By Business editor Peter Ryan
The chief executive of Fairfax Media says board members are entitled to debate the editorial direction of the company and make collective decisions about the appointment of editors.
However, Greg Hywood told AM this morning that individual directors or major shareholders did not have a right to tell journalists or editors what they should write.
Listen to the extended interview here.
Mr Hywood's comments on boardroom decisions and editorial independence come as Fairfax Media staff learn the details of the company's restructure which will see 1900 jobs axed, printing presses closed and The Age and Sydney Morning Herald converted to tabloid formats.
The Fairfax boss also confirmed he had "a terrific meeting" with the mining magnate Gina Rinehart who, as the single biggest shareholder, is so far refusing to honour Fairfax's charter of editorial independence.
"I mean she asked very pertinent questions about the company. We gave her a briefing about the company. It was an admirable meeting. It was a good meeting," Mr Hywood said.
However, Mr Hywood said he had no discussion with Mrs Rinehart about her bid for seats on the Fairfax board or a say in the company's editorial direction.
" We didn't discuss any of those issues. I mean, whether or not Mrs Rinehart comes onto the board or not is a board issue and, you know, we'll leave it at that," Mr Hywood said.
But the embattled publishing boss has this message for staff or Australians concerned about Fairfax's future under any new ownership.
"There's been a lot of speculation around editorial independence in relation to Fairfax. That will always stay. That is the core of this company."
At the same time, Mr Hywood defended Mrs Rinehart's right to be a vocal investor in Fairfax Media.
"Oh look, I think she's interested in journalism. She's interested in, you know, the future of Australia. She has her own opinions about that and she's entirely entitled to them. So I don't think there's anything controversial in that at all."
But Mr Hywood clarified the role of boardroom deliberations at Fairfax Media and the hypothetical scenario of how Mrs Rinehart's opinions would be managed if she secured one or more board seats.
"Look she's our major shareholder. As I said, whether or not she joins the board is up to the board. And if you're a board member editorial discussions are always held within board meetings," Mr Hywood said.
"What doesn't happen is it doesn't translate into board members telling journalists what they should or shouldn't write and that's our practice.
"The board is pre-eminent. The board operates collectively. No individual director can determine what the board does or doesn't do.
"And certainly, if someone buys the entire company and has more than 51 per cent of the company that's a different issue."
Mr Hywood refused to speculate on the scenario of Mrs Rinehart joining the board or the outlook for his role as chief executive if the mining magnate makes a full takeover bid.
"That's entirely speculative and hypothetical," Mr Hywood told AM.
Fairfax Media shares were 2.2 percent higher in late morning trade after hitting an intraday low of 53.5 cents yesterday.