John Drinnan on business

John Drinnan is a Herald business writer and media commentator

RNZ due to finalise shake-up plans tomorrow

Guyon Espiner and Susie Ferguson at the Morning Report studio, Radio NZ. - Photo Diego Opatowski
Guyon Espiner and Susie Ferguson at the Morning Report studio, Radio NZ. - Photo Diego Opatowski

Radio New Zealand is about to reveal restructuring plans, including an increased focus on its online arm.

The RNZ board of governors meets tomorrow to finalise plans for a new structure.

Chief executive Paul Thompson hinted at the shift in a keynote address delivered two weeks ago to the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association conference in Glasgow.

He was blunt when describing the present shortfalls of RNZ's online operation.

"We are weak, almost irrelevant on the web. As a broadcaster we lack visual journalism and digital story-telling skills," he told the conference.

RNZ sources said the new focus on online would be significant.The state broadcaster has also been working on changes to its news operations.

Radio New Zealand has resisted change while dealing with a funding freeze, and a well placed source said Thompson had met resistance from news staff.

The biggest change so far has been with new presenters - Guyon Espiner and Susie Ferguson on Morning Report.

The other change - diminishing Jim Mora's role on the afternoon programme to make room for Simon Mercep - has also created tensions. Mora and The Panel will be incorporated with Mary Wilson On Checkpoint, and RNZ has had trouble finding a new producer for that show.

Meanwhile, it is understood there has been some political backwash over the more aggressive interviewing style of Morning Report.

Well placed sources said some staff were still adjusting to a more proactive news agenda.

The source said the two speed adjustment to the changed agenda was apparent in the reaction to an apology given to Winston Peters over allegations against by former New Zealand First MP Brendan Horan. It illustrated a gap between Thompson's expectations and the past approach of staff.

Despite the abject apology to an error by RNZ it is understood there has been no further action internally

Horan was able to make several allegations before he was challenged.

At the time Thompson was out of the country and Peters approached RNZ through the chairman Richard Griffin, a close personal friend. Peters' complaint came through deputy chief executive Ken Law, with legal costs paid to Peters.

- NZ Herald

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