TVNZ to cut up to 68 jobs in restructure – ‘dire for democracy’

Television New Zealand
Television New Zealand . . . axing of media jobs "devastating not just for our business, it's devastating for what it means for our wider society." Image: TVNZ screenshot APR

RNZ News

Television New Zealand will start talks from tomorrow with staff who will lose their jobs in the state broadcaster’s bid to stay “sustainable”.

It is proposed that up to 68 jobs will be cut which equates to 9 percent of its staff.

TVNZ chief executive Jodi O’Donnell told staff today that “tough economic conditions and structural challenges within the media sector” have hit the company’s revenue.

She said “difficult choices need to be made” to ensure the broadcaster remained “sustainable”.

Changes like those proposed today were incredibly hard, but TVNZ needed to ensure it was in a stronger position to transform the business to meet the needs of viewers in a digital world.

RNZ understands a hui for all TVNZ news and current affairs staff will be held at 1pm tomorrow. This follows separate morning meetings for Re: News, Fair Go, and Sunday.

A TVNZ staffer told RNZ it was not yet clear what the meetings meant for those programmes — whether they were to be fully cut or face significant redundancies.

RNZ also understands 1News Tonight might also be affected.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said of the job cuts: “It’s incredibly unsettling”.

He said he felt for the staff there and acknowledged some would be at his media standup in Wellington.

Luxon said all media companies here and around the world were wrestling with a changing media environment.

Minister Shane Jones interrupted and said “a vibrant economy will be good for the media, bye bye”.

Former prime minister Helen Clark said on X it was becoming increasingly hard for free to air public broadcasters to survive commercially.

She asked if it was time to accept that, as with the BBC and ABC, public broadcasting should be publicly funded.

‘Dire implications for our democracy’
Sunday presenter Miriama Kamo said the news of jobs possibly being axed was “awful”.

“It’s devastating not just for our business, it’s devastating for what it means for our wider society.”

She said along with the likely demise of Newshub it had “dire implications for our democracy”.

When cuts were being made in news programmes at the state broadcaster that indicated how dire things had become.

“I’m very very concerned about what the landscape looks like going forward.”

A TVNZ news staffer who spoke to RNZ on the condition of anonymity said the most disappointing part of the process was finding out there would be job cuts via other media, such as RNZ and The New Zealand Herald.

“Our bosses didn’t have the decency to be transparent about what was going on. You know, they say that they’ve been forthcoming over the past month over what’s going to happen in this company and whatnot — they haven’t.

‘What sort of vision?’
“So it’ll be an interesting day tomorrow to see how widely the team’s affected, and to see what sort of vision they have for TVNZ, because in the time that I’ve been working there they keep talking about this digital transformation, and I haven’t seen any transformation yet.”

The mood among current staff this morning was “pretty pissy”, particularly from those affected.

“Obviously, not impressed,” the person said.

Media commentator Duncan Greive said some TVNZ staff were hopeful an argument could be made against the job losses.

Greive, who also founded The Spinoff, told RNZ’s Midday Report TVNZ staff working on Fair Go, Sunday and Re: News were invited to meetings today, and told to bring support people.

He said staff have told him the news was devastating, but said they didn’t yet know how deep and widespread the cuts would be — leaving them hopeful their teams would not be as impacted on as they feared.

Meanwhile, an organisation supporting news media staff said the hundreds of people facing redunancy would struggle to find new work in the industry.

Deeply unsettling
Media chaplaincy general manager Elesha Gordon said it was deeply unsettling for those whose livelihoods were on the line.

She said 368 people (from Newshub and TVNZ) with very specialised skillsets would be stepping out into an industry that would not have jobs for them.

Gordon said the proposed cuts were a “cruel and unfair symptom” of the industry’s financial state.

Last week, TVNZ flagged further cost cutting as it posted a first half-year loss linked to reduced revenue and asset write-offs.

The state-owned broadcaster’s interim financial results showed total revenue had fallen 13.5 percent from last year to $155.9 million.

Its net loss for the six months ended December was $16.8m compared to a profit of $4.8m the year before.

O’Donnell said the broadcaster’s management had tried to cut operating costs over the last year but there was now no option other than to look at job losses.

‘No easy answers’
“There are no easy answers, and media organisations locally and globally are grappling with the same issues. Our priority is to support our people through the change process — we’ll take the next few weeks to collect, consider and respond to feedback from TVNZers before making any final decisions.”

A confirmed structure is expected to be finalised by early April.

TVNZ staff in Auckland
TVNZ staff arrive to hear the news from their bosses. Image: RNZ/Marika Khabazi

The layoffs at TVNZ have come one week after the shock announcement by the US corporation Warner Bros Discovery that it intended closing its Newshub operation in New Zealand by the end of June.

It means up to 300 people will lose their jobs.

Broadcasting Minister Melissa Lee told RNZ Checkpoint yesterday she had spoken to TVNZ bosses last week but it was not up to her to reveal details of the conversation.

She declined to comment on Newshub’s offer to TVNZ to team up in some ways to cut costs, nor suggestions TVNZ could cut its 6pm news to half-an-hour or cancel current affairs programming.

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

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