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‘Last of its kind’ - TVNZ staff ‘deeply concerned’ as flagship shows face axe

Raphael Franks,
Publish Date
Fri, 8 Mar 2024, 8:28am

‘Last of its kind’ - TVNZ staff ‘deeply concerned’ as flagship shows face axe

Raphael Franks,
Publish Date
Fri, 8 Mar 2024, 8:28am

TVNZ has confirmed four of its flagship shows face the axe in a major restructuring to save costs, with Sunday staff saying they are “devastated” to learn their roles are being disestablished and “deeply concerned” at the sustained degradation of the fourth estate.

“It’s been a difficult day for TVNZers with some incredibly tough conversations for many around the business, including the newsroom,” chief executive Jodi O’Donnell said.

Anxious staff were called into meetings throughout the morning to learn their fate before being summoned to an all-staff meeting at 1pm.

In a statement, O’Donnell said TVNZ had taken employees through proposed structural changes today which could result in a net reduction of up to 68 roles across all business areas (9 per cent of full time employee positions).

She confirmed four of the state broadcaster’s flagship shows were likely to be cut.



MiddayTonightFair Go and Sunday are programmes with a long and celebrated legacy at Te Reo Tātaki. The proposals we have presented in no way relate to the immense contribution of the teams that work on these shows and the significant journalistic value they’ve provided over many years. 

“Unfortunately, we need to reduce our costs to ensure the business remains sustainable. These aren’t decisions we make lightly, and significant analysis has gone into the proposals. 

“We remain committed to delivering the most trusted and watched News and Current Affairs for New Zealand audiences, and what that looks like will change as we shift to a digital-first model. Our priority is our people and supporting them through this process.” 

1 News reporter Kim Baker Wilson enters the TVNZ building ahead of an all-staff meeting today. Photo / Jason Oxenham1 News reporter Kim Baker Wilson enters the TVNZ building ahead of an all-staff meeting today. Photo / Jason Oxenham 

Fair Go staff are in the biggest battle of the show’s 47-year life - TVNZ says it will be cutting it but workers have vowed to try to keep it rolling. 

“The Fair Go team were devastated to learn today of the plan to axe the show,” staff said in a social message, accompanied by a photo of host Pippa Wetzell and the reporting team. 

“For 47 years we’ve been battling for New Zealanders, and we are not ready for that to end. Our next challenge is working out how to keep going for you.” 

TVNZ staff have been in tears today as they hear plans to axe SundayFair Go and two of the state broadcaster’s daily news bulletins - part of a massive cost-cutting plan in its news and current affairs division. 

There are reports the Midday and Tonight weekday bulletins are being dumped as part of the widespread cuts, as TVNZ battles a big drop in traditional TV advertising revenue and audiences’ fast-moving shift to digital platforms. 

Up to 68 jobs, including about 35 in news and current affairs, are being axed. 

Following the conclusion of a meeting with Sunday staff on Friday morning, TVNZ confirmed “a proposal has been presented which could result in the cancellation of Sunday”. 

And at 12.30pm, the spokeswoman said: “I can confirm that a proposal has been presented to the team which could result in the cancellation of Fair Go.” 

Fair Go is one of New Zealand TV’s longest-running series - the consumer series began in 1977, devised and hosted by Brian Edwards. Over 47 years, its line-up of hosts is a who’s who of famous broadcasters including Edwards, Philip Alpers, Kerre Woodham, Carol Hirschfeld, Gordon Harcourt, and longest serving host, Kevin Milne. 

Fair Go was hosted by Pippa Wetzell and, until recently, Hadyn Jones. Photo / suppliedFair Go was hosted by Pippa Wetzell and, until recently, Hadyn Jones. Photo / supplied 

It is understood about 20 jobs will go when Sunday finishes on May 12. More than half a dozen roles at Fair Go will also go. 

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark said the cuts were “disgraceful”. 

“Disgraceful that the premier #NZ Sunday night current affairs show is being canned by TVNZ along with the long-running Fair Go consumer affairs programme,” Clark tweeted. “Is this like serving up the Washington Monument for sacrifice hoping for rescue? How about management costs? Large building?” 

