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Mediaworks has extended Brent Impey's role as fill-in drive-time host as the debt-laden broadcaster works overtime to sign up Paul Henry.

Cashed up after a payout from TVNZ last year, Henry is playing off potential employers - and keeping the gossip columns up to speed. But if he says no, Impey the chief executive DJ could be around in drive-time for a while yet.

RadioLive needs Henry. He would have an instant following and provide structure to Live's erratic daytime schedule. From Henry's point of view his old drive-time slot would appeal. Henry doesn't like talkback - and there is none on drive-time.

MediaWorks could offer him a stint on TV3 to keep his profile on the much sexier medium.

Oil and water don't mix but maybe MediaWorks could offer a double act with its other expensive star - Henry and Campbell Live.

IMPEY WORKS

Impey has been filling in since late January, but some believe he will wind up back in the MediaWorks boardroom rather than in the studio.

Industry speculation depicts him as a white knight business impresario and has long linked his name with a suggested buyout of MediaWorks' assets. The company is still encumbered with debt, but how keen is Ironbridge on finding a buyer for the company which recorded operating earnings of $50 million to August 31 last year, and a net loss of $55 million?

One number being bandied about is that the assets may be worth $250 million to $270 million, about one third the $790 million Ironbridge paid in 2007.

Impey's restraint of trade ends on April 1. It's not clear how much he received when he split with Ironbridge.

Where would the big money come from? One name around the traps is Goldman Sachs, which has wound up with about 14 per cent of MediaWorks.

Impey has wholly and unequivocally rejected the suggestion. Goldman Sachs' view on its media investment is not wholly clear.

EXTREME CLOSE UP

Television folk will tell you that the latest crop of upheld decisions from the Broadcasting Standards Authority signals a more conservative approach from the watchdog.

There is a trend. It's understood there are divisions between BSA board members involving other decisions at a recent board meeting.

Others will say that the BSA decisions - like the upheld complaint about the Close Up item featuring porn star Nina Hartley - recognise falling standards in early prime time on TVNZ and that complaints that lead to a slap over the hand with a wet bus ticket are likely to get tougher treatment if people take them to the standards watchdog.

SLEAZE TV

That said I was amused to read an NZPA wire story about the Close Up decision that exposed the dilemma of media covering salacious content.

The story has been pulled from tvnz.co.nz and many people don't know what was actually shown. The NZPA item bared all with an astonishing 136-word sentence that gave a blow-by-blow account about Hartley having her toes sucked, rubbing a man's groin with her foot and burying a man's face between her buttocks - we'll leave it there.

How did TVNZ news bosses think such sleazy content was acceptable when young kids are watching a news show?

Good taste and decency standards in the early evening is the subject of a High Court hearing in Auckland this week. Broadcasters are challenging a BSA decision against a much more subdued item on TV3's Home & Away.

I STABLES

The Herald this month exposed a behind-the-scenes deal in which the Government allowed radio companies to pay frequency leases over five years rather than in one whack.

The deal - which amounts to a loan of frequencies - was a lifeline to an industry reeling from the global financial crisis. It's an industry that Communications Minister Steven Joyce knows well from his days as a former owner of MediaWorks.

Further details of the 2009 arrangement were revealed last night and confirmed that MediaWorks - which Joyce is no longer connected with - enjoyed the vast proportion of benefits to the scheme with its deferred payment loan of $43.3 million.

There were eight others to take up the scheme, with deferred payments ranging from $126,180 to the smallest amount of $3810 - which was for one "I Stables".

ELECTORAL ROLE

Prime Minister John Key's Helensville electorate chairman has a role selecting proposals for taxpayer-funded political documentaries about health, education, welfare and law and order, which are set to screen next year.

Stephen McElrea is also a regional deputy chairman of the National Party and was appointed to New Zealand On Air.

Broadcasting industry sources said that the 2009 appointment was strongly backed by the Prime Minister's office. A well-placed source said Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman initially resisted making the appointment.

Coleman's office said yesterday that McElrea - who has an extensive background in television - was appointed on merit.

Since last year McElrea has been on a four-person working group that decides which producers and proposals will make the four-part series with about $1.2 million of funding.

SURPRISING

McElrea is a former TVNZ executive with production experience. He has valuable expertise and is well qualified.

And it's not surprising the Government has appointed someone to the funding agency who is in tune with Government policy - it is often the way.

But it is surprising this government agency appointed a senior official of a party in government to a working group with significant say on which production company gets access to public money for a political documentary series.

McElrea is on the working group with fellow board member Nicole Hoey, MediaWorks TV3 production boss Sue Woodfield and NZ On Air executive Glenn Usmar.

NZ On Air said of the project: "We are looking for observational documentaries with an appropriate level of access that will explore aspects of the challenges faced in New Zealand's four main areas of public spending - health, education, welfare, and law and order."

The docos will be paid for out of the contestable Platinum Fund made up of money that was previously set aside for the TVNZ charter. It has already been decided that MediaWorks' TV3 will make the series which NZ On Air says will be screened next year.

NO WORRIES

NZ On Air chairman Neil Walter said there was no conflict of interest issue because McElrea's background had been declared. He also did not see any significance in the political subject matter for the documentaries.

Two production companies approached by the Herald said McElrea's role overseeing the docos was not a problem. One dismissed "conspiracies" that ignored the independent roles of political appointees to government agencies like NZ On Air.

The other felt that in the end the project would not have any political edge.

The fact is though that TV production work is thin on the ground and producers will pitch work based on the people who are on the selection panel.

TOO LOOSE

In my opinion NZ On Air's laissez faire approach to this project suggests blase governance that is worrying for an organisation of government-appointed members that is taking a greater role in funding television news and current affairs.

A recent review of music funding schemes also showed major failings including those that had been identified by the public, but ignored by NZ On Air.

The agency has increasingly become focused on being a clearing house, feeding subsidies to entertainment industries.

Its funding processes need to be more open.