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Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Deux

18 January 2012 7 comments

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Cont’d from: Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand

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This blogger has written to Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss on this issue,

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from:    Frank Macskasy
to:    Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss <craig.foss@parliament.govt.nz>
date:    Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 1:44 PM
subject:    NZ on Air

Sir,

Is it simply outrageous that NZ on Air – and more specifically – Board member, Stephen McElrea, is attempting to interfere with  the broadcasting and programming of television documentaries, citing that it might contravene NZ on Air’s impartiality. Specifically, NZ on Air has criticised and condemned TV3’s broadcasting of a documentary on child poverty four days prior to last year’s election.

This is absolute rubbish. It is also dangerous.

It is not – and should not – be mandated to a state owned organisation as to what New Zealand citizens are/aren’t allowed to watch, and when. Then is North Korean or Syrian style of government.

Furthermore, it appears that Board member, Stephen McElrea, is involved in attempting to empower NZ on Air to have authority to determine when specific programmes may be broadcast by independent media,

““The minutes of the NZ On Air board’s meeting in December says it is now considering adding a clause to the broadcast covenant requiring broadcasters not to screen programmes likely to be an election issue during the election period.”” – http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/96173/nzoa-accused-of-political-bias-over-poverty-show

This is outrageous and unacceptable. More so because because Stephen McElrea is deeply connected to the National Party, in his role as a Regional Deputy Chairman, and as John Key’s Electorate Chairperson in the Helensville Electorate.

This is totally unacceptable. Not only is this a gross conflict of interest, but it places NZ On Air’s independence into serious question.

This entire situation demands the following;

1. A new system of appointees to state bodies be set up which may make impartial appointments based solely on merit, rather than political connectivity. Such a reform is necessary if the public are to maintain confidence in our state structure and bodies.

2. Stephen McElrea must step down immediatly from NZ On Air. His position is simply not tenable, and casts a dark shadow over the impartiality of that organisation.

I sincerely hope that the suggestions and comments I have made here are brought to your attenton, as I believe this issue demands your utmost attention.

Regards,
– Frank Macskasy
– “Frankly Speaking“”

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Any response from the Minister’s office will be published here.

A copy of the email has also bee sent to various media, as it might be of interestr to them that a call has been made for Stephen McElrea’s resignation from “NZ on Air“. I suspect I may not be the only one making that call.

Tom Frewen has also come up with an interesting little matter of the only person to have complained to “NZ on Air“;  a person by the name of  “Alastair Bell”. As Frewen has written, is this the same “Alastair Bell”  who is on the National Party’s Board?

To clarify this matter, I have written to Mr Bell, at the National Party,

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from:    Frank Macskasy
to:    Alastair Bell <alastair.bell@national.org.nz>
date:    Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 1:53 PM
subject:    NZ on Air

Kia Ora, Alastair,

Regarding the matter of an email sent to the board of NZ on Air, regarding a complaint about the broadcasting, by TV3 of a documentary, (“Inside Child Poverty”), can you confirm that you are the same Alastair Bell referred to in NZ On Air documents, as released under the Official Information Act?

Regards,
– Frank Macskasy
“Frankly Speaking”

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Again, any responses will be published here, as I believe it is important to clarify this matter. Keep checking back, for updates.

19 January

Acknowledgement from the Minister’s office, recieved earlier today,

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from:    Kartini Havell (MIN) kartini.havell@parliament.govt.nz
to:    Frank Macskasy
date:    Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 2:43 PM
subject:    FW: NZ on Air
mailed-by    parliament.govt.nz

Dear Mr Macskasy

Thank you for your email of 18 January 2012 to the Minister of Broadcasting.  The Minister will consider the issues you have raised and respond as soon as he is able.

Best regards

Kartini Havell
Private Secretary – Broadcasting
Office of the Hon Craig Foss
Minister of Broadcasting
Private Bag 18041
Parliament Buildings
WELLINGTON 6160
DDI  04 817 9022    Fax  04 817 6518

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Response recieved from Chris Foss, nearly a month later,

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I’m not sure if anyone would buy the Minister’s assertion that “the expectation is that all Board members put their political or other affiliations aside when they participate in Board activities“.

