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A Week of It: Cover Shocker + TVNZ CEO Pay Problem

A Week of It: Cover Shocker +TVNZ CEO Pay Conundrum

April 2006 Listener cover on the left - July 2005 Listener cover on the right
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Unpredictable Magazine Produces Predictably Grim Cover Featuring PM

In a recent interview with Colin Peacock on Radio New Zealand's Mediawatch program Listener magazine editor Pamela Stirling pointed out that in the past people had thought of the Listener as the "house journal of the Alliance Party".

Ms Stirling informed Mediawatch that this was a "barrier" to people buying the magazine and that under her editorship the Listener was less predictable as to where it sat on the political spectrum.

"[The Listener has not swung] to the right it is just less predictable. What gets, I think, quite boring about the Listener is where it sits on a left right continuum and I think that is [just] so constraining," Ms Stirling informed Mr Peacock.

While the Listener is certainly not yet in the league of Investigate magazine this week the National Party and in particular National's finance spokesperson John Key took particular delight in an interview the Prime Minister gave to Listener journalist Joanne Black.

In the interview Ms Black repeatedly asked the Prime Minister about Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen's political future as the Minister of Finance. The Prime Minister's failure to guarantee Dr Cullen's position as Minister of Finance in perpetuity led to the Listener interview being brought up repeatedly in the House by National.

Mr Key took some pleasure in the general debate describing how terrified Labour MPs would be scurrying to their local dairy when the Listener came out to see what the Prime Minister was saying about them.

Probably the person who has the most to fear from viewing the latest Listener at her local dairy however would be the Prime Minister herself. In the latest issue it appears the Listener may have hunted down Investigate magazine's hoard of spectacularly unflattering shots of the PM.


A Week of It tracked down James Gilberd of Wellington's Photospace studio/gallery and asked him to run his sharp and discerning photographer's eyes over the most recent Listener cover.


"The cover photo of the latest Listener certainly reflects the premise of the article: Labour is getting tired. NZ Listener covers are usually some kind of graphic composite or illustrative photograph and often look re-touched, but in this recent case, the lighting of the photo reveals every wrinkle. It is more like a press photo than the usual illustrative cover photograph. I do like the design and look of it though - it should help to sell the magazine, and it's not the Women's Weekly," explained Mr Gilberd.

On the plus side for Labour a photograph of Don Brash inside the April 8 2006 Listener was considered by Mr Gilberd to be particularly horrific.

"There is a photo of Don Brash in the article that is worse than anything. It is from the archives of a newspaper or press agency, where a range of photos of all politicians are kept, from the flattering and dynamic to the positively horrific and embarrassing. Photographs of people speaking in public will generate everything in this range," Mr Gilberd informed A Week of It

A smattering of Listener covers featuring either the PM or the Leader of the Opposition since 2004

Early 2004 'The Race Is On' cover. Article accompanying cover entitled 'Man of the Moment'
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Mid 2004 'High Noon' cover. Article accompanying cover entitled 'A Budget to Bank On'

Mid 2005 'The Right Stuff' cover. Article accompanying cover entitled 'Fight for the Right'
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Mid 2005 'What Went Wrong' cover. Article accompanying cover entitled 'A Change of Tack'
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Late 2005 Behind the Scenes cover. Article accompanying cover entitled 'Coming to the Party'
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Will Rick Ellis Get His Old Salary Back?

Former TVNZ Chief executive Rick Ellis now TVNZ Chief Executive once again!
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This week Rick Ellis was announced as Television New Zealand's new chief executive. Mr Ellis replaces Ian Fraser and is in fact returning to the same position he held four years ago.

Mr Ellis told a press conference this week that "you wouldn't step into this role unless you did have a sense of public service and commitment to it."

Besides a commitment to serving the public there is around 600,000 other good reasons for stepping into the executive leather chair at the head of TVNZ's board-room.

According to media reports Mr Fraser was remunerated to the tune of $600,000 per annum for his efforts to maintain TVNZ's charter commitments while keeping the company financially successful.

However the New Zealand public may have been getting Mr Fraser at a bargain basement rate if an exchange during the 2002 Financial review of TVNZ between Mr Ellis and Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove is anything to go by.

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Cosgrove: You said that you have decreased presenters' salaries, and the figure that is given in one of our reports is $150,000. It also noted that the second highest income bracket speculated to be yours, increased by $160,000 to a bracket of $720,000 to $730,000, which is roughly about a 30 percent increase. I am not asking you to personalise it, or state whose salary it is but how do you justify a 30 percent increase, even with your comments about market conditions?

Ellis: Perhaps I could address that in terms of the number of staff paid over $100,000, which are in the statistical breakdown I have. In 2000, the company reported 125 staff with remuneration over $100,000, and 2001 we have reported 134 staff. The breakdown of that is TVNZ Australia has gone from from 10 to 18, consequent, firstly with movements of salary; secondly, the NZ to A dollar conversion, and thirdly, the growth in that business which has been quite substantial in staff numbers. The second company, BCL, has gone up from 16 to 21, also particularly consequential with quite a dramatic growth in the number of staff, particularly in design and build, and within the television business, the number earning over $100,000 has reduced by eight.

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No doubt perplexed by how the NZ to Australian dollar conversion was impacting on a presumably New Zealand based employees ability to get a 30% pay rise Mr Cosgrove asked the question again, after Mr Ellis had pointed out that TVNZ was limiting salary increases to 2 percent.

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Ellis: I think we have done a very good job at managing the expectations of our staff in terms of salary reviews. I would like to see anyone go into a union negotiation frankly, negotiating salaries down. I suspect that you would have a business go out of business pretty darn quickly. However, having said that we are able to limit salary increases across the board this year to 2 percent. The management team declined any salary increases.

Cosgrove: How then do you justify the 30 percent increase?

Ellis: I thought I had in terms of the growth and the numbers in the subsidiary businesses earning over $100,0000. That is where you would find the guts of it.

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Mr Ellis's return to TVNZ was welcomed by Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey. In a press statement Mr Maharey pointed out that Mr Ellis would bring a "wealth of experience" to the position.

ENDS

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