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The Christchurch Attack: is the stage is set for a continuing domino of death?

29 March 2019 6 comments

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“New Zealanders hearing so many of the details and seeing Weatherston taking the stand will have been absolutely dumbfounded that this remorseless killer has had a platform for his justifications and excuses televised and thoroughly reported by the media.”

That was from the trial of Clayton Weatherston in 2009, convicted killer of Sophie Elliott. His behaviour in court, televised for all to see, was appalling.

Chief executive of Women’s Refuge (at the time),  Heather Henare, described Weatherston’s self-serving exploitation of his courtroom platform with disgust;

“New Zealanders hearing so many of the details and seeing Weatherston taking the stand will have been absolutely dumbfounded that this remorseless killer has had a platform for his justifications and excuses televised and thoroughly reported by the media.

Everyone must have a fair trial, of course, but I think we need to be asking whether a trial like this actually represents any kind of justice whatsoever.”

Even as the nation looked on at Weatherston’s performance, the fact is that there was only one real person that Weatherston was playing to: himself. He would have had very little, if any, support from his audience.

Two years later, another killer took the ‘stage’ in a Norwegian courtroom. Mass-murderer, terrorist, and far-right fanatic, Anders  Breivik was charged and later convicted of murdering seventyseven innocent people. Breivik made his court appearances with dramatic effect;

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(Note: this blogger will not share images showing the killer’s face. If you’re sufficiently curious, look it up yourself.)

Breivik justified his killing spree with a chilling statement that bears relevance to the Christchurch terror attack on 15 March;

“They were not innocent, non-political children; these were young people who worked to actively uphold multicultural values…”

During his court case, Breivik expounded his far right views. It became his platform to promulgate his ideology and to create an image of “heroic action” amongst the far-right in every nation on Earth, from America to Britain to Greece to Ukraine and elewhere.

One survivor of his terror attack, Viljar Hanssen,  was clear in his condemnation of the Courtroom circus;

“For many of us, the relentless struggle for a good and dignified life continues… while the media incessantly give a podium to the Breivik circus.”

It had an eerie similarity to critics of Weatherstone’s behaviour during his trial.

The difference between Weatherstone and Breivik is that Breivik was playing to a supportive, approving audience throughout the world.

It should not be lost on people that the alleged Christchurch shooter committed his terrorist atrocity having been inspired by Breivik.

Breivik, in turn, disclosed he had been inspired by Oklahoma bomber and far-right terrorist, Timothy McVeigh.

Breivik and McVeigh have becomes heroes amongst the far right, with many openly declaring their admiration of the murderers. Some, llike Christopher Paul Hasson, were fortunately  caught by law enforcement authorities before they could carry out their own terrorist attacks.

Hasson had been inspired by Breivik.

In the far-right “community”, the term “Going Breivik” has obvious, deadly meaning.

There are multiple instances of far right individuals carrying out, or attempting to carry out, their own terror attacks. All have been inspired by other attackers.  It is an ongoing cycle of domino of death.

It is against this back-drop that we now have to consider the alleged Christchurch shooter’s own looming trial. The alleged killer has indicated he will represent himself;

The duty lawyer who represented Tarrant in court on Saturday confirmed to the Herald today that he was no longer acting for him.

Richard Peters said Tarrant appeared to be lucid and was not mentally unstable – other than the extreme views that he held.

Peters said that his job representing Tarrant ceased on Saturday – and that the accused gunman had told him he wanted to represent himself in future.

This raises the spectre of the alleged Christchurch shooter repeating past instances of terrorists turning his trial into a platform to spout his racist, xenophobic views; his motivations; and his ideas of a world-wide war against other ethnic and religious groups.

Any notion that this will not happen is naive.

When the alleged shooter went on his killing spree, it was live-filmed and up-loaded onto social media. Since then Facebook confirmed removing 1.5 million copies of the terror attack. That was two days ago (as at writing this blogpost). The number has probably increased by the time you read this.

The purpose of filming and uploading a video of the attack should be clear to everyone.

For the alleged shooter to be given a Court platform by televising or  radio-broadcasting his comments would compound his desire to spread his toxic extremist views. As Massey University law professor, Chris Gallivan, pointed out;

“We’re going to hear a lot more about this gentleman and probably from this gentleman, and also about his ideology, before this is over.

We have to ensure the victims are protected through that and that it is not a platform to be able to extol his worldview. But if he self-represents – the courts probably will struggle to stop him using this as a platform.

Anders Breivik didn’t recognise the jurisdiction of the court and used every opportunity he possibly could to spout his vitriol and worldview.”