A TVNZ spokeswoman said Clark was entitled to her opinion. “TVNZ’s cost base is higher than our revenue... We’ve exhausted all opportunities to reduce costs without impacting what we deliver for viewers. We have already reduced TVNZ’s Executive team by a third and general management by a similar proportion. We’ve reduced our entertainment content and marketing budgets and removed discretionary spend.” 


TVNZ workers have been summoned to an all-staff meeting at 1pm today to hear the entire news and current affairs plan. 

Before that, meetings are under way with individual staff who are affected. These meetings started with the Sunday team at 9am. 

Staff at the state broadcaster were in tears as meetings started this morning, sources said. 

One senior TVNZ journalist told the Herald that newsroom staff were eyeing the salary of chief executive Jodi O’Donnell: “That’s 10 executive producer salaries right there.” 

O’Donnell has only just started in the role and her salary has not been released publicly; previous CEO Simon Power earned $1m in the year he was at the helm. 

Ahead of today’s meeting, Sunday presenter Miriama Kamo told RNZ on Thursday that planned cuts were “devastating”. She did not know Sunday’s fate at that stage. 

“It’s devastating not just for our business, it’s devastating for...what it means for our wider society. Of course we saw Newshub go and that has really, I believe, dire implications for our democracy. 

“When we start cutting into news programmes at our state broadcaster then that really speaks to how dire things are and I am very, very concerned about what the landscape looks like going forward.” 

TVNZ staff members outside the building told the Herald on Friday they were “not allowed” to talk about what was happening. 


Carol Hirschfeld speaks to media as she leaves the TVNZ building. Photo / Jason OxenhamCarol Hirschfeld speaks to media as she leaves the TVNZ building. Photo / Jason Oxenham 

Today is D-Day for hundreds of state broadcaster staff who are set to find out if they still have jobs. 

It comes after politicians commented on yesterday’s announcement that almost 70 jobs would go at the company, some criticising journalists and others offering their thoughts on the future of broadcast television as fewer people tune in every night to terrestrial television. 

Broadcasting Minister Melissa Lee told RNZ the media sector is in a lot of pain and she has signalled help could be on the way. 

Lee said she has started work on a Cabinet Paper focused on modernising the media sector and it could help struggling organisations. 

It’s not clear when that paper will go to Cabinet or what it may recommend. 

TVNZ yesterday confirmed up to 68 roles would be cut across the company. The Herald understands 35 of those would be in its news and current affairs division. 

TVNZ’s chief executive Jodi O’Donnell said tough economic conditions and structural changes were impacting the company’s revenue, prompting difficult choices “to ensure TVNZ remains sustainable”. 

Despite trying to lower operating costs in the past year, “we’re now at the point where we need to reduce the size of our team to bring our costs more in line,” O’Donnell said. 

“Changes like the ones we’re proposing are incredibly hard, but we need to ensure we’re in a stronger position to transform the business to meet the needs of our viewers in a digital world,” she said. 

In an email to staff yesterday, she said today would be “confronting” as the company started putting forward proposals for job cuts. 

“I know this is not the news any of us want to hear, and it’s certainly not a message I want to deliver, but I want to be upfront with you and ensure that you hear it from me,” she said. 

Media and Communications Minister Melissa Lee being questioned by media over TVNZ's job cuts. Photo / Mark MitchellMedia and Communications Minister Melissa Lee being questioned by media over TVNZ's job cuts. Photo / Mark Mitchell 

O’Donnell would not be drawn on which programmes would be impacted by any job losses, but the Herald understands Fair GoSundayRe: News and Tonight could be affected. It remained unclear whether One News at 6pm would be hit. 

Staff were to be consulted on job cuts and changes in meetings today. 

‘Really sad day’ 

Former TVNZ presenter Mark Sainsbury told Morning Report the broadcaster has a history of job losses, travel bans and hiring freezes. 

