Rugby TV bid costs taxpayers well under $5m -PM

The cost to the taxpayer of the bid for Rugby World Cup broadcasting rights will be "considerably" less than the $5 million speculated, Prime Minister John Key says.

After a messy process involving Maori Television Service (MTS) and TVNZ bidding against each other, and accusations of MTS bid information being passed to TVNZ, the Government facilitated a resolution which concluded yesterday.

If accepted by the International Rugby Board (IRB), it will see the event jointly covered free-to-air by MTS, TVNZ and TV3.

Mr Key was pressed in Parliament today by Labour's former broadcasting minister Trevor Mallard about how much it cost taxpayers to subsidise the bid for free-to-air coverage.

Mr Key said the figure was unknown as the IRB had not yet accepted it.

He said there was also an unknown factor in terms of commercial rights being sold outside the main broadcasting networks.

When asked about whether the cost could be $5m, Mr Key said it would be "considerably under $5m".

In a debate on the issue today Labour MPs criticised National's handling of the process, saying seven Cabinet ministers were involved, but appeared to be on different pages.

Opposition leader Phil Goff said the broadcasting rights bid should have been a commercial one made by the providers without the Government's interference.

Mr Mallard said Labour had helped secure the event in New Zealand when in power and New Zealanders should be concerned about National's ability to manage it considering its shaky start. Associate Rugby World Cup Minister Gerry Brownlee said the Government had done well in working to ensure all New Zealanders would see the main games free-to-air.

The IRB is expected to be in touch with the Government as early as this week over the joint bid.


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