John Drinnan on business

John Drinnan is a Herald business writer and media commentator

Media: Close Up 'plagiarism' reporter in dispute with TVNZ

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Kate Lynch at the Stella Artois Cup, Ellerslie. Photo / file
Kate Lynch at the Stella Artois Cup, Ellerslie. Photo / file

The Close Up reporter at the heart of the alleged plagiarism of a United States news item on July 14 is in a disagreement with TVNZ over its handling of the controversy, a television industry source says.

Sideswipe columnist Ana Samways reported how the story idea - about the degree to which Kiwis bought New Zealand goods - had been lifted from the American network ABC. TVNZ initially defended the story as a "clever concept" that was part of an investigative series based on a Made in America series that appeared on ABC in January.

But later, head of news and current affairs Anthony Flannery ordered a wide-ranging review of how the network used overseas footage. Close Up presenter Mark Sainsbury gave an abject apology on air - for something that seems poor, but is hardly a low point for Kiwi TV news.

I'm told that the apology was due to timing, with media ethics in the spotlight after the unrelated News of the World hacking scandal.

But another factor was that some senior journalists at TVNZ had also complained about TVNZ's initial "no worries" response.

A source said the Close Up presenter for the item, Kate Lynch, raised concerns about how TVNZ's approach affected her, and that she has subsequently moved from Close Up.

TVNZ would not comment on whether there was a dispute or even confirm whether Lynch was still with Close Up.

"I can say that she is a reporter at TVNZ," said spokeswoman Georgie Hills.

Radio New Zealand with pictures

The Radio New Zealand board of governors has given the thumbs up to plans for televised versions of its content as the foundation for a new public service television channel.

The proposed new channel would replace TVNZ7 when government funding runs out next July.

RNZ staff such as Geoff Robinson and Mary Wilson would have to learn how to talk to cameras and which makeup works best on screen.

It sounds like a major cultural shift for Radio New Zealand.

John Barnett, chief executive of South Pacific Pictures - which is working with RNZ on the plan - said behind-the-scenes proposals had already received positive reception from RNZ's board.

Proposals have been seen by senior management. Last night Radio New Zealand chairman Richard Griffin was optimistic that with Barnett's involvement Radio New Zealand TV could take off.

If it did eventuate, it would provide RNZ with the energy and initiative it desperately needs to get itself out of the slough of despondency caused by sinking government funding and a cultural malaise at RNZ.

And it would answer public wailing about the death of public broadcasting that led to the Save Radio New Zealand campaign and the Save TVNZ7 campaign.

Important details such as financing - whether there will be any advertising dollars and how it will secure transmission space on Freeview - have not yet been spelt out.

Barnett said that South Pacific Pictures would provide a facilitating and contracting role beyond RNZ content, with independent programme makers supplying content the same way they do for TVNZ7.

Barnett said RNZ TV could be produced for significantly less than the $15 million-plus a year spent on TVNZ digital channels in the past four years.

MEDIA POLITICS

The News International phone hacking scandal has attested how Conservative PM David Cameron - and other British politicians like Tony Blair before him - have become overly cosy with media. This is in a large part because of a fear that negative coverage could shut them out.

Murdoch's tabloid the Sun famously promoted its role as kingmaker with the headline after the 1992 election: "It's The Sun Wot Won It."

The News International row unfurled while I was on holiday in Jamaica, a country dominated by two parties - the Jamaican Labour Party and the PNP. It ramps up its standard day-to-day level of violence at election time as politicians employ gangs to strong-arm ghetto residents to vote for them.

To an uneducated outsider, the Jamaican media appears to be trying to stay aloof from party politics.

But while I was there the issue of media neutrality came up with the head of the Jamaican Labour Party youth wing - Delano Seivewright. He was threatening the organisation would "go after" journalists and media organisations who were hostile - demanding that journalists and commentators reveal their own leanings.

Internationally journalists are held in low regard in public surveys of trust. But in Jamaica media was the second most trusted institution - on 61 per cent versus 66 per cent for the army and 50 per cent for the Supreme Court. Political parties scored 33 per cent, one point below police.

BEER BELLIES

The ad agency for the Steinlager "white can" commercial for its All Black sponsorship had to negotiate complex rules relating to Heineken and its role as official sponsor for the Rugby World Cup.

But DDB Advertising executive creative director Toby Talbot said that even beyond the legal discussions with Lion Nathan lawyers, it was a complicated brief because of liquor advertising rules and the role of the All Blacks as heroes of the young.

That said, the campaign appears to have been a success and Talbot says the ads - following four All Black fans through successive World Cups and depicting them through past eras - was great fun.

Extensive makeup and prosthetics were required to depict their ageing, including prosthetics around the midriff. Talbot confirmed prosthetic padding was required, but pointed out it was not really its aim to suggest that beer caused weight gain.

BRANDING BOB

While staying in Kingston I made the obligatory visit to the Bob Marley museum near the shiny "New Kingston" and some way from deepest darkest Downtown. The entry price at US$20 ($23.50) a pop was a bit steep and the museum was controlled by his former wife Rita. It depicted Bob as the dutiful family man but it was entertaining nonetheless. The amusing highlight for me was after the tour noticing that the museum cafe was called "Stir It Up".

NEW STRIDES

Financial Markets Authority communications boss Nick Stride will have a wealth of information if he returns to his old PR job at Baldwin Boyle Group next July.

Stride has not officially left Baldwin Boyle Group - he worked at the new watchdog while on 12 months' extended leave of absence.

He says he has no idea of his future beyond the end of his contract.

"You'll have to talk to Sean [FMA chief executive Sean Hughes] about that," he said.

I suggested that the FMA job would give a PR man valuable knowledge and expertise that would be useful for a communications executive adept at keeping brands safe and sound.

Stride pointed out that - as with Baldwin Boyle where he worked extensively with its key client Fonterra - his work was subject to a strict confidentiality requirement.

Like most corporate PR firms BBG's client list is not released to the public.

VOTE HENRY

Paul Henry is likely to be a panelist in TV3's election coverage, but there are no plans for him to moderate political debates.

TV3 news and current affairs director Mark Jennings said Henry was still settling into his role as afternoon host at RadioLive.

Under the terms of his appointment with MediaWorks he is working with the programming department rather than news and current affairs.

But Mediaworks' television division is paying a substantial part of the package for Henry, so his show is likely to be in prime time when it will attract substantial audiences and help the TV division to cover its costs.

- NZ Herald

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