John Drinnan: Taurima fiasco pushes Maori TV takeover claim

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Shane Taurima. TVNZ's re-appointment of the political wannabe is another example of loose oversight at the state owned broadcaster. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Shane Taurima. TVNZ's re-appointment of the political wannabe is another example of loose oversight at the state owned broadcaster. Photo / Paul Estcourt

The fiasco of Shane Taurima using state television's Maori and Pacific unit for Labour Party fundraising will hasten calls for Maori TV to take over the unit.

Taurima - a former interviewer on Q&A - stood down from his role as general manager of the unit during the candidacy for the Labour nomination for the Ikaroa Rawhiti by-election.

TVNZ's re-appointment of the political wannabe is another example of loose oversight at TVNZ - the same sort of management style led to last year's debacle at SevenSharp.

In my opinion the Labour meeting revelations - aired on 3News - has damaged TVNZ's integrity at the start of an election year,

The debacle should lead to a revival of calls for Maori TV to take over funding and operation of the Maori and Pacific unit and with an agreement to feed some content back to TVNZ.

It is understood these plans were advanced in 2011 but TVNZ pulled back for unexplained reasons. Now - with TVNZ headed by former Maori TV chairman Wayne Walden - it may be time for a rethink.

Taurima has apologised for the damage he has caused and the Labour Party is distancing itself from the organisation of a party political meeting at a state media company.

TVNZ is expected to make a statement later today about its processes including those that saw Taurima reappointed to a role with editorial influence after revealing political aspirations.

Taurima should have returned to a purely administrative role. The TVNZ head of news and current affairs, John Gillespie said he accepted Taurima's assurances that he would not be standing again for Labour.

But given the integrity of of the TVNZ news and current affairs is at stake, he should have asked more questions and taken more interest in the rumour mill around Maori politics and Taurima's role.

The Maori and Pacific unit has become a forgotten part of the diminished news operation at TVNZ. Over the years it has delivered some of TVNZ's best content.

It has been allowed some freedom and escaped cuts.

But it is 100 per cent taxpayer funded and does not deliver profits.

With the profit focus at TVNZ the Maori unit has been cut off from the rest of the news operation and is largely irrelevant to corporate bosses. Now at the start of an election year TVNZ is wallowing in a quagmire of its own making.

- NZ Herald

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John Drinnan has been a business journalist for twenty years, he has been editor of the specialist film and television title "Screen Finance" in London, focussing on the European TV and film industry. He has been writing about media in New Zealand since the deregulation of the television industry in the late 1980s.

Read more by John Drinnan

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