Former Breakfast presenter taking TVNZ to court

Kamahl Santamaria lasted just 32 days on Breakfast before leaving the network last year. Photo:...
Kamahl Santamaria lasted just 32 days on Breakfast before leaving the network last year. Photo: supplied
Disgraced broadcaster Kamahl Santamaria says he will be taking legal action against former employer Television New Zealand. 

Talking to Duncan Garner for the podcast Duncan Garner: Editor-in-Chief, Santamaria discussed his interactions with former colleagues, his mental health, and the impending legal action against the state broadcaster. 

The Emmy-nominated former Breakfast host last month admitted his exit from TVNZ followed a complaint that he inappropriately touched a colleague in the newsroom.

The 43-year-old lasted just 32 days on the show before leaving the network last year. TVNZ originally said his departure was the result of a “family emergency”.

Santamaria confirmed to Garner he was taking TVNZ to the Employment Relations Authority and had already lodged a statement of problem with the authority.

He said he was facing the prospect of having to sell his Auckland home in part to fund the legal action.

The coverage of his departure from TVNZ had been inaccurate and had not been fair to him, he claimed.

However, he noted he had apologised for behaviour that had made any of his former colleagues uncomfortable.

He had tried to find a new job but had only received a “generic email back saying not at this time kind of thing”.

He wanted to stay in the media but acknowledged he faced a challenge: “I do believe I’ve got plenty to offer but in that sense, it’s not up to me.

“This is what I do, I believe I’m still pretty good at it.”

Santamaria broke down in tears as he recalled the high-profile scandal, which he said had a significant impact on his mental health. His daughter, 14, has just started at school and was forced to use a different name.

“I feel so strongly about setting the record straight and doing this in the right manner. So much of what has happened to me I believe has been done in the wrong manner through leaks, through anonymity.”

More than a year on from the scandal, Santamaria has dodged media questions, and announced in June this year he was starting a podcast and website named Balance to “set some records straight”.

Last month, in a statement of nearly 400 words, Santamaria claimed that during his brief time at TVNZ he witnessed an editorial meeting where it was suggested there should be a ‘breakfast hotties’ whiteboard and that a staff member posted on internal messaging a photo of a guest with the caption “certified breakfast hottie”.

He said also that he recalled seeing a male employee giving a female member of staff a shoulder massage in full view of the newsroom and alleged that on another occasion, producers were “literally rolling around on the floor outside the studio door laughing loudly and uncontrollably”.

TVNZ disputed the portrayals in Santamaria’s statement as reported earlier by Stuff, but wouldn’t address his specific allegations.

Santamaria’s statement also made allegations about the process of his exit from TVNZ.

He claimed “the Head of HR and the then-CEO [Simon Power] never once spoke to me or sought my side of the story” and that the process relating to the complaint against him “was launched, escalated, and decided without ever requesting or obtaining a formal statement from the complainant themselves”.

TVNZ also at the time rejected the accuracy and portrayals made by Santamaria.