What a mess

October 14th, 2009 at 10:48 am by David Farrar

My God, the free to air rights issue is a mess, to put it kindly. A fiasco maybe.

I’m someone who actually is supportive of the ambition of to be the free to air broadcaster. But the sticking point is the only 90% coverage. Having 10% of New Zealanders not able to get free to air coverage of the Rugby World Cup we are hosting was never going to be acceptable.

If had talked to other Ministers on the (laudable) ambition for Maori TV, they may have been able to actually help with the bid, by asking the right questions. Instead, we now have two different parties in Government appearing to back competing bids by taxpayer funded stations.

So what do the media say. The Herald reports:

Maori TV chief executive Jim Mather says the channel will continue to fight the Government for the rights to screen the Rugby World Cup, and will use money from wealthy iwi and corporate groups to outbid it.

Well that I approve of!

IRB spokesman Ross Young said the board would be open to increased bids.

I bet they are. They must be laughing all the way to the bank.

The Herald understands the Government’s concern about Maori TV’s coverage relates to fears about small crowds at the tournament, already expected to make a $40 million loss.

The Government and Rugby Union can make money only from ticket sales, and are worried about how these would be affected without the hype can generate.

Well then TVNZ should have put in a bigger bid initially – possibly with support from the Rugby Union.

But Mr Mather said this was “throwing Maori TV the crumbs” and there was little chance of it being involved. The value to Maori TV was in having the exclusive rights, requiring viewers to switch over, rather than staying behind the major networks.

And this is the big pay off for Maori TV. It can take years for people to get used to checking a channel out. A month of people swapping to Maori TV for the RWC would probably leave them with a lot more viewers after the cup.

So what is the so called Govt plan:

- TVNZ leads bid to show the 16 most important games live and free-to-air, backed by Government money.

- TVNZ will show six games – two of the All Blacks’ pool games, the semi-finals, final, and third/fourth play-off.

- , which has put up some of its own money, will show six games – the two other All Blacks pool games, the semi-finals, final and third/fourth play-off.

If it wants, Maori TV can put up money and simulcast the games TVNZ and TV3 are showing. It can also show the balance of the 16 games that the networks do not want.

The challenge for Maori TV is how they can do a bid that covers more than 90% of NZ.

Patrick Gower writes:

Remember the utter shambles as the All Blacks bombed out of the last Rugby World Cup because they could not organise a simple drop-goal in Cardiff?

If the failure to do the strikingly obvious that day left you horrified, then best to cover your eyes before watching the Government’s bungling of the free-to-air television rights for the next Rugby World Cup. …

TVNZ’s involvement is necessary because it has the reach and numbers to hype up the tournament over the next two years and get people through the gates, with ticketing the only way the Government and Rugby Union can make money and stem losses.

Maori TV can offer unique cultural and language elements as well as the flexibility of scheduling to be able to show wall-to-wall coverage without having to break for regular programming like the nightly news.

Surely getting the two together as co-broadcasters months ago and bargaining with the IRB was the obvious solution?

That would have been nice.

chips in:

The political debacle over the Maori Television Service bid for Rugby World Cup coverage rights has soured relations between National and the Maori Party more than anything else in their one-year partnership.

Yep, and it was al avoidable if Ministers talked to each other earlier on.

The Herald editorial proclaims:

The saga of Maori Television’s bid for the Rugby World Cup’s free-to-air broadcasts has taken a bizarre turn with the Government’s decision to fund a higher bid by TVNZ. The International Rugby Board, seller of the broadcasting rights, must be wide-eyed in wonder and glee that it stands to gain from a contest between two bids financed by New Zealand taxpayers. …

But it has taken a quite disturbing degree of fright at the prospect of Maori Television winning the free-to-air rights. Certainly, the Government had a right to be aggrieved that its coalition partner, Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples, did not consult National ministers before approving $3 million from his department, Te Puni Kokiri, to finance the bid.

The general rule of thumb is you should consult your colleagues on anything you would expect to be consulted over.

