TVNZ reviewing programmes for bias

February 19, 2014

Using facilities at a state-owned broadcaster for Labour Party meetings and communications was a serious lapse of judgement.

But the bigger concern is whether there was political influence in editorial and programming decisions and interviews.

TVNZ’s Chief Executive Kevin Kenrick says:

. . . TVNZ will now launch an investigation into staff use of TVNZ resources to support political party activities. It will also review the editorial independence of the Maori and Pacific Programming division during Shane Taurima’s time as manager (February 2013 to February 2014).

The investigation will be led by Brent McAnulty, TVNZ’s Head of Legal and Corporate Affairs and report to me, as TVNZ’s Editor in Chief. Brent will head up a review team that has access to all TVNZ internal resources, and a search has begun to identify a suitably qualified external person to provide an objective and independent critique of our editorial performance. 

This investigation will be conducted as a matter of priority but it won’t be a rush job – we’re focussed on carrying out a robust and comprehensive investigation that looks into this matter thoroughly. 

The review findings and recommendations will be made publicly available.

Given our position as New Zealand’s most watched news provider we hold ourselves to the highest standards of editorial independence and balance. Clearly a line has been crossed here – it’s unacceptable and we make no excuses for what’s happened.

Our focus now is to clearly and fully understand what has happened; how this happened; and what we need to do to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said she was treated unfairly by Taurima.

. . . Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says she was treated unfairly by TVNZ interviewer Shane Taurima.

The TVNZ unit manager resigned from the state broadcaster yesterday after it was revealed he took part in a Labour Party hui, and that TVNZ property was used to hold party meetings.

Bennett was grilled by Taurima on youth unemployment, in April 2012 on Sunday morning current affairs show Q+A.

“I felt that it was actually really biased,” Bennett told reporters this morning.

“I came out of there and couldn’t work out whether it was anti-National, anti-me, I don’t know what it was.

“It was one of the worst and the least-informative [interviews] for viewers, to be honest, that I’ve ever done in my career … I always felt that he was much tougher on National Maori women … but you have got to be careful that you don’t start over-thinking things, as well.” . .

Good interviewers don’t badger and interrupt.

They ask intelligent questions, listen to the answers and ask more questions.

They are firm, they can be tough, but they must be fair.

Taurima isn’t the only broadcaster who’s had political allegiances, but John Armstrong explains why they are different:

What about Paul Henry? Inevitably questions are being asked – especially by some in a smarting Labour Party – as to what difference in political terms there is between Shane Taurima, who has been forced to resign his management position at TVNZ, and Henry, who unsuccessfully stood for Parliament for National in 1999 but yet has been given his own late-night programme on TV3.

Well, quite a lot actually.

For starters, Henry is but one example of someone starting or resuming a career in broadcasting after a dalliance with politics. You can go back to Brian Edwards who stood for Labour in 1972 but lost narrowly, and Pam Corkery who also briefly hosted a late night TV show, in her case after leaving Parliament.

Labour’s John Tamihere became a talkback jock after losing his seat. John Banks has regularly interchanged political and broadcasting roles, even to the point of holding both at once.

However, all were hired because of their larger-than-life personalities rather than their politics which they were anyway totally upfront about.

Along with Corkery, Henry has shown no inclination to return to politics.

Taurima stood down from his TVNZ role while he sought nomination as the Labour candidate in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection last year. After failing to win selection, he returned to work at TVNZ where he was head of the Maori and Pacific unit.

Given his management role in news and current affairs, TVNZ’s senior management should have sought assurances he had no intentions of standing for Parliament again.

TVNZ was aware, however, that Taurima was considering standing in another Maori seat at this year’s election. At that point, Taurima should have been confronted with two choices: either sever your political affiliations or quit TVNZ. . .

Act MP John Banks has used the issue to ask a very good question – why do we have state television?

TV3’s revelation that Shane Taurima, TVNZ’s former manager of the Maori and Pacific Programmes unit, hosted a Labour Party meeting last year on the broadcaster’s property and involving other TVNZ staff, shows another good reason why TVNZ should be sold, said ACT MP John Banks.

