Alleged informer offers to quit over Bailey row

By Ainsley Thomson, HELEN TUNNAH

Dame Ann Hercus, the TVNZ board member accused by National of informing the Government of the new $800,000 pay deal for newsreader Judy Bailey, is understood to have offered her resignation from the board.

Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey is expected to have a meeting at Parliament this morning with board officials to discuss the pay decision and possible resignations, most likely with board chairman Craig Boyce.

The Government has demanded an explanation from Mr Boyce and if it is not satisfied, he may be asked to resign.

Mr Maharey and Prime Minister Helen Clark have strongly condemned the decision, the latter calling it evidence of a "culture of extravagance".

Dame Ann, a former minister in the Lange Labour Government, was on the TVNZ board's three-person remuneration committee that recommended that Bailey's pay be virtually doubled. It is believed she dissented from the decision.

National broadcasting spokesman Murray McCully yesterday hinted that Dame Ann was the informant to the Government.

Mr McCully said if the Government had been told of the pay rise informally by a director, then that director must resign.

"Any director who had unilaterally decided to inform the minister, or anyone else, and thus breach the confidentiality of the board, must surely have forfeited the confidence of other board members."

Neither TVNZ nor the Government has confirmed the pay rate.

But the decision to secure Bailey on a high one-year contract was made in the midst of a news and current affairs poaching war by Prime and TV3, which has seen broadcaster Paul Holmes, the former top paid staffer in TVNZ, go to Prime.

Mr McCully outlined his allegations in a letter to Mr Maharey, in which he called for the minister to urgently clarify the matter.

The TVNZ board is made up of Mr Boyce, Dame Ann, Robert Fenwick, Philip Melchior and Trish Stevenson. Mr Boyce, Dame Ann and Mr Melchior were on the remuneration subcommittee that approved the pay rise.

While Mr McCully did not name Dame Ann, who was Labour's Minister for Social Welfare, Police and Women's Affairs from 1984 to 1987, his letter clearly refers to her by saying the matter was more serious because there was a former Labour Cabinet minister sitting on the board.

On National Radio yesterday Mr Boyce was asked if there was any dissent among subcommittee members, to which he answered: "That's not something I'm prepared to discuss."

He declined to talk to the Herald.

Mr McCully said the matter was serious and related to the governance of New Zealand's most influential media outlet.

Meanwhile, TVNZ yesterday came under attack from the 200 members of its staff who belong to the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union.

National secretary Andrew Little said the decision to almost double Bailey's salary called into question the credibility of the state broadcaster's managers and board.

"If one person is worth a 77 per cent pay rise, then everybody is," he said.

Speculation among television sources yesterday suggested the Bailey package might be a one-off payment, and that she might leave the channel in a year.

However, neither TVNZ nor Bailey returned Herald calls.

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