But if the taxpayer must contribute, why not through Maori Television? It is building a strong presence as a public channel for ceremonial events such as Waitangi Day and Anzac Day. Its coverage of the funeral for Sir Howard Morrison was deeply admired by all who caught it. TVNZ seems no longer interested in this sort of occasion either.

Maori Television was offering World Cup commentaries in English and Maori, from familiar faces and new. It aimed to popularise some Maori phrases through the English telecast, meeting its state-funded mission. On recent evidence it would do a conscientious and fine job. Surely a free-to-air partnership can be forged that would meet all concerns and save the taxpayer this ridiculous double bid.

I agree.

And Tracy Watkins:

In effect, we’ve got government ministers bidding against each other – and ratcheting up the cost for taxpayers as a consequence – to suit their own political purposes.

On the one side is Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples who gave Maori TV the green light for a $3 million-plus bid in a nod to his Maori constituency.

On the other are senior ministers Bill English, and Murray McCully, who’ve given TVNZ and TV3 a nod and a wink that the Government will step in with whatever it takes to win the bid over Maori TV – presumably after concluding that their own constituency won’t take kindly to having to tune into Maori TV to watch world cup games.

I don’t think that is the issue. If done in the right way, I think one could have got the Government quite supportive of the bid. The bigger issue is achieving greater than 90% coverage, and also using TV to boost ticket sales.

The script writers for Yes Minister couldn’t have come up with a more absurd plot.

It would be a great script!

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47 Responses to “What a mess”

  1. village idiot (748 comments) says:

    Stunningly bad management by the Government! Total slap-down for Maori and Maori Party MPs, a cock-up and a shameful waste of public funds to boot!

    Who could ask for more!

    Shame on all involved; Coleman, Key and the Caucus.

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  2. slightlyrighty (2,475 comments) says:

    DPF. While the goals of Maori TV may be laudable, I disagree with your support for them in this issue and think that they should not have even considered it.

    The issue of the funding of the bid by Te Puni Kokiri is the crux of the matter and I believe that the broadcasting rights for the RWC lie far outside it’s brief. It would be worthwhile considering what programmes for the immediate benefit of maori may not be funded as a result of this foray into media mogulism.

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  3. Auberon (873 comments) says:

    There’s a lesson here: front up about your intentions and do these things through the front door, and if they have merit they will succeed.

    Or act in secret, creating embarrassing surprises for your colleagues, and suffer the consequences.

    Sorry, but this shambles is of Sharples and Leith Comer’s own making. They tried a giant sneak and got busted.

    This is also the perfect example of why you shouldn’t ever do business within a hundred miles of Derek Fox.

    If some people have the midas touch – everything they touch turns to gold – Derek Fox has the runny poos touch. Business, relationships, politics… they all turn to shit when Derek’s in the house. There’s a lesson here people.

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  4. RightNow (7,012 comments) says:

    Having taxpayer funded bids competing against each other is a ridiculous farce. Shame on the Greens.
    Cue some fool like Robert Winter…

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  5. Robert Winter (100 comments) says:

    Derek Fox, who knows, says on ‘9 to Noon’ today that ministers were given a clear heads-up on this in June. His account is plausible, and far more plausible than the confusion emerging from the mouths of ministers. This could have been sorted months ago, but the government stuffed up. So, which ministers knew, and who did not talk to whom? In particular, to whom did Georgina te Heuheu talk? And when? And where were Dr Coleman and his staff? And who forgot to brief the PM? The political management here is woeful, and has, I imagine, soured National-Maori Party relations permanently.

    Spinning this as an issue about 90% coverage is nonsense. Managed properly, this would not have been an issue. But, I guess, any port in a perfect storm…….

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  6. big bruv (14,160 comments) says:

    Shame on anybody and everybody involved with the RWC.

    I am furious that MY money is being used to subsidise the NZRU and its hosting of the RWC, I am even more pissed off that I am now going to subsidise the buldgers who claim to be sports fans yet do not want to shell out the money to have SKY.

