Television New Zealand’s answer to the collapse of journalism has been a $6o million refurbishment. That and a restructure of the news with fewer journalists. Don’t we deserve better from the state broadcaster and the politicians who control it?
TVNZ will not specify the number of journalist jobs that will be lost from the restructuring of news. My sources suggest that maybe 20 editorial positions will go, representing around 10 percent of its news staff. The Christchurch and Wellington bureaus will be cut back with more processing of video from Auckland.
A few reporters will be moved to smaller provincial centres such as Queenstown and TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick says that new technology will make the news management more efficient and that will make up for the loss of staff. Some people – such as former TVNZ former head of news and current affairs Bill Ralston suggest there will be a loss of quality. Another former TVNZ news executive who would not be named said restructures are inevitable in media, but they seldom lead to the efficiencies they claim. Ralston points out that the first stop for TVNZ cutbacks is the news, while it retains a weighty middle management, As the old TV reporters sign off would put it. “Only time will tell.” But these latest cutbacks aimed at news illustrate the short-sighted thinking of TVNZ and the government.
There is so much happening with journalism and media – the only thought from the government is about trimming cost to keep TVNZ afloat I wonder if the TVNZ news operation should be broken away from its struggling Mothership. There is precious little love for news at TVNZ – even though it is largely kept afloat by it news audience. The main point of TVNZ nowadays is the survival of TVNZ.
TVNZ’s big initiative of late has been to undertake a $60 million upgrade of the network centre, after a $23 million blowout. Kevin Kenrick says it is wrong to link the cost overrun. Problems became apparent during work, he said.
Kenrick insists the restructuring cannot be juxtaposed the blown out cost for the refurbishment.
It was the first in 25 years. Maybe. But in my view the result from the taxpayers investing in the flash new building will be the further diminishing of a once proud newsroom, Once shows like Holmes played an active role in the news eco-system. Nowadays TVNZ news is risk-averse. Of course it rates. And that is what matters for a management team focused on the short term.