Pair's future as news co-anchors in doubt

Wendy Petrie has been working at TVNZ since 2003 and Simon Dallow since 1993. 2015 Herald on...
Wendy Petrie has been working at TVNZ since 2003 and Simon Dallow since 1993. 2015 Herald on Sunday photograph by Norrie Montgomery
Wendy Petrie and Simon Dallow's future as dual news anchors of TVNZ's 6pm bulletin is in doubt, as company job losses this week has one of them looking likely to be cut.

On Monday, TVNZ confirmed they would reduce 70 to 90 roles to recover a 30 per cent loss in revenue during the Covid-19 lockdown.

It was originally thought the redundancies to save around $10 million would not include losses to the newsroom.

But the Weekend Herald is aware of journalists on six-figure salaries who have been told this week they no longer have a job.

As part of the restructure, it is also understood TVNZ will reduce their 6pm 1News bulletin down to only one news reader.

A TVNZ spokesperson and Dallow said "no comment" when questioned this week about potential news reader changes.

It is not yet clear if TVNZ has made any decision on whether Petrie or Dallow will go but both were seen by colleagues leaving meetings carrying envelopes and "looking gutted" this week.

Petrie and Dallow have co-anchored the 1 News 6pm bulletin since 2006, after taking over from Judy Bailey who had been the sole news reader since 2004.

Bailey had been on an $800,000 salary.

On Tuesday this week, other staff within the newsroom entered consultation meetings and were told they were set to lose their jobs.

Others were told they would have to reapply for a smaller number of positions among their colleagues in their department.

It is understood the decision to reduce to just one permanent 6pm news reader crystallised for management during lockdown when there was only a single week night news anchor.

The newsroom had been separated into two teams during lockdown, who entered the TVNZ Auckland bureau in Victoria St in the CBD on alternating weeks.

On the weekend, the 1 News 6pm bulletin only has one news anchor.

In March, the Herald reported that of TVNZ's top-20 highest paid presenters between 2017-29 the average man earned $254,510 a year. Women in the group were paid $210,597.

On Monday, TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick said the company expects to "confirm the new business structure" by early July.

"TVNZ's revenue dropped 30 per cent during the nationwide lockdown and we expect revenue momentum to recover gradually over the next 18 months," said Kenrick.

"TVNZ has already made substantial savings in areas of discretionary spending, executive remuneration, capital investment projects, and deferred content productions.

"These actions have enabled TVNZ to offset revenue losses for this quarter, and we now need to resize our business to safeguard the future of TVNZ."

In a 2017 round of TVNZ redundancies, weekend news reader Bernadine Oliver-Kerby lost her job at the state broadcaster after 25 years.

And in 2000, news reader John Hawkesby received a $6.5 million payout after he was made redundant by TVNZ.

The Covid-19 economic slump has led to a massive downturn in advertising revenue for all New Zealand media outlets.

On June 12, MediaWorks slumped to a $25.14m loss casting "significant doubt" on the company's ability to continue.

Financial statements for the year to December 2019 report MediaWorks' total liabilities more than doubled during the year to $296.34m ($138m in 2018) with borrowings of $133.1m at balance date.

MediaWorks, which owns television and radio assets, including TV station Three and radio brands The Edge and The Rock, says since year end negotiations are under way with parties who have expressed an interest in buying the business.

On April 4, TVNZ's Kenrick informed staff of the company's strategy to "preserve cash" and their fresh eligibility for the Government's wage subsidy.

The chief executive outlined the "three strategic priorities for the foreseeable future" as the state broadcaster faces economic "confronting realities".

They ran: "1. Deliver essential news, 2. Entertain New Zealand audiences, and 3. Preserve cash."

In April NZME, which owns the NZ Herald, announced 200 job losses and requested all staff on a salary of more than $50,000 per year take a 15 per cent pay cut for 12 weeks.

In April, Stuff also asked their employees over $50,000 to take a voluntary 15 per cent pay cut, and their senior executives to take a 25 per cent cut.

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