    NZ cannot afford the RWC, we should have told the IRB that twelve months ago and let the tournament go to Japan who will do a far better job of hosting it than we could ever dream of doing.

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  7. emmess (1,433 comments) says:

    While I agree this is a ridiculous bidding war between different branches of the government and most of the blame lies on the Maori TV/Party /Te Puni Kokiri side
    I disagree with National’s argument regarding the coverage
    Maori TV should be having regarded as virtually 100% coverage
    Because the only thing stopping people getting it is a Freeview box for as low as 60 bucks from Trade Me
    Anybody who is remotely interested in watching the games can not seriously suggest this is a barrier (that is even with ignoring the other benefits of going from Analogue to Digital especially considering they will have to in a few years anyway)

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  8. Auberon (873 comments) says:

    I’m sorry Robert Winter but “Derek Fox” and “plausible” simply don’t belong in the same sentence. Just because he said it went down that way doesn’t for a moment mean it did.

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  9. ben (2,384 comments) says:

    on the (laudable) ambition for Maori TV

    I can’t think of a single aspect of this that is laudable.

    1. The MTV bid uses taxpayer funds for what is the private interests of Sharples and MTV executives

    2. It is not a use of funds for which they were approved

    3. The bid, if successful, will give fewer people access to the coverage than might otherwise have occurred. Ironically, those who miss out will be among the contributors to the $3 million!

    4. It is a prime example of political interference – the use of a popular event as leverage for a minority interest to force their view onto everybody else. This problem of competing objectives is a major reason why governments are such poor custodians of assets.

    5. The goal, to use ever more taxpayer dollars to thrust an idea (whatever the idea) ever more frequently into people’s lives, and without regard to their desire to see it, and to charge them by force for the privilege, is fundamentally coercive and therefore immoral. The speaking of Maori may well be a desirable end, but these means are inimical to a peaceful and inclusive society. I am quite sure Dr Sharples would not like to have my views put on his TV at his expense. Perhaps he could return the favour.

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  10. JeffW (327 comments) says:

    I fail to see why the Govt owns any TV channels, and supports Maori TV through TPK. The long term business model of free to air is under threat from technology advances. Sell them all now, before their value drops further. Take the govt out of it, then no issue.

    With respect to the Maori TV bid, it seems to me that TPK funding could be cut by the $3 million, as the bid suggest they are not focused on the role of Maori development for which they are funded.

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  11. Colonel Masters (409 comments) says:

    The political management here is woeful, and has, I imagine, soured National-Maori Party relations permanently.

    But won’t they patch things up by throwing the Maori party an “H” for Wanganui?

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  12. Inventory2 (10,436 comments) says:

    Is it too much to hope that THIS will be the main disaster for RWC 2011, and that we might actually achieve success on the field?

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  13. Herman Poole (297 comments) says:

    Good on Maori TV for having a go. I expect regardless of their bid, NZ taxpayer (and/or NZRU) money will be going to the IRB to secure broadcast rights, due to the importance of the success of the tournament. It is important local people are fired up and connected to the tournament.

    I don’t think the other parties involved want this event to be their first big one, just because the tournament is such a risk for NZ, the track record of TVNZ is a big factor. I think TVNZ and Maori TV should do a deal wherein TVNZ do this tournament and let Maori TV have a go at the rights to the next RWC or Olympics, those tournaments do not have so many other implications for the country.

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  14. Robert Winter (100 comments) says:

    @Rightnow and Auberon: ad hominem – rattled and grumpy (and Rightnow is so rattled that he’s gratuitously attacking the Greens).

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  15. ben (2,384 comments) says:

    An important point being glossed over here is that the fact MTV needs a subsidy to make their bid is a reliable signal that they are the wrong carrier of this programming. Everybody else, including (I hope) TVNZ, must make a business case, which is to say that they must add value.

    Which is to say that they must be able to assemble human and technical resources and produce a product capable of justifying its own cost.

