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Backgrounder: The Culling Of Anderton And Dunne

10 August 2005

Scoop Backgrounder: The Culling Of Anderton And Dunne

Mr Dunne And Mr Anderton

*****************

Last week the parties that have provided the Labour Government with formal support arrangements for the last three years were culled from TV3's upcoming election debate.

United Future leader Peter Dunne and Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton, today filed proceedings in the High Court seeking an urgent decision on whether TV3 was acting properly in excluding the two MP’s from tomorrow night’s scheduled Leaders’ Debate.

The MP’s are arguing that even though TV3 is a private company, it has taken a public role in promoting election debates and is therefore obliged to act in a fair and reasonable manner.

A poll in which 16 people chose to vote ACT and 14 people chose to vote United Future means that Rodney Hide will be steaming under the halogens and Peter Dunne and Jim Anderton will be steaming at home.

TV3 news and current affairs producer Keith Slater told Scoop last week that for "sound practical reasons" the election debate had to be limited to an hour.

Mr Slater explained that an hour [with ad breaks] was considered an appropriate duration by TV3.

"[TV3] is committed to providing the best election coverage," he said.

Mr Slater understood TVNZ had all eight leaders of the parties currently represented in Parliament.

"That's great for a Government-owned broadcaster that is well funded to meet the charter," said Mr Slater.

Mr Slater denied that TV3's News was compromised by cost, insisting that for an hour-long programme that engaged the audience six leaders was as many as could be handled.

Mr Slater also assured Scoop there was no agenda behind the decision to exclude Mr Dunne and Mr Anderton.

According to Mr Slater the TV3 poll that was published on 28 July was the final and only arbiter on who gets to participate in TV3's election debate. The poll of 1000 voters, was carried out between July 21 and 27. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 per cent.

Scoop This is an MMP Parliament. You have knocked out the Government's coalition and support parties on the basis of one poll and you are saying that TV3 is committed to providing the best election coverage?

Mr Slater: What I'm saying is that we are doing this debate in the way that we feel is the best way to present it. We've used what we felt was the best way to arrive at who would participate. The poll determined that.

This week the topic of Mr Anderton and Mr Dunne's culling from TV3's Leaders Debate was raised at the Prime Minister's post-cabinet press conference.

The Prime Minister considered TV3 had made the "wrong decision" with regard to culling the leaders of the parties that provided her Government with co-alition and support agreements from this weeks TV3 leaders debate.

"Few would expect Peter Dunne not to hold his seat - just as Jim Anderton would be expected to hold his seat – so clearly they are players in the next Parliament. Current evidence would suggest that ACT will not be a player," she said.

Besides the legal proceedings taken today it is likely there may be some form of protest from the parties or their supporters aimed at TV3.

Prior to being culled from the debate Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton wrote to TV3's head of news and current affairs, Mark Jennings.

In his letter Mr Anderton told Mr Jennings he "believed it would represent a serious case of interference in the domestic political affairs of New Zealand's parliamentary democracy for any of the eight current parliamentary parties to not be represented in these pre-election leaders' debates."

ENDS

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