Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

TV boss denies instruction to protect advertisers

Fair Go staff were "very upset" and protested strongly against a senior manager's instruction not to produce items that would offend advertisers, says Labour's broadcasting spokeswoman Clare Curran.

Ms Curran yesterday claimed TV One and TV2 boss Jeff Latch gave the instruction to reporters and other staff at TVNZ's long running and popular consumer affairs show about two weeks ago.

Appearing before Parliament's commerce committee, TVNZ management, including Mr Latch gave assurances that the state-owned broadcaster placed high value on the integrity of its news and current affairs programme.

"How then can you explain reports that TVNZ head of programming called a meeting of Fair Go staff, including all reporters together in the last couple of weeks and instructed them not to produce programmes that would upset advertisers?" Ms Curran asked.

Mr Latch said he was invited "as a guest" to the meeting of Fair Go staff "to share my views as to the essence of that programme and what would make it successful going forward".

However, he denied instructing them not to upset advertisers.

"It wasn't an instruction per se. I asked them to contemplate and think about when you're looking at stories it's very important that they're balanced and we actually show both sides of the story and I think Fair Go do.

"I also made the observation that we operate in a commercial environment and that Fair Go like all our programmes needed to exercise care in terms of the way they handle stories, they need to make sure they're always balanced because in a commercial environment a story that is not balanced could be something that we would not want to run on this network."

Mr Latch told the committee that staff at the meeting responded with "nodding acceptance".

However, Ms Curran later told the Herald she understood the meeting was called principally to give staff the instruction and she had been told many there were "very upset" and made "strong remonstrations" at Mr Latch's instruction and later took it up with other senior management.

She produced an email reporting the concerns of "a senior TVNZ journalist" about Mr Latch's instruction and those of "other members of the journalist fraternity at TVNZ at both the erosion of standards at TVNZ that this indicated, and at the legal implications for the programme".

Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss said his interpretation of the matter was that Mr Latch did not issue the instruction and he would not seek any assurances "right now" from TVNZ about it.

- NZ Herald

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