The hiring of Kamahl Santamaria, who resigned a month into his role as presenter of TVNZ's Breakfast programme, shows the broadcaster's recruitment process is not suited to key presenter roles, a report released this afternoon has found.
TVNZ's Head of News and Current Affairs (HONCA) Paul Yurisich, who hired Santamaria and had previously worked with him at Al Jazeera, went on a period of leave while the review was carried out. CEO Simon Power has now accepted his resignation.
Employment lawyer Margaret Robins was hired to do the independent review following the resignation of Santamaria.
It was launched in May to look into TVNZ's recruitment policies to ensure they are "fit for purpose and appropriately robust".
Santamaria resigned from the show just one month after taking on the role. He was off-air for more than a week without explanation before his sudden departure.
Some former female colleagues at his previous workplace, Al Jazeera, subsequently claimed the presenter had made inappropriate and uncomfortable comments during his time there.
Power said: "In the hiring of Kamahl Santamaria, the review stated the recruitment policy was not applicable to the hiring of key presenters, and therefore was not followed in this situation.
"The review found ultimately, the fundamental problem was the failure of TVNZ’s recruitment policy to provide a suitable process.
"I have however today accepted the resignation of Head of News and Current Affairs, Paul Yurisich."
The report found that “TVNZ’s historic practice for recruiting key presenters (going back to at least 2013) was to tailor a suitable process on a case by case basis”.
Robins also found that the recruitment of Santamaria differed from established practice in several ways.
“Kamahl Santamaria had virtually no public profile in New Zealand, and due to Covid, he was not screen tested to assess his compatibility with his co-presenters,” the report read.
A number of leading people were not consulted with about the appointment, including the Executive Producer of Breakfast and human resources.
Robins acknowledged the outcome of hiring Santamaria is unlikely to have been different even if Yurisich had “consulted more widely and had checked two references provided by Kamahl”.
“Kamahl is unlikely to have offered a referee who might volunteer negative information. However, if the HONCA had consulted more widely and had secured two additional references:
• Wider consultation may have led to innovative compromises and safeguards; and
• at least the HONCA and TVNZ would have recruited with sufficient due diligence.
Power said the review provides a clear path to bringing TVNZ’s recruitment practices and internal policies up to scratch and work was underway to do that.
"While the review found TVNZ’s Recruitment Policy is fit for the purpose of recruiting the vast majority of roles at TVNZ, it recommends developing that policy further so it is applicable to key presenter positions."
The broadcaster also reviewed its harassment policy and found it was "sufficient", and its complaints process which will now be "enhanced".
Power thanked Yurisich for his work leading a digital transformation in the newsroom and wished him the best for the future.