MPs Keen For Bill Ralston's Presence At Parliament
MPs Keen For Bill Ralston's Presence At
This morning TVNZ's media competitors turned up in full force at Parliament to observe the finance and expenditure committee give TVNZ its' yearly once over. Sadly, for many of the watchful media TVNZ's news boss Bill Ralston was not able to answer any questions from either the government or opposition politicians.
Mr Ralston's non-appearance was perhaps the most troublesome issue for TVNZ – rather than any of the recent employment difficulties New Zealand's largest media organisation has recently experienced. Scoop understands that Mr Ralston was available to discuss recent issues with opposition politicians at a social occasion the night before. Whether this opportunity was taken up or the evening was spent pulling Xmas crackers remains lost in the mists of seasonal festivities.
National's John Key kicked off the financial review proceedings raking over the already well raked over embers concerning Judy Bailey, pay rates and employment contracts.
Former Immigration Minister Paul Swain gave a hint of where Labour want next weeks Inquiry into TVNZ to head. Mr Swain seemed to be enjoying his new found position as a back bench MP and quizzed TVNZ's Rodney Parker about the decision made in the late 90s to get rid of TVNZ's stake in Sky TV for a bargain basement price. Whilst Mr Key was arguing over hundreds of thousands Mr Swain discovered that TVNZ's decision to sell their stake in Sky TV had lost the company a valuable strategic investment. The value of TVNZ's (former) $100 million plus stake in Sky Television had also more than doubled in the last six years.
The debate moved slightly beyond robust when ACT leader Rodney Hide decided to have a crack at the counselling services offered to some of TVNZ's Wellington staff. Mr Hide was seething that TVNZ's Craig Boyce had advised the committee by letter that it was inappropriate for TVNZ's news boss Bill Ralston to appear before it. To prove his point that Mr Ralston should be available to answer the member's questions Mr Hide quizzed Mr Fraser and Mr Boyce about a small number of evidently unhappy, and about to be counselled, staff in the Wellington newsroom. Mr Boyce and Mr Fraser were unable to help Mr Hide much with his questions. Mr Fraser, indeed, was openly contemptuous of the line of questioning Mr Hide was taking.
Mr Boyce considered it inappropriate that a News Chief should be raked over the coals by politicians and gave the impression that media freedom in New Zealand would crumble should Mr Ralston show his visage to the committee. Mr Hide considered the desire to keep Mr Ralston from the committee was in itself an affront to parliamentary democracy. Mr Hide conspiratorially muttered late in proceedings that Mr Ralston wanted to appear - evidently so he could bag his own company - but was being prevented from doing this by TVNZ's board.
New Maori party MP Hone Harawira proved he is not a big fan of New Zealand's number one summer sport late in proceedings when he got his chance to quiz TVNZ's representatives. Mr Harawira's interest in televised sport, namely cricket, related to the fact that in past years, cricket coverage had resulted in Maori news show Te Karere being shunted to different time slots. Mr Harawira seemed unaware that test cricket had not appeared on TVNZ for some years. Mr Harawira was assured that TVNZ had no cricket (or probably any other major sport) lined up that would affect Te Karere over the summer.
Susan Wood's pay was also of concern to Mr Harawira – however it seemed from his line of questioning that he was concerned Ms Wood wasn't getting enough money from TVNZ. It appeared that Mr Harawira was of the opinion that Close Up @7's ratings share related entirely to the fact that Susan Wood fronted it. Mr Harawira was perplexed that Ms Wood was not recieving the same amount of remuneration as Paul Holmes for what he considered was a similar job. Thankfully for the taxpayer, the board were of the opinion that costs should be kept down, and offered Mr Harawira a number of reasons for not paying Ms Wood $750,000.
TVNZ AUDIO LINKS
Clip: Rodney Hide Questions Boyce & Fraser
about, Bill Ralston, Susan Wood's salary negotiations and
psychologists in the Wellington TVNZ News Room (Katherine
Rich follows up on the subject of asking Bill Ralston
questions.) – 13 Minutes
FULL CLIP: Please note in the streaming media player audio file below you can fast forward by using the slide bar in Window's Media Player. Interesting parts include: 20 minutes John Key – 29 Minutes Paul Swain – One hour and ten minutes Rodney Hide – One hour and forty minutes Hone Harawira.