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TVNZ has a week in the doghouse

The much maligned state broadcaster has had a bit of a crap week. From scrutiny of its annual report, through Bill English’s appearance in “one-sided” promos for a TVNZ7 programme, to a couple of decisions going against it at the Broadcasting Standards’ Authority (BSA), including one made by a dog-breeder, the short week was certainly a full one.

The dog-breeder and the dog around which the Sunday programme and ensuing BSA complaint centred share the same name, Hazel. Reading the BSA decision, it’s sometimes tricky to know whether the breeder or the bitch is being referred to.

Sunday broadcast the item on 29 March and, having been found wanting, will now have to broadcast a statement of the BSA findings.

Dogged by another complaint, Close Up (29 January 2009) was also found to have breached the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, having been taken for a walk by a man who had been made redundant and claimed he was not eligible for the Government’s ReStart package for several months.

The programme omitted to mention the fact that the man had received holiday pay and was effectively on full pay during the period of time he was unhappy about not receiving benefits. This omission was possibly due to the fact that the would-be double-dipper neglected to mention that fact to TVNZ.

Nonetheless, the BSA found in favour of the complainant, in this case the Ministry of Social Development.

TVNZ’s third problem of the week featured also featured the government in the shape of a recent alleged double-dipper, National Party number two Bill English. Featuring in a promo for TVNZ7’s Focus on the Economy has landed both him and TVNZ in the number two.

The Labour Party called it a party political broadcast, but unless the Labour Party knows something the rest of us don’t, we’re still two years away from the triennial vote-fest. According to TVNZ, that meant there was no compunction to abide by the rules of balance that apply to election campaigns.

Gerry Brownlee called scoring a few hundred thousand dollars of free advertising time “good luck”; the Labour Party called it unbalanced and unfair and lodged a formal complaint with TVNZ. TVNZ reportedly spent $16,000 on the promo, which makes one wonder if creating an in-house advertising service, an idea rumoured to be under consideration earlier this year, might not be a bloody good bargain for advertisers.

The ‘Plain English’ promo does seem a case of less than stellar judgement, both by Mr English and TVNZ. Had the Labour Party benefitted from such good fortune while in power, no doubt National would have complained equally vociferously. However, despite Labour’s view of English as the walking wounded, the teflon-coating that National currently enjoys is holding firm.

TVNZ, having initially come out fighting, is reportedly now scaling back its use of the promo, apparently bowing to the weight of opinion that – election or not – the issue is complex and open to many interpretations or, as another embattled boss said in plain English: it’s the economy, stupid.

Given the amount of free airtime and column inches that have been devoted to it during the week, the only real surprise is that MediaWorks hasn’t complained about the amount of free advertising a TVNZ programme, that would normally not even enter many people’s awareness, has received.

Finally, on Tuesday, TVNZ tabled its annual report in parliament. The headline numbers were well-flagged and the report wasn’t expected to share much in the way of good news.

Our correspondent, Tim Thorpe, takes a nose through all 83 pages while, predictably, many of the reports focused on the fact that CEO Rick Ellis picked up a $110,000 bonus in a year which saw considerable numbers of lesser-paid employees leaving the building.

So, it’s Friday. Week 43 has been a full one for TVNZ, even if it did include a day off.

And, just to cap it off, the network’s been light-heartedly accused of poaching a Sunrise co-host.

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