John Drinnan on business

John Drinnan is a Herald business writer and media commentator

Media: Larger-than-life trio to shake up nation

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Simon Dallow. Photo / Supplied
Simon Dallow. Photo / Supplied

Light the touch paper ... and wait for the fireworks.

Three larger-than-life broadcasters will be working together under the same roof on TV3's weekend current affairs show The Nation.

Sean Plunket leaves Radio New Zealand's Morning Report and will replace Stephen Parker on the weekend current affairs show from August 7.

Plunket will share the studio with TV3's aggressive political interviewer Duncan Garner, rounding out a larger-than-life trio with producer Richard Harman.

They have strong reputations and healthy egos.

The question will be how they attract guests to be faced by Plunket and Garner instead of the comparatively gentle Paul Holmes and Guyon Espiner on TV One's Q & A.

There are extra complications. Plunket has been in talks with the right-wing political pundit and PR man Matthew Hooton.

Plunket said discussion with Hooton and others had not led to any deals.

But he has signed an agreement to advise Harman of any conflict of interest.

Both men accepted dual roles in current affairs and PR or media training created issues, but Harman said after 24 years Plunket's integrity was intact.

It is understood that Plunket has been in talks with NewstalkZB to host a Wellington breakout for Leighton Smith's 8-till-noon show. As a news medium radio has a very free and easy approach to mixing commercial and editorial functions.

So if Plunket took a PR or media training role it might not be an impediment.

Hooton - whose company Exceltium is active in lobbying for government policy - said he expects to announce a change to his Wellington operation - as early as next week.

UDDER BUSINESS

Other broadcasters were involved in commercial concerns such as media training.

But the need for conflict of interest policy for Plunket - an approach sanctioned by New Zealand On Air - highlights a growing issue in New Zealand's fragmenting media environment.

Increasingly media people work freelance in both PR and journalism. Harman said his company Front Page - the producers for The Nation - was a case in point.

The firm has a commercial relationship offering media services to the country's biggest firm, Fonterra, and avoided covering that company and the dairy sector, though it could cover government aspects of the industry, he said.

New Zealand On Air - which funds both shows from taxpayer cash - could not be reached for comment.

HE DOESN'T SPEAK LESO

One News anchor Simon Dallow apparently stepped over a line with his TV bosses after his media comment about his wife Alison Mau and her same-sex partner Karleen Edmonds.

Dallow was photographed enjoying convivial company at a commercial promotional launch and was asked by the Herald on Sunday gossip columnist about Mau.

He replied: "I don't speak leso."

Which is a rather odd thing for the main news anchor for public television to say.

TVNZ spokeswoman Andi Brotherston said: "TVNZ has dealt with Simon about this, it was handled earlier in the week."

But she did not discuss TVNZ's view about Dallow's transgression. Once closely protected by network bosses who saw news anchors as representing the brand, TVNZ has taken an increasingly laissez-faire approach to Dallow and his social life on the "celebrity circuit" and in social pages since his break-up with Mau.

"I don't speak leso" will be offensive to some, but is hardly shocking.

Maybe it fits with TVNZ apparently wishing to promote its news to swinging singles.

DAI, DAI, DAI

TV3 has no qualms about procedures that led to its pulling off air a dodgy promo for its Monday night movie which included star performer Dai Henwood.

The inhouse ad was a clear copy of an ad for PlayStation 3 that had run on the internet and in the United States.

TV3 marketing boss Roger Beaumont played down the copycat ad made internally that was approved through the upper echelons of the programming department. He suggested it was "a homage" to the PlayStation ad.

But how can you have a homage when nobody has seen the original? Well, not quite nobody. The copycat ad featured on techie and gamer sites this week - and came to the notice of Sony in New Zealand. Is this an example of the cost cutting at MediaWorks showing up on screen?

TV bosses recently revealed that advertising revenue for the second quarter to June 30 rose by 7.7 per cent - ending the TV ad slump. There is no breakdown between channels, but advertising consultant Martin Gillman said that indications are that the vast majority of that growth was at TVNZ and Sky TV.

SMOKING WHALES

Never-give-an-inch PR man Glenn Inwood has made a name for himself representing "dirty" industries - with clients including Japanese whaling interests and Imperial Tobacco New Zealand.

Inwood's approach - and purportedly rich rewards - will draw loathing for defending the indefensible or respect for defending a valid argument.

"If you wanted an easy PR job you would work for the SPCA and Red Cross," said the Wellington-based PR man who came to the fore over the Peter Bethune affair back in January.

Inwood posed as a government employee monitoring the ships for search and rescue purposes. But he is best known for staying below the radar.

Neither whaling nor tobacco will recover as brands, but it's a job to slow the industry demise or roll back regulation.

He won't name his other clients - some of whom are uncontroversial and do not need to be linked to dirty industries.

But Inwood is not averse to expanding into other unpopular industries. There is plenty of action in hard PR industries - like mining. "A lot of PR is about staying fresh and change," he said.

It is not the easiest form of PR. "Critics too often attack the messenger rather than the message."

Anti-whaling people especially are like religious fundamentalists and he has received threats and abuse from anti-whaling groups. "They do not have an argument that is sound, and when their argument fails, then they lash out."

DEEP WATER

The Pete Bethune affair brought Inwood to public attention internationally. But what other roles has he had in this country?

Inwood's former role as a Labour press secretary - he was reportedly pushed out by Helen Clark because of his whaling connections - means he knows his way around Wellington politics.

Inwood worked with Maori fisheries and has been a staffer for Te Ohu Kaimoana, which has a company that owns 50 per cent of Sealord, the company that owns a quarter of the New Zealand fishing quota.

Te Ohu Kaimoana says it supports indigenous access to whales, but not commercial whaling. The rest of Sealord is owned by a Japanese fishing firm that is not involved in whaling.

Maori sources believe that Te Ohu Kaimoana played a large part in the Maori Party developing its policy on whaling.

A spokeswoman said that Inwood had been used as a consultant on media matters - the last time about 14 months ago when he was consulted on the appointment of a new board member.

Te Ohu Kaimoana chief Peter Douglas said he was in regular contact with Inwood, on a friendly basis, but Te Ohu Kaimoana had not played a significant role in the party's developing a policy on whaling.

- NZ Herald

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