Pubcaster announces new channels

TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis is moving aggressively to dig the pubcaster out of a three-year decline.

He announced he’s cutting 140-160 staffers, while promising at least two new channels — including a 24-hour news channel on the new Freeview digital platform for free-to-air TV.

Insiders said the government, which owns TVNZ, is insisting on cuts in return for extra taxpayer coin to meet cultural obligations under its charter.

Layoffs — which amount to around 12% of the pubcaster’s 1,100-person staff — are part of a $21 million cost-cutting effort across the twin-channel operation.

About 50 of the layoffs will come from the news and current affairs department, and the division is expected to lose $7 million from the budget. Deputy head of news and current affairs Stephen Rowe will ankle, and investigative unit will be dissolved.

Union officials say staffers are worried by the scale of cuts and TVNZ’s ability to meet obligations to its charter.

Changes are part of a corporate shakeup that affects both channels but will mostly hit the older-skewing TV One, which has been losing viewers for its hourlong 6 p.m. newscast.

Ellis took over in August last year after former CEO Ian Fraser ankled, followed by most of the senior management team.

Ellis said the 140-160 staff reduction figure is “a guesstimate” and that the final tally will be decided in two weeks.

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