“This issue is not Mr Taurima’s politics. It is the fact that he and some of his staff wrongly used taxpayer’s property to further his political objectives” said Mr Banks.

“The easiest fix is for the taxpayer to get out of the television business. TVNZ should be sold.

“There is no reason for the State to be in the risky television business. We should sell now because TVNZ will soon be worthless as a result of technology changes.

“In private media if a journalist pursues a political agenda using company resources that is solely a matter for the management, shareholders and advertisers.

“If TVNZ were in private ownership no one would care about Mr Taurima’s Labour Party activities on the premises” said Mr Banks.


Media merry-go-round

December 17, 2013

Has TVNZ has decided Seven Sharp isn’t sharp enough?

The changes can’t have anything to do with the Broadcasting Standards Authority ordering TVNZ to apologise for “personal abuse masquerading as satire” about Conservative Party leader Colin Craig.

Jesse Mulligan who delivered the diatribe is staying on the show.

The programme got bad reviews before it started.

I warmed to it after it gave the title of the country’s Sharpest Town to Oamaru.

But the programme never fired and TV3’s Campbell Live became the default for anything resembling harder news stories.

The changes have prompted a bit of  a media merry-go-round.

Ali Mau is going to RadioLIVE.

Seven Sharp presenter Ali Mau is leaving TVNZ’s light current affairs evening show to host a RadioLIVE programme with Willie Jackson.

The pair will host a new early afternoon show. . .

Jackson previously hosted an afternoon RadioLIVE show with John Tamihere, but both were taken off air after an interview with an alleged friend of a Roast Busters victim.

Tamihere will not be returning to RadioLIVE next year.


Moral fervour

November 13, 2013

Trans Tasman opines:

Moral fervour has its place, but it is something not to be totally trusted. Self righteousness should never be allowed to become mob rule. Society’s norms should be enforced with a degree of legal detachment, lest righteous condemnation be allowed to turn into lynch mob justice.

So it was possible to feel a smidgeon, just a smidgeon, of sympathy for talkback hosts John Tamihere and Willie Jackson this week. They found themselves on the receiving end of a nationwide, social media wide storm of condemnation for their on-air antics in the wake of the “Roastbusters” rape allegations.

But any sympathy should be minimal. The pair are not exactly strangers to these types of  on-air controversies.

Fellow babyboomer broadcaster Bill Ralston  described them, in a friendly way, as some of the last bastions of 1950s male attitudes, but this is hardly an excuse. One would expect the two to have noticed one or two changes since then. Implicit in the way the two questioned one of the rape victims on the air – and also in some commentary elsewhere – is the notion the girls in some way contributed to their predicament.

Now, contributory negligence is a useful concept in civil law, but hardly applies to criminal matters such as rape – unless it is assumed, from the outset, men have as little control as, say, an out of control machine. Tamihere has form in the misogyny area: he famously called women in the Labour Party “front bums.”

Well, now he and his partner are off the air, for acting like a pair of total back bums.

Quite.


What’s a sackable offence on radio?

November 8, 2013

What’s a sackable offence on RadioLive?

Gross misogyny by Willie Jackson and John Tamihere doesn’t seem to have been.

Will losing advertising revenue change that?

Willie Jackson and John Tamihere have been criticised over the way they interviewed an 18-year-old girl who said she was friends of one of the gang’s victims on Tuesday.

They were forced to apologise yesterday but that wasn’t enough for some, and today’s show saw a guest panelist storm out after a heated on air row.

Now it has emerged that a number of advertisers have withdrawn their support of the show and RadioLive while the pair remains on air.

ANZ, Yellow and Freeview have confirmed they are cancelling their ads on the show, and AA Insurance has indicated the same.

It came after blogger Giovanni Tiso contacted around 30 companies which advertised on the Willie and JT Show yesterday, asking them if they would reconsider their support of the programme. . .

The station also lost a guest:

Matthew Hooton walked out of the RadioLive interview today after becoming embroiled in an argument with one of the show’s hosts and being told to “shut your mouth”.