From there, it is a short step to that publicity being widely disseminated amongst the far right, and inspiring the next terrorist attack. Copy-cat attacks are already occurring in Britain;

Detectives are investigating an alleged far-Right terror attack in Surrey after a teenager was stabbed amid a spate of racist incidents across Britain which came in the wake of the New Zealand massacre.

Politicians and police have condemned the attacks and said extremism has no place in British society.

The 19-year-old victim was said to have been attacked by a man armed with a knife and a baseball bat who it is claimed was heard shouting racist comments.

Yet, conducting the trial in secret is also not a solution.

Secrecy breeds suspicion. It would give birth to a host of mind-numbingly tedious conspiracy theories. Salient information about his actions would be lost. It would create dangerous legal precedent.

There has to be a middle-ground. A compromise where the alleged shooter is denied a platform – but where secrecy does not create unintended consequences.

Televising and radio-broadcasting the alleged shooter’s comments is simply not tenable. That would give him the stage to encourage others by his own words.

Just as The Daily Blog denies links to ‘Infowars‘ because the administrator(s) consider Alex Jones a crazed hate-monger who cannot be reasoned with.

Worse still, it re-victimises the survivors and families of the terror attack. The ghoulish spectacle of the alleged shooter on our TV screens or his voice on our radios, would be an unbearable trauma for many people. There is no fairness in such a prospect.

The best compromise is to allow media to attend the trial – without electronically recording and disseminating anything the alleged shooter says. His comments can be paraphrased, if they are salient. Simply repeating his toxic beliefs is unnecessary. Anyone interested in his ideology has a multitude of far right websites to visit: they are not shy in seeking publicity (and recruits).

RNZ chief executive, Paul Thompson,  has  taken a lead by approaching other news media to show restraint how the alleged shooter’s comments should be reported in the media;

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson said the organisation would have “really strong editorial controls” in its court coverage, focusing on the key legal aspects of the case.

“Just because someone’s representing himself, perhaps, and makes a three-hour opening statement, you don’t have to cover every word of it,” he said.

Mr Thompson said he had begun contacting others in the news business to see if they wanted to develop a joint approach.

“It’s no good if some of us exercise that restraint and other outlets don’t,” he said.

This shows responsible restraint.

Furthermore, Court gallery seating should be given priority to the families, friends, and community leaders of his victims. They, above all of us, have a right to see the face of the alleged killer who took so many precious lives.

Recording devices (smart phones, dictaphones, etc) should not be allowed into the Court.

Some may balk at these suggestions. I make no apology for making them.

‘Phase 1’ of the alleged shooter’s plan was to live-stream his terror attack. If the alleged shooter is allowed to use the Court as a platform for his toxic views, we are, in effect, allowing him ‘Phase 2’ of his plan for maximum publicity.

We should deny him that oxygen. Just as we deny ISIS the oxygen of publicity by removing their on-line propaganda videos whenever they are found.

Otherwise, any direct publicity given to him could inspire the next far right terrorist to commit his own atrocity. We would be complicit in that.

New Zealanders never thought this would happen here. But it did.

New Zealanders may think giving the alleged shooter a platform won’t inspire the next killer. It will.

We should think carefully on what we do next.  There will be consequences.

There are always consequences.

 

Postscript

This episode of Radio NZ’s “mediawatch” appeared too late for the blogpost above, but it is pertinent to the issues raised:

Mediawatch – How Christchurch’s assault has made a mark on our media

Mediawatch – Lessons from Norway on covering the quest for justice

 

 

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References

NZ Herald: Weatherston trial a ‘national disgrace’

The Guardian: Anders Behring Breivik claims victims were not innocent

France24: Breivik makes Nazi salute at court appearance

Sydney Morning Herald: Christchurch suspect claimed ‘brief contact’ with Norwegian mass murderer

The Buffalo News: For some alt-right extremists, bomber Timothy McVeigh is a hero

Public Radio International: Oklahoma City bombing inspired Breivik, Norway’s mass murderer

Washington Post: ‘They hate white males’ – A Norwegian mass murderer inspired the Coast Guard officer accused of plotting terror, feds say

New York Times: The Anatomy of White Terror

NZ Herald: Christchurch mosque shootings – Brenton Tarrant to represent himself in court

Mediaworks/Newshub: Christchurch terror attack: Lessons from the Anders Breivik trial

Fairfax/Stuff: Christchurch shootings: Facebook removed 1.5 million videos

The Telegraph: Surrey teenager stabbed in ‘far-Right terror attack’ amid spate of racist incidents after New Zealand massacre

Radio NZ: How media plan to cover the accused Christchurch shooter’s trial

Additional

ADLS: Judges zoom in on courtroom cameras

Other Bloggers

TDB:  On the trial, on the failure of our intelligence agencies & on the blame game

TDB:  Dr Liz Gordon – The narcissist twins and the future of humanity

TDB:  Selwyn Manning – Christchurch Terror Attacks – New Zealand’s Darkest Hour – Friday 15th 2019

Previous related blogposts

A funny thing happened at the Mall

15 March: Aotearoa’s Day Of Infamy

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 March 2019.

