Labour is challenging TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick's $141,000 pay rise, taking his compensation to $1.3 million a year.

Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran was this week reported as voicing concern about "these sorts of increases" at a time of restructuring, some TVNZ staff getting small increases and others losing their jobs.

Meanwhile, however, Labour is giving the state broadcaster a free pass by imposing no additional obligation or even encouragement to provide public broadcasting.

Curran's criticism of Kenrick's pay is fair enough, in my view. The broadcaster has been laying off staff and the pay boost seems to match the lavish new Auckland studios it opened last year. It all seems astonishing given the big challenges ahead.


TVNZ's profit fell 89 per cent to just $4.4m in the year to June, largely because of an extraordinary item, downgrading the value of a programming deal with Disney.

The TVNZ board, led by Dame Therese Walsh, believes Kenrick is a big asset to the state broadcaster as it faces upheaval in the media sector.

National Party and Treasury largess allowed TVNZ to eat into its profits, to fund its successful transition to being a digital broadcaster.

Private sector media companies, meanwhile, have been under pressure to transform to the new model while also delivering profits and dividends.

This is the anomaly of Labour's broadcasting policy. By demanding better profits and dividends from TVNZ, it is encouraging a state-owned commercial media company to go harder against the private sector. That would require TVNZ to deliver yet more commercial content and adopt an even more risk-averse approach to programming.

Curran says she will be paying much more attention to broadcasting than National did.

"I am planning to attend a TVNZ board meeting before the end of the year and another meeting before then with the chair and CEO," she said.

Labour will also be focusing on the new TV service from RNZ, to be called RNZ-Plus, with TVNZ offering technical and back-office support.


TVNZ would not have to do that for free. "But the price tag for RNZ would be transparent and audited with an agreed margin," said Curran. "It's not something that will deliver TVNZ a big profit."

In October, RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson appeared to play down the plans for RNZ's TV service.

Curran said: "I saw those comments being reported and other comments where he was fully on board ... planning for delivering the government policy agenda. I would not take those other comments too seriously."

Chinese influence

Canterbury University professor and China expert Anne-Marie Brady has highlighted the influence of the People's Republic of China in New Zealand. In a report, she detailed the role of Chinese-language media in this country, through connections with the Chinese government and the Communist Party.

"As it has in many other countries, the People's Republic of China has made considerable efforts to shape how China is reported in the mainstream media in New Zealand," said Brady. "In 2016, the CCP English language paper, China Daily, signed a deal with Fairfax Newspapers to have Chinese supplements published in Fairfax Australian and New Zealand newspapers."

Brady said one issue was the degree to which Chinese speakers were aware of consumer protections and regulation of media in New Zealand.

Broadcasters are overseen by the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA). I asked it: are there any standards that apply to media having specific links to overseas organisations and promoting their views?

The BSA said: "While the broadcasting standards do not specifically refer to the influence of overseas organisations on New Zealand broadcasts, any alleged undue influence or bias in media reporting could potentially be raised as an issue under, for example, Standard 8 - Balance, Standard 9 - Accuracy or Standard 11 - Fairness."

Two Chinese-language media companies I approached for comment - Sky Kiwi and the Chinese Herald - declined to comment (www. is a joint venture between the Chinese Herald and NZME Publishing Limited, which owns the NZ Herald).

At print time, Fairfax had not responded to queries about links to the China Daily.