The writer was a guest on Jackson and Tamihere’s RadioLive show discussing the Roast Busters and the fall-out from the scandal, but it quickly descended into an argument when Mr Hooton confronted them about their attitude towards a young woman they interviewed on Tuesday.

The row culminated in Mr Hooton being told to “shut your mouth” or leave the studio. He walked out to shouts of “get out, get out of our studio”.

Listeners could hear fumbling as headphones and microphones were taken off before the station quickly cut to an ad break. . .

The attitude of the hosts in appearing to blame the victim in the interview is part of the problem and there are questions over whether some police have a similar attitude.

Police Minister Anne Tolley has taken the unprecedented step of referring the case to the Independent Police Complaints Authority:

Police Minister Anne Tolley says she has written to the Independent Police Conduct Authority, asking it to investigate the “Roast Busters” case in Auckland, particularly the questioning of a thirteen year-old girl in 2011.

“Parents of young girls need to have confidence that complaints to Police about sexual assault are investigated thoroughly and appropriately,” says Mrs Tolley.

“As Minister, I can’t delve into the details of a Police investigation – politicians cannot interfere in Police inquiries.

“But the IPCA does have the power to carry out an independent assessment of the details surrounding these events, and I believe this is the right course of action to ensure the public has confidence in the Police on this matter.

“This morning the Commissioner has again assured me that this inquiry has been thorough, and that there was a comprehensive investigation into the victim’s complaint.

“However, I have made it clear to the Commissioner that I am disappointed that the full facts have not been available to me or to him.

“I don’t expect to be told finer details of Police operations. Police must remain independent of politicians. But I do expect Police to be talking to each other.

“I would again urge any young women who have been affected to come forward and talk to Police as a first step in gathering evidence which can be used to bring people to justice.”

This referral is the right action when there are so many questions about the way the case has been handled.

Police at first said they hadn’t taken any action because there had been no formal complaints. But four girls complained to police.

. . . She was one of four girls who went to police over incidents involving Roast Busters. She went through the process of making her complaint with police formal via an evidential video interview.

The other girls were all aged between 13 and 15.

She has now said she will lay a second complaint with police because her alleged attackers were “sick boys that were twisted in the head”. . .

It takes a lot of courage to make a complaint of this nature, even more so if an earlier complaint wasn’t handled sensitively.


No-one asks to be raped

November 7, 2013

My laptop was stolen at an airport.

I’d put it down with my suitcase to pay for parking, paid, picked up the case but not the computer.

I realised my mistake minutes later, ran back but the computer was gone.

Thanks to some very good police work it was recovered a few weeks later.

Was I careless?

Yes.

Did I ask for the computer to be stolen?

No.

Did my carelessness make it any less a theft?

No.

Had it been an honest man who found the computer, he’d have called me back, phoned the number inside the case or handed it in to someone in the airport.

He wouldn’t have taken it, found a way round the password, loaded his contacts onto it and used it until the police caught up with him.

My inattention provided an opportunity for the crime but it’s one an honest person wouldn’t have taken.

So it is with rape.

Some discussion on the Roast Busters has turned to what the victims were wearing and that they were drinking .

There’s been suggestions this somehow excuses the behaviour of the young men who plied them with alcohol, raped them and boasted of their exploits on Facebook.

It doesn’t.

There is no excuse for rape.

Regardless of what the young women might have been wearing and doing, and whether or not they should have been where they were and drinking, they were not asking to be raped.

Asking to be raped is an oxymoron.

Rape is unconsensual sex and someone who is comatose cannot give consent.

Among those who seem ready to excuse the perpetrators and blame the victims are Radio Live hosts John Tamihere and WIllie Jackson.

I didn’t hear the programme but have heard enough of the reaction to it to be disgusted by what they said, the apology for an apology and apparent inability to understand why they “caused offence”.