“I couldn’t count how many restructures they’ve been through. This time though we know the landscape, we’ve seen what’s happened at Newshub, this is serious it not just something we’re going to see a few minor cuts and then everything gradually creeps back in again.” 

Incredibly talent journalists and production people would likely lose their jobs today, he said. 

“TVNZ has had a magnificent, somewhat chequered, but a magnificent history over the years, especially in news and current affairs... there was always amongst the people that worked there a really strong belief in the ethics around news and the responsibility of what we’re doing. 

“Now some people like David Seymour may have some disagreement with that, but it has been I think, there’s been some incredible people and some incredible product that has come out.” 

Sainsbury said TVNZ was in the same situation as Newshub, saying it simply could not afford to carry on. 

“It’s a really sad day this morning.” 

TVNZ restructuring announcement alarms union 

Media workers’ union E tū was alarmed by the announcement and voiced concerns there would not be an adequate process for working through the proposed cuts. 

A malaise reportedly spread throughout TVNZ’s office following the news, one source telling the Herald no one was happy. 

“Imagine coming to work to hear that 70 of you are gonna [sic] be jobless. Not a lot [is happening] at the moment but no one seems to be doing work. They’re all over it,” the source said. 

One union member told E tū staff were feeling pressure around not knowing whether they would be keeping their jobs. 

E tū negotiation specialist and former government minister Michael Wood raised concerns about how long staff would have to give feedback on the proposed job losses. 

“Giving workers just a few working days to understand and give feedback on this proposal would be simply ridiculous,” he said. 

“E tū ... need to [work with TVNZ through the change process], and it starts with the company engaging, not dictating.” 

TVNZ CEO Jodi O’Donnell. Photo / Dean PurcellTVNZ CEO Jodi O’Donnell. Photo / Dean Purcell 

Speaking on Radio New Zealand (RNZ), Wood said hundreds of thousands of people still relied on getting their news from TVNZ, but he said audience’s viewing habits had changed. 

Sunday presenter Miriama Kamo told RNZ the news was “devastating” and raised concerns about what impact the potential loss of news programmes would have on society, especially given the imminent closure of TVNZ’s sole competitor, Newshub. 

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters called the cuts a “disaster” for staff and their families and also raised his concerns about the stability of an “independent, trusted voice” from the media. 

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, too, said it would be “incredibly unsettling” for staff, with whom he said he empathised. 

David Seymour. Photo / RNZ, Samuel RillstoneDavid Seymour. Photo / RNZ, Samuel Rillstone 

Luxon, however, dodged questions about his coalition partner David Seymour’s comments after TVNZ’s announcement. 

Seymour criticised a specific 1News reporter and implied it was hypocritical for the media to ask the Government for help while at the same time criticising politicians. 

He was speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking when he said, “I saw a report on 1News, [reporter] Benedict Collins grinning down the camera about Chris Luxon’s apartment costs. 

“These are the people that cry, ‘Oh you’ve got to give us sympathy, and you’re inhumane and you should be kinder to us’,” Seymour said. 

TVNZ hit back after his comments, asking Seymour to “respect the independence” of media and defending Collins for “doing his job”. 

Criticisms of Seymour were based on rules in the Television New Zealand Act preventing ministers with a shareholding in the company from directing TVNZ with respect to its presentation of news. 

Seymour is one of two shareholding ministers of TVNZ, as Associate Minister for Finance. 

Media and Communications Minister Melissa Lee said she spoke with TVNZ executives the night before the announcement but did not have any details about what was to be said. 

Lee said TVNZ executives also spoke to her about the announcement last week, but she still did not receive any details about any possible restructure. 

She said TVNZ hadn’t asked her for financial support. 

She said it would be “a real shame” if some programmes ended up being cut, “but it’s not something I can control, nor can I instruct TVNZ to keep or not. It is an operational matter for TVNZ and that will come after consultation with staff.” 

Speaking on Seymour’s criticisms, Lee said he was responsible for answering to his own comments but she would speak with him about the issue. 

Raphael Franks is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He joined the Herald as a Te Rito cadet in 2022. 

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