Home > Media, Social Issues, The Body Politic > Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand

Fear and loathing in the Fascist State of New Zealand



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,



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


Full Story


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,



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.


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.





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



  1. Deborah Kean
    18 January 2012 at 4:48 pm

    It’s incredible to me that the Nats have complained about the doco airing just before the election. They have as good as admitted that the fault for child poverty lies with the National Party! Sadly, the general public either wasn’t that bothered, or they didn’t see National as at fault…. 😦
    An own goal, I think, Mr McElrea…

  2. 18 January 2012 at 7:07 pm

    “An own goal, I think, Mr McElrea…”

    Precisely, Debbie. Had Mr McElrea left well enough alone, Bryan Bruce’s excellentr doco would not be in the public eye once again. in effect, he’s breathed new life into the issue of child poverty.

    And on top of that – public scrutiny is now on Mr McElrea’s position as a Board member for NZ on Air. TWO own goals?! Quite a score…

    It will be interesting to see what responses I get from the emails I’ve sent to Mr Foss and Mr Bell

  3. Tom Sawyer
    19 January 2012 at 12:38 am

    I think it’s safe to say that National is engaging in a bit of media-bashing through it’s proxy NZ ON AIR. Muldoon used to do it more clumsy. Key uses those agents he has stashed in various organisations.

    I’d like to see TV3 re-broadcast the child poverty doco, just to rub National’s nose in it.

    It’s a bloody sad day for this country when this kind of political bs can go on so blatantly and so piblicly. Personally I think the whole bunch on NZ ON AIR should resign. They’re all a bloody disgrace.

  4. 23 January 2012 at 11:19 pm

    Straight to the point: National has taken up from where it left off in the 1990’s – its a fascist state which objects to sharing out too much to the lower deciles of society. When labour is re-elected next time it will have a huge job cleaning up the pus and filth of six years of fascism – but it will do so and must make sure that National is never allowed back into power!

    • 24 January 2012 at 8:52 am

      It certainly appears that National’s agenda seems to be to install it’s own people, to exert influence where ever it can. This is not healthy for a democracy.

      But more worrying is that National is arrogant enough to think it can get away with this kind of infiltration, without being noticed?!

  5. Theodore
    23 January 2012 at 11:47 pm

    Damn straight Peter. i’m seeing a lot of power being used to undo everything Labour has achieved. The union bashing in Auckland is a clear example of whats going on even if people think the Nats are staying clear? Well they aren’t.

    This latest example of MacElrea’s stirring is probably another public instance we’ve had of the Nats taking control. They timed it real well to with the Chreistmas and New Year period when the media is still in holiday mode.

    The Labour party better get it’s shit together and soon. Right about now the Nats are having a clear run and I think its going to get a lot worse. The Occupation people who’ve had their tents seized by the cops were a peaceful movement. The next protest won’t be.

  1. 25 January 2012 at 12:52 pm
  2. 22 May 2012 at 2:59 pm
  3. 23 May 2012 at 5:37 pm

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