5 May 2016

Weldon added 'insult to injury' as he resigned

1:57 pm on 5 May 2016

MediaWorks chief executive Mark Weldon's decision to step down due to the "personal cost" added "insult to injury" to staff axed under his watch, a former TV3 journalist says.

Mark Weldon

Mark Weldon resigned yesterday. Photo: Creative Commons

Mr Weldon's sudden exit yesterday pleased many of the estimated 150 employees who left or were made redundant during his 20-month stint at the helm, in which he axed current affairs shows Campbell Live and 3D, and steered TV3 toward an entertainment-heavy line-up.

In a statement on the Newshub website, Mr Weldon said he had notified the board he would step down as the "personal cost" of the role was too high.

Former 3D journalist, Paula Penfold told Morning Report Mr Weldon's statement added insult to injury to MediaWorks staff who had quit or been forced out during his tenure as chief executive.

"Personal cost is a cameraman that I worked with who had been at TV3 for 27 years, and he's one of the best cameramen in the country - he lost his job.

"Personal cost is the producer that I worked with who was pregnant when she was made redundant, and her husband had already been made redundant - that's personal cost."

Fairfax Media's moody shot of their investigative team: Toby Longbottom, Paula Penfold and Eugene Bingham

Former TV3 investigative reporter Paula Penfold. Photo: supplied

She said there had been high level lobbying to get Mr Weldon to step down, and his decision to leave was welcomed by present and former staff.

"This was supposed to be a good week for MediaWorks, there were announcements that were going to be made that were supposed to be positive for the company. Instead all the board would have talked about was Hilary Barry's resignation and what the factors were that led to that," Ms Penfold said.

TV channel Four has been re-branded as Bravo in a joint venture with NBC Universal.

Ms Penfold said she had not spoken to Barry so could not comment on speculation she would return to the company now Mr Weldon had departed.

Auckland University of Technology journalism lecturer Greg Treadwell said Mr Weldon's resignation was a surprise, and his comments about "personal cost" were a bit rich.

"The first thing that I thought was 'personal cost to you? Ha, I don't think so.' Not really not compared to the number of people who have been forced to leave jobs they loved."

He said the day before Mr Weldon's resignation the board was giving him their full support and it looked like the board and the chief executive were on the same page.

"In fact, I think it just goes to show that when you get top executives in a media company disagreeing with their chief executive, in the end perhaps the chief executive doesn't have the final call when the number are against them, and I think that's a really interesting call for a media company."

Media organisations were using people like Mr Weldon to do the "hatchet job" more often. However, MediaWorks needed to hire a chief executive with more media experience, Mr Treadwell said.

There had been rumours Mr Weldon would step down after top newsreader and presenter Hilary Barry resigned on Friday, the latest in a string of high-profile resignations and redundancies since restructuring began when Mr Weldon took the helm in August 2014.

Long-serving news chief Mark Jennings left earlier this year and broadcaster John Campbell - who later joined RNZ - left last year after his popular prime-time show, Campbell Live, was axed.

The MediaWorks board has said it will continue on the path Mr Weldon was steering the company along and it would use Mr Weldon on strategic projects.

"The Board is very grateful for Mark's success in driving change through the entire organisation and under his leadership MediaWorks has truly become an integrated company."

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