TVNZ cans local content on 20/20, responds to ‘ridiculous’ Herald story on staff cuts

Earlier this week, TVNZ caught 12 staff members off guard by announcing that the current affairs show 20/20 would no longer be airing local content from the end of June this year—giving those working on the show just over a month’s notice of the change in direction.

Although the show will no longer be airing stories sourced by New Zealand-based journalists, TVNZ’s spokesperson Georgie Hills says that it will continue to run throughout this year.

“As it is, the show draws heavily on content from the US and Australia. 20/20 will continue to air in 2014 made up exclusively of stories filed from around the world.”

The reason underpinning the decision to cancel the local element has largely been attributed to the expense involved with airing the internationally syndicated show. 

“While it’s performed well, the show costs a lot of money to put to air. So we’ve made a commercial decision to focus our investment elsewhere in news and current affairs where it will make a bigger impact,” says Hills.

According to Nielsen, the show’s ratings have declined significantly over the last two years. In 2012, the show had an average audience of 293,400, but since then it has bled about a quarter of its audience and the stats for 2014 show that only 220,500 viewers are tuning in. And given the expenses involved with airing the struggling show, it makes business sense for TVNZ to use the production funds elsewhere.  

Hills would not elaborate further on where the investment was going, but she did say that the broadcaster was keen to hold onto at least some of those working on the show at the moment.

“Approximately a dozen roles will be affected by this change, including reporters, producers, editors and camera operators – but not all of these are dedicated solely to the show. We’re keen to hold on to talented people within our business and in coming days we’ll be exploring suitable opportunities that are available in our wider news and current affairs pool. It’s too early to say if there will be any redundancies at the end of this process.”

Earlier today the NZ Herald’s John Drinnan published a piece alleging that TVNZ would scrap the jobs of 12 journalists and implied that the cost-saving move was linked to the broadcaster’s investment in a “glammed-up network centre“. However, TVNZ’s corporate affairs manager Megan Richards has countered these claims and said that Drinnan was wrong in his assessment of the changes at TVNZ.     

“He’s claiming that up to 12 journalists jobs may be scrapped, but there are only three journalists on the show and we’re hoping to place them elsewhere in news and current affairs. At some stage, we said that up to a dozen jobs might be affected by the absence of local content – but that’s production and technical people as well as the three journos — and affected doesn’t mean scrapped. We don’t expect to lose more than a couple of positions, if that. This is really not a large scale change,” she said. 

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