Labour finally get a candidate

June 1, 2014

It’s taken a while but Labour has finally got a candidate for Tāmaki Makaurau.

Labour Party President Moira Coatsworth has announced that Peeni Henare will be Labour’s candidate for Tāmaki Makaurau at the 2014 General Election. . .

He’s a late starter.

But Labour hoped that Shane Taurima and then Julian Wilcox would stand for selection.

Taurima’s nomination was turned down after a report condemned his politicking at TVNZ.

Will Flavell, was nominated when the party opened, reopened and then extended the nomination period.

It was obvious the party didn’t want him. It isn’t clear how popular Henare is in the party and he’s not got much time to get the electorate’s support.

The Maori Party selected Rangi McLean, as its successor to Pita Sharples who holds the seat, a month ago and he’ll be four weeks of campaigning ahead.


Sabotaging own candidates

May 24, 2014

There’s something amiss with Labour’s selection process.

Nominations for the Rangitata seat were opened, closed without anyone applying and re-opened.

Nominations for Invercargill were opened, closed with the previous candidate, and former MP, Lesley Soper applying but reopened when the news the electorate MP, National’s Eric Roy, was retiring. Someone else applied but Soper was selected anyway.

Nominations for Tamaki Makaurau opened some time ago, were held open pending the outcome of TVNZ’s inquiry into Shane Taurima’s use of his work place and resources for political purposes.

Since then the party declined to give Taurima the waiver he needed to get the nomination and now the party is seeking further nominations:

The NZ Council of the Labour Party has resolved to invite further nominations for the Labour candidature in the Tamaki Makaurau seat, with the support of the Tamaki Makaurau Labour Electorate Committee. . .

Further nominations suggests they have already got at least one but, as in Invercargill, aren’t widely enthusiastic about whoever it is.

The seat is held by Pita Sharples who isn’t standing again which, means Labour would have had a better chance of winning it.

However, the Maori Party has already selected its candidate, Rangi McLean, who will have had the best part of a month campaigning before Labour’s candidate is selected.

Once more Labour is giving every appearance of sabotaging its candidate by its inept handling of its selection process.

 


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.


No choice re Taurima

May 13, 2014

The Labour Party had been delaying the selection of a candidate in the Tamaki Makaurau electorate in the hope that Shane Taurima would be cleared of wrong-doing at TVNZ.

He wasn’t which left them with no choice but to disallow his nomination.

The former TVNZ manager and presenter was forced to resign from the broadcaster because of his involvement in Labour party campaigning.

The party’s ruling body met last night and decided not to grant a waiver to Mr Taurima, meaning his nomination cannot go ahead.

Mr Taurima needed the waiver because he’d been a party member for less than a year when he was nominated for the seat. . .

The report into his conduct found no bias but it did find misuse of his employer’s resources.

An independent review has found the former General Manager of TVNZ’s Maori and Pacific Programmes department did misuse company resources for political activities with the Labour Party.

But the panel cleared Shane Taurima of any political bias in his interviews and the editorial content he produced for TVNZ programmes. . . .

In the  full report released today , the panel said it scrutinised Mr Taurima’s first interview with National MP Paula Bennett on TVNZ’s Q + A programme in March 2012 in particular, after critics claimed he “browbeat the Minister”.

Mr Taurima said the interview was not his best work, but the panel found “it did not show evidence of bias”.

The panel also said the three other staffers involved had an “extremely limited ability to influence editorial content” and there was no evidence they had tried to do so.

‘Inappropriate use of resources’

The panel did find that TVNZ resources “were used inappropriately” for Labour Party political purposes by Mr Taurima and three members of his staff – none of whom are still employed by TVNZ.

The panel said the “financial cost was negligible but, aside from this, it should not have happened.”

The panel cited an instance where TVNZ funds were used to transport a TVNZ staff member to a meeting at Mr Taurima’s house “to establish two Labour Party branches”. The panel said it recommends TVNZ seek reimbursement for this expense.

Mr Kenrick says: “What happened was completely unacceptable. It’s an absolute necessity for our News and Current Affairs service to operate free from political influence.” . .

The sum of money might not be large but the blatant misuse of employer’s money in that way would be bad enough in itself.

That is was for political purposes when the employer is a a state broadcaster is far worse.

. . . Mr Kenrick says he accepts “that there were shortcomings in our management of Shane when he returned to TVNZ, and that won’t happen again.”

He says the company already has a number of checks and balances in place to protect the integrity of news coverage. But he says TVNZ will immediately take steps to tighten internal protocols, as recommended, to protect the editorial independence of its news.

The report has identified roles in TVNZ’s News and Current Affairs division where the review panel believes political party membership and active support for a political party is untenable. These are roles that carry significant editorial influence and include political reporters, senior content producers, editors and news managers, and the Chief Executive as Editor in Chief.

“We won’t be asking our staff to tell us who they vote for. But we think it’s reasonable to ask anyone who reports, edits or produces political content to be upfront with us if they’re a member of a political party. Anyone who creates news content for TVNZ should disclose any political activity beyond passive party membership,” Mr Kenrick says. . .

Freedom of association is important but so to is balance and fairness in a state broadcaster.

Active membership in a political party would give the perception of bias – whether or not it was real – and that is untenable.


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.

 

 


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.

https://twitter.com/johnbanksnz/status/435576690576588800


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.


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