Radio New Zealand (RNZ) has announced that Simon Mercep will leave the Morning Report in April when Geoff Robinson, the co-host on the show, retires.
Mercep will now move into the Afternoon Show to replace Jim Mora, who will shift into Checkpoint, the evening show, to serve as co-host to Mary Wilson.
According to a Herald report, the empty seats left at the Morning Report by the imminent departure of the two hosts will be filled by Auckland-based Guyon Espiner and, if speculation is to be trusted, Wellington journalist Susie Ferguson, who has previously filled in on the show.
Ferguson's appointment has been confirmed.
Susie Ferguson has been appointed as co-host of Radio New Zealand National’s top-rating Morning Report.
Ferguson, 36,will join Guyon Espiner,43, in a new line-up for the programme from April 2.
They replace Geoff Robinson, who is retiring, and Simon Mercep who has been appointed host of Afternoons.
Ferguson is well-known to Morning Report listeners where she has been a regular stand-in host since 2010. She was the co-host of the recent Summer Report programme and has also presented Checkpoint and Saturday Morning on Radio New Zealand National.
Trained in broadcast journalism in the U.K., Susie Ferguson began her radio career in Edinburgh as a newsreader, writer, reporter and producer. She worked in London as a freelancer for BBC London, Independent Radio News, Classic FM and Virgin radio, was a presenter at ITN News Direct – a rolling news radio station,and a producer for BBC 5 Live.
Her international experiences as a journalist have taken her to some of the world’s most challenging news environments including Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierre Leone, and Lebanon. She has also covered the aftermath of humanitarian disasters in Pakistan and the South East Asian tsunami.
Radio New Zealand CEO, Paul Thompson, said:
“Susie is an experienced journalist with impeccable credentials. She has a proven record with Radio New Zealand and is well-known to our listeners. She and Guyon will form a formidable pair on Morning Report.”
Today’s appointment follows a review of programming and earlier presentation changes announced for Radio New Zealand National. Wallace Chapman is to host a refreshed Sunday Morning programme from the end of March. Simon Mercep is to host Afternoons while Jim Mora will continue to host The Panel and will co-host Checkpoint with Mary Wilson.
Morning Report is New Zealand’s most popular, and most respected, radio news programme. Every day, more than a quarter of a million New Zealanders tune in to listen to three hours of comprehensive and in-depth coverage of the day’s top news stories. The programme attracts a cume audience of 355,000 according to the latest Nielsen 2013 All New Zealand Radio Survey.
Since 2011, Mercep has been criticised in the media for being too timid in his interviewing approach. This, when coupled with the niceness of Robinson, has left many listeners a little disappointed at the end of interviews.
In its 2011-2012 annual report, RNZ determined that over the course of the year 351,000 listeners tuned in on a weekly basis to listen to the Morning Report. A comparative study conducted a year later and published in the 2012-2013 report said that this number had dropped to 336,000.
Given that overall numbers recorded by RNZ during the same time showed an increase from 464,000 to 527,000, the statistics suggest that the Morning Report has been performing poorly when compared to other shows on the radio station.
Statistics from 2011-2012 report.
Statistics from 2012-2013 annual report.
Despite this drop in ratings, the most recent report from Radio New Zealand says that the Morning Report still “attracts more listeners than any other radio programme in the country.”
However, given that RNZ is a non-commercial station and thus doesn’t take part in TNS Research International's Radio Audience survey, comparative analysis has to be based on discrete sources of statistics.
In terms of the commercial stations, The Edge recently led the ratings with an average cumulative weekly reach of 428,600 listeners, followed by Newstalk ZB with 397,000 and Network ZM with 355,400.