John Drinnan 's Opinion

John Drinnan is the Media writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Media: Hauraki goes after Devlin

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Martin Devlin is reportedly wary of moving away from his sports role. Photo / Dean Purcell
Martin Devlin is reportedly wary of moving away from his sports role. Photo / Dean Purcell

The Radio Network looks set to hire flamboyant broadcaster Martin Devlin as breakfast host on Radio Hauraki.

TRN director of music and marketing David Brice is still working through the long-running process of talking through changes with the incumbents.

It is understood TRN has made RadioLive presenter Devlin an offer but a friend said he was wary of stepping away from sports to work on the rock station.

On the other side of the negotiating table, TRN is cognisant of Devlin's stint several years ago at TRN's Radio Sport, where he was not always popular with management.

TRN has had some troubled comings and goings at Radio Hauraki - which is competing against MediaWorks' The Rock.

When TRN announced the idea of change early this year it led to a social media campaign supporting the incumbents, slowing the change.

About 18 months ago TRN hired shock jock Iain Stables to take over the Hauraki drive time slot, but he left before he started after a very public spat with an airline worker.

The job went to Matt Heath, who has boosted ratings, but breakfast still needs work.

A source said Devlin was a different kettle of fish from Stables.

But like some of our most talented broadcasters, Devlin benefits from good management.

REPUTATIONS SPECIALIST

Devlin, it has been noted before, is married to Andi Brotherston, the former TVNZ news publicist who famously uttered the too-honest opinion that Paul Henry's transgressions on Breakfast were because he was saying what other people were thinking.

After leaving TVNZ she turned up for a while at SkyCity casino. Her LinkedIn profile describes her vocation as a journalist talent wrangler, reputations specialist and broker of news stories.

TRN INTEREST

A 50 per cent stake in TRN is included in the Deutsche Bank review of APN News & Media's New Zealand assets.

It is understood that it has previously attracted interest from potential buyers, including Sky TV.

The other half of TRN is owned by the US radio giant Clear Channel, which has said in the past that it has been looking at divesting its non-US investments.

Sky TV's interest in the past has been tempered by its international ownership structure.

The market loves a monopoly. If not, a duopoly will do.

From a strategic point of view TRN has a strong position in the market with half of the radio audiences, including Newstalk, Radio Sports, Coast and Hauraki.

The other half of the New Zealand commercial radio industry is owned by MediaWorks, which is being besieged by private equity company TPG.

APN expects to update investors next month about progress in the review, and there may be some indication of changes of ownership for assets.

One question for APN will be whether it wants to flick on its stake or capitalise on TRN - a strong producer of content - and its ownership of nzherald.co.nz.

NEW WORLD ORDER

Plans for TVNZ to make Back Benches for Prime TV will deliver good public relations results all round and a pleasing result for the show's loyal audience.

The politics programme, which is one of the last vestiges of television in Wellington, has screened on TVNZ 7 until it was discontinued last week.

It does not fit with TVNZ's aims of making profit at all costs, so TVNZ is not interested in picking up the niche-interest show for TV One.

Prime TV is prepared to run a weekly 10.30pm show - a time when it should not be too encumbered with advertising.

So now TVNZ, which owns the intellectual property, has sought taxpayer funding from New Zealand On Air to make the show in-house and sell it to Prime.

This is a win-win-win. Worthy souls will applaud the survival of Back Benches. TVNZ and New Zealand On Air will do something to keep the legacy alive.

Meanwhile, Sky/Prime TV, whose lobbyist Tony O'Brien has supported the project, will enjoy the affections of the backbencher politicians who would otherwise get nowhere near a TV camera.

O'Brien, remember, was network executive for Sky's election coverage.

And subject to NZ On Air approval it will be nearly all taxpayer funded. Isn't it a little weird for TVNZ to be making public service shows for Sky? Or am I being too cynical?

BACKBENCH FRENZY

I don't mind public discussions on TV, and I generally support the need for public service TV.

But I'm not a big fan of all the chatterbox monkeys running around on Back Benches.

There are no commercials so I can't see why there is a need for Wallace Chapman to be in such an excited frenzy all the time.

But it'll be good if the show gets saved, if only because it ensures there remains some television activity in Wellington. I know the show is very popular down there.

SPLIT SCREEN

Sky TV looks set to remain linked to the news operation under the restructuring of News Corp.

Under proposals announced by Rupert Murdoch News Corporation is to be split into two operations.

One will be focused on newspapers and one on entertainment.

The move is widely believed to be an attempt by investors in the company to separate US entertainment investments and a stake in BSkyB from the ethical failings of newspapers exposed in the Leveson inquiry.

The Australian Murdoch arm - News Ltd - controls 70 per cent of the Aussie newspaper market and 50 per cent of shares in Foxtel, the dominant pay TV player in Australia. The other 50 per cent is owned by Telstra.

Sky TV is 43 per cent owned by News Ltd. Despite the fact that the Sky and Foxtel investments are both clearly entertainment assets, it appears there are no moves to break them out, at this stage at least.

It seems likely there will be more changes ahead.

GALE WARNING

Another independent thinker has been shut down by the Government, but it remains to be seen whether Sky TV will be the main beneficiary.

The Government announced this week it had appointed Stephen Gale as Telecommunications Commissioner, replacing Ross Patterson, who had sought reappointment.

Patterson has been a brave voice exposing the potential barriers to uptake of ultra-fast broadband, and introducing a study that opens up questions about Sky TV's hold on content rights, and whether that reduces competition.

Separately, a Commerce Commission study is looking at issues relating to Sky contracts with internet service providers.

Gale is experienced in competition law and there is no indication he will do a poor job.

But in choosing not to reappoint Paterson, the Government has chosen to halt the momentum of a regulator who has questioned the logic and efficiency of its policies.

It may be that Patterson's inquiries continue and that there is nothing wrong with Sky's power in our unregulated content market. But the Government should not try to stop Patterson's questions being asked, in the same way it halted a review of broadcasting regulations in 2009 soon after it was elected.

The decision not to re-employ Patterson has echoes of a previous decision by National not to renew Paula Rebstock's term at the Commerce Commission.

She was unpopular for a commission stance preventing the sale of The Warehouse to Woolworths.

- NZ Herald

John Drinnan

John Drinnan is the 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.

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