Sky dumps Alison Mau from Prime

By Angela Gregory

Television presenter Alison Mau has been dumped from Prime TV following a week of what she calls "inexplicably callous treatment" by its new owner, Sky Television (NZ).

Mau had been tipped to replace Prime's week-nights newsreader, recently married Suzy Aitken, who now goes by the name Suzy Clarkson.

But Sky yesterday announced Clarkson would carry on with Prime under a new contract alongside Eric Young.

Young, who formerly co-presented TVNZ's late-night news programme Tonight, will present the 5.30pm news bulletin from Monday to Friday. Clarkson will read the sports section three of those nights and on weekends.

Mau said she was dismayed by Sky's decision to withdraw its offer of employment.

"In the past seven days I have been on the receiving end of some inexplicably callous treatment by Sky."

Mau said she was told last Friday by email that Sky was pulling out of negotiations.

"No explanation was given. I was then told not to come to work 'on Monday', and salary due to me was not paid."

Mau said when it was first announced that Sky was buying Prime she was told more than once that her job was safe and she would be offered the role of Prime news anchor on her existing terms.

"I was then presented with a contract containing quite different terms which I could not accept without some discussion and clarification."

She said she wanted to negotiate and was certain the problems could be resolved.

"Instead I was met with a complete refusal from Sky to even meet with me. It then withdrew the offer and suddenly I am confronted with a lockout."

Mau said she had a fixed-term agreement with Prime until January 2008 and would require Prime to honour that agreement.

Tony O'Brien, Sky's director of communications, said the company had been unable to reach agreement with Mau and had no further comment.

Young said he had been approached about the anchor's job only at the weekend but had been speaking to Sky about another project.

He left TVNZ about 10 months ago and had since been "eating and drinking for New Zealand" and travelling. "I got the love back in my life," he said.

The next step for Mau is unclear.

TV3 head of news Mark Jennings said there were no vacancies for presenters on the network.

"We have got a very settled team."

TVNZ news head Bill Ralston could not be reached for comment.

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