Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search 7 October 2005 7 October 2005

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully MP for East Coast Bays

The Judy Bailey Affair

The decision by TVNZ not to renew the contract of news anchor Judy Bailey has been inevitable for months. But the explanation by TVNZ’s chief executive, Sisterhood flunky Ian Fraser, is at best, economical with the truth. Fraser blamed falling ratings for the TV1 flagship 6.00 News programme. And while that might be true, it is the result, not the cause of the Bailey problem.

The Bailey brand was effectively wrecked a year ago, when revelations appeared in the nation’s media that Bailey had just been signed up on a one year contract for the princessly sum of $800,000 a year. The revelations were followed by much Prime Ministerial poncing and pouting. There were threats of board sackings, summonses to Beehive meetings, and a ritual humiliation of TVNZ chair Craig Boyce. The media feeding frenzy was extraordinary. And the Judy Bailey brand was severely damaged goods by the time it was over –the later ratings slide merely the symptom, not the cause.

To find the true villains of the piece we need to reach high, very high in the Beehive. It happened like this: when word of the Bailey package reached the Ninth Floor last year, there was mad panic. Our Prime Minister had, by this time, acquired a well deserved reputation for talking tough over such matters, but being more than a little short in the action department. Beehive flunkies were traumatised by the prospect that Opposition forces might hear word of the Bailey package and renew their demands that Clark show some tough action (like sacking the Sisterhood-friendly and ineffectual chairman, Craig Boyce, and with him Clark's mate Fraser) to back up her tough talk.

So the decision was made to leak the Bailey package to the Beehive’s trusty Press Gallery retainers. That would ensure that the requisite Prime Ministerial huffing and puffing might accompany the story. And that grateful reporters, keen to protect their source, would not press hard on calls for actions to back the Prime Ministerial words.

Yes, the story of Judy Bailey’s $800,000 one year contract was duly served up to the nation’s media by Beehive flunkies, acting on instructions from Helen Clark. Whenever trouble threatens, her instinct is predictable: amputate, amputate. Ministers, officials, board chairmen and directors. All of these have been amputated by a Prime Minister who never takes responsibility for anything.

Forced to choose between taking responsibility and dealing with her political appointees who created the mess, or feeding Judy Bailey to the media wolves, Clark chose option B. And from that moment onwards, Judy Bailey’s days as news anchor for TV1 were numbered. All of which, the Sisterhood-friendly Mr Fraser was far too polite to mention this week. Even though he knows it to be absolutely true.

Free TV Advertising?

Launching a new product or new business and keen to give it a promotional shot in the arm? If budget is the problem, don’t worry. The worldwide headquarters of has this week stumbled across the perfect deal for you. Free television advertising spots. That’s right: free.

This generous offer has been made to advertising agencies in the past fortnight by none other than the Maori Television Service. Signed by one Bill Young, as "Sales Manager, Maori Television", the offer is headed "Free Advertising Airtime."

"I thought I’d drop you a line," Mr Young tells the agency folk, "to let you know that we occasionally have spare advertising time on Maori Television which is available to any of your advertisers looking for extra advertising airtime."
"This filler airtime is booked three days out from transmission and we can easily work within advertisers scheduling requirements."

"Maori Television is a national broadcaster on UHF and Sky Digital Channel 33 and so would suit national advertisers or regional advertisers wanting to go national."

"For more information about this free airtime offer, please contact me direct," Mr Young concludes his generous invitation.

Now hang on a minute here. The Maori Television Service receives $55 million a year from the taxpayers of New Zealand – more than enough to fund the MTS operation. The purpose of that funding was to provide a vehicle to promote Maori language – not to provide free ads for your favourite brand of beer or fast food.

But on one matter, the MTS sales manager deserves great credit. In light of MTS’ refusal to provide ratings numbers, clearly due to a lack of audience, Mr Young has at least done us the courtesy of identifying with impeccable accuracy the actual value of MTS advertising spots.

More Voting With Their Feet

Regular readers of this publication will have noted the ongoing updates on the numbers of Kiwis heading for Australia. It’s not that we are obsessed. This is a serious and growing problem. Don Brash has been on the case for many months. And this week’s National Business Review deserves credit for a double page article by Coran Lill on the topic.

The most recent figures from the Government Statistician make chilling reading. For the year to August, 34 098 New Zealanders headed for Australia permanently – that’s 655 per week. And the increase in departures over the 2004 year is a whopping 24%.

The net departure figures (departures minus Aussies coming to NZ and returning New Zealanders) are no better, at 20 425. That’s 392 net departures a week (up from 13 003 for the August year 2004).

So the problem keeps getting bigger. Not too many people seem to take it seriously. And with the Sisterhood negotiating with the Greens to form the hub of the next government, here’s betting the numbers are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better.

This report is available weekly on my website at as well as being emailed each Friday. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or change your email address on the mailing list, please email


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