NZ media minister Melissa Lee says interviews would have been ‘boring’

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NZ's Media and Communication Minister Melissa Lee
NZ's Media and Communications Minister Melissa Lee . . . "I have actually talked about what my plans are, but not in detail." Image: RNZ/Angus Dreaver

RNZ News

New Zealand’s media and communications minister is defending pulling out of pre-booked interviews about her portfolio, saying they would have been “boring” for the interviewers.

Last week, Media Minister Melissa Lee cancelled interviews with NZME’s Media Insider and RNZ’s Mediawatch, despite initially agreeing to do them.

It is a tumultuous time for media, with the proposed shutting of Newshub and cancellation of news and current affairs shows at TVNZ, as well as the unclear fate of legislation to make social media giants pay for the news they use.

Lee is set to take a paper to cabinet soon, setting out her plans for the portfolio. She has been consulting with coalition partners before she takes the paper to cabinet committee.

Yesterday, she said that given the confidentiality of the process, there was nothing more she could say in the one-on-one interviews.

“I have actually talked about what my plans are, but not in detail. And I think talking about the same thing over and over, just seemed, like, you know . . . ”

Lee said she received advice from the prime minister’s office, but the decision to pull out was ultimately hers.

‘A lot of interviews’
“I’ve been doing quite a lot of interviews, and I couldn’t sort of elaborate more on the paper and the work that I’m actually doing until a decision has actually been made, and I felt that it would be boring for him to sit there for me to tell him, ‘No, no, I can’t really elaborate, you’re going to have to wait until the decision’s made’,” she said.

It is believed Lee was referring to either the NZ Herald’s Shayne Currie or RNZ’s Colin Peacock.

Asked whether it was up to her to decide what was boring or not, Lee repeated she had done a lot of interviews.

“I didn’t think it was fair for me to sit down with someone on a one-to-one to say the same thing over to them,” she said.

Lee said her diary had been fairly full, due to commitments with her other portfolios.

The prime minister said his office’s advice to Lee was that she may want to wait until she got feedback from the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill process, which was still going through select committee.

‘The logical time’
“Our advice from my office, as I understand it, was, ‘Look, you’re gonna have more to say after we get through the digital bargaining bill, and that’s the logical time to sit down for a long-format interview,” Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said.

Labour broadcasting spokesperson Willie Jackson said he believed the prime minister’s office was trying to protect Lee from scrutiny.

“There’s absolutely no doubt she’s struggling. If you look at her first response when she fronted media, she had quite a cold response,” he said.

“That’s changed, of course now she’s giving all her aroha to everyone. So they’ve been working on her, and so they should, because the media deserve better and the public deserve better.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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