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NEWSFLASH: Holmes To Step Down Immediately

TVNZ News boss Bill Ralston has just told Radio New Zealand that he hopes Paul Holmes will be happy in his new job at Prime Television. He said the state broadcaster was happy with Mr Holmes' decision to move on.

Mr Ralston said Susan Wood would be hosting the Holmes Show from tonight, and TVNZ was now looking for a new name for the show. Ms Wood was likely to host the show till the end of the year when discussions would begin with potential new hosts. Mr Ralston expected there to be lots of rumors about replacements and refused to make any comment on early speculation concerning TV3's John Campbell and TVNZ's Eric Young.

Mr Ralston told Linda Clark on RNZ's Nine To Noon show a new format for the show to replace the Holmes Show might take news a little "more seriously".

Mr Ralston said Mr Holmes had told TVNZ by letter that he was unwilling to accept a 12 month contract as offered by the broadcaster.

This alone had been the sticking point in contract negotiations, he said. Mr Ralston said all other aspects of contract negotiations had been settled.

"I am responsible for a large amount of public money. I don't want to expose the taxpayer to a several year contract which might have to be paid out if circumstances change," Mr Ralston said.

Mr Ralston said One News anchor Judy Bailey was on a 12 month contract, meanwhile he himself was a simple employee, liable to be terminated at any time on the decision of his bosses. RNZ's Linda Clark, formerly TVNZ political editor, confessed to being on a multi-year contract herself and pointed out that the 12 month contract policy at TVNZ appeared to be a change of practice for the broadcaster.

Several years ago TVNZ was caught out in an embarrassing scandal after it poached TV3 news anchor John Hawkesby from TV3. The state broadcaster had sought to replace Judy Bailey's former co-anchor Richard Long but after a huge public outcry it was was forced to pay Mr Hawkesby close to $6 million under a five year contract.

ENDS

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