The best response to it comes in an open lettter from Dr Leonie Pihama and Marama Davidson of the Te Wharepora Hou Maori Women’s Group:

Tena korua John and Willie

Yesterday we were sent the link to your radio programme of your discussion with ‘Amy’. Listening to your programme is a rare event in both of our whare. Why? Because the views you espouse are on the whole conservative, often ignorant and nearly always sexist. So we are not surprised with the misogynistic undertones of how you spoke to ‘Amy’.

What is saddening is the fact that you seem to have absolutely no awareness or experience of the impact of rape on the lives of it’s victims and survivors.

What is disturbing is that you show no empathy for the pain and ongoing distress caused by sexual violence on entire whanau.

What is alarming is that with all the involvement you have in providing programmes within urban Maori communities that you remain ignorant of the destruction caused by rape culture.

What is disconcerting is that you have no sense of understanding for how difficult it is to talk to others about being raped, about sexual violence, about family violence let alone what it means to be 14, 15 or 16 years old.

What is disgusting is that you seem to revel in the deep-seated ignorance on these issues.

Rape, whether it be of a woman abducted, or of a mother catching a bus home after work, or of a young woman out for drinks with her friends, or of any woman in her own home by someone she knows – is rape.

Rape, John and Willie, is rape.

Rape, John, is not about “how free and easy are you kids out there these days”.

Rape, Willie, is not about how you are too young to have a drink out with friends.

Rape has nothing to do with if they are good looking. ‘Good looking’ men rape too Willie.

Rape – John and Willie – is rape. . .

More questions over police handling of the issue were raised yesterday when they released a statement saying a complaint against the group had been made two years ago:

Police investigating allegations involving the “Roast Busters” group can confirm a complaint was received in December 2011. An investigation was launched and the complaint was thoroughly investigated.

Whilst this was a distressing situation for the girl and her family, Police determined that there was not sufficient evidence to bring a prosecution.

Out of respect for the victim and her family Police are unable to discuss the specific details of this particular situation any further, however the victim’s complaint is still part of the continuing investigation and should new supporting evidence come to light as part of the ongoing enquiry , the decision in this case not to prosecute will be reviewed.

Police discussed this matter again with the victim’s family this morning and re-stated their absolute commitment to doing their best by their daughter.

Inappropriate and offensive comments that are alleged to have been made to the victim in this case by Police are under investigation.

I can understand that finding enough evidence to make an arrest would be difficult.
But I can’t understand why police were unable to have the website shut down and to warn people about the abhorrent activity of the group far, far sooner.

Whale on air?

October 11, 2013

RadioLive might be looking for a new afternoon host to replace John Tamihere who is working towards a political comeback.

Rachel Glucina’s picks for his replacement to work with Willie Jackson are:

1. Cameron Slater – He’s polarising and partisan, but can cross-pollinate via his widely viewed website.

2. Linda Clark – Her school ma’am whip-cracking is TV gold, but she’s unlikely to forgo Chapman Tripp responsibilities.

3. Paul Henry – If he actually liked talkback he’d be a welcome return. He’s in the MediaWorks stable and his TV show is yet to have a start date, so maybe he can be persuaded.

4. Mark Sainsbury – He wants a job in media and is already a contributor to the station.

5. Grant Dalton – Does he have a job? He’s certainly got plenty of opinions, mostly sporting, unfortunately.

6. Anna Guy – She’s desperate to be a media star, but with a fifth kid on the way and limited views beyond motherhood and Feilding farming she’s an unlikely contender.

7. Rachel Hunter – She’s a bona fide media star with a big TV following. But can she make the transition to radio?

A bit of tension and strong differences of opinion between hosts can be good on radio.

You’d certainly get that with Jackson and Slater who are just about polar opposites on the political spectrum.


Not models for stellar career

December 9, 2012

Understatement of the week:

. . . This will probably only encourage Tamihere, who has been coming over like a cross between former Act MP David Garrett and former National MP Bob Clarkson. These are not really models for a stellar political career.

It came from Trans Tasman which was pointing out the peculiar silence from Labour Party MPs who twisted themselves in knots trying not to criticise Tamihere’s boorish comments on women and gays.


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