Key Points:

Speculation is rife on who is responsible for the faint improvement in the media performance of National Party leader John Key.

One source suggested it was Deadline Ltd, a company whose directors are high-profile freelance journalists Bill Ralston and his partner Janet Wilson, a sometimes contractor to TV3 and TVNZ shows like Eye to Eye.

Ralston told the Business Herald he wasn't working with Key or the Nats before suddenly hanging up.

"I'm not a public figure, I don't have to answer your f****** questions," said the former head of TVNZ news and current affairs. Janet Wilson called soon after and took a similar "none of your business" approach, though she was calmer.

As a contractor she did various work including media training. She was not prepared to discuss whether her clients included politicians. "Why would I?" she asked. Why not, we wondered.

The Herald on Sunday - where Ralston provides a politics column - called later to say he had told the paper of the Business Herald's inquiries but assured them he personally had no involvement with the media training of the National Party leader.

Key's chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, said National had a policy to not name its consultants and advisers. Because taxpayers pay for services such as media training through the leaders' budget from the Parliamentary Service, they are not subject to the Official Information Act.

MUSIC GURU'S DEPARTURE HITS BUM NOTE

Global music giant EMI Music has dampened New Zealand Music Month by pulling the plug on a top talent spotter and champion of local music, Chris Caddick.

The departure marks the downgrading of the Auckland business from a fully serviced EMI outpost of 18 people last year to a sales operation of around nine, music industry sources say.

Arts Minister Judith Tizard, music industry bureaucrats and assorted hangers-on donned their happy shoes recently for the start of the Music Month.

Days earlier, musos - or at least those with prospects for an international career - had started mourning the exit of the EMI managing director they say helped to put New Zealand music on the world map.

"This is a big loss to everybody in the industry,"said Mark Kneebone of Independent Music New Zealand, representing the small record labels, some of which got licensing deals with EMI.

Caddick and EMI had set sights on becoming the major multinational in the New Zealand market.

New Zealand musicians signed or licensed to EMI include Salmonella Dub, Hollie Smith, Golden Horse and Opshop.

The moves are part of the crisis at EMI under new management and the ongoing unravelling of the global music industry due to illegal downloads.

The business model is shot.

So loss of the managing director of signing acts in this tiny and isolated market will be hardly noticed inside EMI.

The company refused to comment, as did Caddick.

Media hype up New Zealand music success overseas but, like other industries, New Zealand is becoming a branch office of Sydney.

It is expected EMI will become a sales office and signing talent will be controlled from Australia.

Sony BMG still has a New Zealand office but it too is focused on Sydney,

Universal Music is the most active multinational in this market but some believe it will eventually revert to a marketing role.

Some believe the departure of the big multinationals may hasten the trend to independent labels.

But how does a uniquely New Zealand roots band get noticed by record firms run by Aussie rockers?


The issue creates big challenges for New Zealand On Air, which is obliged by law to promote New Zealand culture and identity and pumps money into companies to make records - including generous subsidies paid to multinationals like EMI.

Increasingly the state-owned funder is looking like the artist and repertoire man cajoling distant record executives with cash incentives.

While parts of the music scene live off grants, industry folk believe it is time to stop dressing up subsidies as a culture associated with Music-Month festivities and start treating them for what they are - a commercial industry subsidy.

REACHMEDIA JUNKED

Unaddressed mail company Reachmedia is under attack for the tiny and falling contract price it pays children and casual workers to deliver handouts door to door.

TV One consumer show Fair Go has in the past two weeks been campaigning for a change to Reachmedia's miserable pay.

Fair Go has criticised big retail brands such as The Warehouse and Michael Hill for using Reach, half-owned by New Zealand Post, while Restaurant Brands says it might change its distribution firm.

But should those big retailers be worried the Fair Go campaign against Reach has hurt their image?

Consumer public relations specialist Deborah Pead says the treatment of workers can damage their images.

But Jonathan Dodd of market research firm Synovate says the issue over Reachmedia is unlikely to have any impact on named brands.

"Its not like the impact from Nike using low-cost labour in Asia."

GONGS GONE

Several gongs have been conspicuous by their absence in this year's Qantas media print awards.

New Zealand Magazines' the Listener won best news-stand magazine and ACP magazines Metro and North and South also had respectable showings.

But magazine folk have raised eyebrows that the unnamed judges declined to give awards for seven of the 17 sub-categories.

They include arts, general, information and communications technology, Pacific Island Issues, sport and racing, tourism and travel and transport.

Qantas media awards organiser Barry Young confirmed the number of withheld awards was higher this year than normal but this was down to the judges.

The only instruction to judges was to recognise excellence and they were under no obligation to give awards if they did not believe they were warranted.

Magazine Publishers' Association executive director John McClintock said the number of no shows did not signify any problem with magazine journalism.

The MPA runs its own awards for magazines focused on the entire product and not just the journalism.

ON THE MOVE

Runway Reporter founder Stacy Gregg is stepping back from the running of the website, going from three days to one day a week.

The site's feature editor, Zoe Walker, leaves soon to write for the Herald's fashion liftout Viva.

Gregg founded the website with her partner, Michael White, in 2006 and sold it to ACP six months later.

ACP New Zealand chief executive Paul Dykzeul said Runway Reporter would be incorporated more directly and run out of its print fashion titles as part of a wider process at the company. Gregg's role had always been that of consultant, he said.

The website has been attracting good advertising revenue and he said it did not represent a downgrading of the website, but was part of changes he was implementing to ACP online titles.

MOLESWORTH ST NEWS
The movement between Government and media continues apace with Internal Affairs media manager Alan Walley taking over as executive producer of Radio New Zealand National's Nine to Noon.

His previous roles with RNZ include 12 years with Morning Report and Midday Report between 1987 and 1999.

He is a former press secretary for Labour's George Hawkins and is currently senior media adviser for Internal Affairs.

Walley may well be a brilliant producer and a nice bloke. But is there anybody at RNZ whose background goes beyond the Ngauranga Gorge, Parliament and the Public Service Journal?