TV3 political editor spits the dummy on air after Labour report leaked.
Labour Party folk were stunned when journalist Paddy Gower embarked on a radio tirade on Wednesday, saying the party was "rotten to the core" and had been run into the ground by chardonnay socialists.
The 3News political editor has clashed with the party before, but Labour says it is not making an official complaint - not that there is much point getting offside with Gower, given that he is an important player around the Press Gallery.
Gower was talking on RadioLive, to his old boss and mentor Duncan Garner, about a Labour Party report leaked to him on the party's mishandling of the 2014 election campaign and its big financial problems.
A slightly more subdued item ran on 3News that night, with Gower offering strong views about poor oversight of the party - views that will be shared by many.
3News bosses have encouraged Gower's tabloid flourishes, which can be useful on quiet news days. But it seems the extraordinary overreaction against Labour occurred because the report was leaked to him and Radio NZ by a Labour insider and, when the party found out, it passed the report on to other media. Gower got the TV scoop, but ironically, TVNZ screened it earlier in its bulletin. Such is the cut and thrust of media management in the public and private sector.
People brought forward an announcement to counter a leak, which they assumed would be portrayed in a more negative way, then Paddy spat the dummy, presumably to teach Labour a lesson.
Asked for comment on what was a very personal tirade against Labour, Gower described it as "robust".
TV3 head of news and current affairs, Mark Jennings, stood by Gower's attack.
"Paddy's style of reporting looks distinctive when compared with his competitors and that's because he often does what they don't do - he cuts straight to the chase.
"We encourage our political reporters not just to tell viewers what is happening, but why it is happening and what it is likely to mean."
TV3 likes these tabloid rants, but you wonder whether they help improve 3News' poor ratings, now that Campbell Live is gone and some of its audience are convinced the show was killed off in a politically led conspiracy.
Away from the quick hit commentaries, Gower offers a reasoned and detached presentation of politics on The Nation.
News companies routinely demand transparency but they are often very opaque when they are the ones under scrutiny.
That has often been the case at MediaWorks during the long-winded culling of Campbell Live and while it faced a very public and embarrassing campaign to save the show.
If management and the board objected to media inquiries then, it is hardly surprising that the company's owners have been even more shy - to the point that they refuse to acknowledge that MediaWorks now has only the one shareholder. It's that shareholder who will decide the direction of the company that owns TV3 and Four, and which reaches half of New Zealand's commercial radio audience.
If there is some expectation that a media company has an obligation to talk to the public, it does not apply to private equity or vulture capital firms such as MediaWorks' owner Oaktree Capital Management.
On April 29 the exit of bankers Westpac and RBS forced Oaktree to acknowledge it had increased its stake to 77.8 per cent. It then picked up the remaining stake, though that shift has not yet been recorded at the Companies Office.
Oaktree spokesman Jonathan Doorley refused to comment but thanked the Herald for "reaching out", and invited us to reach out again.
Los Angeles based Oaktree has a market capitalisation of US$5.5 billion ($7.7 billion), so the MediaWorks investment is pocket change for a company that bills itself as the biggest operator buying and selling distressed assets around the world.
Among its investments it has been a co-owner of the Tribune Company in the US, which is a large owner of media assets, and it has widespread interests across the world.
Oaktree has 13 offices, the nearest of which is in Hong Kong, but it is understood that the MediaWorks investment has been run from the London office and is overseen by Jonas Mitzschke. He also declined to comment.
There is no good reason Oaktree's takeover of MediaWorks shouldn't take the local company on to bigger and better things. Most expect it will be sold on through a trade sale, a share float or a combination of both.
Oaktree bought MediaWorks' debt late in the piece - in October 2012 - when the company was under intense pressure because of the indebtedness of the Australian private equity company Ironbridge Capital, which paid well over the odds buying the media firm in 2007, just before the global financial crisis.
Bankers-turned-equity-holders Westpac and RBS had largely written off their investment in MediaWorks.
Oaktree could see some positive returns under a strategy developed by chief executive Mark Weldon, alongside director Julie Christie, chairman Rod McGeoch and two other directors.
MediaWorks' radio assets remain strong and, in truth, any sale of the company is likely to be marketed as an efficient radio business with two TV stations attached.
Like other media, free-to-air TV is under intense pressure but the company trading now is different to the one that was forced into receivership in 2013.
During receivership it shed surplus programming and a disputed $22 million debt with Inland Revenue. It received two offers from Australian media companies, Nine Entertainment and Seven, but both were turned down.
Now Oaktree has picked up the search for a new buyer.
MediaWorks' receivership was unorthodox, since it was passed on to the main debtholder. That strategy allowed the reconstituted broadcaster to cancel expensive programming commitments to US studios such as Fox, but the downside of that has been an empty programming cupboard, as it looks for an urgent replacement for Campbell Live.
The other outcome has been that MediaWorks has focused on local content - a sensible option given the plethora of overseas content now available to local viewers. But local content is expensive, and MediaWorks has put many of its eggs in the reality TV basket.
The Campbell Live cancellation has added to questions about MediaWorks' management style. However sources familiar with the workings of global finance companies say the ups and downs and political turmoils of MediaWorks will not be causing too much consternation at Oaktree. Bad publicity has not yet had a direct impact on returns.
It might affect a local trade buyer's view of what the company is worth. But a new buyer would likely offer their own branding strategy, says a source.