Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

TVNZ considers tougher new conflict of interest rules

Shane Taurima resigned from TVNZ last month when it was revealed he had been involved in organising a Labour Party fundraising hui at TVNZ. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Shane Taurima resigned from TVNZ last month when it was revealed he had been involved in organising a Labour Party fundraising hui at TVNZ. Photo / Paul Estcourt

TVNZ is eyeing tougher new conflict of interest rules for employees following the resignation of Shane Taurima as general manager of its Maori and Pacific unit.

Mr Taurima resigned last month when it was revealed he had been involved in organising a Labour Party fundraising hui at the TVNZ network centre, had participated in other Labour Party hui, and was considering seeking the Labour nomination to stand in the Tamaki Makaurau electorate in this year's election.

That was in spite of him telling TVNZ he had no further political aspirations when he was rehired after unsuccessfully seeking Labour's nomination for the Ikaroa Rawhiti by-election last year.

The state broadcaster has launched an inquiry into whether there was Labour bias at the unit under Mr Taurima, whether TVNZ resources were used for political events and whether there was any bias during Mr Taurima's role as an interviewer with Q+A.

TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick was questioned on the progress of that inquiry by Parliament's finance and expenditure committee this morning.

The inquiry is expected to report back by April, but Mr Kenrick said as far as TVNZ's news operations outside the scope of the investigation went, "I have no reason to believe there's any bias and I'm really confident that we're going to provide the market leading news and current affairs programmes off the back of that".

The inquiry was in its early days but would likely result in changes to conflict of interest rules for employees.

"We will probably need to be more robust in terms of how we identify political allegiances particularly within our news and current affairs areas but across the business as a whole."

However TVNZ was unlikely to ban membership of political parties by its employees.

"We're not in the business of censoring people or trying to dictate what their political preferences are but we need to have more robust declaration and awareness of that, and we probably will need to look at how we can manage the situation where we are aware."

In its existing rules for journalists TVNZ says it has "no wish to limit any person's freedom of association or ability to join a political party".

"But someone working in news or current affairs should ask the basic question: If this fact (party membership) became public, would our viewers regard the journalist involved as truly impartial? If there is any suggestion they would not, then it must be declared."

- NZ Herald

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