Which issue matters most?

June 5, 2014

TVNZ is asking which issue matters most this election?

It is always the economy.

Only with sound economic management can we afford sustainable investment in education, health and anything else we expect the government to provide to a first world standard.

 


Covert’s the problem not overt

May 20, 2014

Maori broadcaster Julian Wilcox has no plans to stand for the Labour Party.

Maori TV said in a statement titled “Response to Media Speculation” that Mr Wilcox remained committed to his job as general manager of news and current affairs.

Chief executive Paora Maxwell said: “MTS accepts Mr Wilcox’s written statement and we will continue to value our editorial independence in providing impartial and independent news coverage of significant regional and national stories from a Maori perspective.”

Mr Wilcox was one of several journalists whose political ambitions or connections were questioned last week. . .

And a questions till remains – does he have any affiliation to or bias towards the Labour Party?

In the wake of the Shane Taurima furore, TVNZ has banned political journalists from joining political parties.

But as Karl du Fresne points out, the rules won’t eliminate the most troubling bias.

I struggle to accept that being a political journalist necessarily requires you to neuter yourself as a citizen. The crucial issue, surely, is how you do the job. Journalists should be judged on the fairness and impartiality of their reporting and commentary. It’s possible to be a party member and still be even-handed as a journalist.

I can think of relatively high-profile journalists who hold strong left-wing views in private but still manage to do their work with integrity, as the journalists’ code of ethics requires. There are also journalists and commentators (Paul Henry and John Campbell, for example) who quite openly lean one way or the other – but since their politics are no secret, viewers can decide for themselves how much weight to place on whatever they might say.

These are not the people who worry me. The ones we should really be concerned about are the journalists who hold pronounced political views that are not declared, but which permeate their reportage. There are a lot of them about, probably more than ever before, and they will never be controlled by arbitrary rules – such as TVNZ is now imposing – about declarations of political interest.

Last week news broke that lawyer and broadcaster Linda Clark, who is a political commentator for TV3 and occasional panelist on RadioNZ’s Afternoons, had been giving media training to David Cunliffe.

This wasn’t confirmed but du Fresne says she’s probably not the only one.

. . . If what I hear is correct, quite a few high-profile media figures have nice little undisclosed earners providing advice to politicians. In fact it’s an odd quirk of New Zealand politics that many of the commentators provided with media platforms for their supposedly objective views are hopelessly compromised.

If it’s fair to unmask Clark for grazing on both sides of the fence, then let’s complete the job by exposing all the others who are on the take. This could get very interesting.

It’s not the overt political leanings which are a threat to fair and balanced reporting, it’s the covert ones.

If we know the biases of journalists and commentators we can make an informed judgement on their work.

Without that knowledge we can only wonder.


Bias in business as usual?

February 26, 2014

TVNZ has announced the panel to review the misuse of company resources and alleged political bias.

It includes media law expert Steven Price and broadcasting figure Bill Francis.

Price is a barrister specialising in media law and lectures at Victoria University of Wellington’s law school. Francis is the Chief Executive of the Radio Broadcasters Association with more than 45 years broadcasting experience. . .

The review panel will be chaired by Brent McAnulty, TVNZ’s Head of Legal and Corporate Affairs, and be joined by others as needed – to provide Maori language expertise, for instance.

The panel will investigate the inappropriate use of TVNZ resources within its Maori and Pacific Programmes department for political means between February 2013 and February 2014.

It will also determine whether any obvious political bias can be identified in the department’s programmes during that period or in Q+A interviews conducted by the former General Manager of Maori and Pacific Programmes, Shane Taurima, during his time on the show (March to November 2012).

Stephen Franks has a defence for Shane Taurima whose activism in the Labour Party sparked the investigation.

He and his colleagues may have grounds to claim to the just announced enquiry, that they thought the employer had acquiesced in their activism, or tacitly approved it. In other words they were simply getting with the programme.

