Broadcaster who left TVNZ under a cloud is still under contract to rival network.

Paul Henry is in talks for a return to TVNZ to front the new-look Close Up programme, the Herald has been told.

But he could run into contractual issues as he is currently signed with the state broadcaster's competition, MediaWorks, and insiders say the company will be keen to prevent pitting him against Campbell Live in the same 7pm slot.

Henry was told yesterday his Breakfast show on Australia's Network Ten will be axed by the end of the month after less than a year on air, after dismal ratings.

Henry had two years remaining on that contract, but asked if that would prevent a return to TVNZ, he told the Herald earlier this month: "I'd be able to leave and come home."


He indicated he had been approached by the state broadcaster after the sacking of Mark Sainsbury in September.

"All I can say about it is that TVNZ have a distinct idea of how they want the show to be."

Asked if that included him and Pippa Wetzell as hosts of the daily current affairs programme, he said: "Well, the show is only 22 minutes long, so you can't have too many people on it."

TVNZ's head of news and current affairs, Ross Dagan, would not be drawn on whether discussions had been held.

Henry's other contract with MediaWorks, which operates TV3, allows him small roles in radio and television while working for Network Ten. He said the contract was "ambiguous" and it is unlikely to prevent a return to TVNZ.

But insiders for the network told the Herald MediaWorks management wouldn't "roll over lightly" for Henry and a contractual relationship stands.

News bosses will be keen to prevent Henry fronting Close Up against John Campbell's eponymous show which has struggled in ratings against Mark Sainsbury, but going up against Henry's broadcasting calibre will be an even bigger battle.

MediaWorks legal counsel Clare Bradley said she could not comment on contractual matters.

TVNZ announced Henry's resignation from its Breakfast show in October 2010 after controversy over comments about the then Governor-General, Sir Anand Satyanand, and the Delhi chief minister, Sheila Dikshit.

Henry played the dutiful MediaWorks employee last week, filming a self-deprecating clip for the company's new-season TV launch from his Breakfast desk in Australia.

The show has struggled against its two main rivals - averaging only 40,000 viewers, compared with 345,000 watching Today and 370,000 tuning in to Sunrise.

Network Ten is battling with scarce resources, weak ratings, poor programming strategies and huge debt.