On 09 July 2002 the ruling Labour Party was under pressure on the Genetic Engineering (GE) issue, when John Campbell confronted Prime Minister Helen Clark over the suspected release of GE corn seed in 2000. In a 3 News special a fired-up Campbell, informed by Nicky Hager's yet-to-be-published Seeds of Distrust, alleged there had been a cover up. Upset at what she perceived as an ambush, Clark reacted tersely; she later labelled Campbell a "sanctimonious little creep". With a general election looming, the encounter was dubbed 'Corngate'.
The TVNZ Leaders Debate for the 2002 General Election attracted controversy for its use of an onscreen graph, which tracked the response of 100 undecided voters in real time. There was concern that the device – aka 'The Worm', first launched in 1996 – would put a focus on populism and TV performance over policy. This post-debate analysis, with broadcaster Peter Williams hosting a panel of political commentators, includes a behind the scenes look at The Worm. Peter Dunne’s later success in the 2002 election was credited in part to his mastery of the line's rises and dips.
English literature graduate and former share trader John Campbell joined TV3 as a reporter in 1989. In 1997 he began fronting his own current affairs segment on 3 News. John Hawkesby's resignation in 1998 saw Campbell drafted in to read the 6pm news with Carol Hirschfeld. In 2005 he moved to 7pm for Campbell Live, and hosted it for a decade. After returning to Radio New Zealand, he joined TVNZ in 2018.
Jane Wrightson is Chief Executive of Crown agency NZ On Air, which funds Kiwi television, digital media, radio and music. Prior to taking on the job in 2007, she spent a decade at Television New Zealand, was New Zealand's first woman Chief Film Censor, and headed both the Broadcasting Standards Authority and screen lobbying group SPADA.
Journalist Mark Jennings joined new channel TV3 in 1989, to set up its South Island news operation. After becoming TV3's news chief in 1995, he won wide respect as a calm hand, competing against TVNZ's bigger budgets and arguing that news presenters ought to have journalism experience. By the time his resignation was announced in 2016, Jennings had become one of the longest serving heads of news in NZ TV history.
Carol Hirschfeld spent 12 years at TVNZ in news and current affairs, and also co-hosted Crimewatch. In 1997 she was hired to read TV3's 6pm news, the start of an extended association with John Campbell. They presented 3 News for seven years, then she began producing Campbell Live in 2004. Since 2009 Hirschfeld has done time as Head of Programming at Māori Television, and Head of Content at RNZ.