Yeah, I agree, maybe easing in Simon and Wendy (or even Alison Mau, as it might have been back then!) during the week. But hey - bygones are bygones, and all that…
You know, I don’t think TVNZ (or indeed, any network) would dare do anything like what they did with Richard nowadays. I know they moved Wendy off 6pm a couple of years back, but at least she was allowed to continue as a fill-in (and now she seems to be the regular host of Tonight, so I suppose she’s kind of returned through the back door, as it were).
Wasn’t Judy let go because of the ‘uproar’ over her salary, rather than any sort of ageism? I know there was a lot made in the media about TVNZ increasing her salary to $800,000 after Richard left, and subsequently Simon and Wendy being paid half of that between them. Bill Ralston (who of course was head of news back then) has said in the past that he wanted Judy to stay on for much longer than she ultimately did.
Basically… At the end of 1998, TVNZ decided to increase ratings for their news by hiring newsreader John Hawkesby, who had recently left TV3. The plan was to put him together with Judy Bailey - the pair had previously presented a popular regional news magazine for the northern half of North Island, appropriately called Top Half. Unfortunately, this meant disrupting another popular partnership: that of Bailey and Richard Long, who had presented the news on weeknights for about a decade at this point. Long was moved to weekends alongside Liz Gunn.
The move… did not go as planned, shall we say. TVNZ received thousands of complaints and lost tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of viewers, leading them to reinstate Long on the weekday news after less than six weeks. Hawkesby was let go, and eventually received a multi million dollar payout after a court battle.