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Hide Accepts TVNZ Apology

Hide Accepts TVNZ Apology

Monday 15 Sep 2003 Rodney Hide Press Releases -- Broadcasting

ACT New Zealand Finance Spokesman Rodney Hide today accepted TVNZ's apology for Dr Brian Edwards' appalling interview of Rodney on Edwards at Large.

"The apology is appreciated. But TVNZ's Ian Fraser should also apologise to viewers and to taxpayers. He can't claim TVNZ's neutral or impartial while providing Dr Brian Edwards with his own show. The reason is simple enough: Dr Edwards is on Prime Minister Helen Clark's payroll as her and her ministers `spin' adviser and media coach. It's a scandalous conflict of interest as my interview with Edwards proves," Mr Hide said.

"Although upholding my complaint, TVNZ's Complaints Committee ruled that it was okay to have Edwards interview me because his `close links with the government and Labour Party ... are widely known and recognised by the viewing public'. But it doesn't matter that everyone knows it. Dr Edwards is hopelessly compromised as an interviewer. TVNZ should not be providing him with a broadcasting platform so long as he's on Helen Clark's payroll.

"Imagine if John Campbell or Paul Holmes were being paid by Bill English? They wouldn't do it because they value their professional integrity. Also, TV3 and TVNZ would not let them. But when it comes to TVNZ, Dr Brian Edwards and the Labour Party, the rules appear to be different.

"TVNZ's Complaints Committee did agree with me that Dr Brian Edwards' interview of me breached the Free-to-Air Televison Code of Practice:

The committee did accept that the interview demonstrated a lack of personal impartiality when the conversation turned to comments you made about the role of Dr Edwards's wife, Judy Callingham, who is on the board of New Zealand on Air It was the view of the committee that on pages 5 and 6 of the transcript you provided, there is evidence that Dr Edwards stepped over the line and used the occasion to advance a personal matter with you, thereby demonstrating a lack of impartiality. In particular the committee concentrated on the following exchange:

Edwards: You are not going to answer the question are you? You know why you can't answer this question? Because the moment you answer this question you are at risk of defamation proceedings. That is why you can't answer this question?

Hide: So you have got me on your show for that?

Edwards: Now, hold on. Let me ask the next question ...

It was the conclusion of the committee that in the context of the discussion about Judy Callingham, this programme did not meet the requirement for personal impartiality stated in guideline 4a, and that therefore a breach of standard 4 has occurred.

The committee noted that the breach happened during a live, and lively conversation, circumstances which can often produce informative and attractive television but which also inherently carry a risk of unintentional mistakes occurring. This was one such occasion, and it is regretted by TVNZ.

"TVNZ also acknowledge that Chief Executive Ian Fraser must `share the responsibility for TVNZ's breach of its duty of impartiality':

The committee also took notice of the fact that the Chief Executive of Television New Zealand, Ian Fraser, was consulted before the broadcast in his role as Editor-in Chief. He was asked to provide guidance on the appropriateness of inviting you to be interviewed on Edwards at Large. Mr Fraser acknowledges that he did not give the matter careful enough attention and that his advice to the effect that it was proper to proceed was ill-judged. Mr Fraser has stated to the committee that he must "share the responsibility for TVNZ's breach of its duty of impartiality and I do so unreservedly."

TVNZ have apologised to me:

On behalf of TVNZ I am asked to thank you for drawing this matter to its attention and to apologise for any discomfort you felt about the conduct of the interview. The decision to uphold this complaint on grounds outlined above has been passed on to the production team and presenter at Edwards at Large.

"I am looking forward to Dr Brian Edwards's apology. I shall probably have it framed and hung on my wall.

"I believe that Dr Edwards should also apologise to TVNZ viewers.

"The funding of Dr Brian Edwards's show Edwards at Large also needs looking at. It would appear that Dr Edwards did not have to follow normal procedures for commissioning new programmes. Dr Edwards has said:

I got the Saturday night programme because Ian Fraser, the CEO of this organisation (TVNZ), rang me and said, `It's time you were back on television.'

"TVNZ initially sought $648,696 from NZ on Air for Edwards at Large. They received only $190,000. NZ on Air now declares themselves only a `minority investor in Edwards at Large'. Quite how much TVNZ has sunk into the Show has not been revealed.

"TVNZ's application to NZ on Air from General Manager Tony Holden stated that, `TVNZ will not be applying Charter funding to the project in view of Dr Edwards' well-known association with the Prime Minister - a matter of public perception rather than of any real conflict of interest.' So TVNZ wouldn't apply Charter money to the Show but applied TVNZ (i.e. taxpayer) money nonetheless.

"NZ on Air say `Edwards at Large was eligible for funding consideration because it is not current affairs'. But TVNZ in response to my complaint acknowledge that, `on this occasion the discussion impinged on political matters and, following your statements in Parliament, dealt with questions of a controversial nature which were then current'. By TVNZ's own admission, Edwards at Large is doing current affairs, but was funded from NZ on Air on the basis that it wasn't. I hope that NZ on Air will be raising this with TVNZ," concluded Rodney Hide.

The Hide-Edwards interview can be viewed at http://www.act.org.nz/item.jsp?id=24519

A copy of TVNZ's apology can be found at http://www.act.org.nz/tvnzapology


For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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