Saturday, April 16, 2011
New men at top signal Radio New Zealand shake-up
The Government has appointed the political raconteur and public relations man Richard Griffin as chairman of the Radio New Zealand board of governors.
Former private radio entrepreneur Josh Easby will be his deputy. Both men were only appointed to the board in May last year and the swift promotion - forecast by this column - signals a shake-up at Radio New Zealand.
Political impatience with RNZ's resisting change coincides with concern about public broadcasting surviving under National.
Griffin, who has been deputy since July, replaces chairwoman Christine Grice, whose term has ended.
Grice - a lawyer who has a very good professional rapport with chief executive Peter Cavanagh - clashed with Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman and questioned a Government budget freeze.
Government criticism of Grice led to a grassroots campaign to "Save Radio New Zealand" that was subsequently hijacked by Labour.
At the end of last year RNZ had made progress improving its relationship with the Government, offering cost-cutting that did not reduce the service to listeners and was deemed acceptable to ministers.
The board of governors headed by Griffin is stuck in the middle. On one side it is answerable to a Government that includes some ministers who are actively antagonistic to RNZ.
On the other side is a valuable institution imbued with integrity whose strategy has been to avoid change.
Griffin is well known in political and media circles with close friends including Bill Ralston, Ian Fraser, Mark Sainsbury and Paul Holmes. So he will be the familiar face for an organisation that has liked to keep its face pointed at the ground.
Easby is a different kettle of fish.
Like Griffin he is a former journalist and was one of the Auckland Star reporters involved in the Mr Asia investigation.
Easby joined Brierley Investments in a management role and at one time led a network of private radio stations.
The rest of John Drinnan's column at the New Zealand Herald - it is well worth a read.