John Drinnan 's Opinion

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan: Taurima inquiry fails to take TVNZ to task

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The Taurima Inquiry has failed to take Television New Zealand to task for its biggest failing yet as a news operation with an oversight of politics.

The state broadcaster missed the fact one of its news chiefs was planning for a second time to stand for Parliament for the Labour Party.

The Inquiry found mis-spending by a Labour Party cell in the TVNZ Maori and Pacifica Department when it was led by Shane Taurima.

The report found no bias in programmes from the Department, such as Marae and Te Karere, which will be a big relief for TVNZ in an election year.

National politicians would have pounced had any bias been found. Chief executive Kevin Kenrick blames Taurima for not making declarations.

But what were news and current affairs bosses doing?

Taurima missed out on the Rawhiti Ikaroa candidacy, came back to TVNZ and later started working towards standing for the Tamaki Makaurau electorate.

He led a small cell of Labour Party people in the department and even tried talk them into joining the Party.

Taurima's second candidacy was common knowledge to many in the media - but nobody at TVNZ.

Television New Zealand will tighten rules for staff declaring political affiliations involving party membership and activism, said chief executive Kevin Kenrick,

But the changes around staff declaring conflicts of interest will not require any declaration to the political bent of presenters with no Party affiliation.

The most obvious example is Seven Sharp host Mike Hosking who is actively involved in the editorial oversight of the show.

He has a conservative stance but there is no indication he is a member of any political party.

In the past TVNZ has had to restrict Hosking talking about Sky City Entertainment when it belatedly realised that Hosking had failed to declare his work relationship with the casino company.

In that case the issue was also revealed by coverage in other media.

TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick said the issue is over involvement in political parties and not their political bent.

"We accept people have an interest in things and that is human," said Kenrick.

The distinction will be important for the news and current affairs department in election year.

- NZ Herald

John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan is the media writer for the New Zealand Herald. A business journalist for twenty years, he has been editor of the specialist film and television title "Screen Finance" in London, focussing on the European TV and film industry. He has been writing about media in New Zealand since the deregulation of the television industry in the late 1980s. He is focused on the business side of the digital revolution in media.

Read more by John Drinnan

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