The sudden exit of RNZ head of content Carol Hirschfeld marks another turning point for a state broadcaster that is already in a spin.

Along with the damage to the reputation of Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran it brings a question mark to the still vague prospects of RNZ expanding into TV.

Hirschfeld joined RNZ in November 2014 and has been associated with a celebrity focus and more liberal tinge to RNZ that has delivered improved ratings.

She brought John Campbell to the broadcaster in January 2016 and turned Checkpoint into a radio-with-pictures version of his former TV3 show Campbell Live.


Beyond a growth in listeners, Campbell bought with him social media fans, including 181,000 Twitter followers.

His signing reunited the pairing of Campbell and Hirschfeld. The two had presented the news on TV3 and Hirschfeld was executive producer of Campbell Live.

Hirschfeld also hired Jesse Mulligan — a pal of Clarke Gayford — as a celebrity host of the afternoon show.

RNZ bosses yesterday sought to play down the embarrassment of Hirschfeld's sudden exit.

The change of culture at the broadcaster has not always been successful.

Campbell has been allowed to express opinions, where this was long banned under the RNZ charter.

RNZ also faces a personal grievance case in the Employment Relations Authority after a staff departure last year.

Hirschfeld took an unorthodox approach to her public service role. She arrived in 2014 with contracts to present ads for a jeweller and St John Ambulance.


When Campbell came along, they had a sideline emceeing events. RNZ insisted these had to be non-commercial events, though RNZ limited them.

Hirschfeld returned to the camera herself for a series of fitness videos based at a brand-name gym.

There has been a general loosening of procedures at RNZ.

More recently — and outside Hirschfeld's direct ambit — RNZ has got in trouble for the lack of checks on commentators for its current affairs chat segment, The Panel.

RNZ is reviewing its procedures after Parliament was told a Jacinda Ardern PR contractor was used as a commentator.

After the election Morning Report interviewed former Ardern election debate trainer Linda Clark, about how journalists needed to think about what questions they were able to ask the female Prime Minister.

These events are independent of Hirschfeld's meeting with Curran.

But the flurry of mistakes is unfortunate timing for a broadcaster that wants to present itself as independent.