Fair Go told not to upset advertisers, Labour claims

Last updated 15:41 01/03/2012

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Television New Zealand journalists working on the Fair Go programme have been told not to produce stories which would upset their advertisers, Parliament has heard.

Labour's broadcasting spokeswoman Clare Curran today questioned TVNZ bosses about a recent meeting called between management and Fair Go staff.

TVNZ management had instructed them not to "produce programmes that would upset their advertisers", she claimed.

However, head of TV One and TV2 Jeff Latch said it "wasn't an instruction, per se".

"The key points I made at that meeting was that the heart of Fair Go for the past 20 odd years it has been on television, is that it represents the underdog and the small guy and stands up for them," he told Parliament's commerce select committee.

"I also made the observation we operate in a commercial environment and Fair Go, like all our programmes, need to exercise care in the way they handle stories."

Journalists needed to make sure stories were always balanced with the views of both sides of the story, he said.

"A story that is not balanced could be something that is not really what we would want to run on that network."

Latch said there was "nodding acceptance around the room that that made sense".

Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss said he believed TVNZ did not put any pressure on Fair Go staff to stay away from stories that would upset advertisers.

"I certainly don't think that's what they did. That's my interpretation."

He said he would follow up with the broadcaster at this point.

"If it gets raised with my regular meetings with TVNZ or any of the other authorities I'm responsible, sure.

"TVNZ is an entity in its own right. They are just making sure everyone is aware of keeping the balance on FairGo."

But, Curran questioned how the public could have faith in the integrity of the programme.

"How can Fair Go be trusted to provide New Zealanders with information they can trust if they are producing programmes which take into account how advertisers feel?"

Latch replied that advertisers would always be part of stories run on Fair Go.

"That is inevitable."

TVNZ chairman Sir John Anderson said integrity was "one of the highest values" the network placed on its credibility and reputation.

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