    MTV’s requirement for a subsidy is a reliable signal they are not able to do that. MTV will either consume more resources getting the same product to the same people, or get the same product to fewer people, or some combination of these. New Zealand is made poorer by the value destroyed by giving the network less capable of transmitting this event the job.

    This is not a criticism of MTV’s competence – it is simply recognition that the need for a subsidy to compete with other bidders is a reliable signal that MTV has specialised elsewhere and is the wrong choice for this event. This is a valuable signal not to be ignored.

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  16. Herman Poole (297 comments) says:

    How big a deal or expense would it be for Maori TV to extend its coverage to the 10% who don’t currently get it?

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  17. Auberon (873 comments) says:

    “How big a deal or expense would it be for Maori TV to extend its coverage to the 10% who don’t currently get it?”

    At what cost? Shall we just add it to the bid? Or bill it later?

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  18. david (2,564 comments) says:

    David, if you are struggling to find the right word, try “SNAFU” or “clusterfuck”.

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  19. slightlyright (94 comments) says:

    Hopefully they can fix this after the next election by merging TV1-Maori TV and RNZ and selling off the rest of TVNZ/Concert etc… This would create far more efficiency and put all the lefties in one place to do their public broadcasting thing and less of this drama where there is so much overlap this kind of issue happens.

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  20. Manolo (14,070 comments) says:

    Where are John Key’s much vaunted leadership abilities? He should act decisively, call Peter Sharples and tell him to get his act together. MTV bid must be called off.

    The Coalition government looks more stupid by the day.

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  21. savag3 (3 comments) says:

    This 90% coverage claim is rubbish. Maori TV is on Freeview satellite which has 100% coverage. Of course once analog switchoff happens they will be in 100% of homes because if you don’t have Freeview satellite you won’t have any TV to watch.

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  22. bchapman (649 comments) says:

    Hey slightlyright you’ve got it in one. The other thing that they will do is to abolish the Maori Seats as Don Brash proposed, since their numbers won’t be needed, then work on taking out MMP. I suspect however that the aim will be to get rid of all government funded public broadcasting- like in the US.

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  23. village idiot (748 comments) says:

    Dog chews on own throat.

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  24. kino flo (83 comments) says:

    My understanding is that MTS’ terrestrial coverage of the country is technically 90%, but this requires all receivers to have an external UHF aerial to receive their transmission. From my observation, most houses don’t have an UHF aerial. To receive MTS via the terrestrial Freeview platform, they still need a UHF aerial. So not only would you be expected to purchase a Freeview box, you would also need to pay for the installation of another aerial. So I think it’s a little disengeneous to suggest that MTS has 90% coverage.

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  25. getstaffed (9,186 comments) says:

    Stadium problems last time, TV rights problems this time. Perhaps by WRC 2051 we’ll have these little things sorted out.

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  26. Jack5 (5,165 comments) says:

    Robert Winter at 11.15 notes that Derek Fox, ex Maori TV head, has spoken out on the issue.

    It’s interesting how Radio NZ’s Labour Radio, with a strong tradition of backing feminism, brings Fox into the discussion despite Fox having faced allegations in the past in regard to domestic violence. These allegations were confirmed by the Maori Party (see link below).

    I believe people should be given a second chance and the benefit of the doubt, but would Radio NZ’s Labour Radio do the same for Tony Veitch?

    http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/maori-party-confirms-foxs-domestic-violence-history-32948

    AND

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/domestic-violence/news/article.cfm?c_id=178&objectid=10520995

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  27. peterwn (3,309 comments) says:

    Maori TV has 100% coverage assuming a freeview dish and box. It would not be worthwhile extending Maori TV terrestial analogue transmission when it would cease a few years later. This effectively left the Government with three options (in an election year):
    1. Just accept that the other 10% would need to get freeview dishes and boxes for the RWC. They would neet to get them a few years later anyway. Presumably there were too many political rumblings about this.
    2. Give some sort of ‘carrot’ to get freeview. Government would not be too keen on this.
    3. Make sure it goes to TVNZ with its virtual 100% coverage.

