Radio New Zealand will announce soon that long-time announcer Lloyd Scott is leaving the graveyard shift.

Chief executive Paul Thompson would not discuss the on-air change, which coincides with a shakeup of news management. Scott could not be reached for comment.

The overnight show has a small audience, including elderly and insomniac people, and many are fans of Scott's chirpy, upbeat style. Blogger Bill Barclay of Thames-Coromandel says: "I am shocked at the loss of 'Scotty' - the voice of reason and entertainment from midnight to dawn."

It is understood that RNZ has teed up a much younger replacement than the septuagenarian Scott.


In my opinion, that person will have a hard job matching Scott and winning over the audience.

He has been a broadcaster on RNZ National since 1989, and has an active acting career.

Scott had a high profile when he played the role of Barry Crump's townie offsider "Scotty" in a series of Toyota commercials from 1982 to 1996.

News quake

The new overnight show is linked to small but contentious changes to RNZ news which have rattled some staff in Wellington.

Staff I approached questioned the timing of the restructure, so soon after the Government ended a nine-year funding freeze. It is understood that senior news executives challenged the change, but eventually backed down.

Radio NZ is now advertising for a deputy head of news who will be based in Auckland.

It is all part of a strategy to move some key operations from Wellington to Auckland, Thompson confirmed.

He says the shift north is due to the prospect of another earthquake in Wellington, and RNZ's designated role as a vital utility in a civil defence emergency.


After the Kaikoura quake hit Wellington, some critical roles are being moved to Auckland. About two-thirds of RNZ staff are in the capital.

"I would hate for people to think we are abandoning Wellington. We are not," says Thompson. "For the next five or 10 years at least half of our staff will continue to be here.

"The Kaikoura earthquake was a shock for us.

"We got off lightly but if it had affected our building, frankly, we might have gone off air.

"We will always have a big office in Wellington and our head office is not moving. But we do need to get critical roles and systems in both Wellington and Auckland."

RNZ is describing its new strategy as "ambidextrous", with the ability to be based in Auckland if there is a Wellington quake.

The opposite would happen if there was a volcanic eruption in Auckland, said Thompson.

"We cannot afford to have all its senior news management in Wellington ... We could cope and keep going in a big shake, but it would be hard."

Moving north

RNZ's problems are tiny compared to the upheaval facing some media companies.

But tensions have developed between the Wellington and Auckland studios. According to two sources, RNZ's board of governors sees Wellington as resistant to change and more entrenched in traditional public service content.

The broadcaster has sometimes been criticised for being too focused on the capital.

However, more production has moved to Auckland.

Nowadays, Auckland-based Guyon Espiner co-hosts Morning Report remotely, with Susie Ferguson in Wellington.

And Checkpoint was moved to Auckland when Mary Wilson handed the presenting job to John Campbell.

That show has taken on a Campbell Live style, and enjoys good ratings and social media support.

Jesse Mulligan, also Auckland-based, fronts the afternoon show, doubling up with his work on the frothy TV3 7pm show The Project.

Perhaps the best illustration of the new-look RNZ was a recent video podcast in the "Healthy or Hoax" series hosted by RNZ head of content Carol Hirschfeld.

She raised eyebrows recently when she featured in a leotard, working out at Les Mills.

Using a senior manager for an item that made several references to brand names would have been forbidden even five years ago.

Thompson says he had no problems with the Les Mills item.

"No national public broadcaster can be relevant unless they are really strong in the biggest and fastest growing market," he says.

"We make no apologies for getting stronger in Auckland.

"If that means new types of content and new programmes and presenters, we think that is positive. Auckland is a fabulous, competitive radio market."

But, he says, "our stronghold is still Wellington and we are not going to back away from that."