Newsroom changes will lead to 'net loss' of staff says TVNZ boss

TVNZ boss Kevin Kenrick will be watching the Fairfax/NZME merger ruling to see what might be allowed in the television ...
TODD EYRE/FAIRFAX NZ

TVNZ boss Kevin Kenrick will be watching the Fairfax/NZME merger ruling to see what might be allowed in the television industry.

Television New Zealand plans to reduce the number of news editors and producers it employs and encourage some of its reporters to move to the provinces to cut costs.

Chief executive Kevin Kenrick questioned whether there would be space for more than one free-to-air TV broadcaster, appearing to raise the possibility of collaboration or even a merger with TV3-owner MediaWorks down the track.

About 230 of TVNZ's 670 staff work in news and current affairs.

Kenrick said the proposed newsroom restructure, outlined to staff on Thursday afternoon, would result in job losses overall.

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A source said 20 jobs were expected to go, but Kenrick said it was premature to give numbers.

TVNZ briefed staff on its newsroom restructure on Thursday.
JASON DORDAY/FAIRFAX NZ

TVNZ briefed staff on its newsroom restructure on Thursday.

"We are probably another two or three weeks away from really firming up what that looks like."

TVNZ presenters would not be affected by this particular stage of the company's restructuring, he said.

It is part of a wider redesign of the business that Kenrick has said is needed to "fundamentally lower" TVNZ's costs to reflect the declining advertising market.

The restructure would involve "a centralisation on one side and a decentralisation on the other", making the processing of news more efficient while increasing TVNZ's news-gathering reach, he said.

The "technical side" of TVNZ's news operation would be centralised in Auckland to remove duplication.

But some reporters currently based in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin could be offered positions in places such as Queenstown, the Bay of Plenty, Northland and Hawke's Bay.

TVNZ could then look externally to see if it needed to fill any vacant gaps, he said.

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"What we are looking at is how much time we spend travelling to these other locations to capture stories.

"We think we could probably double the number of locations that we gather stories directly from."

Modern technology meant reporters in the provinces wouldn't necessarily need offices to work from, he said.

Kenrick said it was a coincidence details of TVNZ's restructure were starting to emerge shortly after the Commerce Commission rejected the proposed merger of Sky TV and Vodafone NZ.

The competition watchdog is due to rule next month on whether publishers Fairfax New Zealand and NZME should be allowed to merge their businesses.

The publishers say a merger is necessary to help them counter competition from overseas internet giants, which Kenrick said was also the major challenge facing TVNZ.

Asked to comment on whether he could envisage a merger with similar goals between TVNZ and MediaWorks, Kenrick said his personal belief was that local media companies would need to work together "in some shape or form".

That was to have sufficient scale to "compete effectively with the global players".

"Whether that is 'commercial deals, mergers or takeovers' is probably less critical than the fact there is going to need to be a level of partnering and working together," he said.

"The really interesting thing for us and everyone else to work out is what the position of the Commerce Commission is, to understand what potential opportunities are in-scope."

Questions about the ownership of TVNZ rested with the Government, he said.

"The free-to-air pie will gradually shrink over time, and I think you do get to the point where you have got to question whether the pie is big enough to sustain multiple players."

That would play-out over the next few years, he said.

 - Stuff

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