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TVNZ retrains reporters in multimedia

06 Jul 10

TVNZ’s reporters in future will be filing stories for its
web site as the company begins a major restructuring of its news
services. In the process, 31 jobs will be disestablished, saving more than
three million dollars a year.

The radical move is the latest step for the broadcaster to
cut costs, as it continues to tackle the problem of falling advertising

TVNZ Head of News, Current Affairs, Sports, Maori and
Pacific Anthony Flannery said the proposed changes involved the introduction of
new technology, training to make staff multi-skilled and a reorganisation of
news and current affairs gathering processes and practices.

“With TVNZ’s ‘inspiring New Zealanders on every screen’
strategy of getting news, information and entertainment on to many screens, a
group of news and current affairs managers have been looking at news and
current affairs operations around the world for the past 12 months,” Flannery

“British, European and North American broadcasting
operations have been changing their news and current affairs gathering
processes and practices over the last ten years to create multimedia
operations. This sees news and current affairs reporters and producers
expanding their work across multiple programmes and platforms instead of being
limited to one as TVNZ currently is.”

He said that after initial consultation with staff, TVNZ
expected to have a customised version of this multimedia approach with some
dedicated staff for programmes plus a pool of reporters, producers, editors and
camera operators.

The proposal is for News and Current Affairs to be grouped
into four areas: Newsgathering, Daily Programmes, Current Affairs and
Operations. Newsgathering would get the daily stories and Daily Programmes
would decide how they would be shaped for the programmes and platforms they
were to go on. Operations would do the logistics.

“Instead of a number of different programmes all chasing
after the same story and duplicating resources, a reporter and a producer will
see a story through the whole day across a number of programmes and platforms,”
Flannery said. “The story ideas and follow-ups will be driven from and gathered
back to a central hub. They will then be re-purposed for the particular
programme or platform they are to go on.

“That’s a better use of resources and reflects that TVNZ now
has more than ONE News @ 6 to service. There’s also NZI Business, Breakfast,
Midday News, 4.30pm news, Close Up, Tonight, News Updates, Te Karere, sports
programmes, News at 8, the TVNZ 7 hourly bulletins, and news for
mobile phone providers.

“The current operation was built at a time when ONE News @ 6
was the way most New Zealanders received their news. Digitisation has changed
all that and people increasingly get their news anywhere and any time.”

Flannery some 150 reporters, producers and camera operators
would shortly begin a training programme over a six month period to teach them
the skills of editing. In future reporters and producers would be expected to
be able to edit their stories to a greater level of completion, with editors
providing the final polish.

He said the company would be spending $1.5 million on the implementation,
including new equipment and training as part of this multimedia strategy. In
future, for example, some reporters would have an electronic wireless internet-capable
netbook so they can write, voice and file from the field. This was critical for
the timely transfer of stories for online, mobile and hourly news bulletins.

Flannery said the proposed changes would see about 31 roles
disestablished, including cancelling seven current vacancies. It would also see
the establishment of about 14 new roles. The net impact of this was about 10
fewer roles in News and Current Affairs than now. But because external
people would be able to apply for some of those newly established roles it may
result in about 15 people, including two current affairs reporters and
some producers, editors, camera operators and support staff, losing their jobs
out of News and Current Affairs’ 258-strong team.

The staff reductions and changes in work practices once
bedded in would result in annual savings of between $3 million and $3.3