Another TVNZ staffer seeking a Labour job

March 1st, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

TVNZ does seem to be turning into a recruitment pool for the Labour Party. Fran Mold became Chief Press Secretary. Kris Faafoi is now an MP. Shane Taurima sought nomination and helped run a branch for them while working there.

The latest is Tamati Coffey who is seeking Labour’s Rotorua nomination.

Labour Party general secretary Tim Barnett said two nominations had been received, with a possible third nomination coming late Friday.

Mr Barnett said the names of all nominees for the party’s Rotorua candidate would be released on Monday with the selection process to take up to a month.

If selected, Mr Coffey would replace former Labour Party cabinet minister and new mayor of Rotorua Steve Chadwick as Rotorua’s Labour candidate to contest November’s general election.

Rotorua MP Todd McClay said he didn’t focus on what the Labour Party were doing.

“I believe I have a good track record of working hard for local people and have delivered some important wins for Rotorua and the wider electorate over the last six years.”

Mr McClay said this would be his third election campaign and he looked forward to making his case to continue to be Rotorua’s MP and represent its views in Parliament.

I hear there may be another broadcaster soon to also declare they will stand for Labour.

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Enough real abuse that TVNZ staff don’t need to make more up

February 27th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Television New Zealand has apologised for a Breakfast stunt after discovering two of their staff had made up abusive messages to them that were read on air.

The programme two days ago had eight staff read out messages of abuse in the wake of the weekend death in Sydney of television presenter Charlotte Dawson.

But this morning the programme apologised saying that broadcaster Peter Williams and Seven Sharp reporter Dean Butler had made up their messages.

In an on-air statement the show said the two had misunderstood what they had been told to do, and believed it was a “light hearted parody.” The other messages were genuine, Breakfast said.

“TVNZ is taking this matter very seriously and will be dealing with it appropriately,” Breakfast said.

Williams and Butler have had their parody messages removed from on-line.

The message read out by Williams, now known to be made up, said: “My mother always told me that people who talk slowly think slowly. You talk slowly, Peter Williams.”

Butler’s said: “Don’t take this the wrong way but I hope someone punches you.”

In the genuine messages reporter Brooke Dobson was told to “shave off” a moustache, Seven Sharp co-host Toni Street was criticised for her “disgusting flabby arm skin” and co-host Jesse Mulligan was labelled “thick as a plank”.

That is a huge fail. Even if one generously accepts it was a misunderstanding, then it was a huge communications failure for a broadcaster that is meant to be good at communications. There is some real hideous abuse of those with a high profile, and highlighting it was a great idea. But having two of them as invented undermines both what they did, but also the two staffers involved.

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The TVNZ inquiry

February 25th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A review into the misuse of TVNZ company resources and alleged political bias will get underway this week with the involvement of media law expert Steven Price and respected broadcasting figure Bill Francis.

Shane Taurima, head of the state broadcaster’s Maori and Pacific unit, resigned last week over his ties to the Labour Party.

The panel will investigate the inappropriate use of TVNZ resources for political means over the last year, and also determine whether any “obvious political bias” can be identified in the department’s programmes or in Q+A interviews conducted by Taurima.

I hope the investigation is thorough.

The e-mails showing the activities of four or more staff to assist Labour were revealed only because an external recipient presumably leaked them. The first thing I want to know is how many more e-mails were sent from or between TVNZ staff discussing how to help Labour.  The inquiry should at a minimum inspect all e-mails to and from those staff over the last year.

I understand that TVNZ has a rule that staff in their news and currents affairs section can not be a member of a political party. This seems a sensible rule. Will the inquiry look at how many staff are in breach of that rule?

Taurima only told TVNZ in the last week or two that he was considering standing for Parliament again. Is there any evidence to show that he has intended standing for long before he declared his intention?

How did such a high proportion of the Maori unit end up active members of a political party. Did Taurima recruit them?

It is rumoured another TVNZ news and current affairs staff member is about to declare their intention to be a Labour Party candidate. Are they currently a party member?

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Dom Post on TVNZ

February 19th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

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?

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An appalling breach of neutrality at TVNZ

February 17th, 2014 at 10:27 pm by David Farrar

Patrick Gower at 3 News reported:

3 News can reveal state broadcaster TVNZ is being used as a campaign base by Labour Party activists.

They’ve even held a meeting in TVNZ’s Maori and Pacific Unit aimed at fundraising for Labour.

The unit’s manager, Shane Taurima, has held ambitions to become a Labour MP and his staff have been arranging Labour Party business, using TVNZ facilities like email.

