9 Apr 2024

Fair Go and daily news bulletins to close at TVNZ

From Mediawatch, 9:13 am on 9 April 2024

TVNZ has confirmed Fair Go - on air for 47 years - and news shows Midday and Tonight will cease next month. The future of Sunday will be confirmed tomorrow. Meanwhile a decision on alternatives to a proposal to close Newshub in June is expected tomorrow from its owner Warner Brothers Discovery.

TVNZ logo

Photo: RNZ/Marika Khabazi

After meeting with staff today, TVNZ also said in a statement it is proposing "a new team to be established as part of its News and Current Affairs function, with a specific focus on long-form consumer and current affairs for TVNZ’s digital platforms." 

If confirmed, TVNZ said this would be "an opportunity to continue reporting under the Fair Go brand and viewers would still be able to share their consumer concerns by writing to the Fair Go inbox. 

On Facebook, Fair Go staff told followers: "We've looked at a problem - and with TVNZ - we think we've found a solution." 

"While how you see our stories could change, it's important Fair Go still be there to fight for New Zealanders, so keep writing in and we'll update you when we can," the Facebook post said.

After TVNZ announced in March 68 jobs and several programmes could be axed, O'Donnell said there were "no sacred cows."  

"The restructure is expected to be complete by early next month," the statement said, leaving the door open to further cuts in other areas of TVNZ production.   

TVNZ's online youth-focused arm Re:News was also told its staffing was likely to be cut in half. Its staff meets with TVNZ staff this afternoon. 

Sunday's staff meet management tomorrow and a final meeting to brief all TVNZ staff is expected mid-afternoon tomorrow.  

Last month TVNZ news reported the Fair Go team was bidding to keep the 47-year-old show on the screen.

Staff at Newshub are expecting an to be told at 11am tomorrow if the service will close in June with the possible loss of up to 300 jobs. 

It has been reported that other media companies are interested in acquiring Newshub and continuing a scaled-down news service but no details of any negotitaions have been confirmed.  

Michael Wood, who has led negotiations for the journalists’ union E tū, told RNZ today it would be “ a challenging day at TVNZ.”

TVNZ told Mediawatch last Friday TVNZ’s news teams have all provided feedback on the proposals relating to their area. 

Some did it in person to TVNZ’s executive team in addition to written submissions. 

TVNZ confirmed Fair Go’s staff took up this opportunity, but TVNZ wouldn’t comment on the details of the plan presented. Mediawatch understands staff were told proposals would have to include ways to increase the commercial revenue attracted by programmes. 

TVNZ also said as this is an operational matter, TVNZ’s board was not involved in the feedback process.

E tū’s Michael Wood said today he believed TVNZ had “fallen foul of legal obligations” and failed to follow “obligations... under the collective agreement they have with staff”.  He said Employment Relations Authority proceedings could follow.  

Wood would not reveal not reveal details of proposals put forward by TVNZ news staff to save jobs and programmes.

“All shows have worked hard to develop proposals to save news and current affairs and find a way to meet the (revenue) challenges TVNZ has. Staff are up for that challenge but they want a say about how that happens. Cutting current affairs isn’t going to solve TVNZ’s problems,” Wood told Morning Report. 

Meanwhile confirmation of a proposal to close Newshub in June is being kept under wraps by its owner Warner Brothers Discovery, but is also reported to be imminent. 

Mediawatch understands some staff are involved in a bid to keep the brand and the service alive - and journalists in work. 

But all those contacted by Mediawatch said they cannot reveal details while consultation with Warner Brothers Discovery is ongoing. Sources have told Mediawatch staff may be informed of a decision on Wednesday 

Mediawatch understands some staff are subject to non-disclosure agreements to prevent details leaking out - a possible sign that something other than the end of Newshub is being considered. 

The New Zealand Herald is reporting Warner Bros Discovery has been in confidential discussions with third parties, including rival media companies, about a potential new-look news service.

It will meet with staff on Wednesday to share the results of a five-week consultation period, following its announcement in February that it planned to close Newshub with the loss of up to 300 jobs.

It would still go ahead with closing its newsroom and paying redundancy to its staff and then pay another organisation to run a pared back news service that would include a 6pm TV bulletin, the Herald said.

If both broadcasters’ proposals played out as planned in March, 10-15 percent of New Zealand’s fulltime journalists at national news outlets could lose their jobs in one go. 

TVNZ top brass signalled tough choices ahead 

His boss was telling MPs that in no uncertain terms recently. TVNZ’s chief operating officer Brent McAnulty told a select committee hearing on the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill (a means of getting Google and Facebook to pay local news publishers for content) "the legacy of decades of investment in local newsrooms” must be protected.  

Jodi O'Donnell, new TVNZ chief executive

Photo: Supplied / TVNZ

TVNZ executive editor of news Phil O’Sullivan told a recent Parliamentary committee 270 news and current affairs staff produced around 240 news stories a day and the cost of local news coverage was extensive.

“The health of local media is vitally important. When 90 cents of every (digital advertising) dollar goes offshore we know there’s a problem to fix,” he told Parliament’s Economic Development Select Committee. 

“This is a fight for survival for us. More and more journalists are leaving our profession. There will be less oversight of people in power and coverage of stories of importance. It’s very serious,” he said. 

TVNZ’s 2023 Annual Report says it had 735 full-time employees. Of those, 327 earned more than $100k a year. 

In September 2023 TVNZ announced it was planning significant cuts to content production, programmes and operational spending in response to reduced spending on advertising. 

Future projects were placed under review and pay rises for top-earning staff were scrapped at the state-owned broadcaster. 

Recruitment for vacant roles was “paused” until 2024 and TVNZ would fill some other vacant roles and defer the starting dates for some roles.

Acting chief executive Brent McAnulty said senior executives have identified “all the possible cost savings opportunities we have” in recent weeks.  

“Content budgets have been reduced, both for local production and international content. There have been some really tough calls to make here, but we need to live within our means,” McAnulty told staff.

“All projects are being reviewed to decide whether they should continue, be paused, or be cancelled for this financial year,” his memo said. 

TVNZ currently has a tender out for what it says is an essential overhaul of its digital technology. The Briefing to the Incoming Minister of Media and Communications said this was a $100m project. 

TVNZ’s most recent Statement of Intent (PDF) said alignment of revenues and costs was under “increasing pressure”.

“We’ll adopt a dynamic approach to the allocation of business resources between investing to sustain our core TV business and accelerating the growth of our future online business. The stronger the commercial performance of our core business, the more actively we’ll be able to invest in shaping our future,” the document says. 

TVNZ cut 90 jobs in mid-2020 during the first national Covid-19 lockdown. 

McAnulty assured TVNZ staff in September 2023 TVNZ still had strong share of television audience and revenue and its online platform TVNZ+ has an “impressive growth trajectory.” 

In March Tracey Martin - chair of the doomed public media merger project - told Mediawatch TVNZ "painted a rosy picture" of its future revenue prospects.

"They were very confident two years ago that this wouldn't happen."