It looked like a duck. It walked like a duck. It quacked like a duck. Turns out it was a duck.
The “Plain English” advertisements were effectively party political broadcasts on behalf of the National Party. (Hardly surprising, as they were coauthored by English and his people). Even TVNZ now admits they should never have screened. Quite apart from the illegal free advertising (shades of the Exclusive Brethren campaign in 2005), English had a conflict of interest as shareholding minister.
So now that TVNZ has admitted the obvious, it is reasonable to ask who was responsible for the decision to make and screen these advertisements. The correspondents in the email discussion with Bill over the script are an obvious place to start. Personally I find it hard to believe that a bunch of media professionals can make a party political broadcast for National by accident. My guess is that it was a perfectly deliberate strategy by individuals within TVNZ. They had plenty of chances to pull the ads had it all been a big mistake. Further OIA requests might be interesting to pursue, or perhaps someone within TVNZ might be interested in anonymously shedding light on this matter. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and we need to make sure that this sort of nonsense doesn’t happen again.
In the mean time, I propose in the interests of journalistic balance and integrity, that equal free broadcasting time be given to the finance ministers of the other political parties (perhaps in the ratios that would be calculated under the rules for advertising during the campaign period). Phil Goff has just dropped the biggest economic bombshell of the last 20 years, Labour could use some free air time to explain the implications to the people don’t you think? So how about it TVNZ? Huh. I won’t hold my breath…