Mr Taurima has resigned following the revelation.

Mr Taurima’s a Labour Party activist. He could be standing as a Labour MP this election.

Documents obtained by 3 News show the state broadcaster is being used to help Labour’s cause.

Labour’s electorate committee for the Auckland Maori seat Tamaki Makarau has been using TVNZ as a base.

Last year, a meeting was held at the Maori and Pacific unit’s Hobson headquarters, next to TVNZ’s main building, with Labour Party activists swiped through security.

On the agenda was “fundraising” – making money for the Labour Party.

This is appalling and there must be a full independent inquiry into how this happened. Having the resources of the state broadcaster used to help the Labour Party fund raise and campaign plan is not far off political corruption.

This is not about the actions of Taurima alone. He was a known Labour Party aspiring candidate. TVNZ hired him back after he sought Labour’s nomination for Ikaroa Rawhiti. They knew his affiliations when they hired him back. Did they explicitly tell him he could not remain politically active?

There are so many questions about this, I don’t know where to start. Here’s a few.

  • How did TVNZ become aware of Labour Party use of their facilities?
  • Did they only take action once they became aware it would become public.
  • Why was Taurima not sacked, and allowed to resign?
  • Who at TVNZ knew about the Labour Party campaign meeting held at their offices, and who swiped all the activists through?
  • Who decided to rehire Taurima, after he quit to try and be the Labour candidate for Ikaroa Rawhiti?
  • Was Taurima explicitly warned or counselled about political activity?
  • How many TVNZ Maori unit staff are Labour Party activists? At least four are known of, which destroys any notion that the TVNZ Maori Unit is delivering politically neutral programmes.
  • Did any Labour MPs attend the meeting at TVNZ premises? Did they not think this was wrong, if they did attend?
  • Was Labour Head Office aware that TVNZ was basically the host for their Tamaki Makarau branch?
  • Did David Cunliffe not think there was anything wrong with attending a sesssion on how to win the Maori vote, run by the head of the TVNZ Maori Unit? Should this not ring warning bells?

There must be a full external inquiry into this. Either the TVNZ Board must commission an independent inquiry into how this occurred, and how to prevent it happening again – or the Auditor-General should be asked to investigate.

UPDATE: A further story in Stuff reveals:

  • TVNZ only found out about this due to the TV3 story.
  • Taurima only resigned once the story came to light
  • TVNZ knew that Taurima wanted to seek Labour’s nomination for Tamaki Makaurau

This is a really bad call by TVNZ. They hired someone who had just weeks earlier been a Labour Party candidate, and who wanted to stand for Labour again at the next election. They never should have hired Taurima again. By doing so, they turned their Maori unit into a branch of the Labour Party.

No one would say that you can never return to broadcasting after being a candidate. Paul Henry stood for National in 1999, for example. But that was in his past when he went onto TVNZ. It is very different to hiring someone weeks after they have been a candidate – and when they are still planning to run again.

UPDATE2: Taurima has put out a press release:

It is with immense regret and sadness that I have resigned as General Manager of Māori and Pacific Programmes at TVNZ.

I love and respect the work of all my TVNZ colleagues and regret any damage that my actions may have had on them, and the incredibly important and quality work they do.

I have been a member of the Labour Party since I contested the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti candidacy in 2013.

I have attended party hui and fully accept that some of my actions in supporting Labour may be seen to have crossed the line and I apologise unreservedly.

I categorically deny that my political affiliations have had any influence on any editorial decision that I have made during this time or at any time in the more than 12 years that I have been honoured to work in many roles at TVNZ. However, questions have been raised that have brought into question the integrity of the crucial work of my colleagues at TVNZ. This is unfair and unacceptable and as a result I have resigned.

I respect that an internal investigation is underway into the actions of three of my former colleagues and my heart goes out to them at this time..

I have seen the word activist used to describe my now former work colleagues. They are not activists. They are passionate friends and people that I love and respect who committed to provide some support to me. They are wonderful people whose enthusiasm led to some poorly considered decisions. Decisions that were not to benefit them individually.. I do hope their actions do not impact on the passion, commitment and loyalty they each provide as valued employees of TVNZ.

I have made no decisions around my future and will be making no further comment at this time.

I apologise again for any damage or upset that my actions may have caused.

Taurima made some very bad judgement calls, as he admits. For me the real issue is that of TVNZ management. Did they hire him back without asking if he planned to stand again?

