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The hooded man in Campbell Live's blood red room interview has come back to haunt TV3 - and may yet test the rules for news gathering in this country.

The February 21, 2008 interview - with an unidentified man named "Robert" who admitted being part of the theft of the Waiouru war medals - had been played out with the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) last year.

The fuss then was about the TV3 technique, which involved an actor dressing up to play the part of the medals thief and reading out the transcript of the interview while John Campbell acted out the role of the interviewer.

The BSA found TV3 breached Broadcasting Code 5 by not telling viewers it was a re-enactment and saying TV3's subsequent actions to deal with the problem were insufficient.

But the turn of events this week is bigger than a slap on the hand from the BSA and the belated "whoops, sorry" on air.

Police sought a court order requiring five Campbell Live journalists - John Campbell, Campbell Live executive Carol Hirschfeld and three others to give evidence to the High Court and identify the man.

The Crown prosecutor told the application for a court order that the evidence could provide the "king hit" for an otherwise circumstantial case against two men accused of the December 2007 burglary of the Waiouru Army museum.

The worrying thing though is that this item - with its limited public interest value - will be a first challenge to journalist protections under the 2006 Evidence Act.

Section 68 of the Act codified what has long been accepted in the law - that journalists have a right to withhold the identity of sources. In the past there have been rare attempts to challenge that right.

Auckland University associate professor of law Scott Optican said: "Section 96 has the judge do a public interest balancing act.

"The judge has to balance up the need for the evidence in the case and the significance to the Crown case against the public interest in allowing journalists to use their sources, without fear of them being revealed, the public interest in vibrant coverage of events and the ability of the news media to do their jobs.

"In many cases it comes down to the perception of the judge as to how important the evidence is to the Crown case and could it come from a different source without breaching the [journalist's] privilege," Optican said.

PROMISES, PROMISES

Police have been critical of Campbell Live - not just for the medal thief incident but also for a story on the Killer Beez youth gang leader in February last year, which went against police gripes the Campbell Live spotlight would aggrandise the youth gang.

Why did TV3 feel obliged to run the Waiouru medals item when there was not much news? It rated well, of course.

TV3 director of news and current affairs Mark Jennings said it was not for the media to get involved in debate about the public good.

For media the concern is that if TV3 hands over the identity, it will send a bad message to people that anonymity is not assured, Jennings said.

For journalists it was about keeping promises of anonymity, promises made before entering conversations in which they did not know where they would lead.

"We are not an arm of the police, we are the Fourth Estate, and if you do not agree to confidentiality your sources will dry up," he said.

Some would argue that people should be brave and put their name to allegations.

Jennings - who sacked a journalist for revealing a source to police - said that the world just did not work like that.

"The brave can be badly victimised."

He acknowledged that the medals story was tricky because it was not "a normal whistleblower story".

Asked what would happen if an interviewee promised anonymity revealed he had killed someone, Jennings said that clearly when a life is being threatened - such as with a kidnap victim - the confidentiality agreement would end.

IT'S A MAD WORLD

An employment case between the Herald on Sunday and former news editor and assistant editor Stephen Cook promised fireworks.

But it will not unveil the mad, mad world of Kiwi tabloid media, with some of the racier bits removed from the case.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) yesterday twice delayed a hearing over Cook's sacking from the newspaper on December 16, turning away journalists and even cameramen.

The ERA said that the matter was adjourned yesterday because Cook's lawyer Chris Comeskey was not available.

Why were so many media lining up to hear about an employment dispute involving a journalist for a Sunday paper?

It may have had something to do with a press release - presumably from Cook's camp - advising of the hearing.

A document being passed around media this week detailed the background to Cook's being dropped from the HoS.

The document includes 25 paragraphs that were struck off from Cook's brief of evidence.

The paragraphs include details about the win-at-all-costs, tabloid culture of the paper, especially in 2005, the year after the newspaper's launch.

Such as? The document alleged that for a time in 2005 a Herald on Sunday reporter who lived opposite the Sunday Star-Times office in Auckland's New North Road had a clear view of the office of SST editor Cate Brett.

The reporter was allegedly given a telescope.

According to the document, Brett at the time wrote on a whiteboard details of the Sunday Star-Times' upcoming stories and photographs and the reporter with the telescope was told to ring through details to editor Shayne Currie.

In this way, presumably, the HoS was able to ensure that it was aware of what the competition was doing.

In another sign of the fierce competition back in 2005, it was allegedly common practice for a reporter to travel down to SST and Sunday News presses in South Auckland on Saturday nights to obtain an early copy of the SST.

Asked about the competitive approaches - which evoke shades of aggressive tabloid markets like the UK - Herald On Sunday editor Shayne Currie said he was "not in a position to comment at this time".

More details on the background to Cook's departure are included in submissions to the ERA.

TRAVELLING BUSINESS

How long will it be until Air New Zealand general manager of marketing Steve Bayliss is tapped to take over the chief executive role at Tourism New Zealand?

Incumbent CEO George Hickton announced this week he would be stepping down from the body after 10 years.

Insiders say that Tourism New Zealand chairman Greg Muir will not need any convincing as he already has a good rapport and respect for Bayliss.

Bayliss' appointment would be good news for Air New Zealand as the airline's fortunes are so closely aligned with Tourism New Zealand's success.