Stephen McElrea most certainly did not ” put [his]  political or other affiliations aside ” when he attempted to interfere in TV3’s programme-scheduling over the child poverty documentary.

 

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Additional

Email address for Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss: craig.foss@parliament.govt.nz

Related Blog post

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Trois

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Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand

18 January 2012 9 comments

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Last year, in March,  is a NZ Herald’s business writer and media commentator,  John Drinnan, raised the issue of possible conflict-of-interest surrounding the appointment of  Stephen McElrea to the Board of NZ on Air,

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Neil Walter, NZ On Air’s  chairperson  denied that there was any conflict of interest,

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Full Story

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Well, there was and there is, most certainly a conflict of interest, as events are now showing.

Stephen McElrea is a prominent figure in the National Party.  He is not just the  regional deputy chairman of the National Party – but is also John Key’s electorate chairperson in the National Party Helensville Electorate branch,

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McElrea is obviously  well connected.

So it is not surprising therefore, that NZ on Air’s Board, which is already heavily stacked with National-friendly businesspeople, has issued an unprecedented condemnation of TV3’s decision to broadcast Bryan Bruce’s document, Inside Child Poverty last year, in the week leading up to the Election.

For those who have not seen Bryan Bruce’s excellent, thought-provoking documentary, it is something worth watching. It is highly critical of New Zealand’s growing poverty which is having far-reaching, dire effects on our country’s children. The documentary looks at Sweden, and how the Swedish society ensures that problems such as poverty-related diseases, hunger, damp housing, etc,are not allowed to affect children.

And it looks at how New Zealand society has arrived at a stage where children go to school hungry, bare-foot, and sick with disease caused by poor housing; poor nutrition; over-crowding…

We used to think of New Zealand as a great place to bring up kids. Not anymore.

Multi-award winning documentary maker Bryan Bruce spent 6 months investigating why the current state of child health in New Zealand is so bad and what we can do about it. This is his controversial report.

What’s gone wrong and how can we fix it?

His journey begins in East Porirua, just 15 Km from Parliament to discover what the Free Market economy has done to the health of children living in lower income families.

Skin infections and respiratory illnesses he discovers are rife. Children living in damp moldy rental houses are suffering the highest rate of Rheumatic Fever in New Zealand.

In search of an answer Bruce travels to Sweden to find out why they are Number 2 in the OECD for child health and we are third from the bottom.

“What I discovered” says Bruce “ is that they work smarter. They know that for every dollar they spend on prevention they save about $4 on cure. They have a completely free health care system for children and they feed every child a free, healthy lunch, everyday. For the Swedes child health is a moral responsibility not a political issue.”” – Source

The documentary does not (if I recall correctly) attack any parfticular political party.

That has not stopped  NZ on Air from  attacking  the timing of TV3’s broadcasting of  “Inside Child Poverty“,  stating,

“”We are barred by legislation from seeking to influence editorial content of the programmes we fund.

“We’re very conscious and very respectful of the freedom of expression provisions of the Bill of Rights, but in this case we felt that we’ve been dropped in it by the decision to put that particular programme on just days out from voting.“” – Source

When someone sez, “we’re very conscious and very respectful of the freedom of expression provisions of the Bill of Rights, but—”  – what they’re actually  saying is that the preceding part of their statement (the bit before the “but” is about to be trashed.

It was fairly obvious that the documentary had political content. It’s also fairly obvious that the issue of child poverty transcends pilitics, and is probably the most important socio-economic crisis facing this country.

Why?

It is the most pressing crisis we face, not because of it’s far reaching consequence (which are many) – but because as a nation we seem spectacularly inept at (a) recognising that the problem exists (b) creating a plan to fix this problem, and (c) doing it.

We’re more pre-occupied with penguins, tax cuts, and victim-blaming.

