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Politics-Free Zone? “Tui” time!

9 October 2011 5 comments

Last Friday (30 September), Prime Minister John Key (or ‘Dear Leader‘ as he is now known), played radio DJ for an hour. Using the excuse of the “electoral commission rules”, Key’s presence on Radio Live was supposedly an “election free” event,

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During Key’s session on air, New Zealand’s second sovereign credit-ratings downgrade was announced. Again, he refused to discuss the issue, citing “electoral commission rules”. His one hour was to be keep “politics and election free”.

We learnt that his cat was named, “Moonbeam“.

Which is like having Peter Jackson on-air and expecting him not to make any comment whatsoever on any of his movies or the entire film-making industry…

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Just because Dear Leader instructs his listeners that his show was an “election free zone” does not make it so. In fact, it clearly was not “election free” at all, and only the most naive or ardent National Party-apologist could claim it to be. Quite simply, John Key is the Prime Minister and Prime Ministers are political irrespective of what “zone” they might be in.

In fact, hosting a politics-free radio show is a perfect opportunity for any politician to “connect” with his/her electorate and promote their persona as being one-of-the-people.

But there is more to this issue than simply John Key getting one hour of free media exposure. Quite a bit more.

It began in 1984 when Steven Joyce, at age 21,  set up his first radio station, “Energy FM”. From there, his business venture expanded considerably,

“Joyce made his millions in broadcasting. He got involved with student radio as a presenter and programme director while doing his zoology degree at Massey University in Palmerston North. Then he and a group of friends, including radio presenter Jeremy Corbett, started their own station in Joyce’s hometown of New Plymouth.

Corbett says Joyce son of a grocer had a prodigious work ethic: “Steven expects everyone to work as hard as him and nobody does.”

Joyce was 24 when Taranaki’s Energy FM finally got a full licence. Later, the team began acquiring other stations. As Corbett puts it: “I got married and left, and the rest of them became millionaires.”

Joyce says money was the furthest thing from his mind. For years “we kept living like university students [so] we could keep ploughing money back into the business”.

By 2000 he was CEO of an empire called RadioWorks, with 22 radio stations and 650 staff. He didn’t want to sell up, but Canadian company CanWest launched a stockmarket raid and left him standing with a cheque for $6 million in his hand. It was a “bittersweet” moment.”  Source

“In 2004, CanWest Global Communications combined television company TV3 Network Services and radio company RadioWorks to form the new MediaWorks company. On 29 July 2004, 30% of this new company was sold on the NZSX. Three years later, in July 2007, CanWest sold its stake of the company to Ironbridge Capital, a group of Australian investors, who subsequently obtained the remaining 30% from other investors.  MediaWorks is significantly larger than any of its other investments.”  Source

So far we have the following “trail”:  Steven Joyce/Energy FM → Steven Joyce/RadioWorks → CanWest → CanWest/MediaWorks → Ironbridge/MediaWorks, which is the current ownership-situation.

In April 2009, the  Radio Broadcasters’ Association wrote to the now-Minister of Communications, Steven  Joyce, asking for the high cost of renewing radio spectrum licence payments to be spread over 20 years, rather than paid in  one lump sum. Source.

In the following month, May 2009, the Ministry of Economic Development advised Joyce that there was no compelling reason to accede to the Association’s request, as it would “put the Government in a credit financing role“. Joyce followed that advice and subsequently declined the RBA’s request. Ibid.

At around this point, the Dear Leader Prime Minister starts to get involved and things begin to get murky. Around August 8th or 9th,  2009, Brent Impey –  the then-CEO of Mediaworks –  lobbied John Key directly, to get a deferred-payments scheme put in place. (Evidently, such a scheme was desirable not because MediaWorks was in financial trouble – but because it would improve their bottom-line profitability.)

At first, John Key denied even meeting with Brent Impey, and stated this  in answer to parliamentary written questions,

The Prime Minister said he had “no meetings” with representatives of MediaWorks to discuss the deal.” Source

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Two days later that answer was corrected, saying he “ran into” Brent Impey at a “social event” in Auckland where the issue was “briefly raised” and he “passed his comments on” to the responsible minister.Source

It seems fairly unbelievable that one could have a meeting with someone; discuss a matter involving $43 million – and then claim to have forgotten it?!

Despite having declined the Radio Broadcasters’ Association’s first appeal (May, 2009) – after Key  “ran into” Brent Impey at a “social event” the matter was re-visited and on October 22, 2009, Cabinet agreed to the RBA’s request for deferred payments.

Question: What transpired between May 2009 and October 2009 to so radically change government policy, and in effect adopt the role of “credit financing”, against the advice of the Ministry of Economic Development, which Steven Joyce had originally accepted?

Question: What role did John Key have to play in this matter? Because all of a sudden he seemed to become pivotal to this issue and it’s outcome.

Question: How could John Key have forgotten that he “ran into” Brent Impey at a “social event” ?

Click here for a Timeline of events, by NZ Herald report, Derek Cheng.

Essentially then, for reasons that are as clear as a barrelfull of Christchurch liquifaction, this government decided to make a  loan  for radio frequency-fees, worth $43.3 million to MediaWorks.,

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As John Drinnan wrote in the above article,

…the Government allowed them to keep the frequencies and pay the money over a 50-month period – paying 11.2 per cent interest a year. The Crown held a mortgage on the frequency with a strong security.

However, politicians being politicians, they will always argue the point,

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Telecommunications Minister Steven Joyce yesterday said the money was not a loan, but a deferred payment system to help the radio industry during tough times in 2009.” Ibid

Steven Joyce was  adamant that this was not a “loan” to MediaWorks,

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In fact, Joyce goes on to say,

“”They have to present it as a debt because it is a debt they owe the Crown, so how they do that is between them and their accountants.

“All I can tell you is that the Crown has not advanced any cash to MediaWorks at all, that the Crown has offered a deferred payment option to all of the frequency holders who were due to renew at that time, which involved them paying interest and getting in their payments over five years.”” Ibid

So according to Steven Joyce, this is not a debt “the Crown has not advanced any cash to MediaWorks at all“?!

Reallllly?

Is that how it works?!

In which case, property-owners around New Zealandf should rejoice and do cartwheels! We have no debts! The mortgages that our banks and building societies extended to us are not debts at all because they did not “advance any cash” to us!  After all, mortgage monies  are paid directly to the vendor – the new owner never sees a cent of it. Banks and other financial institutions simply hold a mortgage over our properties, and charge us interest on top of principle, to be re-paid.

Which is precisely what this government has done, as already mentioned above,

…the Government allowed them to keep the frequencies and pay the money over a 50-month period – paying 11.2 per cent interest a year. The Crown held a mortgage on the frequency with a strong security.Source

It’s a loan, Mr Joyce. Deal with it.

So perhaps it’s little wonder why Radio Live (owned by MediaWorks) did not extend Labour Leader Phil Goff, and other Party leaders, the same advantage as John Key had,

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Of course Radio Live “didn’t give an explanation for refusing“.  It’s fairly obvious what has transpired in some fairly shady, back room, “arrangements”.  It is fairly obvious that whatever “arrangement” now exists between Media Works and John Key and  his government is now to their mutual benefit.

The question is; did that $43 million buy just the one hour with Radio Live?

Or is there more to come?

Watch this space.

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Additional reading

A word with… Steven Joyce

Wikipedia – Steven Joyce

Key’s six million dollar man – Steven Joyce

Key changes tack over meeting with broadcaster

Wikipedia – MediaWorks New Zealand

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