8 Jul 2020

MediaWorks boss stepping down

From Mediawatch, 10:18 am on 8 July 2020

The chief executive of MediaWorks, Michael Anderson, has resigned and will leave the broadcasting company at the end of the year after four years at the helm. 

Michael Anderson, MediaWorks chief executive.

Michael Anderson, MediaWorks chief executive. Photo: supplied

Staff were told the news in a meeting this morning. They were also told to expect an update on the sale of the company's TV arm in the coming weeks.

MediaWorks has been trying to sell its TV operation since late last year and has already done a deal to sell its central Auckland premises. 

In May MediaWorks announced that 130 staff redundancies in response to a Covid-19-driven slump in revenue. Staff hours and pay were also reduced in April. 

MediaWorks owns TV channels Three and Bravo, the Newshub service and half the country’s music and talk radio stations.

Michael Anderson took over at MediaWorks in 2016 after 20 years at one of Australia's largest commercial radio companies, Austereo.

Like MediaWorks, Austereo adopted a multimedia strategy, branching out into online and TV distribution. Its Southern Cross and Ten channels carried TV shows that were familiar fare on MediaWorks' channels including The Voice, The Block and The X Factor.

Under his leadership, 40 percent of MediaWorks was acquired in 2018 by Australian outdoor advertising company QMS which currently has two seats on the five-person board.  

“We will be sorry to see him go but he will leave behind an exciting business ready for the opportunities ahead,” MediaWorks chairman Jack Matthews said in a statement. 

Another key executive from Australia - chief news officer Hal Crawford - left the company in February. 

“When I joined MediaWorks back in October 2016, my focus was to bring stability to a company that had been through years of turmoil and to get all arms of the business into a position where they would be sustainable and competitive in their own right,” Michael Anderson said in a statement. 

“With MediaWorks well and truly on the path to a sustainable and profitable future, it’s time to look at the next phase of our business journey and it is time for a new leader with a fresh perspective to drive MediaWorks over the next five years and beyond,” Anderson said. 

Michael Anderson has been a vocal critic of the current government’s policy of strengthening public broadcasting through state-owned RNZ and TVNZ.

“It won’t work and it puts at risk the very thing they want – media diversity,” MediaWorks chief executive Michael Anderson said in 2018 when the Labour-led government proposed a big boost in funds for public broadcasting.  

Anderson said the government already owns or funds five free-to-air channels at TVNZ and Māori TV, as well as RNZ and warned his company could be "wiped into oblivion" by the government's policy.

"There can be significant unintended consequences if you fragment the TV platform even further," he told Mediawatch at the time.

More recently he urged the government not to make bold or hasty interventions in the media market in response to Covid-19.  

“This is the trigger and what we achieve must be long-lasting. You don’t want to make important policy on the hoof during a crisis,” he argued. 

“There should not be a hierarchy here,” he said, pointing out that the debt his company carries because of its ownership meant short-term measures deferring some costs would be of limited use. 

“We need certainty (about) what is coming next so we can build a structure around that,” he said. 

MediaWorks says it has begun the search for successor to take over in 2021.