Television NZ bumped Prime Minister John Key from its prime-time current affairs show so it could feature former All Black Robin Brooke saying sorry for groping a teenage girl.
John Key's office has refused to comment on the Close Up show's decision not to talk to the PM about his state of the nation speech.
Instead, most of Tuesday's show was devoted to host Mark Sainsbury interviewing Brooke about his explanation for the New Year groping incident in Fiji, a story that has featured in newspapers.
Close Up ignored the changes the PM foreshadowed to the tax system.
Mr Key's chief press secretary, Kevin Taylor, said: "It is TVNZ's editorial decision for the programme and we will not be saying any more about it."
But it is understood the Prime Minister was surprised by the decision to ditch a scheduled interview with him just two and a half hours before it was due to go out live.
Such "bumping" is common in television entertainment shows when they run out of time or there are better offers.
TVNZ news spokeswoman Andi Brotherston said it was unfair to say Mr Key had been dumped from the 7pm current affairs show.
There had been a "preliminary booking" for the PM to be interviewed on Close Up but about 4.30pm Mr Key's minders were told he would not be needed.
Ms Brotherston said TVNZ had subsequently made another "preliminary booking" to speak to the Prime Minister on Budget night, but whether that went ahead was also subject to news priorities.
She said the Brooke incident in Fiji had been big news. TVNZ said it had made no commitments to Brooke's representatives.
A former TVNZ news executive said the broadcaster would have dealt the same way with Mr Key's predecessor, Helen Clark.