Media rumour mill: Duncan Garner to return to MediaWorks, Air NZ exec linked to top TVNZ job

MediaWorks has held talks with Duncan Garner, the Herald understands, over a potential return to MagicTalk.

Garner has been a free agent since his recent resignation from The AM Show, after a four-year stint hosting the show.

In explaining his departure, Garner cited brutal hours as a major contributing factor to his decision to leave.

The AM Show was previously owned by MediaWorks, but moved to Discovery after the international media giant acquired the Kiwi company’s television arm.

During Garner’s tenure the AM Show was simulcast on both television channel Three and radio station MagicTalk.

In total, Garner had spent 20 years working at Three in various roles, including as the political editor at Newshub.

MediaWorks has not yet officially announced Garner’s appointment and declined to comment on industry speculation.

Garner did not respond to a request for comment on a potential return to the company that employed him for most of his career.

It is understood that Garner may be making a return to the airwaves, although it seems unlikely he’ll have the appetite to host the early-morning slot given his previous comments about the starts.

While it’s still unclear exactly what role he will play, Garner confirmed he had something on the cards on a Facebook Live interview with businessman and amateur broadcaster Max Whitehead.

“I’ve agreed to something. All will be revealed shortly,” Garner said.

“I’ve signed something, it’s exciting and it’s a little bit new for me, not overly new, but a little bit new,” Garner said in the interview.

“All will be revealed in the coming days or weeks.”

Garner told Whitehead that it wasn’t up to him to reveal the details of the move.

In addition to this impending announcement, Garner was also recently confirmed as a columnist for business publication NBR.

Should Garner make a return to MediaWorks, he will likely play a significant role in building the media company’s news offering.

When the television arm was sold to Discovery, MediaWorks relinquished the Newshub brand and this is yet to be replaced.

However, the company has been making a few moves towards filling this gap.

In September, MediaWorks appointed Dallas Gurney as its director of news and talk. An experienced radio executive, Gurney had a long career at Newstalk ZB before leaving to work elsewhere in media and communications.

In announcing the appointment, MediaWorks chief executive Cam Wallace drew attention to Gurney’s extensive experience in developing content strategy as a significant reason for the appointment.

Should Garner join the company, it will mark the first major appointment under Gurney’s tenure.

Top executive linked to TVNZ role

In other media speculation, the rumour mill shows no sign of slowing down when it comes to the future boss of TVNZ.

The latest name linked to the role is former TVNZ executive and current Air New Zealand general manager of brand and marketing Jeremy O’Brien.

Asked to comment on the speculation, O’Brien declined, saying only that he has plenty on his plate at Air New Zealand as the airline focuses on getting the country back up and running.

Current TVNZ boss Kevin Kenrick announced his resignation in September and is set to step down from the position at the end of February.

Should O’Brien nab the top role at TVNZ, it would see him return to a business where he spent 11 years of his career.

O’Brien initially joined TVNZ as channel marketing manager in 2005 and worked his way up the ranks to become commercial director in August 2015.

He was then poached by Air New Zealand in October 2016 to take on the role of regional general manager of direct and market development. He again worked his way up the ranks to the position he holds today.

This adds yet another potential contender to a list that includes many of the smartest thinkers in New Zealand media.

The TVNZ leadership position is arguably one of the most important roles in New Zealand media, and it takes on added weight under the growing shadow of the proposed merger with RNZ.

If Cabinet does decide to proceed with the merger, it’s understood legislation to establish the new public entity will be drafted in early 2022.

After that, a select committee will review the draft legislation some time in the middle of next year.

A timeline posted on the Ministry for Culture and Heritage website suggests that the merged entity will be created and operational by 2023.

The new boss at TVNZ will be instrumental in working with RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson to ensure that this process runs as smoothly as possible should it come to fruition.

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