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Kate Hawkesby: TVNZ News boss has to go

Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Wed, 1 Jun 2022, 7:11AM
Kamahl Santamaria. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Kamahl Santamaria. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Kate Hawkesby: TVNZ News boss has to go

Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Wed, 1 Jun 2022, 7:11AM

The Santamaria scandal at TVNZ and the information that keeps seeping out over this is increasingly disturbing.

Last night two more women came forward with allegations of inappropriate online conduct. It's also emerged from a woman who worked with him at Al Jazeera that there were lewd emails, kissing attempts, objectification, inappropriate texts and a power imbalance. She was not the only woman there to experience this apparently. But she said she was so ‘mortified and terrified’, that she took to hiding in the work bathroom to avoid him.

That’s how bad it got.

This information was all passed on to Al Jazeera newsroom management, she says, to the executive producer, by way of complaint.

How then, we must all ask ourselves, was fellow Al Jazeera colleague and now Head of News and Current Affairs at TVNZ, Paul Yurisich, able to hire Santamaria and bring his allegedly creepy behaviour here?

It’s a question so glaring even the Government woke up to ask it. Where was the correct protocol around Santamaria’s recruitment and hiring? Where were the checks and balances? Did Yurisich do any checking or engage in any scrutiny around his new hire? Or was it just a job for a mate?

Late yesterday afternoon TVNZ’s CEO also woke up and realised this is serious and needs addressing - he's hired a lawyer and ordered an external review of the recruitment process.

So I think we can read between the lines here - this is TVNZ getting ahead of the inevitable next announcement which will be the ‘resignation’ of Paul Yurisich.

It’s the only right thing to do; Yurisich has to exit stage right.

How does he maintain the confidence of his newsroom, the confidence of the management and the board, how does he stay in that role? It’s irresponsible at best, to bring this kind of allegedly predatory behaviour into a newsroom in New Zealand when Al Jazeera’s EP could have warned him. 

It’s incompetent, at worst, if Yurisich didn’t even bother to ask.

Either way, Yurisich has to go. Red flags are waving all over the place – journalists inside TVNZ’s newsroom who were getting no answers from Yurisich or TVNZ management had to hire an independent lawyer. That in and of itself tells you how bad this is. It’s a powder keg in there we hear.

Internal emails are being leaked, including the ones asking staff not to leak emails, but staff are rightfully upset.

The Breakfast show, which apparently has had a revolving door of hosts anyway, has a reputation to repair, journalists are angry, and that’s before we even get to the poor women who’ve been at the centre of this alleged sleaze.

All this inside a government owned enterprise which is having hundreds of millions spent on it to merge with state radio, to become one giant state entity.

Surely the last thing the Government needs there is a perception that managers are precariously ignoring correct recruitment procedures, thus endangering fellow colleagues.

As for TVNZ, for a communications business, it's been doing a crap job of communicating to not just us the stakeholders, but its very own people.

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