Spotlight on staff in TVNZ cuts

By Louisa Cleave

By LOUISA CLEAVE

The pot plants are gone. So are the rubbish bins. Not even the inanimate objects are safe at TVNZ.

Now the organisation's human face, its staff, are under the spotlight at the cost-conscious broadcaster.

Senior executives were reshuffled and key positions axed in an announcement on Tuesday.

More redundancies are expected, although TVNZ denies industry rumours that between 70 and 150 staff will be shed.

A spokesman said the restructuring was not a head-count exercise. But there is no doubt the double-up of staff in many departments will be the focus of attention in coming weeks.

TVNZ is on a cost-cutting drive as it prepares to be turned into a Crown-owned company and implement the Government charter.

The state broadcaster has identified $15 million in new revenue and savings, including cutting back on renting pot plants and the use of cellphones.

One measure was the removal of personal rubbish bins from desks a couple of months ago in favour of two large bins - one for recycling - for an entire department.

TVNZ is looking for $20 million more in savings for the following year.

The first signal of a new, slimline TVNZ came through the announcement of key management being made redundant or resigning to take up new business opportunities.

One of the biggest losses to the company is Jeff Latch, the respected head of sales, who is leaving to become a director of Sportsworld Media Group NZ.

Ironically, it was Mr Latch who worked alongside chief executive Rick Ellis on restructuring the senior management team. It is understood that TVNZ asked him to delay announcing his resignation until the day before it released details of changes to the television business.

The Herald also has been told that the restructuring proposal was not easy to sell to the TVNZ board, which considered it too radical.

The management of TV One and TV2 will be merged under one person, Shaun Brown, leaving TV2 general manager Stephen Smith in charge of online business and future digital channels. Alan Brookbanks, the head of operations, is leaving at the end of the year but until then he will continue to lead the financial review team aiming to trim another $20 million from the business.

Restructuring will run down the TVNZ hierarchy from now until Christmas.

TV3 general manager Rick Friesen said his network was aiming to capitalise on the change and uncertainty surrounding TVNZ.

"I think when you're going through that much change ... it's going to be very challenging for them to retain the audience they have had," he said.

"When there is that much change it's difficult to retain focus so, yes, I think that does create a bit of an opportunity for 3."

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