Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Labour: PM had big hand in radio show

John Key has been criticised for going on RadioLive during the election. Photograph / Martin Sykes
John Key has been criticised for going on RadioLive during the election. Photograph / Martin Sykes

Labour is going back to the Electoral Commission about John Key's pre-election RadioLive show, saying the Prime Minister was more involved in it than he let on.

Labour's deputy leader, Grant Robertson, yesterday released emails showing Mr Key had chosen and approached his own guests and his office had changed a "brief" about the show and provided the wording for RadioLive to request advice from the Electoral Commission about it.

In the emails Mr Key's communications manager, Willy Trolove, also wrote that Electoral Commission advice had not given a definitive go-ahead for the show, but made it clear the responsibility was on the broadcaster, "which is useful".

Mr Robertson said the emails showed Mr Key's office was clearly nervous about a possible rule breach.

"Saying it is 'useful' that the blame would be on the broadcaster is a further example of them wanting to put the blame onto RadioLive here. They knew this was a heavily political act and that it was nonsense it was the 'election-free zone' the Prime Minister has been peddling."

Mr Key admitted in Parliament yesterday he had chosen the interview subjects for the show, but said he did not know his staff were involved in changing the show's brief or had drafted the request for RadioLive to get an opinion from the Electoral Commission before it aired.

The Electoral Commission referred the Prime Minister's Hour programme to police last week, saying RadioLive aired an election programme in breach of the Broadcasting Act. However, it was decided the programme was not an election advertisement because Mr Key was under the editorial control of RadioLive.

Mr Robertson said emails from Mr Key's office showed he was heavily involved in the content of the programme and knew it could possibly breach electoral rules but believed the blame would fall on RadioLive.

He would refer the emails to the Electoral Commission to see if it had been aware of them when it decided that Mr Key was acting under the editorial control of RadioLive.

The emails show RadioLive did send instructions regarding the show to the Prime Minister, saying his office should provide him with lines to use if he was asked about voting. RadioLive also said its own lawyer was "totally comfortable" unless the Prime Minister "starts telling people how to vote".

Mr Key also had leeway over the questions he asked: RadioLive sent "draft" questions only and asked one guest what he wanted to talk about.

- NZ Herald

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