The Dom Post editorial:
State broadcasters are like Caesar’s wife: they have to be above sin and seen to be so. That is why Shane Taurima had no choice but to resign as head of TVNZ’s Maori and Pacific Unit. He had used the broadcaster’s buildings for a Labour Party meeting, and its email to organise a Labour meeting held elsewhere.
He broke the rules that require taxpayer-funded broadcasters to be politically neutral. State broadcasters must not use their position to promote the interests of any political party of whatever kind. Mr Taurima sought the Labour candidacy at the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election last year, but the actual party brand is irrelevant. He would also have had to resign if he had held an ACT party meeting at his workplace.
It is not clear which other TVNZ staff members were involved in the meeting or in other party activities. The company’s internal inquiry will find out and then TVNZ managers will have to decide what to do. Mr Taurima knew he could not defend himself and did the honourable thing.
The honourable thing would be to not have done it in the first place. According to TVNZ management Taurima told them when he was rehired that he would not stand again.
Mr Kenrick said TVNZ had sought commitments from Mr Taurima after his tilt for Labour at the Ikaroa-Rawhiti candidacy before restoring him to his role heading the department. “The key focus was to get him to make an explicit choice between journalism and politics, and to make commitments around that. We relied in good faith on those commitments.”
Did he lie, or just a few weeks later change his mind and not bother to tell them?
Whether other sackings are called for is a matter of judgment.
The staff in that unit are all basically taxpayer funded, as it is not a commercial unit.
State broadcasters have a special duty to be politically even-handed. This does not mean, as some believe, that the journalists should have no views of their own. Every sentient human being has certain political beliefs or attitudes, and journalists are no different. But state journalists must be professional and not push any party’s barrow.
Mr Taurima insists that he has never allowed his personal politics to influence his work as a journalist, and it is interesting that the prime minister has not claimed any political bias at TVNZ. In fact he thinks they are fair.
The PM has been very nice, when he could put the boot in. For my 2c I don’t think Taurima’s interviews showed political bias. He pushed David Shearer hard when he interviewed him. The issue is his breach of ethical standards, not his previous interviewing.
Mr Taurima was allowed to return to the company after he failed to win candidacy, and this is a defensible decision. Again, the expectation was that Mr Taurima, once he had taken off his Labour Party hat and put on his broadcaster’s one, would act in a professional and politically neutral way.
However, it is now reported that in January he facilitated a Labour meeting – held on a marae and not on TVNZ property – on how to win the Maori vote. This meeting was also attended by Labour leader David Cunliffe. Mr Cunliffe says he strongly supports a politically neutral state broadcaster. Did he ask himself, then, why Mr Taurima was running this highly political meeting?
I’m amazed warning bells did not go off.
Will Taurima still seek the Labour nomination for Tamaki Makaurau? Will they select him?