TVNZ and Labour Activists

February 17th, 2014 by Dylan Leave a reply »

TV3 political maverick Patrick Gower has broken the news that a senior TVNZ manager ran aspects of his Labour campaign from within TVNZ.

“TVNZ is being used as a campaign base by Labour Party activists,” Gower’s story begins, although the reality seems a little less dramatic.

Shane Taurima, then head of TVNZ’s Maori and Pacific unit, held a Labour fundraising meeting within TVNZ’s offices (outside business hours it seems) and he and some of his staff sent some emails related to his Labour party activities from their TVNZ email addresses.

This hardly seems to constitute a “campaign base” as Gower claims, but is definitely a misuse of company resources for which TVNZ is no doubt displeased. As a result of these revelations Taurima has resigned from TVNZ (I suspect he’d have been pushed if he hadn’t jumped). I’d guess that the others involved were also disciplined about their misuse of company resources.

And ultimately that seems like it. I’ve no doubt at all that many political candidates have allowed their business and political lives to intersect in improper ways, but those are never an issue because their employers are probably not state-owned broadcasters.

There’s nothing in Gower’s article to suggest that Taurima’s conduct within the scope of his role as head of Maori and Pacific programs at TVNZ was improper, but the implication is certainly made when the story includes a quote from Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss who says, “The public expect fair, balanced and politically neutral reporting from their broadcasters.”

In the end it’s unavoidable that people have political opinions. This is true of broadcasters and journalists as much as it is of anyone else, but we expect them to temper their political opinions when doing their job, and we just have to trust that the do. The fact that Taurima was taking those political opinions to the next level by becoming directly involved in politics doesn’t really change that.

The mistake that was made here, and it’s a big misjudgment by people who should know better, was to allow their political action to intersect with their employment, but the aggrieved party there was TVNZ, a company that has clear rules about what employees can and cannot do while at work and with their company resources.

Some commentators have said that TVNZ was “allowing” Taurima to use the company for his political action, but that’s simply not what’s suggested by what’s been reported. Indeed he as resigned as a result.