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TVNZ loses BSA case re Colin Craig

December 17th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

TVNZ has been ordered to broadcast an apology to Conservative Party leader Colin Craig over an item it ran on Seven Sharp.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority says an item from April 24 – a short skit “lampooning” Mr Craig over his threat of defamation against a satirical website – was “childish and unfair”.

The BSA says while it recognises the value of satire and free speech, the BSA found that the comments about his personal character and attributes went too far.

It says Mr Craig was given no opportunity to defend himself.

Seven Sharp is meant to be a current affairs programme. You can probably get away with what they did on 7 Days, but not on Seven Sharp.

The key paragraph is:

However, Mr Mulligan’s remarks, “I think Colin Craig is a nutcase; I feel Colin Craig is a doofus; I believe Colin Craig is a smarmy rich prick”, had no bearing on Colin Craig’s political views. These comments offered no constructive comment on the underlying issues, but were simply personal abuse masquerading as satire. The comments, combined with Ms Mau’s introductory statement that “most of us would like to have a go at Colin Craig”, the concluding remarks from Ms Mau and Mr Boyed about Colin Craig lacking a sense of humour, and the laughter from all three presenters, turned the item into a sustained personal attack against Colin Craig that was childish and unfair, in circumstances where he had no chance to defend himself.

Note Colin Craig was not one of the four complainants.

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TVNZ’s social media rules

June 14th, 2013 at 11:30 am by David Farrar

Rachel Glucina writes at the NZ Herald:

Ex-BBC consultant Michele Romaine, on contract with TVNZ’s news and current affairs department until the end of the month, has this week installed a rigid social media policy, dubbed “The Rules”, which has some journalists and presenters claiming it’s censorship gone too far.

TVNZ stars have been put on notice: follow The Rules or suffer the consequences.

So what are they?

But The Diary has obtained a leaked copy of the document in which staff are expressly forbidden from “expressing personal opinions that could compromise NCA’s [News and Current Affairs'] objectivity and independence”.

Online observations or anecdotes by reporters must be “confined to matters of intelligent insight”.

How silly. I like tweets from journalists that reveal a bit of their personality. It humanises them.

But Twitter should only be used for “newsgathering, showcasing our news and current affairs content, and promoting TVNZ and your own professional profile”. In other words: plug, plug, plug.

Boring!

However, former head of news and current affairs Ross Dagan, who left TVNZ in March, was in favour of reporters and presenters showing more depth and personality by sharing personal opinions on Twitter and conversing with One News viewers.

He told The Diary that Seven Sharp journo Heather Du Plessis-Allan had found the right mix – strong reporting on the issues and fun, personal revelations on Twitter.

Yep, Heather rocks. Her tweets are great.

Ruth Wynn-Williams was told off after filing personal holiday snaps from Rarotonga on her private Instagram page.

The striking blonde posted holiday pics, including bathing in a bikini and drinking cocktails with her boyfriend Matt Gibb, host of TVNZ’s U Live.

Ruth was disciplined for that? How disgraceful. As an indirect shareholder in TVNZ I protest!

“The use of profanities,” say The Rules, “are not acceptable”.

How about when trying to get Winston to agree to an interview? :-)

UPDATE: Someone has a sense of humour at the Sunday Star-Times. The official SST twitter account tweeted (since deleted):

For clarification, the @SundayStarTimes twitter account operates outside The Rules #fucktherules

Heh.

 

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Kenrick is right

March 11th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

When he was hired last May, Television New Zealand chief executive Kevin Kenrick rebuffed putative interviewers with the words “not until I know more about it”. …

“Most people think of TVNZ as being a TV business,” he begins. “Not surprisingly, I guess; we’ve got it in our name.” He goes on to explain they are now delivering 2.5 million online video streams a month and the number is growing at 30 per cent a year. “It has gone beyond a toe in the water to a really significant part of what we do every day.” …

He says people in the business don’t think of themselves as working in television any more – I suspect that would surprise some of them – but as being “in the video content business”. Would he change their name, then? He ponders this – “what would you call yourself?” – and settles for saying they will change people’s perceptions. He talks about giving people content when and where they want it. So one day, then, there might be no TV1 or TV2? He doesn’t know, doesn’t care much.

As an involuntary shareholder in TVNZ, I’m pleased to see this statement from Kenrick because I agree that the future is not necessarily in channels.

Traditionally there are three segments in broadcasting. Producing the content, playing it on a channel and distributing the content.

The future is more and more about the first and third segments. There will be money in producing content and money in distributing content. But not a lot of money in channels per se.

