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Labour Party meetings another good reason TVNZ should be sold - Banks

TV3’s revelation that Shane Taurima, TVNZ’s former manager of the Maori and Pacific Programmes unit, hosted a Labour Party meeting last year on the broadcaster’s property and involving other TVNZ staff, shows another good reason why TVNZ should be sold, ACT MP John Banks says.

“This issue is not Mr Taurima’s politics.  It is the fact that he and some of his staff wrongly used taxpayer’s property to further his political objectives,” Mr Banks says.

“The easiest fix is for the taxpayer to get out of the television business. TVNZ should be sold."

There is no reason for the State to be in the risky television business, Mr Banks says.  "We should sell now because TVNZ will soon be worthless as a result of technology changes."

In private media if a journalist pursues a political agenda using company resources that is solely a matter for the management, shareholders and advertisers, the ACT MP says.

“If TVNZ were in private ownership no one would care about Mr Taurima’s Labour Party activities on the premises."

Why not build up Maori TV?
I don't agree with John Banks that there should be no state-owned TV broadcaster (and I'm pretty sure everybody would go ape if a TV3 journalist held a political party fundraiser in the office, just quietly).

But at the moment we have two: TVNZ and Maori TV. 

There's no reason to keep TVNZ in public hands when, under successive National and Labour governments, it's run a similar mix of content to its commercial competition (and let's just forget the threadbare TVNZ7, with its timebombed funding). I'd love TVNZ to become a BBC (or BBC of old) style public broadcaster, but with NZ's population that's not going to happen. It's just maths. 

We aleady have a public funding mechanism - NZ on Air - that spreads itself across all channels. It's a good model, and could be expanded after a TVNZ privatisation.

Meanwhile, it's interesting that NZ on Air has funded Russell Brown's media commentary show to move to Maori TV (the Pakeha pundit has previously been on TVNZ7 and TV3). Broadening the mix of content on Maori TV - similar to the way SBS operates across the Tasman - might be the best way forward for state broadcasting.

Inquiry could take weeks
TVNZ is currently reviewing Mr Taurima's work, including his interviews for news and current affairs show Q+A.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says Mr Taurima was partisan and overly-aggressive on Q+A, particularly in interviews with Paula Bennett and Hekia Parata.

Mr Taurima unsuccessfully bid to be the Labour candidate for the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti (East Coast) byelection last year. He expected to be in the running for Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) at this year's election.

On Monday, Mr Taurima resigned from his position as TVNZ head of Maori and Pacific Programmes after revelations he had participated in a Labour Party strategy meeting on January 18. He oversaw a session on how to win the Maori vote.

He has since confirmed that he also attend an August fundraising meeting at TVNZ which involved TVNZ staff and resources.

The involvement of Mr Taurima and three of his staff at the August 6 meeting and Mr Taurima's editorial judgement will be under the spotlight in the review which will be lead by by Brent McAnulty, TVNZ's Head of Legal and Corporate Affairs.

An external person is also being sought to "provide an objective and independent critique of our editorial performance," TVNZ CEO Kevin Kenrick says.

The state broadcaster has been criticised for letting Mr Taurima return as a manager after his unsuccessful run for Tāmaki Makaurau. As head of Maori and Pacific Programmes he had 60 staff producing six shows, and was responsible for a budget of $9 million.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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Comments and questions
16

Why don't you agree with John Banks that there should be no state broadcaster? You make this statement but then don't provide any real arguments to support it. If the sole purpose of a state-funded broadcaster would be to ensure Russel Brown makes a living pushing his partisan views, why should taxpayers foot that bill?

Of course TVNZ should be sold - it is indistinguishable from any of the commercial competition. So why bother having it?

John Banks is a nothing, and we shouldnt be listening to them anyway.

A state broadcaster does however provide more balance than the NZ Herald; remembering that the National Government are more friendly to their profits than a Labour Government.

I'd describe myself as a strategic voter, and unfortunately balance does not sit with Bankster, Jonkey, Benglish or Joycter.

Banks is an idiot. It is not uncommon for execs to use company premises for meetings for charitable organisations. i have been in numerous board rooms for such purposes. So it was a political organisation. What a ridiculous lead in to the broadcasting debate.

Taxpayer funded media as well? No issue with private companies allowing politics on their premises, but doesn't state funded media have an obligation to show no bias or the perception of it?

Just a correction of sorts - there are two public broadcasters one is Maori Television and the other is Radio NZ. Tvnz has been a commercial model for too many years now to be even considered a public broadcaster.

Well two state-owned TV broadcasters, then.

Exactly. So lets sell TVNZ off now,and focus on the public broadcasters you want to keep.

The existence of the TVNZ Archive within TVNZ is a major reason for government ownership at present. The public has paid for it, and it's not something that could realistically operate in the private sector. Sell that, and a substantial cultural heritage may be lost.

Just give it to Archives NZ.

Agree. And there's also the bizarre situation at present that you have to belong to Sky TV to see classic TVNZ programmes on the Heartland channel.

".. but with NZ's population that's not going to happen. It's just maths. " Really? Try Denmark - similar population and has a plethora of public channels producing some of the best dramas available.

I agree with wh that owning public broadcasting is more than about maths: it's about the political will to provide a critical piece of infrastructure. Consider also that Denmark has a unique language, which makes it much, much harder to sell its programmes.

Maori demonstrated at the Privy Council that the NZ govt has a treaty obligation to preserve te reo in broadcasting, including TV. Morally (not legally), it's a very short extension to say that the govt has the same imperative on all NZ (Aotearoan) culture.

You could take the current staff out of Maori TV, give them TVNZ's shopping centre/building and TVNZ's budget, broaden the mandate slightly (but not to the ludicrously commercial extent of TVNZ's) and bob's your uncle. State broadcaster.

While the NZOA model has benefits, it goes a bit broader than just content *products*. One of the main requirements of a public broadcaster is to provide news. That's a service. Even if you gave TVNZ's entire news budget to NZOA to give out in a contestable fund, it's doubtful they'd manage it as well as a broadcaster could.

The fact that Taurima got busted shows that the system works. Imagine if all that taxpayer money in the TVNZ news service was distributed across the commercial industry as a whole. Potentially, you'd have little Taurimas in every office of every commercial broadcaster in every city.

And, as Graeme points out, there's the archive. I don't think the National Archive is really geared to the public and commercial interests in that asset. Mind you, TVNZ isn't either, since they charge up the arse for it and don't even subsidise it for their own commissions.

Yet another outstanding piece of good governance NOT! The Auditor General should be investigating not TVNZ investigating itself. Its Corporate Counsel will find 'nothing to see here move on" as instructed by his CEO and the Chairman of the Board of TVNZ.
We just don't get good governance in NZ. These turkeys wouldn't know the principles if they fell over them.
Bizarre behavior!!!

is there a difference in Paul Henry being on 3 -he missed out on seat for national one election- and Hoskins on tv 1 when he is clearly a National man-or is it just because of who owns the tv stations. Election Year and look at who is getting into positions of important news interview seats- on radio and tv