Lion man returns despite conviction

By Maggie McNaughton

TVNZ hopes its latest series of The Lion Man will be a ratings winner, despite the show's star admitting he assaulted his former partner after he found her in bed with another couple.

The future of a third series was uncertain after Craig Busch - otherwise known as the Lion Man - was convicted in May on two charges of assaulting his former partner Karen Greybrook in 2005. She suffered a lumbar fracture, bruising and a cut head during the assault. Busch was ordered to pay Ms Greybrook $8000.

But TVNZ has bought the third series of The Lion Man, which will return to TV2 tomorrow at 7pm. The first two series were a hit for the state broadcaster.

TVNZ said The Lion Man had a strong following here and overseas and the purchase of the programme was made in response to a perceived demand, despite the associated issues.

Spokeswoman Megan Richards said Busch's convictions and the publicity surrounding his personal life had compromised the enjoyment of the programme for some sections of society.

"However we are aware that for others, these issues take second place to their appreciation of the conservation work being carried out at the Zion Park big cat sanctuary, and their enjoyment of being able to see rare footage of these endangered animals," she said.

"TVNZ considered the balance between these two viewpoints carefully before deciding to buy the programme. "The decision was made on the basis that the New Zealand public has been well-informed about the controversial aspects of Mr Busch's personal life through intensive media coverage at the time of the court's judgment, so viewers are in a position to make an informed individual decision about whether to support the programme or not."

She said TVNZ commissioned the first two series, but the third series had been funded independently.

"We have no pre-conceived judgments [about how well it will rate] except that obviously we wouldn't broadcast anything without hoping that it would do well."

Busch has a previous conviction from 1991 for assaulting a female, for which he received three months' periodic detention.

Women's Refuge spokeswoman Catherine Delore said Busch had been given a second chance, unlike the many women and children who had been subjected to violence.

Great Southern Television, which produces the show, said it had been sold to 93 countries, making it one of the the most successful series in New Zealand history.

Managing director Phil Smith said he didn't know if the convictions would have an effect on Busch's popularity.

"I actually think the public will decide that ... He's doing an incredible amount of positive work," he said. "The series is an important funding source which allows the breeding programme to continue. In effect it is providing these amazing cats with a lifeline."

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 02 Sep 2014 12:09:36 Processing Time: 1652ms