I watch very little live TV. I set My Sky to record programmes that interest me over around 20 different channels. I hardly even notice what channel they were originally on, and don’t really care. I care about content, not about channels.

Some viewers are different, especially older ones. But the world is changing and channels will become less valuable – especially as on demand content also increases in popularity.

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Seven good and bad on Seven Sharp

February 6th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A press secretary commented to me yesterday that I seem to be the only person in the country who liked Seven Sharp. By coincidence Heather DPA walked past at that point!

Anyway it is fair to say that almost all reviews and comments online have been critical, including of course those written before it aired!

But I thought this post by Toby Manhire is pretty well balanced. The summary is:

Good

  1. The tone
  2. The personnel
  3. Ali Mau
  4. The set
  5. The John Key office item
  6. The Afghanistan and post-traumatic stress disorder item
  7. No pratfalls

Bad

  1. The lack of live-news content
  2. Interactivity
  3. The tone
  4. The tone cont’d
  5. The timing of the John Key office item
  6. Some of the jokes
  7. The absence of studio guests

Tuesday’s night show was a bit different to the first night. One thing which would improve things for me is having them say at the beginning of the programme what they’ll be covering. If you know what is coming up, you are more likely to stay past the jokes.

The naturist item was quite interesting. A good example of meeting someone behind the headline story. I had some sympathy for him up until the point he compared himself to Martin Luther King.

Had to laugh at the position of the boom mike in the interview :-)

Not quite so many items as the night before, which was good in my opinion.

And a mini coup with getting Karen from the Rachel v Karen phone call on screen. Not as exciting as one would have thought though from the phone call.

The Richie McCaw item was very boring, but I guess rates well with hormonal women.

So after two nights, I’m still in the liking it category. But no, I won’t be doing daily reviews. After this I’ll give a month before blogging again on it.

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Seven Sharp

February 4th, 2013 at 9:52 pm by David Farrar

Well I have to say I liked it. Highlight was the suggestion that the person who accompany the PM onto the Waitangi Marae was Karen from Stokes Valley. One of many times I had a good laugh.

The three hosts had good rapport with each other and the items were interesting. Obviously enjoyed Heather DPA’s tour of the PM’s Office and how he has a sword instead of a panic button.

No it wasn’t in-depth critical analysis of the day’s issues. It was never going to be that. There are other shows for that. But I think a bit of humour isn’t a bad thing to get people watching.

It is of course one day only. The real challenge is to still be fresh and interesting a month down the track. It’s certainly done well enough that I’ve set it down as a series record on My Sky – something I had never done with Close Up (or Campbell Live).

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TVNZ loses executive after nine months

January 16th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Television New Zealand’s head of news and current affairs Ross Dagan has resigned after less than nine months in the job.

In an email to staff, Dagan said his departure was for personal reasons and he was heading back to his hometown of Brisbane to take up a job at Seven Network.

It is highly unusual and almost unprofessional to quit an executive role in less than two years, unless there is something wrong at work. I’d heard Dagan wasn’t very popular – but that is not unusual for people in his role.

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Seven Sharp

January 9th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

TVNZ have announced:

TVNZ has announced that Ali Mau , Greg Boyed , and Jesse Mulligan will host TV ONE’s new 7pm show, Seven Sharp.

I’m a big fan of Ali Mau’s work, and Greg Boyed has been solid on Q+A.

I love 7 Days and enjoy Jesse Mulligan on there. I understand the strategy has been for Seven Sharp to be more chatty and light hearted, and hence why they have gone for someone best known as a comedian. But Mulligan is also a well known left-winger (he has been a panelist for Locally Left) who has taken part in fund-raisers for the Labour Party. It is hard to imagine that his natural sympathy for Labour is not going to colour his comments on air. Can you be seen as neutral on the Leader of the Opposition when you have done fundraisers for him and endorsed him as “brilliant”?

This show is a replacement for Close Up. Would it have been acceptable for Susan Wood or Mark Sainsbury to do fundraisers for the National Party? Would John Campbell do fundraisers for the Greens? And we’re not talking years ago, but just four months ago.

Nothing personal against Jesse, who I am sure will try his best not to let his support for Labour affect his on air comments. I certainly am not advocating that those with political leanings should not be on the air. I’ve sometimes been a panelist on TV and radio. And I try to be fair with my comments when I am on air. However of course my overall worldview influences my comments. And there is a huge difference between being an occasional panelist and being employed by state broadcaster TVNZ as a daily host and journalist.

