John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

Sky TV boss also ate with Shearer

Sky TV chief executive John Fellet. Photo / Kenny Rodger
Sky TV chief executive John Fellet. Photo / Kenny Rodger

Sky TV chief executive John Fellet was also present at a private dinner party attended by Opposition leader David Shearer at the home of Sky lobbyist Tony O'Brien, the pay-TV company has confirmed.

The dinner, first reported in the Business Herald on Friday, took place on April 27 and was also attended by the wives of the three men.

Private dinner parties with lobbyists are not restricted, but the timing was unusual. Sky TV's ultimate owner News Corporation was under attack in the UK for allegedly using excessive leverage on politicians.

In this country, private meetings between business interests and politicians are under intense scrutiny amid controversy over Kim Dotcom's donations to John Banks' mayoral campaign and debate about Government involvement in the SkyCity convention centre deal.

Shearer is supporting a private members bill calling for more scrutiny of lobbyists.

Acknowledging he and his wife attended the dinner, Shearer did not discuss whether Fellet was present. He insisted there was no discussion of Labour's broadcasting policy.

"I regularly attend dinners, lunches, breakfasts and meetings with chief executives of companies and many other organisations," he said yesterday.

Social media commentators argue that politicians should meet with business people socially, to get a rounded view of issues. Sky TV is 44 per cent owned by News Limited, which is chaired by Rupert Murdoch.

In this country, Sky is at the centre of a regulatory push and being criticised by telcos. News Corporation is under intense pressure in the UK with allegations in the Leveson inquiry that it has wielded excessive influence over British politicians. There are no such allegations in this country and Sky has few news media interests that would be useful to politicians.

But Sky has kept pay television in this country unregulated.

Green MP Holly Walker has introduced a private members bill she says would extend beyond Parliament Buildings into private gatherings.

She said that under her bill Sky TV would have to declare a dinner party if there was discussion about regulation or policy.

Shearer insists broadcasting was not discussed during his dinner.

Shearer's chief press secretary Francesca Mold said the Opposition leader's office "will not be answering any further questions from you on this issue".

- NZ Herald

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