No choice re Taurima

The Labour Party had been delaying the selection of a candidate in the Tamaki Makaurau electorate in the hope that Shane Taurima would be cleared of wrong-doing at TVNZ.

He wasn’t which left them with no choice but to disallow his nomination.

The former TVNZ manager and presenter was forced to resign from the broadcaster because of his involvement in Labour party campaigning.

The party’s ruling body met last night and decided not to grant a waiver to Mr Taurima, meaning his nomination cannot go ahead.

Mr Taurima needed the waiver because he’d been a party member for less than a year when he was nominated for the seat. . .

The report into his conduct found no bias but it did find misuse of his employer’s resources.

An independent review has found the former General Manager of TVNZ’s Maori and Pacific Programmes department did misuse company resources for political activities with the Labour Party.

But the panel cleared Shane Taurima of any political bias in his interviews and the editorial content he produced for TVNZ programmes. . . .

In the  full report released today , the panel said it scrutinised Mr Taurima’s first interview with National MP Paula Bennett on TVNZ’s Q + A programme in March 2012 in particular, after critics claimed he “browbeat the Minister”.

Mr Taurima said the interview was not his best work, but the panel found “it did not show evidence of bias”.

The panel also said the three other staffers involved had an “extremely limited ability to influence editorial content” and there was no evidence they had tried to do so.

‘Inappropriate use of resources’

The panel did find that TVNZ resources “were used inappropriately” for Labour Party political purposes by Mr Taurima and three members of his staff – none of whom are still employed by TVNZ.

The panel said the “financial cost was negligible but, aside from this, it should not have happened.”

The panel cited an instance where TVNZ funds were used to transport a TVNZ staff member to a meeting at Mr Taurima’s house “to establish two Labour Party branches”. The panel said it recommends TVNZ seek reimbursement for this expense.

Mr Kenrick says: “What happened was completely unacceptable. It’s an absolute necessity for our News and Current Affairs service to operate free from political influence.” . .

The sum of money might not be large but the blatant misuse of employer’s money in that way would be bad enough in itself.

That is was for political purposes when the employer is a a state broadcaster is far worse.

. . . Mr Kenrick says he accepts “that there were shortcomings in our management of Shane when he returned to TVNZ, and that won’t happen again.”

He says the company already has a number of checks and balances in place to protect the integrity of news coverage. But he says TVNZ will immediately take steps to tighten internal protocols, as recommended, to protect the editorial independence of its news.

The report has identified roles in TVNZ’s News and Current Affairs division where the review panel believes political party membership and active support for a political party is untenable. These are roles that carry significant editorial influence and include political reporters, senior content producers, editors and news managers, and the Chief Executive as Editor in Chief.

“We won’t be asking our staff to tell us who they vote for. But we think it’s reasonable to ask anyone who reports, edits or produces political content to be upfront with us if they’re a member of a political party. Anyone who creates news content for TVNZ should disclose any political activity beyond passive party membership,” Mr Kenrick says. . .

Freedom of association is important but so to is balance and fairness in a state broadcaster.

Active membership in a political party would give the perception of bias – whether or not it was real – and that is untenable.

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