Employment Courts often over-ride terms of employment contracts and express workplace rules, if they’ve been ignored in practice.

State broadcasters work in a milieu of implicit support for the left, and barely suppressed contempt for and suspicion of others. Maori in State broadcasting have been allowed for decades to act as if they’ve had an exemption from Broadcasting Standards requirements for balance. They’ve almost universally acted on a right to promote “Maori aspirations” (often equated to the Maori Party), to call the ‘race card’ on anyone who questions those “aspirations” irrespective of the legal orthodoxy of the question or challenge. . .

It would not take much diligence to find plenty of examples of decades long practice from which Maori broadcasters might assume that the obligations of objectivity and political neutrality were waived for them.

Any regular audience members of Maori and Pacific programmes on TV and radio could find examples to support this view.

Topics chosen, the angle taken on issues, the people chosen to comment on them as well as the questions asked and the way they’re asked can all result in a lack of balance and fairness.

Business as usual can easily be biased, intentionally or not, if a particular world view is accepted without question.

 

 


Not fit for sale

February 26, 2014

Prime Minister John Key says Genesis Energy will be the last State Owned Enterprise to be partially sold by the government.

Asked why he had decided to end the sales programme if it was so successful, Mr Key said a company had to have the “right characteristics” to be part of the mixed ownership model. A company like Kordia did not fit as it was too small in value and a monopoly, like Transpower, did not fit the model.

The only other two which could be sold were Television New Zealand and New Zealand Post and neither was fit for sale.

Companies which aren’t fit for sale aren’t assets they’re liabilities.

Yet opponents of even partial sales are still clinging to the view that state owned companies are sacrosanct and that the portfolio should remain exactly as it is in perpetuity.

 

 


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.


Labour TV

February 18, 2014

Are Maori and Pacific programmes on television politically neutral?

Several times when I’ve watched the Maori news programme Te Karere, or Tangata Pacifica I’ve wondered if they were biased towards the left in general and Labour in particular. Revelations by TV3  add fuel to my suspicions:

3 News can reveal state broadcaster TVNZ is being used as a campaign base by Labour Party activists.

They’ve even held a meeting in TVNZ’s Maori and Pacific Unit aimed at fundraising for Labour.

The unit’s manager, Shane Taurima, has held ambitions to become a Labour MP and his staff have been arranging Labour Party business, using TVNZ facilities like email.

Mr Taurima has resigned following the revelation.

Mr Taurima’s a Labour Party activist. He could be standing as a Labour MP this election.

Documents obtained by 3 News show the state broadcaster is being used to help Labour’s cause.

Labour’s electorate committee for the Auckland Maori seat Tamaki Makarau has been using TVNZ as a base.

Last year, a meeting was held at the Maori and Pacific unit’s Hobson headquarters, next to TVNZ’s main building, with Labour Party activists swiped through security.

On the agenda was “fundraising” – making money for the Labour Party.

The unit produces news, current affairs and documentary programmes like Te Karere, Marae Investigates and Waka Huia. Mr Taurima has managerial and editorial control. . .

Using a workplace for political, or any other activity, without the employers’ permission is wrong but that would be between the employer and staff in a private business.

This employer isn’t a private business. It’s a publicly funded state broadcaster which is supposed to provide fair, balanced and politically neutral reporting.

Is it my bias which makes some of the Maori and Pacific programmes seem biased or has the political activism of some employees influenced what’s been broadcast?

The national in RadioNZ National has nothing to do with the party, it’s used in the sense of nationwide.

TVNZ’s board and management must ensure that anything to do with labour at the state broadcaster is in the sense of work, not the party or politics.


PM’s state of nation speech live stream

January 23, 2014

TVNZ is live streaming Prime Minister John Key’s state of the nation speech.


