Speculation over Hilary Barry's next move

UPDATED with comments from ex-TVNZ head of news Bill Ralston on why the news reader was feeling "cut up", MediaWorks' problem replacing her and TVNZ's fitting her in.

Latest: Weldon should resign - Edwards

MediaWorks chief executive Mark Weldon confirms Hilary Barry is leaving the company (see statement end of story).

Ms Barry co-hosted TV3's 6pm bulletin and reads the news Paul Henry's breakfast show, simulcast on TV3, RadioLive and Newshub.co.nz but missed the latest episodes. Illness was the official story.

Her departure sparked immediate rumours she is making a shift to TVNZ, and possibly the state broadcaster's Breakfast show. 

A spokeswoman for the state broadcaster, Georgie Hills, said it never comments on contract matters.

A well-placed TVNZ insider approached by NBR last night was not aware of a move.

The news broke while Mr Weldon was overseas, leading to speculation that a leak had forced his hand.

She was feeling "cut up"
Former TVNZ head of news and current affairs Bill Ralston tells NBR that Ms Barry's departure "Is going to have a huge impact. She’s a superb talent. Probably one of the best newsreaders in the country if not the best and it’s a massive blow."

He adds, "She’s the old TV3. She’s lost Mark Jennings who was her boss and a mentor. She’s lost a lot of friends from the current affairs show [3D] that basically got sacked. John Campbell, she was cut up about that when he went; I think she’d just had enough."

Could Ms Barry turn up at TVNZ?

"I wouldn’t be surprised, but it’s a matter of where they put her," Mr Ralston says.

"If they put her into the six o’clock news, that means they have to move Wendy Petrie and we could have a replay of the John Hawkesby thing. They could have her on the weekends as a way of easing her in."

Who could replace Ms Barry on TV3 and RadioLive?

"Only Heather du Plessis-Allan," Mr Ralston says.

"And that would leave a big hole in their seven o’clock show. So they’ve got a real problem there. They’ve got other news readers, but no one of her stature -- and I mean that kindly, because they’ve got some good young news readers – but there’s no one of her stature to replace her from within.

"From without, I’m scratching my head to think who they could bring in."

Comings and goings  but mainly goings
Mark Weldon is due back in Auckland by Tuesday when he is scheduled to make a major announcement about the company.

His tenure has seen the cancellation of Campbell Live and investigative news show 3D and a string of high-profile departures including long-time head of news Mark Jennings. It's also seen the launch of Story, gossip site Scout, and the re-branding of TV3's news operation as Newshub.

There has also been recent controversy, with a Newshub reporter's leak leading to all media being banned from Reserve Bank lockups. A Newshub report on Thursday indicated the organisation did need that preparation time. Newshub tweeted that the official cash rate had been held at 225% (the sort of rate hike that might actually be enough to finally cool the Auckland housing market, as Bernard Hickey joked about the blunder).

"I wonder if Mark Weldon ever gets stressed," David Farrier tweeted last night.

Mr Farrier, until recently co-host of Newsworthy (now Newshub Late), is another recent departure.

A Newshub account on Twitter simply posted a picture of Ms Barry surrounded by a love heart.

Ms Barry's departure comes at a time when Mr Weldon has limited freedom of movement.

On April 26, Oaktree Capital — the US hedge fund that took full control of MediaWorks last year — imposed restrictions on spending or liabilities the media company's executives can incur without recourse to the board.

The new MediaWorks constitution sets a $2 million annual limit on any new investment, liabilities, or litigation by Mr Weldon without prior approval by the board, which since April has included Oaktree representative Jonas Mitzschke.

RAW DATA: Statement by MediaWorks CEO Mark Weldon
"On behalf of MediaWorks, I want to thank and pay tribute to Hilary. She is a brilliant broadcaster, highly respected journalist and much-loved personality, who will be missed by myself, colleagues and audiences.

"She started with TV3 as a news reporter in Christchurch in 1993 and has become one of New Zealand's favourite personalities on television and radio.

"This was a personal decision made by Hilary. We are disappointed to lose her but also acknowledge that, after 23 years, it's very reasonable she might wish to make a change. So, we respect her decision, thank her for her enormous contribution, and wish her the very best.

"She leaves the company on a high, with Paul Henry and Newshub Live at 6pm both performing extremely well."

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