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Bill Ralston to head TVNZ news

Published: 7:57PM Monday June 30, 2003

After weeks of speculation TVNZ has appointed former presenter and talkback host Bill Ralston as its new head of news and current affairs.

The announcement follows the resignation of Heaton Dyer at the end of January after just over a year in the job, saying he needed a break.

Deputy head of News and Current Affairs, Trish Carter, has been standing in in the meantime.

Fraser made the announcement in TVNZ's Auckland newsroom on Monday afternoon, acknowledging Ralston's appointment was "probably the worst kept secret since the announcement of the timing of last year's election."

Ralston has described the new role as the most challenging job of his life.

"They could have brought someone in from abroad, but I think the advantage I've got...there is a knowledge of the social and political landscape of New Zealand which is a very complicated way of saying I'm a New Zealander and I know how this country works and I think I know how it thinks."

TVNZ Chief Executive Ian Fraser says Ralston will bring his own style to the role.

"Having someone leading the news team with Bill's energy, his experience and just a hint of the mongrel is going to be very important in terms of meeting that challenge."

Whispers of Bill Ralston's appointment began a month ago, followed by rumours of big changes he wants to make.

However he says his focus is the content.

"Someone comes in they immediately change the titles, they immediately change the front people, they immediately change the theme, they change everything else but what really counts which is the content... And it is the content that's got to change."

Bill Ralston earned his reputation in TVNZs press gallery - in 1989 he became TV3's political editor and host of his own late night chat show.

In 1997 his career shifted again when he took over the reins at Metro magazine.

He currently hosts a talkback show on Radio Pacific and will start fulltime at TVNZ on July 14.