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No Pressure Put On TVNZ Over Henry, Says PM

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
No Pressure Put On TVNZ Over Henry, Says PM

Wellington, Oct 11 NZPA - Prime Minister John Key says no Government pressure was put on TVNZ over the Paul Henry fiasco and that he is pleased the broadcaster made his own decision to resign.

Henry resigned from TVNZ yesterday after becoming the subject of several hundred complaints to the broadcaster over a slur he made about Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand and mocked the name of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

On last Monday's Breakfast programme, Henry had asked Prime Minister John Key whether Sir Anand, whose five-year term ends next year, was a New Zealander.

Mr Key, who has been criticised for not slapping Henry down when the question was put, along with one asking if the next governor-general would "look and sound" like a New Zealander, appeared on Breakfast again this morning and answered questions about the resignation.

"He has made that decision and I guess over the last week he's had some time to reflect on the comments -- and overall the pattern of behaviour in the last few months," Mr Key said.

It was "good he has personally made that decision", and that the Government kept at arm's length from TVNZ operational matters. There had been no pressure exerted from himself or the Government towards the TVNZ board over the matter, he said.

"We have fiercely defended that principle, that TVNZ -- like Radio New Zealand -- has statutory independence from the government. So those decisions are made by management and the board of Television New Zealand, and to the best of my knowledge there was absolutely no pressure or contact made."

Mr Key told Newstalk ZB that he handled the first couple of questions Henry put to him about the governor-general by explaining that all governors-general were New Zealand-born.

"But when he got to the third question there was a part of me that was actually a bit taken aback with what he was actually meaning there, and with Paul sometimes you never really know, so quite frankly I brushed over it. That's just the nature of that kind of interview with him sometimes."

Mr Key said Henry's resignation would help repair any damage caused to international relations with India, but it needed to be remembered that the comments were from one person.

The relationship between the countries was good, and the developing of any future free trade agreements would be because of a wide range of reasons, he said.

"Lets put a bit of perspective around this."

Radio Live broadcaster Michael Laws also made disparaging comments about Sir Anand recently without formal censure, and Mr Key said in his view they were unacceptable.

"My views are that Michael's comments are completely over the line, they are a personal attack on Anand Satyanand, and inappropriate in my view."

Meanwhile, Green Party human rights spokesman Keith Locke said Henry's announcement was "welcome news" and TVNZ now needed to examine its role.

"The huge public reaction to his discriminatory comments made it impossible for him to return to Breakfast as a credible host," Mr Locke said.

"We now want TVNZ management to review its guidelines, so that its presenters all appeal to our intelligence rather than cater to the prejudices that still exist in our society."


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