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Taxpayer handouts to Annabel Fay's record company illustrate the anomalies of the funding system being reviewed by the Government.

Media reported last week that Annabel - the daughter of Sir Michael Fay - gave an extravagant "thank you" to 10 top radio programming executives for playing her songs.

Annabel - or more likely mum and dad - stumped up for two helicopter trips to the family's luxurious Great Mercury Island hideaway off Coromandel Peninsula.

One trip was for programming folk from MediaWorks' The Edge and More FM and one for The Radio Network's ZM and Classic Hits.

The hospitality was fantastic - jolly japes were had by the superjocks before they caught the chopper back to ordinary life in Auckland, some of them nursing hangovers the next day.

Annabel's tunes will no doubt be top of of programmers' mind when her album comes out.

Any budding songstress would love their parents to support their careers.

But given her resources why are taxpayers backing her career? Annabel's record companies Siren and 174 East have received $70,000 since 2006.

That comprises $50,000 funding for an upcoming but unnamed album and four grants of $5000 for music videos. New Zealand on Air chief executive Jane Wrightson points out that the money was allocated to record companies, not Fay personally.

Herald columnist Fran O'Sullivan this week suggested means testing for creative grants as a way the Government could save money - specifically pointing to the Annabel Fay funding.

But these payouts have become a legacy of the last Government and a creative sector built on handouts.


The Fay family appear to be flush. So why didn't she stump up the cash for record company Siren to make her album and music videos instead of taxpayers?

Well, under the music funding system the taxpayer pays - no matter how much cash the artist or record company has. We are paying for the opportunity to hear New Zealand music on radio.

Siren could not be reached for comment, but the company did nothing wrong accepting grants while its client pumped money into what appears to be an extravagant chopper promotion.

New Zealand On Air chief executive Jane Wrightson said it was difficult to know how you could means test payments, and there are other arguments in favour of the present system which contends New Zealand music is not viable without subsidies.

A music industry source said that the $50,000 grant to Fay's record company was no different from NZ On Air paying out to multinational record companies.

Music lawyer Chris Hocquard also has a point. He says funding for popular music gets a small amount of funding compared to classical music which gets its own radio network - Concert FM. But the grant to Fay seems wrong at a time when people and the Government are making cuts everywhere.


Sky Documentary Channel owner Richard Driver is believed to have received more than $5 million from the British Broadcasting Corporation to buy the channel.

As reported yesterday, the broadcaster's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, will take over in March next year and the Documentary Channel will be changed to BBC Knowledge - a growing global brand.

Knowledge will run alongside Worldwide channels UKTV and BBC World.

Driver and BBC Worldwide Australia boss Tony Iffland talked up the similarities and said Knowledge would fit the New Zealand audience and there would be a few one-off documentaries.

But if I were Sky I'd be a little nervous about the change. The Documentary Channel is unique and has a low-key and sometimes offbeat Kiwi feel. Having paid for the channel you'd hope they did not throw out the aspects that made it special.


Outgoing Fairfax Digital managing director Jack Matthews is in Auckland next week but where he will end up after upheavals at the media company is unknown.

It would be surprising if the expatriate American founder of the Saturn cable TV venture returned to this side of the Tasman, especially since Fairfax restructuring seems to be a work in progress.

A much-vaunted five-year plan to integrate digital and non digital businesses led to Matthews' job being disestablished - backing the view that Matthews lost a power struggle with chief executive Brian McCarthy, who some see as a sceptic on digital investment.

McCarthy stepped down this week and now Fairfax is looking for its fourth CEO in five years. The revolving door started when academic Fred Hilmer was replaced by expansionist David Kirk.

Kirk was replaced by McCarthy, after a reverse takeover through Rural Press.

Fairfax is looking for a permanent replacement for McCarthy - but like Herald publisher APN News & Media which recently hired Brett Chenoweth as its new CEO - it may look for someone with the expertise to handle the integration of the digital and non-digital businesses.

There is a lot at stake.

In Australia Fairfax owns the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age among other assets.

In this country Fairfax owns half the country's newspapers including the Sunday Star-Times, the Press, Dominion Post, Waikato Times and glossy magazine titles such as House & Garden and Cuisine.

Fairfax also owns Trade Me - which has been a bright jewel in Fairfax's crown and whose founder, Sam Morgan, is on the Fairfax board of directors.

The Australian newspaper reported McCarthy's exit was apparently triggered by a power struggle over his plan to bring in New Zealand boss Allen Williams to run its metro mastheads.

Williams, who took over Fairfax New Zealand in February 2009, previously worked with McCarthy at Rural Press. But chairman Roger Corbett resisted that appointment and a stand-off followed, the paper reported, saying Corbett and McCarthy were unable to agree about future directions for the company.


Tensions are growing in the top tier management of Television New Zealand, centred around the people who decide what shows we watch and when.

TVNZ sources said that tensions surround the roles of Jeff Latch, the head of television, and Jane Wilson - TVNZ's diminutive but feisty head of programming.

Wilson has a key role at TVNZ with a reputation as a hard worker, but one who does not play the delicate game of alliances and networking at state television.

Sources said the approach from chief executive Rick Ellis was to leave department heads to sort out day-to-day problems.

Television industry sources said Wilson's approach did not easily fit into the largely male culture of the TVNZ inner circle.

At the same time she has strong views. With a background in the younger-oriented TV2, she was appointed to the top programming job amid a collapse in the ratings for TV One back in mid 2000s.

She corrected the slide but under pressure from management to boost ratings at all costs took an approach which has seen the TV One brand diminish.

She championed some shows, such as The Cult, which failed to fire with viewers, and made the surprising decision to back the late-night satire Feedback.