No choice re Taurima

13/05/2014

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.


TVNZ reviewing programmes for bias

19/02/2014

Using facilities at a state-owned broadcaster for Labour Party meetings and communications was a serious lapse of judgement.

But the bigger concern is whether there was political influence in editorial and programming decisions and interviews.

TVNZ’s Chief Executive Kevin Kenrick says:

. . . TVNZ will now launch an investigation into staff use of TVNZ resources to support political party activities. It will also review the editorial independence of the Maori and Pacific Programming division during Shane Taurima’s time as manager (February 2013 to February 2014).

The investigation will be led by Brent McAnulty, TVNZ’s Head of Legal and Corporate Affairs and report to me, as TVNZ’s Editor in Chief. Brent will head up a review team that has access to all TVNZ internal resources, and a search has begun to identify a suitably qualified external person to provide an objective and independent critique of our editorial performance. 

This investigation will be conducted as a matter of priority but it won’t be a rush job – we’re focussed on carrying out a robust and comprehensive investigation that looks into this matter thoroughly. 

The review findings and recommendations will be made publicly available.

Given our position as New Zealand’s most watched news provider we hold ourselves to the highest standards of editorial independence and balance. Clearly a line has been crossed here – it’s unacceptable and we make no excuses for what’s happened.

Our focus now is to clearly and fully understand what has happened; how this happened; and what we need to do to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said she was treated unfairly by Taurima.

. . . Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says she was treated unfairly by TVNZ interviewer Shane Taurima.

The TVNZ unit manager resigned from the state broadcaster yesterday after it was revealed he took part in a Labour Party hui, and that TVNZ property was used to hold party meetings.

Bennett was grilled by Taurima on youth unemployment, in April 2012 on Sunday morning current affairs show Q+A.

“I felt that it was actually really biased,” Bennett told reporters this morning.

“I came out of there and couldn’t work out whether it was anti-National, anti-me, I don’t know what it was.

“It was one of the worst and the least-informative [interviews] for viewers, to be honest, that I’ve ever done in my career … I always felt that he was much tougher on National Maori women … but you have got to be careful that you don’t start over-thinking things, as well.” . .

Good interviewers don’t badger and interrupt.

They ask intelligent questions, listen to the answers and ask more questions.

They are firm, they can be tough, but they must be fair.

Taurima isn’t the only broadcaster who’s had political allegiances, but John Armstrong explains why they are different:

What about Paul Henry? Inevitably questions are being asked – especially by some in a smarting Labour Party – as to what difference in political terms there is between Shane Taurima, who has been forced to resign his management position at TVNZ, and Henry, who unsuccessfully stood for Parliament for National in 1999 but yet has been given his own late-night programme on TV3.

Well, quite a lot actually.

For starters, Henry is but one example of someone starting or resuming a career in broadcasting after a dalliance with politics. You can go back to Brian Edwards who stood for Labour in 1972 but lost narrowly, and Pam Corkery who also briefly hosted a late night TV show, in her case after leaving Parliament.

Labour’s John Tamihere became a talkback jock after losing his seat. John Banks has regularly interchanged political and broadcasting roles, even to the point of holding both at once.

However, all were hired because of their larger-than-life personalities rather than their politics which they were anyway totally upfront about.

Along with Corkery, Henry has shown no inclination to return to politics.

Taurima stood down from his TVNZ role while he sought nomination as the Labour candidate in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection last year. After failing to win selection, he returned to work at TVNZ where he was head of the Maori and Pacific unit.

Given his management role in news and current affairs, TVNZ’s senior management should have sought assurances he had no intentions of standing for Parliament again.

TVNZ was aware, however, that Taurima was considering standing in another Maori seat at this year’s election. At that point, Taurima should have been confronted with two choices: either sever your political affiliations or quit TVNZ. . .

Act MP John Banks has used the issue to ask a very good question – why do we have state television?

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, said ACT MP John Banks.

“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” said Mr Banks.

“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. 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.

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

https://twitter.com/johnbanksnz/status/435576690576588800


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