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Fairfax media and Kiwiblog revise incorrect story denigrating trans-people

2 February 2019 2 comments

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On 6 January, this blogger reported on a ‘tweet’ and  associated blogpost from right-wing blogger and National Party supporter, David Farrar;

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David Farrar had commented on a story that appeared on Fairfax/Stuff’s website on 18 December 2018, entitled;

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“UK school children to be taught boys can have periods too”

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As this blogger wrote on 6 January;

The Fairfax/Stuff article was based on a report from Brighton & Hove City Council dated 3 December 2018. The BHCC report  outlined how better support could be offered to students in the Council’s area for sanitary products during menstruation. The Council report outlined measures that could be taken to offer support where needed, remove stigma and shame associated with menstruation, and provide better education on the subject.

This was outlined on page 10 of the report.

Also on page 10 was a section headed;

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Key messages for learning about periods

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The tenth bullet-point made this observation;

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The statement reads “Trans boys and men and non-binary people may have periods“.

It should actually read; “Trans boys and Trans men and non-binary people may have periods“. Or even “Trans boys/men and non-binary people may have periods“. (Which reflects their original internal biology, as opposed to the gender they later identify as.)

The BHCC report does not refer to CIS men.

This blogger wrote to Fairfax/Stuff on 5 January, pointing out the article’s gross inaccuracies;

I submit that the headline and story was not factually accurate and severely mis-represented a published report from the United Kingdom. The mis-repesentation was such that it elicited a hostile and angry response from readers.

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Nowhere in the BHCC report does it state that ”all genders can have periods“. This is an incorrect assertion that is not true. The report clearly refers to trans boys, [trans] men, girls, women , and non-binary people.

[…]

The BHCC report does not state anywhere that ”boys can have periods too“. The report clearly states that “trans boys and [trans] men” may have periods.

Trans boys and [trans] men were, at an early stage, biologically female. They subsequently identified as male

Furthermore, I pointed out the intemperate response by readers to the Fairfax/Stuff article;

The lack of factuality to the Stuff story is evidenced by the following Comments Section. Readers have mis-interpreted what the BHCC actually stated based purely on the headlining and the manner in which statements were mis-reported or presented out-of-context. There has been a massive response hostile to the BHCC report based on the Stuff story mis-representing that ” boys can have periods too” and ” all genders can have periods”.

Much of that hostility has been directed at trans-people/LGBTQI, and as such the erroneous nature of the Stuff story may have led to incalculable harm to an already marginalised minority in our community.

Fairfax/Stuff’s Deputy Editor, Keith Lynch, responded three days later. To their credit,  they accepted the poor quality of their “story”;

On reflection, we don’t think this story reached our journalistic standards.
It has been standard for us to refer to trans people as their chosen gender for some time (hence the reference to “boys” rather than “trans boys”).
However in this case, I do take your point and we have updated the story’s intro and headlines and added a clarification to the copy.

True to his word, Keith Lynch revised the story on their website. The heading now read;

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“UK school children to be taught trans boys can have periods too”

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The content was also amended;

New primary school sex education guidelines are being introduced in the United Kingdom to tackle the stigma around menstruation including for trans-gender boys and men. 

Brighton & Hove City Council has released a report advising teachers that “Language and learning about periods is inclusive of all genders, cultures, faiths and sexual orientations” as “trans boys and men and non-binary people may have periods”.

It recommends teachers use language that reflects “all genders, cultures, faiths and sexual orientations” and calls for transgender students to be given extra support from a school nurse if needed.

The Fairfax/Stuff story also linked to the original Brighton & Hove City Council report (above).

The reference to “all genders” was made more specific to learning about menstruation;

New guidelines in the UK suggest lessons on menstruation “must be inclusive of all genders”.