    Government has basically gone for option 3. Personally i would have let Maori TV have it and put all those who signed up for RWC freeview into a draw for $0.5M and a few nice cars. After RWC, analogue TV could be easily shut down as numbers affected would be less than ‘public squeal point’.

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  28. davidp (3,588 comments) says:

    At least one private broadcaster is prepared to broadcast the event. Therefore no government funding is required. TVNZ should withdraw from the bidding. TPK should withdraw its offer of funding to MTV, and have its budget reduced by $3million since they obviously don’t need it. TV3 can then compete with the “wealthy iwi” who are happy to take a punt on MTV.

    But what is this?:

    “The Herald understands the Government’s concern about Maori TV’s coverage relates to fears about small crowds at the tournament, already expected to make a $40 million loss.”

    Who is making this loss… the Rugby people, either in NZ or internationally? If so, why does the government care? Or am I as a taxpayer expected to fund the $40million loss?

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  29. Vanzyl (7 comments) says:

    I am a Nat/Act supporter. I think Key and co has done a great job in slowly untangling the mess left by the previous lot.

    Maori television is of little value both culturally and financially…. however like most things with a slight creative bent, it has merit to keep it and let it grow. A bit like music really. it is not vital to our survival, but hey it has great feel good factor, it is not going to save lives, but it does no real harm either.

    Having said that, this is an absolute farce. Maori television has as much right as any-one to bid for the cup. You can jump up and down as much as you like about where the money is coming from, but TVNZ is also bidding with taxpayer money, so that argument is a joke.

    Coverage is even a bigger joke. TVNZ like all others does not reach 90% of the country, unless you have 1) a satellite dish in some areas, 2) special antennae in others 3) some cable connections in others.

    And the biggest joke of all. Since when is it imperative that 100% of the country can see a sporting event? Why was this not an issue at the last WC? I hate soccer with a passion, but if it is a right to see these events nation wide, why not the soccer WC?

    If the WC really means that much to some-one in the back of Athur’s Pass, get bloody sky for the duration.

    And here is the bit that will really come back and bite JK on his arse. The whole point raised was that they wanted to generate interest to ensure that ticket sales are up. Well here is a bit of a news-flash for Coleman (who until now I regarded with absolute respect and really rated), The 10 % you are saying Maori television does not cover… will generate at max 100 tickets to games… trust me if 100 or even 1000 tickets is a game breaker for you.. I suggest you take 50% of what you intend to support TVNZ with, and give it to the WCR organizers…. You will save 50% and they will be about 1.5 million dollars better off.

    This reeks of populist politics and no amount of spin will change that.

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  30. Vanzyl (7 comments) says:

    How much is a freeview box? $169

    How about this? ” World Cup Rugby special!!! The NZ government will provide you with a freeview box for the duration of the RWC if you cannot get Maori TV. I bet dollars to donuts the cost of uptake is less than $100 000. Now that would be a bargain… no political kudos but…

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  31. kaya (1,360 comments) says:

    Why are we expected to subsidise a private business in the first place through paying for stadiums and TV rights? The NZRFU is a private organisation that pays wages and salaries isn’t it? I fail to see why the taxpayers are funding a single cent of this, let it stand or fall on its own merit.

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  32. Lipo (229 comments) says:

    Do I read it correctly that the government believes it is a New Zealander’s right to watch the RWC?
    That is why they are throwing a shit load of money at it.

    What about if I don’t have a Tele.

    Can I get a Government grant to purchase a flash new 50″ Plasma to watch my right?

    Should the Government establish a fund (a bit like the one for insulation homes) so people can get a proper Tele to watch the RWC?

