Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Flavell should resign

State television delivers a vital public service (especially given the reluctance of commercial TV to provide serious journalism anymore). But it needs to be protected from the desire of Ministers to dictate content and turn "their" channel into a propaganda outlet for the government. Both the Television New Zealand Act 2003 and the Māori Television Service (Te Aratuku Whakaata Irirangi Māori) Act 2003 include clauses forbidding Ministers and their staff from interfering with content decisions. Sadly, that doesn't seem to have stopped Te Ururoa Flavell:

Calls are coming for the Maori Development Minister to have responsibility for Maori TV taken off him, as it emerges he met with the television chief executive less than two hours before a contentious debate was canned.

Te Ururoa Flavell met with Maori Television chief executive Paora Maxwell before the Native Affairs show cancelled a debate on Whanau Ora, a health initiative centring on family support within the community.

That followed emails from Flavell's office saying the inclusion of NZ First would prevent the issue being discussed in depth, and then that no politicians should be involved.

While its deniable, those emails make it very clear that the Minister would be very unhappy if the programme happened on anything other than his terms. Any public servant sensitive to their career prospects and departmental budget would read them that way. And while there's no smoking gun - nothing saying "cancel this now", and no meeting minutes - it seems very clear that that is exactly what happened. There need to be heads on spikes for this - not just the Minister and his staffer who violated the law, but also Māori Television's Chief Executive, who seems to have been a party to it.