TVNZ may axe up to 68 roles in proposal to cut costs

TVNZ is planning to cut up to 68 jobs in a proposal presented to staff on Thursday morning.

The state broadcaster said if confirmed, the new structure would be in place by "early April".

It would mean around 9 percent of the company's total workforce would be impacted. However, the company did not reveal details of which roles would be axed or how its news products would be affected.

On Thursday afternoon, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon weighed in on the news of the TVNZ proposals, saying it was "a tough day for people at TVNZ".

"What I want to say on TVNZ is it's incredibly unsettling and I do genuinely feel for the staff, and all media companies here and around the world are wrestling with a changing media environment.

"Importantly, we recognise it's a tough day for people at TVNZ."

Luxon was also asked about David Seymour's comments on Newstalk ZB where he said the media had a "delightful lack of self-awareness" and his statement on Thursday to Stuff that the media had been involved in "enormous self pity".

"I think politicians of all parties probably think they get unfair treatment from the media but the bottom line is you play a very important role in our democracy," Luxon said.

However, NZ First MP Shane Jones interrupted Luxon's comments, saying "a vibrant economy will be good for the media, bye bye," before promptly walking off.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has also commented on the potential redundancies at TVNZ.

In a social media post, she said a discussion needed to be had about whether public broadcasting should be publicly funded.

"More than TVNZ 60 roles to go with 6pm news & current affairs threatened. Increasingly hard for free to air public broadcasters to survive commercially. Time to bite bullet & accept that as with BBC & Oz ABC, public broadcasting needs 2 be publicly funded?" she wrote. 

TVNZ said it would begin consulting with staff tomorrow about the proposal. It is understood those who have been affected by the planned changes would be sent invites today for meetings tomorrow.

While TVNZ was tight-lipped on the impacts of the restructure, Newshub understands 35 of the proposed job cuts would come from within the news and current affairs departments including Sunday, Fair Go, late bulletin 1News Tonight, the digital team and the online news group re: news.

An all-hands staff meeting within the department has been called for Friday at 1pm. Newsroom also reported the Sunday team of 20 journalists had been summoned to a meeting first thing on Friday at 9am.

That would mean the other 33 jobs of the 68 proposed to be cut would come from across the wider business. No further details on those were provided by TVNZ.

In a leaked internal email, TVNZ's head of news Phil O'Sullivan said the proposed cuts were "devastating", the New Zealand Herald reported.

"We are giving 24 hours notice prior to meetings with those whose roles may potentially be impacted.

"This is happening across all departments at TVNZ. This is devastating for those people invited to meetings and very tough for everyone else. Myself and our leadership team will be in those meetings tomorrow morning but we'll hold an all NCA [news and current affairs] hui at 1pm tomorrow. Expect an invite soon.

"There is not a lot more I can say at this point, except to please ask we show respect and kindness to those affected by today's announcement."

In a statement, TVNZ Chief Executive Jodi O'Donnell said there were "no easy answers" as tough economic conditions and structural challenges within the media industry impacted revenue for the company.

"TVNZ's executive team has focused on reducing operating costs over the last 12 months. Unfortunately, we're now at the point where we need to reduce the size of our team to bring our costs more in line with our revenue," said O'Donnell.

"Changes like the ones we're proposing are incredibly hard, but we need to ensure we're in a stronger position to transform the business to meet the needs of our viewers in a digital world.

"There are no easy answers, and media organisations locally and globally are grappling with the same issues."

O'Donnell said feedback would be collected over the next few weeks before a final decisions was made.

Meanwhile the E tū union, which represents media in New Zealand, said it was concerned over how the company was handling the announcements, with one member claiming that the "uncertainty" was the hardest thing given workers did not yet know their fate.

E tū Negotiation Specialist Michael Wood said there were also wider worries at a perceived lack of strategy aimed at protecting the company in the future.

"Our members are deeply concerned that there is no clear strategy developed to protect the TV functions at the heart of the whole TVNZ enterprise.

"As we've all recently heard about the decision to close Newshub, it is more important than ever to protect and enhance our local media. TVNZ’s proposal is to do the opposite. Our members are passionate about their work and know the importance of a strong fourth estate."

It also expressed alarm at TVNZ's alleged indication to the union they will only open consultation for a very short period of time.

"Giving workers just a few working days to understand and give feedback on this proposal would be simply ridiculous."

On Wednesday, the state broadcaster revealed it was to make an announcement about the future of its news product.

The New Zealand Herald reported a "well-connected industry source" saying around 60 jobs could be cut in a proposal aimed at reducing head count and bringing costs down.

It also reported some cuts would come from other areas, saying flagship TV2 show Shortland Street was also under review due to the millions of dollars invested in it by the company.

The announcement comes after TVNZ flagged further cost cutting as it posted a first half-year loss linked to reduced revenue and asset write offs. Its interim financial results show its total revenue has fallen 13.5 percent from last year to $155.9 million.

Its net loss for the six months ended December was $16.8 million. That compared with a profit of $4.8 million the year before.

The news of proposed job cuts at the state broadcaster comes just over a week after Warner Bros. Discovery presented a proposal to cut around 300 jobs across its New Zealand operation, signalling the Newshub newsroom would be shut down.