Would Paul Henry still have a job if he’d been at TV3?

by Jake Quinn

Paul Henry

One of New Zealand’s most talented performance broadcasters is now looking for a job because his infantile and racist comments led to a diplomatic crisis, which is something a host on a state-owned television network cannot, evidently, get away with.

How exciting for all rival media outlets and how very disappointing for Television NZ’s bottom line.

Paul Henry, when behaving like an adult, is one of New Zealand’s better performing long-form interviewers – having the mental rigor to be able to follow-up and change question line during interview. Something sadly lacking among a number of the prime time television interviewers in New Zealand.

As was demonstrated during the recent Qantas Film and Televsion Awards, Mr Henry can also be devilishly funny. Unfortunately, Henry can also be a bit of a twit. He is, if you will, an idiot/savant of journalism.

But in the end he just went too far and it is thought that he became a liability to his employer and thus jumped before he was pushed.

This is no small feat, given that he remains New Zealand’s most popular television personality with his success effectively destroying the competitors show (TV3 Sunrise) earlier in the year, thus single-handedly capturing the entire breakfast television news market for TVNZ.

His resignation also effectively draws a line under the diplomatic incident.

For me though, this furore is an interesting example of the interaction between the political process and the news media in New Zealand.

Television NZ is government owned, in so far that it is a State Owned Enterprise who is independently managed but ultimately answerable to the Broadcasting Minister and to Parliament’s committees. Because TVNZ is state-owned, it, rightly or wrongly, is held to higher standards than its competitors.

Which begs the question, if Paul Henry had made those comments whilst employed by TV3, on Sunrise for instance, would the outcome have been the same – would he have lost his job?