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John Drinnan is a Herald business writer and media commentator

John Drinnan: War and peace on the air

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MediaWorks factions settle down, as it juggles broadcasters and blurs the distinction between radio and TV.

Comedian Guy Williams (centre), who already appears on TV3, will feature on MediaWorks' Edge TV. Photo / APN
Comedian Guy Williams (centre), who already appears on TV3, will feature on MediaWorks' Edge TV. Photo / APN

Warring between MediaWorks' radio and TV arms has calmed since new owners took over in November.

Ill-feeling was at its height two years earlier, when RadioLive nine-to-noon host Michael Laws suggested listeners shoot TV3 journalists covering the "teapot tapes" story. But since then, some fences have been mended.

The company has long wanted to try melding the two arms together, says a source familiar with MediaWorks. After all, while TV has the profile, radio has the cashflow.

But the push for convergence got a boost, says the source, when the rival broadcasting group, The Radio Network, became fully owned by APN News & Media, publisher of the Herald.

In MediaWorks' case, radio is being used to boost the profile of a TV brand, not the other way around.

This week, MediaWorks said it would turn its C4 music channel into The Edge TV. It is hoped that C4 - a niche music video channel - can piggyback off the radio station's profile.

The Edge TV will feature high-profile radio hosts such as Jay-Jay Feeney and Dom Harvey, and comedian Guy Williams will feature in taped and live material. Williams already appears on the Jono & Ben at Ten show, on TV3 on Friday nights.

MediaWorks recently extended the links between Jono & Ben at Ten and its radio stations, co-host Ben Boyce joining Jono Pryor on the drivetime show for The Rock.

Boyce replaces Pryor's previous co-host on The Rock, Robert Taylor, who is now in talks with MediaWorks.

Jono Pryor (front) and Robert Taylor from The Rock FM at the unveiling of the Folden car in Ponsonby, Auckland.
Jono Pryor (front) and Robert Taylor from The Rock FM at the unveiling of the Folden car in Ponsonby, Auckland.

There are many other links between MediaWorks' RadioLive and the TV3 newsroom - the radio station even broadcasts 3 News.

Radio-ratings results are due out today. And an announcement is expected next week from MediaWorks' rival, TRN, that former Edge hosts Fletch and Vaughan are moving to music ZM, while ZM breakfast host Polly Gillespie will head a networked Classic Hits - with the loss of radio jobs in provincial centres

CROSS-TIES

Radio broadcasters have crossed into TV for years, an example being Newstalk's association with TVNZ.

Paul Holmes set the tone for cross-media roles, and has been followed by Mike Hosking on Seven Sharp. On the other side there is Duncan Garner on RadioLive and 3rd Degree.

Mike Hosking
Mike Hosking

MediaWorks has looked at going further, with a combined newsroom and website for Radio-Live and TV3.

It makes sense in theory, but two sources familiar with MediaWorks' thinking say the notion has been considered in the past and found to be a lot of trouble for too little return.

There has been similar speculation about a newsroom merger for Newstalk ZB and the Herald, both owned by APN News & Media.

But APN chief executive Michael Miller has ruled it out, saying it would reduce the number of voices in the media.

OUT OF THE MIDDLE

The row between the Warriors' millionaire owners, Eric Watson and Sir Owen Glenn, would have been difficult for PR woman Niki Schuck had she still been acting as communications adviser to both. But Schuck - who also acts for TRN - says she has not worked for Glenn since last year. His media relations services are now provided by Ian Fraser, former chief executive of TVNZ.

TAU-TIME

Tau Henare has been tipped to replace Georgina te Heuheu as chairman of Maori TV, but it is not clear when he might take up the job.

Henare has announced he is stepping down from politics and is understood to be keen on the Maori TV chairman's role.

Tau Henare
Tau Henare

Te Heuheu's tenure officially ends in March next year, but the board's appointment of the new chief executive of Maori TV, Paora Maxwell, has been contentious, and there have been suggestions she could step down early to focus on other interests.

Te Heuheu's departure would end the situation where the chair of a Crown venture is close personal friends with the chief executive.

Henare can be bellicose at times, but it is understood that many staff who were unhappy about the appointment process would be comfortable with him as chairman. Henare says it is too early to look at options, but he would consider appointments to government roles.

PARTY TALK

One question hanging over te Heuheu's replacement is whether the Crown will still have the power to appoint the Maori TV chairman if it backs the Maori Party proposal known as Te Matawai.

Te Matawai is said to be the legacy policy of Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples and would lead to iwi appointing people to oversee Maori TV and the funding agency Te Mangai Paho, which would be merged with the Maori Language Commission.

National's possible support for Te Matawai appears to be part of pre-election haggling over a coalition agreement between the Maori Party and National. It is no secret that the Maori Party has played a subtle role in MTS, and party co-vice president Donna Gardiner is on the board.

The party is said to be leading a Maori establishment push to rein in the Maori TV current affairs programme Native Affairs, over its coverage of Te Kohanga Reo National Trust.

The controversy over the iwi-controlled Kohanga Reo Trust - and the bullying of Maori TV - mean this may not be the best time to push for the Government to hand over a Crown enterprise to another iwi-controlled entity.

WHACK!

Some observers believe Te Matawai would boost te reo Maori and reverse what they see as the "Pakeha-fication" of Maori TV. Others see it as a backward step, halting the progress made in the first 10 years of Maori TV.

Broadcaster Willie Jackson has business interests which have been successful under the status quo. And like left-wing politicians Metiria Turei and Hone Harawira, he is opposed to Te Matawai. He heads Te Putahi Paoho - an organisation linked to the Maori Council - which appoints four members to the Maori TV board. Te Matawai would consume Te Putahi Paoho.

"Everybody likes Pete [Sharples]", says Jackson, "but this is the worst idea he has come up with as Minister of Maori Affairs and it is dangerous."

WILLIE BACKS PAORA

Jackson, who runs Radio Waatea, has been seen as a critic of Native Affairs' coverage of the scandal over Te Kohanga Reo National Trust. He says Native Affairs deserves congratulations, but ...

"Part of the problem was having young people asking these questions of icons of the language. It would have been better if [Maori TV news and current affairs chief] Julian Wilcox had played a bigger role.

"Some of the people being questioned said, 'Hang on, who are you kids?' It's how you ask and who asked."

Despite staff concerns about Maxwell's appointment as chief executive, Jackson sees his arrival as positive.

"There is a fair bit of disappointment from the Maori Party about where Maori TV is going and I agree there needs to be some work. I understand their trepidation - but the new CEO [Maxwell] will fix that."

- NZ Herald

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