TVNZ warns staff over recent leaks

By Kirsty Wynn

Head of news and current affairs John Gillespie is 'not a fan of gossips'.

Peter Williams
Peter Williams

State broadcaster TVNZ has attempted to push the mute button on staff - with a media ban and fears of dismissal for those who speak out.

The company media policy was the focus of two meetings last month.

Staff were warned before and after a leak to the New Zealand Herald revealing abusive messages read out on air by Peter Williams and Dean Butler of TVNZ were actually made up.

The matter was raised again this week after Williams spoke to the Herald about the fall-out from the incident.

TVNZ confirmed staff had already been warned and the matter was raised again in a newsroom staff meeting this week.

The Herald on Sunday understands staff got the impression they could be dismissed for any breach and at least one staff member was nervous about being seen with reporters from other media outlets.

John Gillespie
John Gillespie

Head of news and current affairs at TVNZ John Gillespie confirmed staff had been warned but wouldn't comment about talk of dismissal.

"We have clear protocols about who is and who isn't okay to talk to the media," he said.

"I'm not a fan of gossips and I take an extremely dim view of disloyalty."

TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards said the meetings were well received by staff.

"The staff as a whole are completely supportive of John's position on this and, in fact, in one office when he took the opportunity to firmly restate company policy, he was roundly applauded," she said.

The TVNZ board met on Thursday and chairman Wayne Walden expressed concern at perceptions of integrity and balance of news and current affairs.

The saga is the latest to dog the state broadcaster, after the resignation of senior presenter and manager of TVNZ's Maori and Pacific unit Shane Taurima after reports Labour Party meetings were held in TVNZ's offices.

Shane Taurima
Shane Taurima

Bill Ralston, a former head of news and current affairs at TVNZ, said the issues at the state broadcaster were deeper than a couple of leaks to the media.

He said heads should roll if there was another "mini-disaster".

TV3 news and current affairs boss Jennings said leaks from a newsroom were not a good sign.

"It either means that you have got an unhappy newsroom or you've got one bad apple in there," Jennings said yesterday.

His understanding was that there had been multiple leaks out of the newsroom.

Media commentator Brian Edwards echoed concerns and said entertainment-style shows such as Seven Sharp and Breakfast had damaged what should be a serious news focus of the broadcaster.

"They appear to have abandoned any attempt to have serious current affairs," Edwards said.

"You can rearrange the chairs on the Titanic but you still end up with a disaster."

- Herald on Sunday

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