Former National Party leader Simon Bridges is believed to be in line to chair the new merged broadcasting entity.

Parliament is currently waiting for the Aotearoa Public Media Bill to come back from a Select Committee.

But in the meantime, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage has been canvassing opinion on who might be appointed to its board.

Two sources have told POLITIK that Bridges is among the names being canvassed and that he is being considered for chair.

He did not respond yesterday to questions on the matter from POLITIK.

The Select Committee, which heard submissions on the Bill, heard a large number questioning the proposal to make it an Autonomous Crown Entity, which would require it to “have regard” to Government policy.

They raised questions about whether the entity could be considered to be an independent news and current affairs media if it was subject to that requirement.

Appointing an Opposition politician, and one who had been an Opposition leader, as chair would go some way to easing those fears.

A more satisfactory answer might have been to make it a crown-owned company as Radio New Zealand is now.

Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson is planning to talk to TNVZ staff, who are apparently fearful that their commercial operations might be trimmed and some of their sales and marketing staff might lose their jobs.

Advertisment

That would seem inevitable, given that one of the objectives of the merger is to reign in TVNZ’s highly commercial approach to broadcasting.

TVNZ Chief Executive Simon Power might also have some concerns about Bridges becoming chair.

The pair did not see eye to eye when both were National MPs between 2008 and 2011.

Power was a social liberal, and Bridges a social conservative.

Though Bridges had a generally amicable relationship with journalists when he was a Minister, that was not the case with the now-TVNZ journalist, John Campbell.

In an interview about offshore oil drilling on the now defunct Newshub show, Campbell Live, John Campbell asked Bridges if New Zealand was adequately prepared for a disaster response.

Bridges failed to answer directly, prompting the broadcaster to talk over him. The minister fired back, shouting and accusing Campbell of being “nimby minded” by not wanting drilling in his backyard and not wanting to portray anything positive about the oil industry.

He challenged Campbell to recall a single positive statement about the subject from Campbell Lives’ coverage, to which Campbell apologised for not having anything positive about the Gulf of Mexico as the “biggest oil disaster in the world”.

The interview was extended by the show’s producers, but toward the end, Campbell sighed and shook his head, saying he felt they had not achieved much.

“With due respect, you came in and shouted a lot of nonsense. Is there such a thing as you just turn up and shout?” Campbell said.

Appointing Bridges to such a politically sensitive post as chair of APM might be seen as a big call for a Labour government, but it has made similar “cross the aisle” appointments previously.

Former National Prime Minister Jim Bolger chaired the Fair Pay Working Group, Former Minister for Courts Chester Borrows chaired the  Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group and Former Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley, chairs the Tauranga City Council Commission.