A tale of two polls

May 27, 2013

TV3 says LabourGreen are closing the gap on National:

National remains on top, with 47.3 percent – down 2.3 percent. Labour goes up to 33.1 percent; that’s up 2.9 percent. The Greens are up a tad, at 12 percent.

New Zealand First drop to 2.2 percent, beneath the 5 percent threshold required for leader Winston Peters to get back. . .

Patrick Gower says that’s proof the LabourGreen power play appeals to voters.
But TVNZ says National could rule alone:

National has jumped six points and is sitting pretty on 49 percent.

Labour has dropped three points, now at 33 percent.

The Greens have lost a big chunk of support, now in single digits on nine percent, while New Zealand First picked up a point to be on four percent. . .

Both polls are close enough to each other and both show that National is still fairly close to the support it got in the 2011 election which is an amazing feat given the natural and financial challenges the government has had to tackle.

But polls aren’t elections and there’s still nearly a year and a half until the next one.


Is anything of note happening here?

March 10, 2013

Many years ago a British TV programme lampooned New Zealand television for the items carried in the news.

I’m a little vague on the details but I think something to do with the theft of a few sheep had been a leading story at the time.

The implication was we were just a quaint little country where nothing of note happened.

Anyone whose been looking for serious current affairs on television could be forgiven for thinking this still applies.

Seven Sharp didn’t promise to be serious and has failed anyway.

I’d hoped for much better from TV3′s 3rd Degree. It promised much but delivered so little I stopped watching after a very few minutes.

I take it from several reviews, including One Guy too Many from Cactus Kate and why TV3 should hang its head in shame over ’3rd Degree’ and why I suspect Duncan Garner and Guyon Espiner would agree with me from Brian Edwards, that I was wise to do so.

There’s one last chance for television this morning. Q & A starts at 9am.

A media release from TVNZ says:

We speak to the Government’s Mr Fix It, Steven Joyce, about the deals with Novopay and SkyCity, and question how committed the government is to creating new jobs.

Also on the programme, should marriage be solely between a man and woman; we hear from a gay couple who question why they’re being treated as second class citizens. We debate the same-sex marriage bill with Labour MP Louisa Wall and Conservative Party Leader Colin Craig, and ask if gay couples should be able to adopt.

On the panel this week is political scientist Dr Raymond Miller, publisher Ian Wishart, and former Labour party candidate Josie Pagani.

Join host Susan Wood and political editor Corin Dann on Q+A at 9am this Sunday on TV One.

I probably won’t be. I have other things on my agenda this morning – as do most other people at 9am on Sunday. But I will try to catch up with what happened on MySky later in the hope that maybe one little corner of television thinks there is something happening in New Zealand which people ought to know about.


SOEs put govt blanace sheet at risk

March 1, 2013

Opponents to the partial sale of state assets complain about the loss of dividends, they forget about the costs.

Trans Tasman points out the risks of state ownership:

. . .there is a harsh reality to be faced, not only with Solid Energy (what’s a Govt trying to do in owning coal mines?) but with other state-owned entities whose profitability has shrunk: think of TVNZ, NZ Post, Kordia. Not surprisingly, Solid Energy’s troubles have thrown into relief how the Govt’s balance sheet, already structurally weak, can be pushed into dangerous territory by businesses where all the risks have to be shouldered by the taxpayer.

Opponents to the sales complain that the government will lose dividend income when up to 49% of shares in an SOE are sold.

They forget the risks and costs of ownership which ultimately fall on the taxpayer.

I’d rather have my taxes pay for core government responsibilities like defence, police, infrastructure, health and welfare than investment in areas best left to the private sector.


Sound move

November 21, 2012

Broadcasters are going to turn down the sound on advertisements.

TVNZ, MediaWorks and Maori TV say they have reached an agreement on the compression technology that makes many advertisements so much louder than the programmes they interrupt. Sky TV has not formally signed on to the initiative but says it will support it.

