Labour is crying foul over a TVNZ promotional advertisement in which Finance Minister Bill English appears as the poster boy for a series of programmes on the economy.

The 60-second promo has screened on some prime-time shows, including One News, and features Mr English talking about his hopes for the economy and how New Zealand can grow out of recession.

He ends by saying "We're nearly through the tough times and things are looking up ... together, us Kiwis can do it."

The aim is to draw attention to a series of economy-focused programmes on Freeview Channel TVNZ 7 next month.

Labour's finance spokesman David Cunliffe has questioned whether it is appropriate for the state broadcaster to use one of its shareholding ministers in what amounted to a party political broadcast. It also raised questions of editorial balance.

"It is not OK to give the Minister of Finance 135 minutes of free air time, completely coiffed and scripted, with no balancing comment."

He also queried whether it was appropriate for Mr English to have agreed to do the promo, given the need for ministers to adhere to strict conflict-of-interest rules.

Mr Cunliffe and Act MP Sir Roger Douglas will appear in a debate on TVNZ 7 with Mr English as part of the series.

A spokesman for Mr English said he was invited to do the promo. He was not paid and had not scripted it himself, but had seen it and some minor adjustments were made for accuracy.

"We exerted no influence over the process."

TVNZ has received one complaint from a member of the public, claiming it breached the broadcasting standard of balance.

A TVNZ spokeswoman, Andi Brotherston, said it was not considering pulling the advertisement, which is due to run until November 21.

She said the creative unit at TVNZ chose Mr English partly because of the pun on his name in the series' title "Plain English".

The promo went through internal approval channels, which "are set up to consider all aspects of programmes".

When asked if it conflicted with TVNZ's own editorial protocol, she said there was a clear delineation between news and promotions at TVNZ and the promotion had "nothing to do with news and current affairs".

"We are not within an election time frame, so there isn't a requirement on us to give equal time to specific parties.

"The other thing is while other parties might think it's an ad for Bill English, if we consider it from the viewers' point of view, they see it as the Finance Minister.

"The series is about demystifying the economy. Viewers might see it differently and they're the people we have in mind.

"Those people may not care about the other politicians and the time they have on television."

TVNZ's digital services head Eric Kearly told Radio New Zealand this morning there was nothing inappropriate about the advertisement.

He said the marketing team came up with an idea for a promo and asked Mr English if he was interested in participating.

"They wrote a script and sent it to his office..." Kearly said there was some input from Mr English's office in terms of clarifying some of the script.

The script involved compiling some of the "jargon" used previously by Mr English and tweaking some of it to make it more understandable.

Kearly said he didn't agree with suggestions the promotion looked like a party political broadcast.

"It's a creative idea - not a political idea."

He said the fact Mr English is a shareholding minister in TVNZ didn't make it inappropriate for him to make a promotion for the company.

"In my personal view it doesn't make a difference in terms of the purpose of this promo... it's made to promote programme".

- With NZPA

For an example of a political party broadcast (NZ First 2008) click here.