Ralston brings hint of mongrel

By REBECCA BARRY

Bill Ralston told TVNZ staff yesterday he wanted them to take more risks and deliver more exclusives, calling for "no more boring stories".

Confirming the television industry's worst-kept secret, TVNZ chief Ian Fraser said his new head of news and current affairs had a "hint of mongrel".

"We were not looking for someone who was going to offer business as usual. He certainly doesn't do that," Mr Fraser said.

TVNZ staff later had their own questions for their new news boss.

One asked why they should trust Ralston's leadership when "all he did in the past was bag us".

Ralston later told the Herald: "You're actually employed to be a commentator and a television critic."

He was referring to his time as television and media critic at two newspapers and as editor of Auckland's Metro magazine.

Another TVNZ staffer asked whether TVNZ would improve coverage of Maori issues.

Later, to the Herald, he said: "I would like to see more Maori on staff.

"A more multicultural operation would be great. We've got a couple of really good Maori reporters at the moment and hopefully we can have more Polynesian.

"We've got the right kind of blend now for future acquisitions of people to be pretty broad."

Ralston, 49, a broadcaster with many years' experience in television, radio and print media, including a stint at TVNZ 15 years ago, will take up the post on July 14, having beaten more than 20 applicants.

He will be responsible for all of TVNZ's news and current affairs programmes including One News, Fair Go, Sunday, Assignment and Breakfast and more than 300 national and international staff.

He would not say what, if any, changes he had in store because "it is too early. Everything's an option, everything's not an option".

He did, however, dismiss rumours that he would be axing certain news programmes.

"There's absolutely no reason to take an axe to the number-one-rating news and current affairs network in the country."

Mr Fraser cited Ralston's enthusiasm and belief in the product as influential reasons he got the job.

"He made a very penetrating analysis of where he felt TVNZ news and current affairs was.

"He identified some areas where we should be giving some attention but I want to give him time to put his feet under the desk. But I've got no doubt there will be changes."

He also conceded this would be Ralston's biggest management role.

"That's one of the areas where you're taking something of a leap but I don't think it's a leap into the unknown," he said.

Ralston said he believed his experience as a journalist working under pressure would serve him well in the job.

His appointment confirmed weeks of media speculation he would get the job, vacant since Heaton Dyer left in March.

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