The agreement kicks in January 1, but TVNZ says it will start Sunday. In a statement emailed to NBR ONLINE, CEO Kevin Kenrick said “we just want to get on with it”. The state broadcaster will foot the bill for adjusting the audio on ads already submitted.

Sounds good, but there’s a but:

Earlier, TVNZ’s general manager of technology Peter Ennis told NBR free-to-air broadcasters here had agreed to follow the International Telecommunications Union’s IITU 1770 recommendation, already widely adopted overseas by bodies such as the European Broadcasters’ Union.

But he added the qualifier, “It’s important to remember, however, that while these standards go some way towards reducing the perceived loudness differences between and within programme and advertising content it is unlikely that all differences will be eliminated, mainly because advertisers and TV creatives will continue to want to use dynamic range for effect.”. . .

In other words, they still want to yell at us.

Yet another selling point for MySky which lets you fast forward through the ads so you can avoid both sight and sound.


Look, listen

August 21, 2012

The Pati, Pene and Amitai,  brothers have amazing tenor voices.

Their parents brought them from Samoa to give them better opportunities and they’re getting them.

TVNZ has the story – and their singing – here.


Dairy Holdings’ farms staying in NZ ownership

January 30, 2012

If the sale of the 16 Crafar farms to foreigners exercised the xenophobic, they’d be even more upset by the  prospect of Dairy Holdings’ 58 dairy units on 14,243 effective hectares, milking 43,992 cows to produce approximately 15.18 million kilograms of milk solids.

However, if TVNZ is right the farms will be staying in New Zealand hands.

“I can’t tell you who the buyer will be but I can tell you the Overseas Investment Office won’t be involved,” said Dairy Holdings Chairman Bill Bayliss.

The New Zealand Super Fund is known to have expressed interest in Dairy Holdings and some say that would be a good outcome. . .

Clearly such an investment has been on the radar for the Super Fund. Chief executive Adrian Orr said in 2010 the fund had up to $500 million to invest in rural land over the next five years.

One of the arguments against the sale of the Crafar farms to the Chinese company Pengxin was that it would make farm ownership more difficult for young New Zealanders.

Will there will be a similar level of opposition to Dairy Holdings sale to the super fund for the same reasons?

Whether or not there is, I’m with Federated Farmers chief executive Conor English who says ownership isn’t the issue:

Federated Farmers says while there may be debate around foreign ownership of Kiwi farms – the most important outcome is good farm management.

“They’re managed well in terms of the environmental impact, in terms of economic impact, in terms of how they fit into the community,” said English.

The first two points matter to the whole country and the last one is very important for the neighbourhood.


Is he jumping or being pushed?

December 3, 2011

TVNZ says Pita Sharples will happily stand down as co-leader so new blood can come in.

TV3 has a different slant:

. . . it seems the Maori Party do not want Dr Sharples as co-leader any more and  his position will come up for grabs.

The male co-leadership will be contested by Te Ururoa Flavell – the only  other male MP in the Maori Party.

Sharples said before the election that this would be his last term and it makes sense to hand the co-leadership over in plenty of time for his successor to make his mark.

But being happy to stand down is not the same as not being wanted, so is he jumping or being pushed?

UPDATE: The Dom Post says internal struggles are plaguing the Maori Party but offers nothing in the story to back that up.

Could it be the media trying to find conflict where none exists?

 


Someone might miss out on TV debate

August 4, 2011

Prime Minister John Key and Opposition leader Phil Goff have sensibly agreed that they will debate each other on television but not take part in the circus which will be the minor-party leaders’ debates.

However, the ODT (not online) reports another aspect to this story:

. . . a  multiparty debate would be open to party leaders represented in Parliament, a TVNZ spokeswoman said party leaders not represented in parliament were required to reach a 3% threshold in at least one of the network’s two Colmar Brunton Polls.

The most recent CB poll results were:

National is up to 53% while Labour sheds seven points to 27%. The Greens take some of that vote, bouncing up to 10%, while Act and the Maori Party are both sitting around 3%.

