MediaWorks TV sale: Winston Peters bites back at 'gutless' Mark Richardson

Winston Peters has hit back after criticism of his comments about MediaWorks TV being for sale, calling Mark Richardson"gutless".  

Richardson accused Peters of lacking "basic human respect" during a heated segment of The AM Show on Monday morning, sarcastically describing Peters as "very classy".

It followed Peters' remarks over the weekend at the New Zealand First annual conference, in which he said: "Now I'm sorry for some of them because they deserve to stay, but for some of them - good riddance'."

Richardson said Peters' comments were "heartless and classless". He said if Peters is the type of person he would have to be to enjoy longevity in politics, then he'd "want no part of it". 

Peters told reporters after a speech at Massey University that he felt like he'd been "mauled by a lamb". 

"I feel seriously sorry for all those people who work for MediaWorks - I really do... I feel sorry for them, but also sorry for their husbands and wives."

But Peters didn't stop there. He said New Zealand First received no sympathy from MediaWorks in 2008 when the political party failed to get enough votes to return to Parliament. 

"And as my staff members were crying about where they were going on Monday... [Newshub, TV3 at the time] couldn't give a Tinker's damn."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Members of Parliament (MPs) can express their own opinions, and said Peters' comments have nothing to do with the Government's policy.

But she hinted that her opinion of the sale of Newshub did not match that of Peters. 

"I've shared my own views, and those are the views that I will defend, and my view was that this is a period of huge uncertainty for those staff and I wanted to acknowledge that... it is a really difficult time."

She said it's ultimately a commercial decision. 

MediaWorks announced its intention to sell its TV assets on Friday. 

The company has signalled throughout the year it's struggling to operate a TV channel in a landscape where its competitor TVNZ does not have to pay a dividend. 

Duncan Garner, host of The AM Show, dimmed the lights on the show in August, in a challenge to the minister to "save New Zealand television and news channels before it's too late". 

"They weren't bluffing," ACT leader Seymour said last week. 

Three is responsible for about 30 percent of the local television production in New Zealand, and Seymour suggested it would be bad for New Zealand if there was only one state-backed TV news provider. 

MediaWorks CEO Michael Anderson made a similar point in an interview with The Spinoff in August, contemplating the reality of New Zealand having just one TV newsroom. 

Seymour said making TVNZ "sing for its supper" would require "courage and principle from the Government... So I'm not holding my breath". 

He said there is no doubt that TV is being disrupted by new media platforms, but said the Government's intervention has "meant that MediaWorks has been fighting with one arm tied behind their back". 

He is urging Kris Faafoi, Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, to "recognise the folly" of subsidising TV news.