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Labour reveals plan to axe RNZ news

2000 web siteLabour Leader Helen Clark said today that a restructuring plan proposed by Radio New Zealand Board member Richard Rayner would destroy RNZ's news and current affairs services, and calls into question Mr Rayner's position on the Board.

Helen Clark tabled the plan in Parliament. She said that if it were adopted, it would see RNZ staff numbers cut by about two-thirds.

"This plan would see the end of Radio New Zealand as a provider of quality public radio news and current affairs. Programmes like Morning Report and Kim Hill would suffer disastrously.

"In an attempt to defuse the issue, the Board's chair and chief executive today released a statement stating that contracting out news services would not be consistent with the Radio New Zealand charter. Yet that is precisely what Mr Rayner appears to have been advocating.

"Mr Isles' statement today claimed that the thrust of Board discussions had been to enhance the news operation. That is nonsense. The deep cuts in staffing that the Board has considered would destroy, not enhance, the news service.

"The Minister responsible for Radio New Zealand, Marie Hasler, maintains there is no problem with Mr Rayner's apparent conflict of interest. That view is simply naïve. As a director of a private radio company, Mr Rayner knows that the success of public radio may well impact on private radio. That is where the conflict of interest arises.

"Ms Hasler has yet to answer the question posed to her yesterday: on what occasions has the contracting out of news services been discussed by the RNZ Board, formally and informally, and has Mr Rayner absented himself from those discussions on all occasions?

"Today in Parliament, I lodged a question for the Prime Minister to answer on her views about the conflict of interest which appears to arise on Radio New Zealand's Board.

"Mrs Shipley ducked the question. It seems that either she did not want to be seen publicly stating her confidence that the current RNZ Board is acting properly, or she did not want to support yet another bumbling National Minister. Radio New Zealand is turning into another government disaster area," Helen Clark said.

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