TVNZ head of news and current affairs Paul Yurisich resigns after review

Television New Zealand
Television New Zealand ... review recommends that the People and Culture team ... should set out new recruitment guidelines, and ... follow a “fair and robust” manner. Image: RNZ

RNZ News

TVNZ’s head of news and current affairs, Paul Yurisich, has resigned after a review into the hiring of presenter Kamahl Santamaria.

TVNZ released its long-awaited report this afternoon. It came after an inquiry was carried out by senior employment lawyer Margaret Robins.

The former Al Jazeera presenter lasted just 32 days in the job and left under a cloud of accusations of inappropriate behaviour to colleagues.

The review covered TVNZ’s recruitment practices and processes in general, as well as the specific recruitment of Kamahl Santamaria, who had carved out a strong television broadcasting reputation while a news anchor and presenter at Al Jazeera in Qatar between 2005 and 2022.

In addition, TVNZ took the opportunity to have Robins undertake a review of several policies, including those relating to internal workplace complaints and the development of TVNZ’s “Speak Up” policy.

The review found that Santamaria was hired “without meaningful input from key individuals” who usually included senior staff, including the chief executive, the general manager of news and current affairs and the chief people officer.

Robins concluded that Yurisich had not sufficiently consulted with senior executives, although “the fundamental problem was the failure of TVNZ’s recruitment policy to provide a process suitable for the recruitment of unique roles such as a key presenter”.

New policy needed
While TVNZ’s recruitment policy was suitable for the majority of roles, it did not traditionally apply to hiring key presenters, she said.

She said even if Yurisich had consulted more widely it was likely Santamaria would have been hired.

Resigned current affairs anchor Kamahl Santamaria
Resigned current affairs anchor Kamahl Santamaria saga … raised questions about TVNZ’s recruitment processes, managing complaints, and responses to questions of public interest. Image TVNZ Screenshot APR

However, if he had consulted more widely and had secured two additional references, more safeguards could have been put in place and sufficient due diligence may have been provided.

She recommended that the People and Culture team, which carried out recruitment, should set out new recruitment guidelines, and that it should also follow some suggestions from the review author on recruiting in a “fair and robust” manner where the usual guidelines were not being followed, such as for presenters.

Former head of news and current affairs Paul Yurisich … resigned after the TVNZ inquiry. Image: TVNZ

TVNZ chief executive Simon Power said “the review’s findings and its recommendations provide a clear path to ensure TVNZ’s recruitment practices and internal policies are adequately robust and fit for purpose”.

He said TVNZ supported the findings and recommendations of the review.

“There are improvements needed in our recruitment policies and work is already under way to embed these,” he said.

Power said Yurisich had spearheaded the digital transformation of the newsroom which has set TVNZ up strongly for the future. He had also provided strong leadership to the news and current affairs team during the pandemic.

Phil O’Sullivan will continue in the role of acting head of news and current affairs.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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