Ian Fraser Unleashes On His Own Company

Published: Wed 14 Dec 2005 04:00 PM
Ian Fraser Unleashes On His Own Company
By Kevin List
TVNZ resigning CEO – Ian Fraser
Audio Stream. After his shock resignation - which included a number of press releases attempting to justify why he was bailing out of the TVNZ Chief Executive's role - Ian Fraser this morning had the chance to explain himself to a parliamentary inquiry into TVNZ's affairs. Mr Fraser's at times bizarre evidence will have gladdened the hearts of opposition MPs such as Rodney Hide and will no doubt have TV3 and Sky TV executives rubbing their hands with glee.
"From the time of the appointment of John Goulter to the board in the middle of the year - I kept bumping into stories in the news media that had clearly been ceded to them to the effect that management weren't competent and that the skids were under us unless news ratings were turned around," Mr Fraser told the MPs.
Later Mr Fraser pointed out that he had no evidence that Mr Goulter had been guilty of any wrongdoing whatsoever. In fact, in later statements, Mr Fraser seemed to imply that his own competence wasn't even discussed by the board. Mr Fraser pointed out that the stories he observed in the media relating to him were puzzling because they didn't relate to anything he himself had been able to observe at board meetings.
"They [the newspaper stories] directly contradicted the glowing performance appraisal I had been given by the board," he said.
Mr Goulter released a statement following Mr Fraser's evidence stating there was not a shred of truth in Mr Fraser's allegations.
It emerged during Mr Fraser's occasionally theatrical hearing of evidence that his dissatisfaction with the board of TVNZ had initially stemmed from a disagreement over Judy Bailey's salary negotiations.
Mr Fraser himself offered Ms Bailey the sum of $800,000. After the offer had been made and accepted by Ms Bailey for her salary to be doubled during 2005 the Chairman of the TVNZ Board, Craig Boyce, had decided to make her another offer. Mr Fraser considered Mr Boyce's desire to make a counter offer was not an 'honourable' course.
"This extraordinary step was urged on me that an offer that had been made should be withdrawn. It struck me that the pay setting mechanism particularly how it related to high profile presenters was a shambles," he told the committee.
Mr Fraser somehow considered that if the remuneration committee asked tough and detailed questions regarding spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on Judy Bailey it would lead to political interference in news and current affairs. According to later evidence at today's inquiry the only salaries this committee deals with are those over $300,000 so the political interference Mr Fraser felt could be a grave danger was likely to be somewhat limited.
"I take myself back to when I was on Prime Minister Muldoon's blacklist," began Mr Fraser before his history lesson of Muldoonist broadcasting interference was chopped short by the committee chairperson Shane Jones who advised Mr Fraser to "be succint".
It later transpired when Mr Boyce gave evidence that his attempts at what Mr Fraser construed as 'political interference' related to offering Ms Bailey the sum of half a million dollars per annum to read the news for the next three years. Ms Bailey was however evidently happy with her one year $800,000 pay offer from Mr Fraser. Mr Boyce intimated that had Ms Bailey taken the second offer it would be unlikely that there would now be a damaging inquiry into the state broadcasters affairs.
The chairman of the TVNZ Board Craig Boyce
Mr Boyce was also adamant when giving his own evidence that despite having to face the scrutiny of the media over the inquiry he had no intention of quitting early. Mr Boyce pointed out that the pain of persevering was only temporary, whereas the pain of quitting lasted forever.
There was also some discussion during Mr Boyce's evidence of who could have leaked the damaging memo written by Mr Fraser to the Green Party's Sue Kedgley. Mr Fraser confirmed to Scoop that he and Ms Kedgley had once been fellow workers at TVNZ but could not give any more assistance. At present the source of the leak of the memo remains as mysterious as the anonymous and possibly non-existent 'leaks' surrounding Mr Fraser and Mr Ralston.
Towards the end of proceedings the chairperson Shane Jones asked Mr Boyce - who currently sits on the board of ten companies - if he had ever seen a "superfluous CEO" unleash "sewerage" on a company they had previously been in charge of. Mr Boyce's answer was hard to ascertain among the howls of outrage from Mr Fraser's new found allies such as Mr Hide.
On the plus side for TVNZ after hearing Mr Fraser's evidence today it seems likely the broadcaster may have one less problem to deal with when Mr Fraser's contract finally runs out.
See Also: Statement from John Goulter, Director TVNZ
Listen to former TVNZ CEO Ian Fraser's evidence to the Select Committee inquiry into the state broadcaster from this morning (30 mins):
Are Tax Cuts the Answer to TVNZ's Troubles?
Whilst the stratospheric salaries of the stars took up a lot of Mr Fraser's evidence no mention was made by Mr Fraser of the working conditions of the bulk of TVNZ's employees.
Earlier in the day Andrew Little of the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union put the case of some of the lower paid workers at TVNZ. Unfortunately, the Maori Party's Hone Harawira who had championed Susan Wood's employment and pay difficulties last week decided this was the perfect time for a smoko break so the 'little kiwi battler' at TVNZ didn't get much of a look in.
National's John Key suggested tax cuts may be the answer for the EPMU's workers and a few minutes later United Future's Gordon Copeland took up the same theme. Mr Copeland, who looked as if he had just told funniest joke ever, was told to hurry up and stop wasting the committee's time.

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