By SCOTT MacLEOD

Pam Corkery's late-night show The Last Word has been axed less than six months after it started and during the latest shakeup at Television New Zealand.

The Monday-to-Thursday show was billed as "an exciting new programme" at its launch on TV One in March.

But TVNZ said yesterday the show would be replaced by extending the Late Edition news bulletin to 30 minutes, starting last night.

The network said The Last Word production team had agreed with news and current affairs management to end the show four weeks earlier than a planned Rugby World Cup deadline. Neither TVNZ nor The Last Word staff would comment further, it said.

TVNZ's head of news and current affairs, Bill Ralston, last night said: "I cannot reply to any questions", and Corkery was not answering her telephones.

The axing came four days after Corkery sparked controversy on the Newstalk ZB radio station by joking about a victim of the September 11 terrorism attack.

She said a family were about to receive the fifth instalment of body parts from a dead son, and she was "on the cusp of actually hysterical about it - they could just about rebuild him with all the stuff they've got back".

Ralston had already axed current affairs show Assignment, dropped Mike Hosking from the Sunday programme and made his Breakfast co-host, Kate Hawkesby, a newsreader.

More than a dozen reporters, directors and producers have been made redundant and the Midday show altered during Ralston's brief tenure, reportedly to chop $4 million from his budget.

TVNZ's website described Corkery as a "multi-award winning broadcaster" and one of the country's best-known television personalities.

"Thrice-married, mother-of-two, red-head Pam has a style which is as strong on journalism as it is the sense of the absurd," the site said of The Last Word.

"There's a lot of laughter involved but no more than is absolutely necessary."

Corkery, a broadcaster for more than 20 years, spent three years in Parliament as an Alliance MP from 1996.