NZ On Air board member tenders resignation after calling Winston Peters 'malicious'

NZ On Air board member Andrew Shaw has tendered his resignation after Newshub asked questions about the appropriateness of a social media post he shared in which he called Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters "malicious" and the "worst of this gang of thugs". 

The board members of Crown entities, of which NZ On Air is one, are meant to follow a code of conduct issued by the Public Service Commissioner, which includes being politically impartial.   

Shaw on Tuesday posted on Linkedin: "Winston Peters attack's independence of media [sic]. He's not truthful. He's not accurate. He's malicious and he is here on behalf of international tobacco. His return is the worst of this gang of thugs."   

After questions from Newshub to NZ On Air about the post on Tuesday afternoon, it disappeared. 

A screenshot of Shaw's post.
A screenshot of Shaw's post. Photo credit: Newshub.

A statement from Shaw said he "unreservedly" apologised.  

"Mr Shaw accepts it was absolutely the wrong thing to publish his personal political views and has tendered his resignation immediately."

A spokesperson for NZ On Air said: "The views expressed in the post are those of Andrew Shaw and are not a reflection of the agency’s views. We are a non-partisan agency that has worked constructively with Governments of all hues for 34 years. 

"Board appointments are made by the Minister’s office." 

Newshub has attempted to contact Peters' team for a response. We've also contacted the Government for a comment from Media and Communications Minister Melissa Lee.

As a board member of a Crown entity, Shaw must keep to the code of conduct issued by the Public Service Commissioner.   

One of the responsibilities listed in the code is about political impartiality.    

"We act in a politically impartial manner," it says.    

"Irrespective of our political interests, we conduct ourselves in a way that enables us to act effectively under current and future Governments. We do not make political statements or engage in political activity in relation to the functions of the Crown entity.   

"When acting in our private capacity, we avoid any political activity that could jeopardise our ability to perform our role or which could erode the public's trust in the entity. We discuss with the Chair any proposal to make political comment or to undertake any significant political activity."   

Shaw's LinkedIn profile doesn't mention that he is a NZ On Air board member, but he is listed on the entity's website.   

Appointed to the NZ On Air board for a three-year term in June 2022, Shaw has previously worked as a television host, executive at the South Pacific Pictures production company, general manager of programming at Prime, and then deputy director of content at TVNZ until 2020. He is currently a screen sector consultant. 

His comment comes after newly-appointed Deputy Prime Minister Peters on Monday falsely claimed that the former Government had bribed the media through money allocated via the Public Interest Journalism Fund (PIJF).  

"You cannot defend $55 million of bribery. You cannot defend $55 million of bribery. Get it very clear," said Peters.    

Peters had earlier said he had "never seen evidence" of independence by broadcasters TVNZ and RNZ over the past three years.   

The PIFJ was a $55 million contestable fund for newsrooms made available in 2020 to help news media during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing short-to-medium-term support for roles, projects and industry development. The funding was provided by NZ On Air until June 2023.   

The goals of the fund include to inform and engage the public about issues affecting their ability to flourish within society, provide accurate coverage, promote principles of partnership, participation and active protection under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, reflect New Zealand's cultural diversity, and encourage a robust and sustainable media sector.  

To be eligible, a newsroom must show commitment to Māori, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, public interest journalism, data provision, the New Zealand market, freely available online content, media standards, acknowledgement of the fund, and have the capability to support any proposed work.   

The PIJF was explicitly not to support national political coverage, international news, high-profile crime stories, and other types of news media.   

Shaw's comment on Tuesday follows a string of problematic remarks by Crown entity board members earlier this year.   

The most notable was that of then-Te Whatu Ora chair Rob Campbell, who the then-Health Minister fired over concerns about his ability to be politically neutral. He had made critical comments about a National Party policy.

Campbell said he had "no regret" about his comment, but apologised for any difficulty he had caused the minister. He believed he could speak out in a private capacity.    

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) deputy chair Ruth Dyson, who took a dig at National leader Christopher Luxon on Twitter in February and had "still Labour" in her social media account's biography, was found to have made a remark that "could be interpreted as having a negative connotation about the quality and content of Mr Luxon's speech."   

But given Dyson has said she was willing to review her social media use, she was able to keep her job.  

Pharmac chair Steve Maharey was also able to remain in his roles despite the Public Service Commissioner finding he did breach the code of conduct by writing several newspaper columns criticising National. His comments were found to be at the lower end of the spectrum.   

RNZ board member Jason Ake resigned in July after criticism of comments he made on Facebook about then-Cabinet member Kiri Allan.