RNZ soft sop on political conflicts of interest

RNZ were embarrassed on Thursday when it was revealed in Parliament that ‘contractor’ Tracey Bridges, who was engaged by Ministerial Services in Jacinda Ardern’s office, had commented on ‘The Panel’ without disclosure. RNZ made a soft concession that it didn’t look good:

“It is a timely reminder for RNZ that we need to be fully transparent about any potential conflicts of interest. We are reviewing our processes around The Panel to make this sure this doesn’t happen again.”

– see Labour and RNZ exposed using ministerial staffer “as an independent commentator”.

Yesterday RNZ followed up with a sop to Bridges and to another political lobbyist who had come under scrutiny for potential conflicts of interest, Gordon Jon Thompson.

Jane Patterson at RNZ: Commentator welcomes conflict of interest debate

A PR contractor, whose position in the Prime Minister’s office prompted questions in Parliament, says discussions about conflicts of interest are important, and she welcomes questions about how they are handled.

National MP Melissa Lee raised questions about Tracey Bridges appearing on RNZ as a commentator, without it being made clear she had a contract to work in the office of Jacinda Ardern at the time.

In response to that story, Ms Bridges said she had told RNZ she was an independent contractor, but the news organisation had not asked for any details about individual clients, nor had she offered them.

While it should be standard practice for RNZ to insist on full disclosure Bridges also had a responsibility to disclose any possible conflict of interest.

RNZ went back to Ms Bridges and asked her for details about how her potential conflicts of interest are managed more broadly.

She said she identified and declared any of her other clients who could potentially pose a conflict of interest to the Prime Minister’s office, and then managed any conflicts if and when they arose from there on.

Ms Bridges said she did the same with her other clients.

Her work focussed on strategy, leadership and mentoring, she said, and her work in the PM’s office was “consistent with that space”.

It was very important to her to respect the confidentiality of all of her clients and so there was “no flow of information” between the different groups, Ms Bridges said.

Bridges stated “she welcomes questions” but has not faced any questions here, she has been given a free PR platform. This sounds like a sop to Bridges by Patterson, RNZ’s political editor.

Gordon Jon Thompson worked in the PM’s office as Chief of Staff immediately after the election, and has since returned to his corporate affairs consultancy company, Thompson Lewis, that specialises in government relations.

He said the day he signed his contract to work in the PM’s office he declared his interest in his company to Ministerial Services.

Mr Thompson said that in recognition of potential conflicts of interest, he had signed a document saying he would be taking a leave of absence from his company while Chief of Staff and he would not receive any money from Thompson Lewis during that time.

The situation relating to conflicts of interest was “handled well”, he said.

Another PR sop, this time to Thompson. He has been allowed to claim he “handled well” the situation relating to conflicts of interest without question.

I think that it’s fair to question what Patterson’s historic and current relationship with bridges and Thompson is.

And it’s fair to question the way she and RNZ have handled this issue. It raises more questions about conflicts of interest than it answers.

NOTE: This is on matters of principle, but it seems that Bridges did not talk politics on The Panel, she talked about what a big deal it is to her that her daughter is going away to University for the year, about Bob Jones’ controversial Waitangi Day column (she said he had a right to waffle), and allergies in movies – Audio of The Panel on 12 February.

However she did close with:

“I’m probably sitting in a position where I’m feeling a little bit sick of racist old men having platforms”.

Update: there’s more audio of The Panel scattered across RNZ:

https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/thepanel/audio/2018631698/the-panel-with-tracey-bridges-and-tim-watkin-part-1

https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/thepanel/audio/2018631698/the-panel-with-tracey-bridges-and-tim-watkin-part-1https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/thepanel/audio/2018631707/the-panel-with-tracey-bridges-and-tim-watkin-part-2

I haven’t got time to listen to all that right now.

7 Comments

  1. Increasingly there seems to be a strong editorial and commentator bias at RNZ. My bugbear is the insistence on retaining the vehemently anti National “from the right” Hooton. He makes ACT look left wing and never has anything positive to say about National ever, Contrast that with his old sparring partner Mike Williams and now Stephen Mills, they’re men who’d vote for a loaf of bread if it stood for Labour.

    They need to either get another unaligned far left commentator so they can confine themselves to political ideology or ditch Hooton. It’s grossly unfair to have party stalwarts as a fixture from the left and a hardened anti Nat rightist as the other.

    If one did an ideology test of all the Panel members it’d be slam dunk lefty. When you also have activist hard left, outspoken haters of the larger party National such as Dita de Boni as Kim Hill’s researcher the flavour of that place just got very much more left wing.

    Clare Curran would have the nation give RNZ over 150 million to provide them with a platform to disseminate her “owning and framing the political language” messages. Slippery slope.

    http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/0605/Language_Matters.pdf

    • Trevors_elbow

       /  March 3, 2018

      The time to resolve issues of bias is gone…. and it wont return. RNZ us Red and Green reflecting inner city Wellington and its concerns…. it uses its initials as uts nane as it is not about New Zealand.. its the liberal, beltways echo chamber

      National should simply stop talking to RNZ at all, about anything…. then find other channels to communicate through, whilst hinting in those comms that RNZ are biased…. including in the house under privilege, except in the house be more pointed…. shine the light on them nice and bright…..

    • Fight4NZ

       /  March 3, 2018

      Yes, all trace of left leaning or non National cheerleading must be stomped out. Only 1 near balanced outlet remains though, so you have to be optimistic.

      • Trevors_elbow

         /  March 3, 2018

        Oh bollocks. Red Radio has been pushing an agenda since the early Nineties…. they are supposed to be New Zealands apolitical broadcaster but they are not. Why the hell should a very large chunk of the countrys population pay taxes to have John Campbell and friends provided with a platform to push left wing politics?

        Nice try to make it seem leftie bashing… but epic fail snowy

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  March 3, 2018

    Long ago Paul Holmes described RNZ as an inhouse magazine for the Beehive. Nothing has changed. Of course Labour will fund and feed it directly and indirectly.