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TVNZ exit raises questions of Minister and Chair

Murray McCully National MP

25 April 2001

TVNZ exit raises questions of Minister and Chairman

Both Broadcasting Minister Marian Hobbs and TVNZ chair Ross Armstrong have some explaining to do after the resignation of TVNZ Head of News and Current Affairs Paul Cutler, says National MP Murray McCully.

"Mr Cutler's announcement follows months of meddling in news issues by the Minister and the chair.

"On 21 December last year Marian Hobbs demanded TVNZ directors change programming and news and current affairs in anticipation of the proposed TVNZ Charter. She threatened the Board the Government would force the divestment of the profitable transmission subsidiary, BCL, unless there was rapid progress.

"Those threats prompted a flurry of activity on programme changes inside TVNZ. Ten days after the threat TVNZ's chairman announced changes to news, a new late news programme and detail on which presenters would switch bulletins. Its extraordinary that the chairman or the directors were involved to that level of detail in the management of TVNZ , and grossly improper that the Minister could prompt such interference with her threats.

"TVNZ has been alive with rumour and gossip about Government or board attempts to interfere in news issues for months. It is a very serious matter if the actions of the Minister or the directors have prompted Mr Cutler's resignation.

"There are proper steps the Government can take to promote changes to TVNZ, but the Minister has taken none of those options.

"If the Government wishes TVNZ to cease to be an SOE then it needs to bring a Bill to Parliament. If its want general policy changes then it can issue directions under the SOE Act, although that Act makes it clear the directions can't relate to news and current affairs collation and presentation.

"In view of the current climate at TVNZ, the Minister and the chairman need to fully explain the circumstances behind Mr Cutler's announcement," Mr McCully said.

Ends

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