RNZ returns to its regular schedule on Monday – declaring an end to a four week summer when the world allegedly stops spinning for us all to catch our breath. Locally, its a time when politics and business slow down allowing local media operate on a skeleton staff for a couple of weeks. RNZ takes that a step further. It always restarts programming year on Wellington Anniversary Day, after what is effectively a month long break. Its a week too long. National Radio has been missing in action this week. The world is in upheaval due to Trump. Morning Report will return on Monday with the world utterly changed.
John Campbell has apparently been suffering from pneumonia that forced him to suddenly withdrew from emceeing a fundraising dinner in Auckland on June 2 of the Peter Jackson Great War exhibition. Bizarrely, The Minister for Culture and Heritage Maggie Barry stood in at short notice. Key, who was special guest, said that Barry had done such a good job maybe she should return to her old job.
That way he might be inclined to accept more invitations to appear on Radio New Zealand, the PM said. By all accounts it was a joke – but why the appearing at such a politicised event that was subsequently emceed by a Cabinet minister. Stuff reported the dinner at the Viaduct Event Centre cost $500 a head.
“The popular exhibition, which opened in April 2015 at Wellington’s Dominion Museum building, traces the history of World War I with a focus on the special role of New Zealanders. Challenges gaining business or charitable backing meant a $15 fee for adults was introduced in March.”
In September 25 last year The NZ herald reported that RNZ has relaxed the rules for its presenters moonlighting at commercial events. The paper reported that John Campbell and his friend RNZ head of content Carol Hirschfeld had both emceed a corporate event for Air New Zealand. As part of their spiel they had played on their daytime role as boss and employee. On September 25 I wrote in The NZ
On September 25 I wrote in my media column for the NZ Herald
Campbell is being heavily promoted by Radio NZ as the exemplar of independence and integrity.This week he told the Herald he was aware of the possible negative perception of his doing corporate events. Campbell said the Air New Zealand function would be his last corporate event, but he would continue to emcee awards shows.Hirschfeld said she was always very careful which events she worked on. There was no question of her commercial relationships affecting news coverage, she said.
I guess you could argue a fundraising dinner for a museum exhibition is not a corporate event even when Jackson is one of New Zealand’s richest men and enjoyed hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funding. Key and Campbell may be able to be nice to each other – but neither likes the other. I’m told that Campbell has been in poor health lately.
And the PM’s joking about answering interview requests from RNZ it probably a bit close to the truth. National has previously frequently refused to be interviewed by the state broadcaster while freely turning up for shock jocks to get a soft ride. It has eased now, but the government continues to starve RNZ of cash in part because of its coverage of politics, in my opinion. The government has picked and chosen the journalists it fronts up to. Which is a a bit of a joke in its own right. I wonder if that had any influence on why Campbell pulled out.
CAPTION: Former star interviewer Mihi Forbes left Maori TV to join Carol Hirschfeld at Radio New Zealand.
For those who support public broadcasting there is a good case for both Maori Television and RNZ to be handed more money. In my opinion, National has helped Maori TV because it needs Maori Party support. It has ignored RNZ because it just doesn’t like its flavour of news. Which is why if there was any hope of RNZ getting relief in the Budget, it probably disappeared with the appointment of John Campbell for the new-look Checkpoint. (Realistically there was no chance at all).
I worry that RNZ has moved from the digital gap to the digital trap spending so much on digital infrasture that they have to raid the broadcasting gems that make National Radio special. A new focus on digital services like “The Wireless ” are winning better numbers – which is good. But digital is getting priority for resources, which could be bad for broadcasting, The RNZ Features department is currently under the microscope and more job losses are planned for experienced broadcasters.