So it will be very interesting to see how Seven Sharp goes. I hope it succeeds in that I think we need more  current affairs on television, and I’m all for a bit of humour mixed in with that. Politics is often best viewed with a sense of humour. But I do hope it is fair and balanced.

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Throng on Igloo

December 10th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Regan Cunliffe blogs at Throng:

On monday, Sky and TVNZ launched their hardly anticipated new subscription television service.

Here’s our list of reasons why it shouldn’t be under your tree this Christmas or anywhere else in your house for that matter.

10. It’s probably still broken.  

The custom built platform was supposed to be launched months ago but has been delayed due to “technical problems”.  Is the launch simply exploitation of the spending season or a Christmas miracle?

9. TVNZ are involved.

Remember when TVNZ said “TiVo transforms television“? How are all those customers feeling today?  How long before Igloo too melts down?

8. A comparable Freeview box is less than half the price.

There are a number of basic models of DVB-T receivers which also have the ability to record to a connected USB storage device.

7. Sport is ultra-expensive.

The base “30 day channel pack” plus purchasing every Super XV match The Chiefs play during that period would cost you up to $99.74. On Sky this would cost $72.46 and include more channels, every Super XV game and a lot more sports besides.

6. Paying for content that used to be free.

Two of the eleven Igloo channels feature content that TVNZ used to broadcast for free:  Kidzone24 and TVNZ Heartland.

5. All Igloo content is Standard Definition.

The only content that you’ll be able to view in High Definition is from any of the free-to-air channels that broadcast in HD.  All of the extra content you’re paying for is delivered in standard definition.  This includes movies and sport.

4. High per channel price.

The “Sky Basic” package costs approximately $1.36 per premium channel compared with $2.27 per premium channel on Igloo.

3. Igloo is not a middle option.

Currently, a new 12 month “Sky Basic” package (~63 channels) with 3 months free sport and SoHo and free installation costs $553.44.

A new Igloo box (~34 channels) which you install yourself and a 12 month subscription costs $478.05

A new Freeview box (~29 channels) which you install yourself costs from $99.

2. Two thirds of the channels you can already watch for free.

That’s right.  They’re already free.  And also the most watched.

1. You’re not an Eskimo.

They’re the only ones who should have an igloo.

Those are our top 10 reasons why you shouldn’t get igloo and now we want yours.  We’ve got a brand new Samsung MyFreeview HD digital TV recorder (BDE-8500) worth $649 to give away.

In addition, if anyone reposts this on their own blog, we’ll include any comments made there in the draw. Have at it.

So if you comment below on Kiwiblog why you think people shouldn’t get Igloo, you can win a Samsung MyFreeview HD digital TV recorder!

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Will Paul Henry return?

October 2nd, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

Close Up’s replacement will be a magazine show with two presenters – and Pippa Wetzell and Paul Henry are understood to be the hot favourites.

A confidential brief circulating at TVNZ says the focus will be on the “talking point of the day” and a mixture of news and entertainment.

But a journalism commentator said it would be “Breakfast at dinner-time” and showed the broadcaster’s lack of commitment to strong current affairs.

It is no secret within TVNZ that the network has been courting Wetzell and that it wants to give her a prominent role next year.

It is understood she has had meetings with TVNZ executives.

I think Paul Henry could do well in the role, so long as he doesn’t do any brain farts. Sure, on Breakfast he is the rogue, but it is worth considering that he can actually do decent interviews. Also he is majorly interested in politics, so if he is the host the focus might be more on “hard news” than “light news”.

The new format is understood to be much like The Project, which airs on Australia’s Channel 10 and is hosted by comedians presenting news stories.

Dagan was behind the show before he moved to TVNZ.

“It’s the news – but not as you know it,” Channel 10 says in a description of the show on its website.

“Guaranteeing no miracle diets, no stories that ‘no parent can afford to miss’, and virtually no dodgy plumbers, The Project is a TV show joining in the conversations going on in living rooms around the country.”

The Project is on each weekday at 6pm and its three hosts “dissect, digest and reconstitute each day’s news” in a style “not afraid to be serious, but not a satirical newscast,” Channel 10 says.

I actually predicted on radio that the new format would be a panel, dissecting the day’s news. The key would be who is on the panel.

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Close Down

September 28th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

From Close Up to closed down, it’s the end of an era for a New Zealand television staple and its current frontman, Mark Sainsbury.

TVNZ announced a proposal yesterday to switch off the programme by the end of the year, with 16 staff going through a consultation period until mid next month.

Sainsbury said he would have preferred the programme and his role to continue but ultimately he accepted the broadcaster’s decision.

