Ten newsreader Helen Kapalos is the latest victim of the ailing network's razor gang.
AS NEWSREADER Helen Kapalos finished the evening bulletin on Friday, she was unaware her six-year career at Channel Ten was about to end abruptly, the latest victim of a financial and ratings crisis engulfing the 48-year-old network.
Within minutes of bidding viewers a good weekend and walking off set, Kapalos was grabbed on the arm by the personal assistant of Ten's head of news, Dermot O'Brien, and instructed not to leave the office.
She was about to be boned by O'Brien and human resources boss Graeme Kethel, who has been dubbed the ''grim reaper'' by some disgruntled staff over plans to slash more than 100 editorial and production jobs.
Kapalos was bluntly told her contract would not be renewed when it expires in March next year and she would not be offered other reporting roles. The embattled network is expected to move to a single-presenter format anchored by veteran Mal Walden from December, although this was denied by a network spokeswoman.
By 6.30pm on Friday, the network had blocked computer access and cancelled her security pass, which sparked legal threats from Kapalos, according to a well-placed source. After a tense standoff, Ten management allowed Kapalos to access her computer, as she needed to print a travel itinerary for a New York holiday, which begins today. Friends of Kapalos who live near Ten's South Yarra headquarters helped clear her desk, as she farewelled colleagues.
A teary Walden, the co-anchor of Ten's weekday bulletin and a long-time friend of Kapalos, is believed to have called about 10pm on Friday to offer support. Walden was away from the news desk last week, but will return on Monday with temporary replacement Melanie Davies.
Kapalos declined to comment as she boarded a plane for the US on Saturday, but sent a tweet at 10.50am: ''Fall down seven times. Get up eight.''
A Network Ten spokeswoman confirmed: ''We will not be renewing Helen's contract, the details of which we will not discuss publicly.''
TV Tonight editor David Knox slammed the stone-hearted handling of Kapalos' dismissal.
''In the 'old' Ten style, such a departure would have acknowledged Kapalos' achievements, explained the cost cuts and wished her well. But the network has lost its former programming chief and head of publicity, as it adopts a hardline approach to public statements from Sydney. As a result, six years of work (and ratings) is apparently summed up with just 16 words,'' he wrote on his site.
Advertising guru and Gruen Transfer panelist Russel Howcroft faces a mammoth task to resurrect the ailing network and repair its battered image when he takes on the role of executive general manager in January.
Howcroft, who has limited television experience, will have to arrest a 15 per cent slump in revenue over the past year, while Ten's share of the advertising market is down from 29 per cent to 24 per cent over the same period.
According to a source close to Kapalos, the newsreader was ''disgusted'' by the treatment from Ten management, but accepted the network was forced to make tough decisions.
''It wasn't personal, it was business, but it should have been handled much better,'' the source said.
Kapalos is understood to have called in her lawyers.