Watch: 'The changes' - Breakfast hosts confront Kamahl Santamaria's abrupt departure

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 30 May 2022, 8:30am

Watch: 'The changes' - Breakfast hosts confront Kamahl Santamaria's abrupt departure

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 30 May 2022, 8:30am

TVNZ's Breakfast team has acknowledged on-air "the changes" the show has undergone, after the abrupt departure of new host Kamahl Santamaria.

Hosts Jenny-May Clarkson, Matty McLean and Indira Stewart put on a united front as the show started at 6am today.

An emotional Clarkson said: "Today, we want you to know how grateful we are for each of you who choose to make us part of your lives - our loyal viewing whānau."

Stewart said: "You continue to join us each day and invite us into your homes - we appreciate your support and we know that it is a privilege to be a part of your morning routine and we will never take that for granted."

McLean said: "You can rest assured that the three of us, the wonderful producers, reporters, studio crew, our team - your team - are committed to bringing you the best; sprinkled with the usual joy, kindness and occasional tear, right, Jenny-May?"

Clarkson went on to say she was proud to work with "beautiful humans".

Meanwhile, there are concerns that the hiring process for a TVNZ Breakfast host who quit after just a month was inadequate.

It is understood that staff at the state broadcaster are unhappy with the relative lack of consultation before Kamahl Santamaria was made Breakfast co-host last month.

TVNZ confirmed on Saturday that Santamaria had resigned, and that he had been on leave for a week "while he dealt with a personal matter".

Stuff reported it understood Santamaria's departure came after at least one female colleague complained about inappropriate behaviour from him.

And Newshub reported that it had confirmed there were complaints made about Santamaria to senior management at his previous workplace, Al Jazeera.

Several internal TVNZ sources said staff were upset they were not consulted about him replacing previous host John Campbell and that he did not undergo a rigorous hiring process.

It is understood TVNZ staff were unaware Santamaria was coming to the broadcaster before Campbell had officially announced he was moving on from the Breakfast role.

One source said they believed TVNZ Head of News and Current Affairs Paul Yurisich had "ruffled feathers" with longstanding staff since arriving at TVNZ in late 2020.

Broadcasting and Media Minister Kris Faafoi said he was made aware of the situation at TVNZ through the "no surprises" principle - in which ministers are kept informed about sensitive matters which may become public.

Faafoi said he had been assured by TVNZ that the situation was being managed appropriately "with the correct support in place for those involved".

No further comment would be given because it was an internal staffing matter, he said.

Santamaria was absent from the Breakfast show for the past week, and TVNZ initially explained on Friday that he was dealing with a "family emergency". A day later, the broadcaster said in a statement that he was dealing with a "personal matter".

A TVNZ spokeswoman declined to answer questions today about Santamaria's appointment, whether there had been any complaints against him, or why his departure was initially described as a "family emergency", saying that TVNZ did not comment publicly on individual employment matters.

Auckland employment lawyer Michael O'Brien said there was generally no strict obligation on companies or entities to consult widely with existing staff when hiring new employees - and privacy and confidentiality issues could also prohibit this.

"However, existing employees often can be a useful source of reconnaissance and background checking," he said.

Santamaria quit the high-profile role just 31 days after his first day on air.

An email went out to TVNZ staff on Saturday at 2.45pm from Yurisich to say he had accepted the resignation.

In a statement, the network told the Herald, "TVNZ has accepted the resignation of Breakfast presenter Kamahl Santamaria. Kamahl has been on leave the last week, while he dealt with a personal matter which required his full attention, and he has now advised that he wishes to take an extended break with his family.

"Kamahl is focused on his family at this time, and we ask that everyone respects their wish for privacy."

On last night's 6pm news bulletin, a TVNZ reporter said Santamaria had told viewers he was going to Wellington to present after the Budget from the capital, but that never happened. Since then, Santamaria had been off air and viewers and staff hadn't been told why.

The reporter pointed out that what was earlier referred to as a family emergency was now being described as a personal matter.

On Friday the Herald reported that the new star had not been seen on Breakfast for nine days. Santamaria was last seen on the show on May 18.

When contacted by the Herald for comment on Friday, TVNZ issued a short statement revealing Santamaria is currently navigating a "family emergency".

They added: "The matter is private to Kamahl and we are respecting he and his family's privacy."

TVNZ is yet to confirm who will fill in for Santamaria on the morning news show.

Santamaria, an Auckland-born journalist, started his career as a sports reporter for Newshub before leaving New Zealand to pursue other ventures.