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  33. emmess (1,433 comments) says:

    Freeview box about to go for $58.07
    http://www.trademe.co.nz/Browse/SearchResults.aspx?searchType=all&searchString=freeview&type=Search

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  34. Jack5 (5,165 comments) says:

    The Colonel at 11.28 hits another nail on the head…

    Whanganui will be a bone thrown to the Sharples party in consolation. Perhaps the whily whuckers knew this would be the outcome when they dug into the taxpayers’ pocket to fund Maori TV’s bid.

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  35. tvb (4,516 comments) says:

    This all started with Dr Sharples thinking he could bounce the Government without properly consulting his colleagues. And when the inevitable happened he goes into “grievance mode” thinking he could cover his tracks that way. Putting it into an iwi context it was like one member of the governing structure doing a solo act trying to commit the the iwi to something without consultation. Peter Sharples understands that very well. He should equally understand that when in Government.

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  36. kino flo (83 comments) says:

    “Freeview box about to go for $58.07″.

    How much is the antenna/dish, and the installation cost?

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  37. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    Perhaps we should send an email to channel 7 in Aussie I’m sure they would only be to pleased to help us with our problems.

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  38. dungflunghoo (3 comments) says:

    According to the latest in the NZ Herald, John Key has directed that the Maori TV bid will be the lead bid pushing the TVNZ bid off the table.

    Who is running this country?

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  39. big bruv (14,160 comments) says:

    Another cave in by Neville Key.

    I am really starting to hate that little man.

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  40. trout (944 comments) says:

    I agree with tvb. Sharples intentionally short sided the Government; one upping pakeha is becoming a mana enhancing sport. What he will come to realize is that he may win this battle but he will have lost the PM’s trust.
    All politicians will be mindfull of the fact that the next General Election will take place a couple of weeks or so after the WRC. The Maori Party will of course foreseen the propaganda potential of a closely aligned TV broadcaster aquiring a large audience. For the Government’s part a cock-up in the coverage will be blamed on them.

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  41. Viking2 (11,571 comments) says:

    Why is the taxpayer supporting, TV companies, Rugby companies?
    A lot of us couldn’t give a flying F about rugby but we still have to pay and subsidise all the rest of you troughers.
    Why?

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  42. Pete George (23,687 comments) says:

    I don’t think it is a cave in from Key. Seems like he has stepped in and put some of his own in their place. Someone tried manouevre a deal and he called them on it – that’s my guess anyway. Gave them time to do it right, when they didn’t he intervened. Strong leadership.

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  43. village idiot (748 comments) says:

    Pete George – sounds as though you believe that all this mess created itself without Key’s involvement! Yesterday he was supportive of the challenge by TV’s One and Three. A week ago, he’d given Sharples the go ahead, without bothering to get his caucus onside. Today, he steps in and ‘sorts out the mess’. Self made mess. As expected, he’s portrayed as the redeemer. Many will swallow that.

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  44. philu (13,393 comments) says:

    and the winner is..

    pita sharples..

    the vanquished..

    would have to be key..

    with a big side-order of mccully..

    (and an ‘apertif of coleman..?..)

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  45. Robert Black (423 comments) says:

    When will the overly apathetic non-Maori majority population of New Zealand get it?

    Pita Sharples agenda – Maori at all cost. One New Zealand? Fucking eh? One Maori New Zealand!! Get dem whities and Asians and Pollies out! Thees ees our cuntree!! (sorry thought a Maori Cartman would be funnier than Pita Sharples)

    John Key’s agenda – for the combined people of New Zealand.

    Non-Maoris in New Zealand maybe apathetic to the strength of steel. But I tell you what, even steel snaps eventually and when it does it causes a lot of energy.

    We could be talking almost KKK proportions in the future.

    Scary.

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  46. Inventory2 (10,436 comments) says:

    Phillip Ure said “and the winner is..

    pita sharples..

    the vanquished..

    would have to be key..”

    Audrey Young says “Prime Minister John Key has just shown why he is Prime Minister.

    His intervention yesterday in the debacle over the Rugby World Cup was perfectly timed.”

    Now, who should we believe?

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  47. village idiot (748 comments) says:

    Not Audrey Young. That’s the correct answer.

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