MediaWorks has rejected accusations that Prime Minister John Key's hosting gig on one of its radio stations was influenced by the Government's $43 million bailout of the company.
Mr Key hosted an hour-long programme on Radio Live last Friday, during which he told listeners the show was an "election-free zone'', and spent the time discussing issues ranging from his cat to Coronation St.
The Labour Party yesterday laid complaints with the Electoral Commission, alleging Mr Key's hour breached the prohibition on paid election programmes by breaking the Election Programmes Code of Broadcasting Practice, and being an unauthorised election advertisement.
Labour leader Phil Goff said it would have been a different situation if other leaders had been afforded the same opportunity, but that Radio Live had rejected the idea of allowing other leaders to participate.
Mr Goff also said there was some suspicion Mr Key's treatment could be linked to the Government's decision to defer $43 million of licensing fees for MediaWorks.
"The Government did give $43 million of assistance to the company, and when the company then returns and says `for the first time ever, we're going to give the prime minister, on the edge of election campaign, a hour with full editorial control', that's the suspicion that's left,'' Mr Goff said.
"If that was the reason for them doing it, that would be totally against the democratic process in this country.''
MediaWorks Radio general manager Jana Rangooni today dismissed the allegation.
"Some suggestion has been made that the agreement between Radio Live's owners and the Government regarding the staged payment for radio spectrum licensing played a part in our invitation to John Key to host The PM's Hour. This is not true.'' she said.
Ms Rangooni said the station had taken advice to ensure that programme was neither election programming nor election advertising, and that it had retained editorial control of the programme.
"We fully understand our responsibilities as a broadcaster and the rules around election advertising and programmes - our advice is that The PM's Hour is neither, but we understand that a complaint has been made about the programme so we will not comment further on this aspect.''
Ms Rangooni said Mr Goff was regular guest on the station.
"Firstly, while The Prime Minister's Hour show was not available to Phil Goff this year (for obvious reasons) we have been talking to his office about getting him into Radio Live again,'' she said in a statement.
"As of last week, we were standing by for his office to let us know which dates suit his schedule.''
Meanwhile, questions have also been raised about how Mr Key divides his time between different radio stations.
While Mr Key does regular spots on commercial stations Newstalk ZB and Radio Sport, public broadcaster Radio New Zealand said it had had difficulty getting the Prime Minister to appear.
The station said it made regular bids to interview Mr Key on its Morning Report and Checkpoint programmes but most were declined.
Of the 184 Morning Report programmes this year, Mr Key had agreed to be interviewed in 10.
Mr Key had been interviewed on Checkpoint five times this year, with his last interview on the show in June.
- APNZBy Amelia Romanos Email Amelia