“I’d love to keep going until I drop dead. But let’s be real, it is the end of an era,” he said yesterday after six years with the show and 31 years at the network.

“They’ve been looking at the programme for most of the year – we’d made a huge effort – but they want to make changes.”

Last night, on signing off for the night on his programme, Sainsbury said the Close Up format “as we know it” was ending after 23 years.

“But a new different programme will emerge next year.

“It’s an exciting time in this business when change happens, whether you want that change to occur or not, and the feeling is that it’s time for change,” he said.

Sainsbury stopped short of saying he was leaving TVNZ but said he had no regrets over his 31-year career.

A long-time commuter to Auckland, he is expected to return to his Wellington home when the curtain falls.

Former TVNZ broadcasters said they had concerns the proposal to pull the plug on Close Up was another step towards dumbing down content.

Former TVNZ news and current affairs executives Bill Ralston and Paul Norris said they had fears the programme might be replaced with an even more lightweight “info-tainment” show designed to draw in larger audiences while neglecting serious analytical stories.

I may be wrong but I suspect it will head to more info-tainment. My guess is a couple of stories per show, with a panel talking about them, and soliciting viewer feedback through social media.

The big question is will this see the return of Paul Henry? He’s guaranteed to see huge interest, initially anyway.

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Backbenches to return in 2013

September 13th, 2012 at 9:09 am by David Farrar

Sky TV has announced that Backbenches will return in 2013. It will be primarily funded by NZ on Air, part-funded by Sky, produced by TVNZ, broadcast live on Wednesday evenings by Prime TV and shown delayed on TVNZ Heartland channel.

A great collaborative effort, which should mean it is seen by far more people than was the case on TVNZ7.

Funding at this stage is for 20 one hour shows.

As I said when Backbenches finished on TVNZ7, I’ve been a big fan of the show. However there are some format changes they should consider to make it better when it relaunches.

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Will Backbenches be saved?

July 6th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

John Drinnan writes at NZ Herald:

Plans for TVNZ to make Back Benches for Prime TV will deliver good public relations results all round and a pleasing result for the show’s loyal audience.

The politics programme, which is one of the last vestiges of television in Wellington, has screened on TVNZ 7 until it was discontinued last week.

It does not fit with TVNZ’s aims of making profit at all costs, so TVNZ is not interested in picking up the niche-interest show for TV One.

Prime TV is prepared to run a weekly 10.30pm show – a time when it should not be too encumbered with advertising.

So now TVNZ, which owns the intellectual property, has sought taxpayer funding from New Zealand On Air to make the show in-house and sell it to Prime.

This is a win-win-win. Worthy souls will applaud the survival of Back Benches. TVNZ and New Zealand On Air will do something to keep the legacy alive.

NZ on Air has to agree to the funding request, but I certainly hope they do.

As I understand it the bid is a co-operative exercise between TVNZ and Sky, and it would probably also show on a TVNZ channel at a delayed time spot.

The good thing is this bid, if successful, will open up viewership to a potentially much larger audience than TVNZ7 had.

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TVNZ7

April 17th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve blogged at length before on TVNZ7. I have praised a number of programmes on TVNZ7, but noted that their audiences were miniscule (seem to range from 0.1% to 0.4% of the population) and that trying to make TVNZ both a commercial and a public service broadcaster is doomed to failure (as former CEO Ian Fraser has noted).

I’d like to see other broadcasters (including Sky) apply to NZ on Air to broadcast some of the better shows that were on TVNZ7 such as Court Report, Media 7, Backbenchers and The Last Word. But at this stage I’ve not heard any are.

Clare Curran has blogged a number of things:

I am drafting a private members bill which would ensure TVNZ7 had adequate funding to continue. But a private members bill goes into a ballot with around 60 other bills and it’s the luck of the draw as to whether it gets pulled out. If it did, it would be interesting to see the support for TVNZ7 and public service television across the House. I think the government might find itself outnumbered.

The bill has no chance of achieving anything, and is a last minute publicity stunt (nothing wrong with those, but let’s not pretend it is something different). The bill hasn’t even been drafted yet (most MPs draft the bill then announce it), and could not possibly be passed by 30 June. Hell even it was drawn out of the ballot, I doubt it would even have its first reading by 30 June.

There are two schools of thought. The government’s view  is that public service television can continue to be funded by NZ on Air funding programmes on commercial channels. The problem with this is that the most interesting programmes are not shown in prime time.

True, but with the growing use of PVRs and TV on demand on the Internet this is less of a problem.

