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Free TV Chairman resigns

The Chairman of the industry body representing free-to-air television, Free TV Australia, has resigned following claims he was putting the interests of his network before other members.

According to The Australian, Jeffrey Browne, managing director of Channel Nine, tendered his resignation in an email to the Free TV Australia Board on Tuesday 16th April 2013.

This follows reports from The Australian on Monday 15th April 2013 that a group of networks with seats on the Board was planning to oust Browne for perceived bias towards his own channel.

"To assist a fresh start, I now resign the position of 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," said Browne in a copy of the email seen by The Australian.

At the core of the matter is the possibility of a $4 billion merger between Channel Nine and regional television and national radio group Southern Cross Media.

According to The Australian, information was leaked that a successful merger would involve the elimination of "reach" rules that prevent metropolitan and regional networks from merging.

It is believed that Channel Nine has been a vocal supporter of the elimination of the reach rules leading other Free TV Australia Board members to express a loss of confidence in the impartiality of Browne, seeking to replace him with an independent Chairman.

"I accept that anyone (sic) of us occupying the Chair can be open to the soft charge of perceived bias," said Browne. "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."

"I agree that Free TV needs to re-examine itself," said Browne. "Nine will reconsider its participation in the light of what now unfolds."

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