Key Points:

Maori Television chief executive Jim Mather is in a standoff with Maori programme makers at Nga Aho Whakaari, saying the producers' group is trying to undermine his management team and Maori TV.

Mather has blasted the chairman for the Maori producers' body, Tearapa Kahi, who recently challenged Maori TV in a newsletter.

Kahi had criticised Mather's decision to part company with Larry Parr - the station's third and most successful programme director in three years.

He has been replaced by someone with much less background and Kahi has questioned the amount of programming expertise among remaining executives.

Parr is credited by many with implementing a creative flourish at Maori Television and he has since taken a powerful role with the television funding agency Te Mangai Paho.

Mather sent an open letter to producers complained the criticism was inaccurate and did not represent the body's opinion.

Nga Aho Whakaari board met and backed its chairman. Mather's spokeswoman and adviser Sonja Haggie said that a meeting would not now take place.

The row recalls shades of TVNZ in 2003 - when the producers' body Spada criticised TVNZ's choice of a new executive, Tom Parkinson.

An irate TVNZ chief executive Ian Fraser baulked at the criticism from his programme suppliers and said the production industry was "a mean-spirited pack of bastards".

Mather was more subdued but the strong response is unusual from a normally mild-mannered Christian who, while heading Maori TV, is studying for his PhD.

Mather is credited with bringing stability to Maori TV in the two years since he took over.

But the Parr departure has brought to the boil simmering discontent inside Maori TV and in the production industry.

Kahi said: "When a chief executive with two years' [television] industry experience says farewell to a general manager with 30 years something, it is not working as it could or should."

Kiwi film on Fisk

The New Zealand Film Commission has given early backing to a feature film documentary about Robert Fisk, the British journalist who has written extensively about the Middle East. Fisk is a regular contributor to the Herald so has a high profile in this country.

The commission has given a tiny grant of $20,000 development funding for an "untitled project". But we understand that Fisk will "star" in the documentary, which is to be made by film producer Matthew Metcalfe. It is early days yet but it is understood that the project will aim to have substantial funding and that it may need several million dollars of taxpayer money and possibly more from overseas sources.

While the final shape of the documentary is not known - Metcalfe says it will look at the New Zealander's perspective on the Middle East. It sounds interesting.

But commission support for the project - which was backed by the departing chief executive Ruth Harley - will add to the debate about public funding for projects that are not on the face of it telling New Zealand stories, but achieve local content requirements by including New Zealand producers and key crew. With the incoming Government and a new chief executive, commission funding policies are expected be reviewed.

This column raised the question over Metcalfe's last Film Commission-backed project, Dean Spanley. Separately Metcalfe has recently joined the Dutch-owned EyeWorks Touchdown as joint head of production for film and TV drama.

Fire in the sky

Among advertising and media luminaries attending the nuptials for Barry Colman was Martin Gillman - the advertising veteran and consultant to Total Media. But while Colman counts many ad folk among his pals, he was part of the hired help and not a guest.

Gillman is applying for a pyrotechnic licence and was among the team that set the big fireworks display at Colman's Glendowie home.

Colman's wedding extravaganza coincided, of course, with National winning votes to form a Government backed by Act - a combination that will no doubt be attractive to the National Business Review owner who famously paid for former National leader Don Brash to receive media training.

But despite his right-wing credentials, Colman - who is a generous supporter of the arts - also has a close and friendly relationship with outgoing Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Quell rumours

Radio New Zealand has told staff to do everything they can to quell "rumours" about its contractor Noelle McCarthy. Radio New Zealand sources said issues were raised internally last week relating to McCarthy's role filling in for Jim Mora, and her on air treatment of communications from listeners.

McCarthy fills in for Mora on RNZ National's afternoon programme and has been contracted to cover the summer break with a 10am to midday programme called Summer Noelle.

Networks manager John Howson emailed staff saying he had had "a number of calls yesterday about a variety of rumours doing the rounds in Auckland about Noelle McCarthy's employment with RNZ. None of them have any truth in them whatsoever," Howson said "They are 100 per cent wrong," he told staff without specifying the rumours that had to be quelled.

McCarthy - whose Irish lilt and young demographic tilt have contributed to a meteoric rise at public radio - declined to comment referring to the staff memo.

Noelle popular

The McCarthy "rumours" could not have come at a worse time for Radio New Zealand, insiders say.

Chief executive Peter Cavanagh has been demanding that the broadcaster check all of its processes so that if the incoming National government embarks on a review, nothing will be found to be remiss.

The afternoon show - which was formerly light entertainment under Wayne Mowat - has morphed into part light entertainment and a panel discussion in the late afternoon, with opinionated current affairs content. "Soapbox" opinions from panel guests appear to be outside Radio New Zealand checks.

RNZ sources say that Mora is allowed to take time out from his radio role to complete his commitments to the TVNZ show Mucking In, but that these commitments have been longer than expected and strained the patience of RNZ. McCarthy is engaging and provides RNZ with a young image and social page publicity. She is very popular with Radio New Zealand management.

A gay old night in Gore

Eating Media Lunch host Jeremy Wells has found Gore folk have long memories, a television industry source said.

Wells was in the Southland town for One News election coverage on Saturday night and found some locals had not forgotten his last visit 10 years ago when he and Mikey Havoc lampooned it as the gay capital of New Zealand.

I hear that after the election broadcast Wells and Hugh Sundae were accosted by a group of 20-something males at a Gore petrol station, taking offence to his last visit. "They followed them to their motel and harassed them and wanted a fight, said the source.

The police were called, said the source, adding that Wells had managed to appease the Gore locals but they had been hassled around 90 minutes, during much of which Wells had been trapped in his motel room.

"He even called Mark Sainsbury saying he needed help," the TV source said.

PlayStation claims first

Advertisers cannot afford to look downmarket when their commercials are up against remote control wielding viewers and with the push to high definition programmes the pressure is on for the ads to follow suit.

Sony PlayStation claims to be kicking off a new era for the tiny proportion people with high definition sets with a 30 second commercial for the the PlayStation 3 title Motorstorm Pacific Rift, which will screen on TV3 on Monday during the movie Inside Man.

The game is set on a lush Pacific Island; and with lava and shimmering water effects. To experience the difference viewers will need Freeview HD or MySkyHD. The ad account is held locally by TBWA Whybin.