No conflict in MediaWorks renewal loan

Advice to Communications Minister Steven Joyce confirmed he did not face a conflict of interest when the Government provided a $43.3 million loan to MediaWorks, a company in which Mr Joyce once had a considerable stake.

The Government announced on Tuesday it had provided ailing private media company MediaWorks, which owns TV3, Four, and about half of New Zealand's commercial radio stations, with the loan to enable it to renew its radio broadcasting licences for the next 20 years.

MediaWorks radio networks include Radio Live, MoreFM, The Breeze, the Edge and Radio Dunedin.

Before he was a politician, Mr Joyce made his fortune by building up a network of radio stations throughout New Zealand, including at one stage Radio Otago and Radio Dunedin.

Radio Pacific and Radio Otago shareholders voted to amalgamate the two companies on August 1, 1999.

That network was eventually sold to CanWest and renamed MediaWorks.

The Otago Daily Times asked Mr Joyce, through his office, whether he felt he should have declared a conflict of interest because of his earlier association with the network, in which he once had a stake.

Through a spokeswoman, Mr Joyce said he sought Cabinet Office advice on whether he faced a conflict of interest due to his previous association with the radio industry.

That advice confirmed for Mr Joyce there was no conflict of interest in relation to the matter.

On the basis of that advice, the minister also consulted widely with his colleagues and made sure they were aware of past associations.

Mr Joyce's association with RadioWorks ended in 2001, aside from a six-week announcing "cameo" on one of the company's stations in 2005, his office said.

In 2009, a deferred payment scheme was offered to all broadcasting licence holders.

The transaction incurred no cost to the Crown as interest was being paid on the deferred payment at a rate of 9.5% plus inflation.

Nine license holders had entered the scheme, including MediaWorks.

The scheme came about at the suggestion of the Radio Broadcasters Association to provide short-term assistance to broadcasters because their 20-year licence renewals coincided with the worst global recession since the 1930s, the spokeswoman said.


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