An employment Court decision has removed a threat to the makeover of Radio NZ.
The project to change RNZ's culture does not involve any big cash injection. But if claims by former news boss Lynne Snowdon had been upheld and the case gone against RNZ, it could have been forced to make a big payout. Such an outcome might have hampered the project.
Instead, the court ordered Snowdon to pay costs to RNZ. The amount is to be negotiated, and if that fails, will be subject to a court order. The claim may well be more than $2 million.
Employment Court Judge Anthony Ford dismissed Snowdon's three claims that she was unjustifiably dismissed and that Radio NZ had committed serious fraud. The claim, lodged in 2002, related to a period when the RNZ chief executive was Sharon Crosbie.
The dispute harks back to a period of deep dysfunction at RNZ, when there were differences of opinion over the resources being spent on news and on feature material. Some believe that only in the past 12 months has RNZ started recovering from a deep slough.
Snowdon was sacked in April 2005 after spending almost two years on sick leave, while getting full pay of about $120,000 per year.
Whether or not RNZ recovers any costs from Snowdon, parliamentary sources doubt that the May 15 Budget will end RNZ's six-year funding freeze.
Ending the freeze is a key mission for the lobby group the Coalition for Better Broadcasting (CBB), launched this week. But National has some bad blood with RNZ and is ideologically against public broadcasting. I hear the Nats are in no mood to budge yet.
One of the campaigners' proposals is a levy on commercial broadcasters, to fund public broadcasting.
A levy would require commercial operators such as Sky, TVNZ, MediaWorks and internet service providers like Telecom, Vodafone and Orcon to pay across 1 per cent of their revenue for public service broadcasting. That might raise $60 million on top of existing funding for public broadcasting.
Introducing such a levy will be a hard row to hoe. The National Party is not averse to taxpayers subsidising commercial content — as it does through New Zealand on Air. However the idea of levying the private sector to subsidise a non-commercial operation goes against the grain. National's broadcasting policy is expected to amount to a review, at most. Labour might be forced to take some new initiative, but the levy would be unpopular with business, and the cost would inevitably be passed on to consumers.
The chief executive of the CBB, Myles Thomas, sees ISPs as having a "double obligation".
"They profit in the culture space and they pay nothing for the content through the websites and apps they provide access to."
Derek and Tuku
The role of Kingitanga spokesman Tukoroirangi Morgan in ostracising Maori TV's current affairs programme Native Affairs adds to a generational war over its coverage of the Kohanga Reo Trust scandal. The Maori King, Tuheitia, is on the trust board, but asked Morgan to take his place, and a hui on its future was held at Turangawaewae Marae last weekend.
Morgan excluded Native Affairs from the hui, reflecting a wider attack on the programme by iwi-based organisations and the Maori Party. The trust's PR man Derek Fox has been quoted as being even more blunt in explaining Native Affairs' exclusion from trust communications, saying it was because they had behaved like "a***holes". Both will have been encouraged by Education Minister Hekia Parata, who outrageously snubbed Native Affairs at Beehive press conferences. The establishment has launched a powerful attack on a media organisation that has uncovered mis-spending of taxpayer dollars.
This is about more than failing to show the expected deference. In my opinion, it's about a generational change in Maori media.
Fox has been a major player in Maori media, while Morgan was a TV3 reporter whose output was more than matched by the mana he held in Maoridom, and the access that provided. Morgan was a director of the the ill-fated Aotearoa Television — a Maori TV precursor — which collapsed embarrassingly in 1997.
He took part in a shopping spree with its money which included an infamous pair of $89 underpants. A Serious Fraud Office investigation cleared him of fraud.
Native Affairs has revealed alleged mis-spending by a subsidiary of Te Kohanga Reo National Trust, Te Pataka Ohanga. In my opinion, Morgan's experience of facing the opprobrium of Pakeha media in the past will have influenced his hard line against Native Affairs.
Duncan Garner failed to fire in the first radio survey of 2014, making it less likely he will soon replace Marcus Lush on the RadioLive breakfast show.
Lush enjoyed a small increase but was swamped by Mike Hosking at Newstalk ZB.
Garner has drawn acclaim for his drivetime show. The latest TNS survey shows he almost maintained his 3 per cent of listeners nationally, but lost nearly one fifth of his market share in Auckland.
MediaWorks radio boss Wendy Palmer played down a continuing lack of progress for RadioLive, saying its recent efforts focused on the new Willie Jackson and Alison Mau show, which maintained its 2.7 per cent share nationally.
Newstalk ZB has increased its market share nationally, from 12.1 to 12.6 per cent. Hosking's breakfast show increased its share by nearly 1 per cent to a 16.9 per cent share and 19.7 per cent of the breakfast commercial radio market in Auckland.
The Edge was MediaWorks' standout success — an encouraging result for a new drivetime team that increased its market share from 9.6 per cent to 11.4 per cent. The new crew replaced Fletch and Vaughan, who were poached by The Radio Network. The national share for The Radio Network's ZM breakfast dropped slightly.
The survey is used by advertisers to decide spending. It excludes listeners to Radio NZ's non-commercial stations.