New Zealand First (2.4%) would need to double its support to make it back, and the Mana Party (0.5%) and United Future (0.3%) are barely registering.

Last time I counted 2.4% was under 3%.

But I wouldn’t rule out its leader using this to his advantage, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s pulled the lone warrior against the establishment card.


How can they spin this, let me count the ways

July 18, 2011

How can Labour spin the latest One News Colmar Brunton poll result? Let me count the ways:

1. Only one poll counts.

2. It’s a rogue poll.

3. We can pretend we didn’t leak details of the capital gains tax before polling was done.

4. Polling was done before the tax package was announced and that will be a game changer.

5. The tax policy is irrelevant because people aren’t interested in details.

6. Our supporters don’t have phones.

7. Our supporters are out/too busy when polling companies call.

8. Polling companies are owned by rich pricks.

9. We’ve got more than four months to turn things round.

10. We don’t comment on polls.


Lost case but gained publicity

June 18, 2011

OurNZ  failed to gain an injunction against TVNZ for not including its co-leader and candidate for Te Tai Tokerau, Kelvyn Alp, in a by-election debate.

But the party and Alp gained publicity in the process which was porbably the object of the exercise.

 


Deliberate sabotage or stupidity?

May 30, 2011

Campaigning 101: a) stay on message. b) don’t take attention from the leader.

You could excuse Labour MPs for ignoring the first rule when the party hasn’t got much of a message to stay on. But flouting the second is either an act of deliberate sabotage or plain stupidity.

Which is it with Labour’s campaign manager who was silly enough to challenge Cameron Slater and backed-off when he didn’t like the counter-challenge.

Then in another desperate attempt to gain attention he does a tabloid blog post. (I’m not going to link to it, but here’s  Keeping Stock’s reaction.

Did Mallard fall on his head when he fell off his bike?

That might provide an explanation for what is bizarre behaviour for a senior MP but it’s no excuse for taking attention away from his leader who whichever poll you look at –   NZ Herald, TV3, TVNZ, -  needs all all the help he can get.

If he can’t depend on getting it from the party campaign manager who else is going to give it to him?

UPDATE: – Cameron has accepted the bike challenge without requiring acceptance of his counter-challenge.

What’s going to get more interest in the next couple of months – Labour’s leader or its campaign manager preparing for the challenge?


Who’s he gonna call?

May 2, 2011

Former TVNZ Breakfast host Paul Henry was in New York’s Times Square today when news of Osama Bin Laden’s death broke.

Who’d did he call back home to tell about it, his former employer or TV3?


Content vs cash

October 11, 2010

What’s the point of us owning two television stations when it’s difficult to tell the difference between them and the many others we could be watching?

As Jim Hopkins wrote:

Governments shouldn’t be in the ratings game – not on television anyway. If they want to run a television station, it should be an opinion leader, not a ratings leader.

Its brief should be to make sense, not money. It should provide what others do not. Its dividend should be social, not commercial.

Except it isn’t. Our public broadcasting arrangements are totally schizophrenic. The government’s radio station is non-commercial, worthy, high-minded and much loved by the chardonnay socialists in university common rooms.

But its television stations are hell-bent on being the biggest grizzlies in the bear pit, happy to serve up prole fodder at every opportunity. Every morning, Paul Henry outrages some and amuses others. Every night, Shortland Street explores themes that erode innocence and steal childhood.

And so it will stay till we resolve the conflict between content and cash. “How dare he say that?” Simple. He dares because it rates.

That’s how it is and will be until the government sells (or leases) TV2 and uses the proceeds to operate TV1 as a non-commercial station.

In the competition between content and cash the money will win on a commercial station.

Whether or not the state should own a TV station at all is a moot point.

But if we can’t tell the difference between the state owned stations and the others, the case for public ownership isn’t convincing.


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