This is cause for deep concern,

The minutes of the NZ On Air board’s meeting in December says it is now considering adding a clause to the broadcast covenant requiring broadcasters not to screen programmes likely to be an election issue during the election period.” – Source

It is preposterous and arrogance in the extreme that a tax-payer funded, state  organisation is attempting to set  itself up to determine  when it shall be appropriate to broadcast a programme. Especially one that is extremely relevant to our society.

It is even more outrageous that this is apparently a blatant, unconcealed, attempt by a National Party functionary to make this happen.

It is obvious to all but the most staunch National Party apparatchik or supporter, that NZ on Air’s attack on TV3 and Bryan Bruce is politically motivated. The nice, pretty words of  taking  its “political impartiality very seriously and now stands accused of political bias” is bullshit.

No one has accused NZ on Air of any such thing (to my knowledge), and if complaints were laid to the Broadcasting Standards Authority and/or Electoral Commission –  relating to  the timing of the documentary – those were most likely undertaken by National Party supporters. The  Nats have a habit of  deriding and being dismissive of  criticism.

One wonders how NZ on Air reconciles it’s critricism of the timing of the documentary’s broadcast, when current affairs programmes such as “Q+A” and “The Nation” were being screened into the living rooms of our country from Kaitaia to Stewart Island, almost up to Election Day?

Will NZ on Air be reviewing the timing of those programmes as well?

Perhaps we shouldn’t have any documentaries at all – especially if it might be seen as critical of the government-of-the-day? (Not that there are very many docos left on our free-to-air TV anymore… )

Who’s up for another re-run of “FRIENDS“?

The law of the land is crystal clear on the broadcasting and transmission of political matters. Political issues can be discussed in the media, and by political parties, right up until midnight on Friday, on the day before Election Day.

NZ on Air has no mandate to determine when documentaries shall be broadcast. It cannot and should not have a say in TV or radio programming. (At best, this is a matter from the Electoral Commission to assess, not NZ on Air.)

NZ on Air is not the arbiter of the public’s right-to-know.

And NZ on Air is not an arm of the National Party.

When a government attempts to dictate to independent media what they may/may not broadcast, and when, then it is apparent that state interference in our lives has transcended any quaint notions of “nanny statism”. This is pretty darn close to fascism.

At the very least, it is blatant political interference when Stephen McElrea writes, in his capacity as a NZ on Air board member,

“Was NZOA aware that this doco was to be scheduled 4 days before the election? If not, should we have been? To me, it falls into the area of caution we show about political satire near elections.” ” – Source

It is fairly apparent that the entire system of political appointees to various state bodies must be reviewed.  A system of impartial appointees must be looked into – because it appears that National’s influence has gone too far, this time. (Plus, it seems fairly bizarre that a National Party official considers a documentary on child poverty, as “satire“?!)

This is entire disgraceful affair has been a politically-motivated attack on Bryan Bruce, and TV3. It is obviously that Stephen McElrea’s position on NZ on Airs Board is untenable. He has lost all credibility as an impartial member of NZ on Air’s board and any decision from that body is now highly suspect.

As McElrea himself said,

Other than this, the Government should butt out of television broadcasting and leave it to the industry. ” – Source

Stephen McElrea has no other option: he must resign immediatly.

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Additional

Scoop: Tom Frewen – NZ on Air Spooked by Political Interference

Link: Stephen McElrea

Radio NZ: Listen to Radio New Zealand’s political editor on Summer Report

Radio NZ: Listen to Checkpoint interview with Neil Walter

NZ on Air

NZ on Air Board

Facebook: NZ on Air

National Party: Helensville Electorate

NZ Herald: MediaWorks works overtime to woo Henry

Kiwipolitico: Hearing No Evil

Tumeke:  Key’s electorate chairman attempts to censor political docos at NZ on Air

Pundit: NZ on Air gets it back-to-front on political docos

Pundit: Because politics is the LAST thing you need to see at election time!

NZ Herald:  Poverty trap set at birth – study

NZ Herald:  Political round-up: January 18

Related blog story

Unfortunate Outrage

Continued at

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand – Part Deux

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