Hirschfeld to resign immediately after Curran meeting saga

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 27 Mar 2018, 10:41AM

Hirschfeld to resign immediately after Curran meeting saga

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 27 Mar 2018, 10:41AM

Carol Hirschfeld is leaving Radio NZ, effective immediately, after the saga over her meeting with Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran.

Hirschfeld, RNZ's Head of News, had earlier repeatedly assured RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson a meeting with Curran on December 5 last year was coincidental, after she and the minister had bumped into each other in a Wellington cafe.

Labour campaigned on a policy to create RNZ Plus, with an independent broadcasting commission expected to allocate millions of dollars, and the meeting came under criticism from National because it wasn't in the minister's diary.

MORE: RNZ boss says Hirschfeld stuck to meeting claim for four months

The saga became public after National MP Melissa Lee asked questions about the meeting at a select committee this month.

Lee, National's broadcasting spokeswoman, said Curran's relationship with public broadcaster Radio New Zealand had to be transparent.

Lee asked Radio NZ chief executive Paul Thompson about it at a select committee and Thompson said it had been a chance encounter between the pair.

"Carol had been to the gym, she was getting a coffee, they bumped into each other, in a cafe and had a conversation so it was hardly a secret meeting," Thompson told the select committee. "I don't have any concern," he said at the time.

But on Sunday, Hirschfeld told Thompson the meeting had been arranged.

"I am very disappointed about what happened and it is important that I put the record straight about the circumstances of the meeting," Thompson said.

Radio NZ board chairman Richard Griffin also told the select committee the meeting was not scheduled. "It was a meeting of minds in the sense that the minister walked into a cafe, saw the head of news sitting there and sat down and talked to her."

RNZ head of news and digital Glen Scanlon would take over Hirschfield's role while RNZ assessed options for her replacement.

The meeting had already drawn criticism from National, which claimed Curran had tried to hide the meeting as it was not included in her diary.

National Party leader Simon Bridges said it was an unprecedented situation. "I can only say at this stage it seems very serious and I want to get to the bottom of exactly what happened. We need to understand why exactly Carol Hirschfeld resigned."

Hirschfeld resigned from Maori TV after a proposed restructure at the broadcaster in 2014, to become head of content, responsible for news, drama, music, spoken features and Radio New Zealand International.

- More to come