Television New Zealand has rejected an offer from Radio NZ to air a benchmark video series featuring interviews with five past Prime Ministers.

Called The 9th Floor, the series of video interviews was conducted by RNZ Morning Report co-presenter Guyon Espiner and edited by RNZ podcasts boss Tim Watkin.

RNZ says it offered the content free to TVNZ, for broadcast and on-demand watching. However, TVNZ head of news and current affairs, John Gillespie, said thanks but no thanks.

The series, which stretched RNZ's limited video resources, has been applauded as the type of historical content that gets ignored by New Zealand broadcasters. It has run on,, on Bauer's Noted website, NBR and The Spinoff.


Releasing the taxpayer-funded series to other media is part of a strategy introduced last year. It does nothing to relieve RNZ of its funding freeze, but does tend to reduce private sector lobbying against the state broadcaster.

In theory, it makes sense to merge TVNZ and RNZ, and parliamentary sources say there have been some preliminary investigations into an umbrella board running both.

If there was a merger, in my opinion it would mean the destruction of RNZ and the hegemony of TVNZ. RNZ has its foibles, but the news culture is healthier than it is at TVNZ, which is making job cuts in an election year.

Too late for TV

The 9th Floor is historical journalism, and I can see how it would not make commercial sense.

At TVNZ, Gillespie said RNZ's approach was made a week out from the interview series going live. At that late stage, without editorial detail, it was not possible to explore a time on air.

The offer would need to have been made "in a timeframe that allowed the content to be reviewed and assessed -- what form is it in, where could it work in the schedule, is it a unique opportunity to air content that can't be seen elsewhere," he said.

"One News has a number of things planned in the lead-up to the election -- the general election is of paramount importance to the team here and the coverage will reflect that," he said.

ChCh connection

Like RNZ's Espiner, TVNZ political editor Corin Dann has meticulously maintained objectivity and has the credibility to present election coverage.


He and Espiner are good pals. In fact, they grew up together.

They also have family ties in media. Corin's brother is Liam Dann, editor-at-large for the Business Herald. Guyon's brother Colin Espiner is a former columnist for the Press and was a journalist for a Murdoch tabloid in Australia, the Daily Telegraph. Nowadays, Colin is general manager of communications at casino company Sky City Entertainment.

New Zealand is a small place; the two sets of brothers grew up together in Cashmere, Christchurch.

Green message

As the election season looms, the Greens are on the front foot in selling their message -- in Auckland at least.

The Greens are not bound by the orthodoxies of the other parties and their branding is always strong.

Successful, media-focused advocacy groups such as The Transport Blog -- recently renamed as the more palatable Greater Auckland -- promote solutions that fit hand in glove with Greens policy.

Meanwhile, Greater Auckland board member Patrick Reynolds was recently co-opted as a member of Auckland Transport's Customer Focus Committee.

Greater Auckland chairman Matt Lowrie says there is a lot of common ground with the Greens, but that is incidental and the group is not linked with the party.

Greens transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter points out that political parties frequently agree with special interest groups. Few would disagree that Business NZ had wide support within National, she notes.

"I do know some of the authors who contribute to Greater Auckland [including] my partner Peter Nunns who writes for Greater Auckland," she says.

"We are saying a lot of the same things and want a more people centred transport policy."

The online publication

The Spinoff has covered Greater Auckland research extensively. Spinoff Auckland editor Simon Wilson says: "At The Spinoff we do analysis, as they do, and we often use their analysis in our material. And my own view of the city corresponds quite closely with GA's. But none of that means we work in concert, and we do sometimes disagree.

"As a media outlet we run different points of view on all sorts of topics. I don't think GA would do that. And yet, having established those differences, it is true that The Spinoff, like GA, espouses what I would call a progressive view of the needs of the city.

"Many others share that perspective, you know, not just the Greens, but most of Labour, some of National people like Nikki Kaye, various Maori organisations and many others. And within the broad approach, there's a lot of debate."