National Minister further undermines public radio
Labour Leader Helen Clark said today that comments by the Minister Responsible for Radio New Zealand, Marie Hasler, suggest that the RNZ board has the full support of Ms Hasler in pursuing the contracting out of the RNZ news service.
"Ms Hasler seems perfectly happy to preside over the dismantling of Radio New Zealand's integrated news and current affairs service which is widely respected by New Zealanders and has been built up over many years. There can be no question that contracting out the news service would undermine its quality.
"Nor does Ms Hasler appear to be troubled by the prospect of a conflict of interest arising from Richard Rayner's position on the Board. Mr Rayner is a director of Radio Otago and should be taking no part in any Board discussion with respect to the contracting out of RNZ's news services.
"When Parliament last met on 3 June, Ms Hasler rejected as outrageous suggestions of a conflict of interest on Mr Rayner's part. But it is not clear on which grounds she has dismissed the Opposition's concerns.
"A reply to a simple question is required from Ms Hasler: on what occasions has the contracting out of news services been discussed by the RNZ Board and has Mr Rayner absented himself from those discussions on all occasions?
"The matter could be resolved speedily by the RNZ Board agreeing to release publicly minutes covering its discussions concerning the contracting out of its news services - something it has not so far been prepared to do.
"Strong suspicions remain that National's political appointees to the Board of Radio NZ are pursuing an agenda which finds favour with the Government. It is well known that Maurice Williamson wishes to see all of RNZ's funding made contestable. Ms Hasler appears to be supporting steps towards the privatisation of RNZ through the Board's attack on the core news services.
"Unless there is an unqualified statement of support from the Board and Ms Hasler this week for the nature, purpose and function of Radio New Zealand, then it will be clear that the maintenance of public radio in New Zealand will be yet another issue central to this year's general election," Helen Clark said.