There’s a strong argument for a complete revamp of the sector and the Broadcasting Act. For a  new independent public service TV channel separate from TVNZ. For requiring commercial channels, including the pay TV channel Sky to contribute. For even a small levy on internet connections to enable a new service to embrace the broadband environment and develop more Kiwi content that is accessible to Kiwis.

I really do hope Labour adopt this Internet tax as policy and campaign on it.

I am not against there being a public service television broadcaster, but the appropriate funding mechanism would be taxes – just as Radio NZ and Maori TV are funded. And no I do not advocate increased funding in these tight fiscal times. I think one could seriously look at a ABC or BBC style combined radio and television broadcaster within the current Vote Broadcasting.

There’s a strong view that if TVNZ7 was able to continue, and however it is funded, it should be completely separate from TVNZ control and influence.

I agree with that. You can not be a public service broadcaster and a commercial broadcaster. Choose one, not both.

Clare quotes Judy Callingham:

The channel itself should be a  totally separate entity, run by a separate organisation. Whether that’s a trust, a government entity or a company is a detail that can be worked out later. What is important now is to remove the channel from the control of TVNZ  altogether – mere editorial independence isn’t enough.

The separate entity could still use TVNZ studios and staff and equipment if need be.  It would hire them, just as private companies do. It would, and should, expect mates’ rates, but it shouldn’t expect to use the facilities for nothing, although perhaps the cost could be absorbed and become a paper addition to TVNZ’s annual dividend.

This would never work long-term in my opinion. TVNZ would always prioritize itself and other customers over an entity paying very little for its facilities.

Also this model overlooks one of the reasons why TVNZ7 had such dismal ratings. TVNZ never promoted TVNZ programmes in prime time on other channels. Trying to run a stand-alone broadcaster on $15m a year would inevitably fail. This is why the model of a larger combined pubic service broadcaster is better. One could promote the better TV programmes on radio, and vice-versa. There would also be synergies where (for example) something shown on the Court report could be followed up on Radio NZ the next day. When did you ever see One News follow up something from TVNZ7? Very rare.

Going on about “saving” TVNZ7 sounds good, but it was always a flawed model. What the debate should be about is how to best get quality public service programmes onto television. Is it purely NZ on Air or should it be all through a dedicated public service broadcaster or something inbetween? And how do you make it affordable in our current fiscal environment.

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Fair go being pressured?

March 4th, 2012 at 12:06 pm by David Farrar

Steven Price blogs:

So the head of TVOne and Two, Jeff Latch, asks for a powwow with Fair Go staff. Labour broadcasting spokesperson Clare Curran asks whether, at that meeting, he asked them to go easy on TVNZ’s advertisers.

Latch said he just stressed the need for balance. Price comments:

It does make sense. So much sense, in fact, that you have to wonder why Jeff Latch had to organise a meeting with Fair Go to tell them that. Did he also mention that they should try to be accurate? Not defame people? Latch should know that Fair Go are probably the TVNZ reporters best versed in broadcasting standards and media law, since they deal with them every week.

Then the key part:

Asked if he was instructing Fair Go not to produce programmes that upset advertisers, he said “it wasn’t an instruction, per se.”

Not per se? This sounds weasily to me. Was it a hint, Mr Latch?

Any suggestion that advertisers on TVNZ should be treated differently to non-advertisers by Fair Go, is abhorent.

Price concludes:

Because actually, Fair Go has a pretty good track record in its broadcasting standards complaints. It has not been listed in the BSA’s “Most complained about” shows for at least the past three years, despite the fact that it often makes serious accusations against people with the resources to sue. Likewise, there haven’t been any reported defamation cases against them in the last few years, as far as I can tell. Was there a big secret settlement recently?

If not, Mr Latch – how should I put this? – you should stay the fuck away from the Fair Go staff. It’s their job to tackle TVNZ’s advertisers when that is merited, and it’s your job to hire good journos then leave them to get on with their job.

A fair conclusion.

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TVNZ v Throng again

March 1st, 2012 at 2:46 pm by David Farrar

Throng blogs:

Every major TV network in the world that we work with regularly sends out publicity material which we gladly publish for them because, well, we love talking about TV.  When the latest reality TV show hits the airwaves, our inbox gets flooded with bios and photos of the contestants from publicists desperate to get their content talked about andpromoted for, in the most part, free.

Contrast this with the latest no from TVNZ:

Hi [throng]

We’re currently being very selective with the provision of our MasterChef contestant images, so were are not sending any additional ones out at this stage.

