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Today FM hosts abruptly taken off air and told to play music

Mar 30, 2023

The Mediaworks' radio station Today FM abandoned scheduling this morning when presenters broke from programming to question the future of their employer.

Broadcasters told their audience they were going off air and had been instructed to play music.

Today FM hosts Duncan Garner and Tova O'Brien told listeners before 9am the station and staff were being cut.

"We've been told to play music."

"This is it, folks."

While still on-air O'Brien said the station had not been given a chance.

Staff had been told they had the support of the chief executive, the board, the executive "and they have f.....d us", she said.

Garner responded: "This is betrayal."

He said other staff had joined the two radio hosts in the studio and several of them were crying.

"Radio is one of those projects, where you have to settle in, and slowly but surely get your numbers, get your ratings, get your revenue," Garner said.

Show producer Tom Day tweeted that the Mediaworks board had made a proposal to shut down Today FM.

"They have given us only until the end of this afternoon to make submissions. I have no words."

Day told RNZ it was gutting to have their station axed by Mediaworks.

He confirmed Mediaworks board has proposed to close down the Today FM Brand in a meeting this morning.

He wished they had been given more time to build their brand after being on the air for just over a year.

A story on Today FM's website says it is facing "serious uncertainty".

It also references the appearance just before 9am of its key broadcasters Garner and O'Brien who went on air and used a swear word banned in most circumstances by the Broadcasting Standards Authority to describe their current situation.

In the on-air segment O'Brien said that following the resignation of Mediaworks head of news Dallas Gurney, soon after the sudden departure of chief executive Cam Wallace, the team hadn't been able to get the same level of assurance from the board or acting chief executive Wendy Palmer about the future of the radio station.

"We've got to hold out hope here, but we're scared", she said.

Tim Murphy, the co-editor of Newsroom, said today's development was shocking and gutting for many journalists and the industry.

A station-wide meeting had been called with Palmer, the story said.

In a statement, Palmer said: "This morning at the MediaWorks board's request, we have taken Today FM off air while we consult with the team about the future of the station.

"This is a difficult time for the team and our priority is supporting them as we work through this process."

She said more information would be released at a later date.

Today FM was set up a year ago to replace Magic Talk, which had struggled to make inroads in the ratings.

MediaWorks also operates the Edge, the Breeze, Mai FM and the Rock among other stations.

Main image (MediaWorks): Tova O'Brien.

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