Monday, October 31, 2005

Get Charter

I am shocked but not surprised by the resignation of Ian Fraser as head honcho of TVNZ. Once again, TVNZ is making meta-references with mainstream monotony. Ian Fraser, all round good-guy and The Right Man For The Job, cites political interference from the TVNZ Board. I went Googlemanic on the TVNZ board and found some goodstuff. I've given goNZo odds on each board member's business vs. political clout, on a 0-10 scale. 0 is complete breadhead and 10 is full-tit fan-quango.

Starting from the bottom of this list, we have Trish Stevenson. Trish was appointed way back in 2000 by then Broadcasting Minister Marion Hobbs, two full years before the one page TV Charter would be finalised. She was inaugurated at the same time as Chairman Ross "My shout" Armstrong in a speech at the Film & Television Conference at the Carlton Hotel in Auckland on 10 November 2000. Although the speech has inconveniently disappeared from the Beehive's website, Google has conveniently cached it here. It's well worth a read:
"This year I have made progress in setting a new direction for TVNZ in line with the government's objectives for broadcasting. I appointed Ross Armstrong as the new Chair of TVNZ and subsequently Paul Smith, Stephen Walker, Craig Boyce, Trish Stevenson and Russell Hewitt as new Board members." - Marion Hobbs
As we know, Chairman Ross has since left the building. So has media commentator and author Paul Smith, investment manager Stephen Walker and former Compaq Managing Director Russell Hewitt.

Trish Stevenson came to the TVNZ board fresh from a stint on the board of NZ On Air. Prior to her valuable work at NZ On Air, Trish had been International Manager at educational publisher Learning Media Limited. According to their website, Learning Media Limited's job is to design, develop, publish, and distribute classroom resources on behalf of the New Zealand Ministry of Education. If public servants worked in the private sector, this is how it might look like.

Paul Smith reminisces on Colleague Trish:
"The Charter was still being formulated in 2000, but I had some immediate priorities. The first was to bridge the chasm which had opened up between the network and the creative sectors - writers, producers and directors. For the first time ever, these groups came to address the Board about their issues with TVNZ and this proved to be a first step in resolving them. The next was longer term but just as important. Colleague Trish Stevenson and I worked to restore the belief that there was a broader canvas of content to be explored, and that we could sell our own programmes overseas. We believed this would not only create new revenues and build profile, but open up opportunities for partnerships."
In other words, Trish thought that she might use the same contacts she forged in her previous work with Learning Media and foist TVNZ programmes on them. Trish has worked two three-year terms and got her first one-year term from Hon Steve Maherey earlier this year.

There are times I wish I had a subscription to OnFilm. This summary looks tasty:

(PM Helen Clark opined to Net-workings that TVNZ’s early call was absurd, ...
Bryan Gould, and Trish Stevenson, all of whom have ties to the Labour Party. ... - Similar pages
I will defer final judgement for DPF, considering Trish Stevenson is helping InternetNZ with developing the governance structure for ISPAG (whatever that is).

In the meantime, Trish Stevenson's goNZo Odds: 10

Bryan Gould became a member of the TVNZ board in 2003 straight from Waikato University, where he was Vice Chancellor. Although born in NZ, Bryan was Environment Speaker for the UK Labour Party Shadow Cabinet under Neil Kinnock. Following Kinnock's resignation, Gould made a bid for the leadership of UK Labour but came second to John Smith, who won over 90 percent of the vote.

Bryan Gould's goNZo Odds: 10

The only other person to last as long on the TVNZ board as Trish Stevenson is current Chairman, Craig Boyce. Mr Boyce was the Chief Executive of Smiths City from 1990 to 1999. According to the NZ Gazette, pg 15 halfway down on the right, Smiths City was liquidated in 2002. Craig Boyce began his internship at TVNZ as chair of the board's audit committee. He became Acting Chairman of TVNZ after Ross Armstrong's credit card statements got out of hand in 2002. He was confirmed for the role a year later and has been Chairman ever since.

Although Smiths City turned into a bloody disaster, at least he has some experience of company realities and not just political machinations. Unfortunately, his experience has nothing to do with broadcasting so Craig Boyce's goNZo Odds: 2

June McCabe was installed on the TVNZ board a year ago, at the same time as Bryan Gould. June is a corporate director at Westpac, responsible primarily for the government, university and Maori portfolio businesses. According to her Westpac profile, her iwi affiliations are Ngapuhi, Te Rarawa, Te Aupouri and Ngah Kahu. She is also an advisory board member at Vic Uni's Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families, and has also been a member of the Board of ACC and Housing New Zealand.

Ms McCabe has an MBA and is the former Chief Executive of The Home Mortgage Company. She is also involved in the Anglican Trust for Women and Children, Business in the Community (free business mentoring service), and Business and Parliament Trust.

Although June has a good background in business, it is counter-balanced by her equally-strong political background. If I were feeling more cynical, I would place her as the Token Maori on the TVNZ board. I'm giving June McCabe a very considerate goNZo Odds: 5

Robert Fenwick has been on the TVNZ board since 2003, and his considerable range of business talents justify his deputy chairmanship it. A Director search on the Companies website lists him on the board of 14 companies apart from TVNZ. Only 3 of them are in liquidation. Broadcasting experience from his association with Mai FM warrants Robert Fenwick's goNZo Odds: 0

Former Labour Minister Dame Anne Hercus is into her second three-year term on TVNZ's board. Her appointment in 2002 raised eyebrows as "she [was] still an active corporate fundraiser for Labour". Nuff said.

Dame Anne Hercus' goNZo Odds: 10

Philip Melchior is a bugger to Google. He was put on the TVNZ Board in 2003 after a long career in journalism in NZ and overseas, culminating in his role as Managing Director of Reuters Media in London. Apart from a few pages in German and what looks like Norwegian, all the other links point to his role at TVNZ. For want of more evidence, Philip Melchior's goNZo Odds: 1

Business wunderkind John Goulter is the latest addition to the board, joining earlier this year. His stint as CEO of Auckland Airport got him a sterling review from Brain Gaynor in the NZ Herald, Deloitte Management Top 200 Executive of the year and NBR New Zealander of the Year for 2002.

John Goulter gets goNZo Odds: 0

The average Odds on the seven TVNZ Board members is 5.43, a small bias towards political expediency versus business acumen. And that's just from Googling them. No doubt I have seriously under estimated much latent politicking. It will be interesting to see this story unfold. How long before Bill Ralston leaves this mess too?