Regards

[publicist]

Why would a broadcaster turn down free publicity? Especially free publicity from the site that specifically caters to the fans of their reality TV shows.

Plus Throng can of course grab images from screen shots, so TVNZ saying no seems to just be about petulance.

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TVNZ and the Opposition Leader

February 16th, 2012 at 8:14 am by David Farrar

Danya Levy at Stuff reports:

Television New Zealand has dumped the Labour leader’s weekly appearance on its Breakfast show, telling David Shearer it’s not about him “as a person”.

Prime Minister John Key has a Monday morning slot on the show and last year former Labour leader Phil Goff regularly appeared on Tuesday mornings. …

It is understood Labour put its case to TVNZ, saying its leader needed to have the right of reply when Key attacked the Opposition.

In a letter back to Labour, TVNZ said the Prime Minister was a newsmaker in his own right and the state broadcaster was merely doing what it always had.

The leader of the Opposition had only featured weekly during election years.

“This is not an issue about the person, merely a decision about the position, and we have been consistent with that through Labour and National administrations.

“The Breakfast team has already shown its willingness to invite Mr Shearer on to the programme when he is a legitimate newsmaker and is setting the agenda on a story.”

Off memory, TVNZ is absolutely correct. I recall when National was in Opposition, the Opposition Leader never got a regular spot until election year.

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TVNZ also in the gun

February 10th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Electoral Commission has also announced:

TVNZ OneNews coverage before 7pm on 26 November 2011.  It is the Electoral Commission’s view that the broadcast breached section 197(1)(g)(i) of the Electoral Act 1993 because it included statements that were likely to influence any elector as to the party for whom the elector should or should not vote.

I didn’t see the news that night (mainly because I was actually at TVNZ getting ready for the election broadcast) so can’t recall what they broadcast, which has triggered this referral.

It will be interesting to see the details of the material complained about, once it is made public.

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Waiting for the hearse

January 10th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I could not believe One News the night before last, when during an (un-necessary) live cross, one of their reporters said how they were hoping to get live footage of the hearse going by (after the ballooning tragedy). I actually yelled at the television – which I do not do often. That was silly and tacky.

I’m not alone it seems. Throng blogged yesterday:

Sarah Batley’s live cross on One News tonight was utterly disgraceful and disrespectful to the 11 people who died tragically yesterday in the hot air balloon crash in Carterton, their families and their friends.

Desperately hoping to be live while a hearse drives past with bodies of the victims is incredibly distasteful, offensive and unnecessary.
It was offensive. To be fair to Ms Batley, she may not have been the one who decided to make mention of waiting for the hearse. It is one thing to include coverage of a hearse in a story. But the way they reported how they were “hoping” to get live coverage of it crossed a line – significantly.
Whale has blogged on this also. When Whale says it is distasteful, you know it definitely is :-)
I contrast that to the good example of the photographer who captured photos of the balloon tragedy. Rather than sell them to The Sun or whichever tabloid will pay the most for them, he gave a copy to the Police for official inquiries, and deleted the originals. Big ups to that man.
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Espiner to TV3

December 15th, 2011 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

TV3 has confirmed it has poached TVNZ’s political editor Guyon Espiner.

He will work as a journalist for current affairs show 60 Minutes, starting in February.

Espiner has been TVNZ’s political editor since 2006 and also hosted the Sunday morning programme Q+A for the state broadcaster.

I can remember Guyon starting in the press gallery in the 1990s, but that just makes me feel old!

Certainly a coup for TV3 to pick Guyon up, and good to see them beefing up 60 minutes. I suspect Guyon will appreciate a less hectic lifestyle as his two roles of press gallery in Wellington and Q+A every weekend must have been draining.

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When are the televised MMP debates?

October 25th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

TVNZ has announced that One News will host three election debates. They are:

  1. Mon 31 October – major party leaders
  2. Wed 16 November – minor party leaders
  3. Wed 23 November – major party leaders

Now it is great that we have three debates scheduled to help people make informed votes on who governs New Zealand for the next three years.

But where are the televised debates on the electoral system referendum, which will decide our electoral system for the next 50 years or so?

Surely if we have 270 minutes of prime time devoted to the election debates, we should have at least that much time on TV for debating the electoral system?

I hope TVNZ and TV3 announce a number of electoral referendum debates. It is only 32 days until we vote on whether or not we keep MMP or have another referendum in 2014. Radio NZ has led the way with a high level debate, I hope they will not be the only broadcaster to do so.

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