TV3 has defended broadcaster and lawyer Linda Clark
following questions about her work for the Labour Party.
Ms Clark was believed to be providing media training for
Labour leader David Cunliffe.
In a statement this afternoon, TV3 said she had withdrawn
from broadcasting jobs or made a public declaration when a
potential conflict of interest arose.
The statement said Ms Clark had been employed as a moderator
and political commentator, but not as a journalist,
interviewer or host.
"In the past we have trusted Linda to withdraw from any
commentary work if she felt she had a conflict of interest.
She is a very experienced operator and we have never had
reason to doubt her judgement.''
Ms Clark was previously a moderator on TV3's The Vote, and
has provided political commentary for The Nation.
TV3 said she could be included on a panel for election night
coverage later this year.
"We will continue to review Linda's involvement in our
programmes on a case-by-case basis, taking into account that
her role is clearly defined as a commentator and panellist,
not a journalist, interviewer or host.''
Several journalists' political connections are being
scrutinised after Maori broadcaster and aspiring Labour
candidate Shane Taurima was found guilty of a conflict of
interest at TVNZ.
Earlier today Prime Minister John Key questioned Ms Clark's
links to the Labour Party following the party's decision to
deny Mr Taurima an opportunity to seek the party nomination
for Tamaki Makaurau.
The decision followed confirmation in an independent report
that he had misused TVNZ funds for political purposes while
he was head of Maori programming.
Mr Key said Labour's actions were expected.
But he said he as was also surprised to learn that Ms Clark
was providing media training Mr Cunliffe.
"In the same way that MPs and ministers have to manage their
conflicts of interest, it's also true for the media.
"I don't know how she's managing that situation but she'll
just have to demonstrate to viewers that she's managing it
Mr Key said it was not unusual for media commentators to
provide these services _ he was trained by former TVNZ head
of news Bill Ralston.
But he said it was important that viewers knew of any
Ms Clark's law firm Kensington Swan said she was unable to
discuss her clients.
Mr Cunliffe would not confirm that he was being trained by Ms
Clark, saying he took advice from a wide range of people.
Mr Taurima's disqualification could open the door for another
journalist, Maori Television broadcaster Julian Wilcox, to
seek the Labour nomination in Tamaki Makaurau.
Mr Key said he did not believe Maori TV had been biased
But he said Mr Wilcox's potential links to Labour could
"raise some issues in the public's mind''.
"They're interviewing me, they're interviewing others, and
it's the perception of the conflict of interest.''
The investigation into political bias at TVNZ recommended
that political and senior reporters should not be allowed to
belong to a political party.
Asked whether he supported this, Mr Key said: "That's a
tricky one. It's up to every journalist to decide how they
want to handle those situations.
"In my experience, a lot of them don't vote let alone join a
"It's a bit of a stretch if they're joining a political party
and ... a journalist in the firing line of the daily coverage
of politics, because it's hard to believe you could be that
balanced in your commentary.''
Mr Cunliffe said this morning that there was still goodwill
towards Mr Taurima but the party had reached the right
conclusion in blocking him.
"I think he needs to reflect upon ... his actions and take
some responsibility for them and it's a matter for him as to
whether he wishes to continue to contribute to the party in
- By Isaac Davison of the New Zealand Herald