unfolds.”
The government has said it will not pursue changes to the reach rule as part of its election platform.
Free TV Australia is expected to pursue an independent chair.