Tracy Watkins gives Clare Curran a good shellacking

Tracy Watkins isn’t brooking any nonsense and certainly isn’t accepting the government’s ‘nothing to see here’ approach to the moving cyclonic storm that is engulfing Clare Curran:

Communication Minister Clare Curran’s shambolic handling of the Carol Hirschfeld saga has already destroyed the career of a respected broadcaster.

Unless new information emerges, Curran herself is likely to survive. But the fallout over Hirschfeld’s abrupt resignation for misleading her bosses over a meeting with the minister casts a shadow over future plans for Radio New Zealand as it stands at a crossroads.

Labour’s election manifesto promised a $38 million boost for “quality programming and journalism”, including plans to turn the State broadcaster into a fully multi-platform non-commercial entity, including a free to air television service.

Hirschfeld was seen as pivotal to that proposal, known as RNZ+, not just because of her broadcasting background, but because she was also considered the most enthusiastic backer of the standalone TV channel championed by Curran.

But CEO Paul Thompson insists RNZ is bigger than one person.

“Carol was great and she was great on the team and she’s contributed significantly to the plan along with a lot of other senior folk but RNZ and RNZ+ are much bigger than any one executive….and obviously we would be in a position to expand and recruit if we get the funding boost.

“The situation remains the same, it’s a different mix of people, but we never rely on one person.”

Hirschfeld was a high profile recruitment for RNZ and was seen as a coup for Thompson.

That isn’t what I have heard from deep inside the bowels of Red Radio. My sources tell me that although she looked good “gracefully waltzing about the office”, she was, in fact, a poor manager who was far too generous to her favourite staff. On top of that she didn’t really understand radio all that well and therefore was flat out trying to turn Radio NZ into a TV channel with its once-over-lightly approach and celebrity culture. Hence the promotion and unholy amount of resources ploughed into John Campbell. Watkins looks at the reasons behind Hirschfeld’s end run around the senior management of Radio NZ:

But RNZ recently announced Hirschfeld was due to move into a new role as head of programming from next week, with another senior executive, Glen Scanlon, poised to take over as head of news.

Stuff has been told that the change was seen as a sideways move for Hirschfeld, while Scanlon’s background in digital as a former Stuff editor points at the direction in which the State broadcaster is moving.

Hirschfeld was forced to stand down after Thompson confronted her with evidence that she had misled both him and the board for months over a meeting with Curran last December.

Hirschfeld had repeatedly told Thompson the meeting was by chance, when texts released on Wednesday showed that it was arranged over many months.

Hirschfeld’s motivation for withholding the truth had not been explained, but there were suspicions within the RNZ hierarchy that Curran was seeking out allies for the standalone TV channel aspect of Labour’s broadcasting manifesto, which she has championed.

Both Thompson and board chair Richard Griffin have made it clear they have a broader vision for the RNZ+ plan.

There will be more to come out on this you may be absolutely sure. Radio NZ management want a larger online presence; Curran wants a new version of TVNZ 7. Hirschfeld backed Curran’s myopic vision, as Watkins explains:

The fallout over Curran’s meeting with Hirschfeld probably comes too late to affect the budget round, which is largely complete. But even before the controversy the RNZ+ proposal faced criticism, particularly for the TV channel aspect, which will put further pressure on the likes of Newshub and TVNZ in an increasingly fragmented media market.

There has also been pressure for the Government to make the funding contestable, along the lines of the NZ on Air model.

The lefty-wing luvvies would love to have a contestable fund. They are well practiced at filling their troughs at taxpayers’ expense.

National are going to skewer Curran in coming weeks, drip feeding what they know. If the leaks coming out of other government departments are any indicator then Radio NZ must be pouring out leaks like a colander.



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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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