John Drinnan 's Opinion

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

Media: Hosking plugs car and Key

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Newstalk ZB breakfast host cosies up to Prime Minister while promoting flash vehicle and backing National Govt.

Mike Hosking (left) was the master of ceremonies at John Key's State of the Nation speech. File photo / Norrie Montgomery
Mike Hosking (left) was the master of ceremonies at John Key's State of the Nation speech. File photo / Norrie Montgomery

Newstalk ZB breakfast radio host Mike Hosking promoted Lexus and the National government while MCing at John Key's State of the Nation speech last Friday.

State of the nation addresses are sometimes sombre affairs. But Hosking was fizzing with enthusiasm for the luxury car brand which sponsored the event at the North Harbour Club.

He waxed lyrical about his family car - the 5.7 Lexus LX570.

Then, when introducing Key, he gave him the big thumbs-up. "I've done my own state of the nation.

"As I see it, all things considered we are doing pretty bloody well. We box above our weight," he said.

"We have bright prospects for the future, so long as you keep them in Government," he said.

It was a funny tie-up.

Lexus confirmed the relationship and Newstalk ZB said it was aware of it.

Newstalk has its own commercial relationship with Lexus.

Head of talk radio Dallas Gurney says Hosking's deal was not tied in with his giving commercial plugs for Lexus on air.

As for the endorsement: "So what?" he asked.

Hosking was enthusiastic in his MCing roles, and he was hired by Newstalk for his opinions, he said. The public were able to judge him on his performance on air.

Nobody will be surprised by Hosking's commercial relationship with Lexus or his love of expensive cars (the standard LX570 has a price tag of $196,900).

Like many broadcasters he likes to moonlight as an MC and gets paid well for it. Last year, Newstalk ZB was also relaxed about Hosking's commercial relationship with casino company SkyCity in the midst of National's deal offering pokies' licences in return for a convention centre.

TVNZ was less laissez faire when it learned of the arrangement and Hosking agreed to not cover Sky City during his Friday stints on Close Up.

Hosking is a talented interviewer, and even if TVNZ is walking away from traditional current affairs it desperately needs his talents on Q&A.

But with Lexus and National, he would bring a lot of baggage. Head of news and current affairs Ross Dagan said: "We haven't spoken to Mike about Q&A. We respect him as a broadcaster but just at the moment we have no immediate plans involving him."

EXTRA MILE

Back Benches TV host Wallace Chapman is not unlike Hosking in that he insists he is a broadcaster, not a journalist, so is not bound by the profession's commercial and ethical limitations. You might remember I banged on about Chapman presenting TVNZ advertorials for Cadbury chocolate - part of its package called The Extra Mile. He gave fake news interviews that were inserted around the real news broadcasts.

It seems the TVNZ advertorial sales operation Black Sand has resumed its advertorial push and has lined up two more commercial campaigns fronted by Chapman, who will return soon for the new series of Back Benches.

The former head of advertorial, Tim Wilson, is now a producer on Seven Sharp. An ad industry source said that one of the two advertorials will be for a financial services company.

AUCKLAND THEN

The future of Fairfax's Auckland Now website is unclear.

Fairfax told staff told this week that the role of the website could be changed.

Fairfax insiders said they had been told up to seven positions could be removed, though Fairfax executive editor Paul Thompson said this was not the case. He declined further comment.

Fairfax officially launched the site in September 2011.

Insiders were not surprised by the move. But they have been perplexed by Fairfax's handling of the site which was meant to address the lower profile for Fairfax in Auckland - an area dominated by APN News and Media, publisher of the Herald.

Marketing and promotion for the site had been half-hearted and its future appears to have been lost inside Fairfax's online strategy, one source said.

Fairfax recently appointed Garry Ferris to oversee its print and online operations in Auckland.

TE NEWS

Maori TV head of digital Stephen Smith says the relaunched website for the Maori broadcaster will include news, a marked change. But it has limited resources compared to nzherald.co.nz, stuff and TVNZ.co.nz.

Smith - who was taken on from senior roles in TVNZ, Vodafone and Fairfax - says that the website will not be up for another two months. It has been a long wait for the website which would have been a priority when he joined the management top brass at Maori TV in June 2011.

Smith says that with two channels - the mostly English language Maori channel and te reo - and two languages the site has complex issues. He said the redeveloped Maori Television Service (MTS) website would have the same attractive graphic look as Maori TV, but he expected it would give a bigger profile to the te reo channel Maori language operation. Language has been a long-running issue at Maori TV with the Maori Television Electoral College (Te Putahi Paoho) seeking to ensure reo remains front and centre. Others believe it needs to have a broader focus to attract a wider following.

Behind the scenes at a Government level there have been moves to designate the frequencies used by MTS to Te Putahi Paoho, a move that some believe would lead to the creation of smaller regional iwi TV stations distinct from Maori TV.

The move is backed by Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples but opposed by Labour MP Shane Jones who says attention should remained focused on the Maori channel.

ICED T

Igloo general manager Chaz Savage has jumped ship to take over Telstra's T Box in Australia, but says the Igloo venture is going well in this country.

He declined to give sales numbers for the set top box sold through retailers.

Igloo - which is a combination for 14 Sky channels and pay per view access to a downloadable movie library - had a troubled start due to technical problems which meant that it did not launch in time for a Christmas sales push.

There has been speculation last year that TVNZ took a big financial hit with TiVo technology and was getting cold feet on its minority shareholding in Igloo with Sky TV. Indeed some had questioned the value for TVNZ in cosying up to Sky.

- NZ Herald

John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan is the media writer for the New Zealand Herald. 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. He is focused on the business side of the digital revolution in media.

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