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

PLUS: Why not morph Maori TV into an SBS-style public broadcaster?

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.

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