27 Jul 2022

TVNZ head of news and current affairs Paul Yurisich resigns

5:37 pm on 27 July 2022

TVNZ's head of news and current affairs, Paul Yurisich, has resigned after a review into the hiring of presenter Kamahl Santamaria.

Paul  Yurisich, TVNZ head of news

Paul Yurisich Photo: TVNZ

TVNZ released its long-awaited report on Wednesday afternoon. It came after an inquiry was carried out by senior by senior employment lawyer Margaret Robins.

The former Al Jazeera presenter lasted just 32 days in the job and left under a cloud of accusations of inappropriate behaviour to colleagues.

Kamahl Santamaria Photo: TVNZ

The review covered TVNZ's recruitment practices and processes in general, as well as the specific recruitment of Kamahl Santamaria. In addition, TVNZ took the opportunity to have Robins undertake a review of several policies, including those relating to internal workplace complaints and the development of TVNZ's 'Speak Up' Policy.

The review found that Santamaria was hired "without meaningful input from key individuals" who usually included key staff, including the chief executive, the general manager of news and current affairs and the chief people officer.

Robins concluded that Yurisich had not sufficiently consulted with senior executives, although "the fundamental problem was the failure of TVNZ's recruitment policy to provide a process suitable for the recruitment of unique roles such as a key presenter".

While TVNZ's recruitment policy was suitable for the majority of roles, it did not traditionally apply to hiring key presenters, she said.

She said even if Yurisich had consulted more widely it was likely Santamaria would have been hired.

However, if he had consulted more widely and had secured two additional references, more safeguards could have been put in place and sufficient due diligence may have been provided.

She recommended that the People and Culture team, which carried out recruitment, should set out new recruitment guidelines, and that it should also follow some suggestions from the review author on recruiting in a "fair and robust" manner where the usual guidelines weren't being followed, such as for presenters.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 20: Former New Zealand MP Simon Power looks on at the Chinese Business Summit on July 20, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Simon Power Photo: 2020 Getty Images

TVNZ chief executive Simon Power said "the review's findings and its recommendations provide a clear path to ensure TVNZ's recruitment practices and internal policies are adequately robust and fit for purpose".

He said TVNZ supported the findings and recommendations of the review. "There are improvements needed in our recruitment policies and work is already under way to embed these."

Power said Yurisich had spearheaded the digital transformation of the newsroom which has set TVNZ up strongly for the future. He had also provided strong leadership to the news and current affairs team during the pandemic.

Phil O'Sullivan will continue in the role of acting head of news and current affairs.

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