On 24 January, I wrote to David Farrar,  pointing out that his blogpost and ‘tweet’ were based on an inaccurate media story;

Kia ora David,

Re your blogpost on 3 January headed “”UK kids to be taught men can menstruate””, Fairfax/Stuff has revised their original story upon which you based your piece: https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/parenting/109414247/uk-school-children-to-be-taught-boys-can-have-periods-too

The Fairfax/Stuff story was revised after it was pointed out that their story contained major factual errors. Deputy Editor, Keith Lynch, confirmed that the story did not meet their usual journalistic standards.

If you take a few minutes to read the revised version (link above), you will see it differs considerably from the original version you (and I) read.

Will you be amending or deleting your 3 January blogpost (and associated ‘tweet’) which now refers to a media story that no longer exists in it’s original form?

In all fairness, I’m advising you that I’m putting together a follow-up blogpost to this story (after an initial piece I wrote on 6 January), and  any comment you offer may be included.

To David Farrar’s credit, he responded in under 24 hours, confirming that he would amend his blogpost – which he has done so;

UPDATE: The original story has been corrected, and was misleading. They now advise:

This story initially quoted the report as stating”menstruation must be inclusive of all genders”. This was incorrect and the article has been updated. The headlines and intros has also been updated to better reflect the content of the report.

So not that much of a story after all it seems.

Frankly speaking, David Farrar owes this blogger nothing and he would have been within his rights to either ignore me or suggest detailed instructions where I could go. That he opted to make the correction – as did Keith Lynch – is in their favour. Kudos to them both.

All that aside, this experience has highlighted how easily widespread mis-information can end up demonising a marginalised, powerless minority in our community. Subsequently, nearly all comments following David Farrar’s blogpost and the Fairfax/Stuff story, were full of derision. Expressions of intolerance were given ‘permission’ to be voiced. There was more “knee-jerking” from reactionary conservatives than from athletes running a ten thousand metre race.

The problem is that none of the commentators who left comments after the Kiwiblog post and Fairfax/Stuff story would return to read the up-dated version, nor David Farrar’s correction.

Such is how mis-information is spread and misconceptions take form. Several hundred (thousands?) of readers may now be spreading the false notion that British “school children [would] be taught boys can have periods“.  Outrage over “political correctness gone mad” can usually be traced back to such mis-information.

It probably does not help matter that Fairfax has eliminated dozens of sub-editing positions within it’s offices, out-sourcing the role to companies such as Pagemaster. Journalists are also expected to sub-edit their own work prior to publication to on-line publications – a policy that invites errors to slip through.

As Karl du Fresne wrote in June 2017,

The casualties of the job cuts have included subeditors, the now virtually extinct class of senior journalists whose job was to keep errors out of the paper and whose absence is reflected in embarrassing mistakes that, with increasing frequency, provide much glee on social media.

Worse still, far-right groups like the so-called “New Conservative” Party will be only too happy to propagate fake information from various internet sources, whether correct or not..

If this lesson has taught us anything, it is a reminder that we should be very careful with our reporting. Whether highly-read bloggers or mainstream media, we have a duty to get it right the first time.

By the time corrections are made to a badly-written story or blogpost, the damage has been done.

Postscript

This blogger is not immune to “writing from the hip” and making a mistake based on an incorrect msm story:

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Prime Minister commits NZ troops to next US-led conflict zone!

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The problem with the above headline is that it wasn’t true. I had written a blogpost sourced from a msm story that had incorrectly attributed comments to John Key that he had never said.

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References

The Daily Blog: David Farrar – fomenting happy mischief at other people’s expense

Twitter: David Farrar – UK kids to be taught men can menstruate

Kiwiblog: UK kids to be taught men can menstruate

Brighton and Hove City Council: Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities, and Equalities Committee Addendum

Scoop media: Fairfax plans to axe 70 jobs, mainly in Wellington, to outsource subbing to Pagemasters

Stop Press: NZME to take sub-editing in-house, job cuts likely to follow at Pagemasters

Noted: New Zealand papers are in dangerous decline – here’s what’s at stake

Additional

Agender NZ: Transgender Support

Previous related blogposts

Prime Minister commits NZ troops to next US-led conflict zone!

David Farrar – fomenting happy mischief at other people’s expense

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 January 2019.

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David Farrar – fomenting happy mischief at other people’s expense

11 January 2019 1 comment

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A recent ‘tweet’ on social media from right-wing blogger, David Farrar, caught my eye and raised an eye-brow to make a Vulcan proud;

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The ‘tweet’ linked back to a short blogpost on Farrar’s “Kiwiblog“;

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Farrar’s blogpost heading said it all;

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“UK kids to be taught men can menstruate”

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The response from Farrar’s sychophantic fanboi followers was predictably outraged. The “PC gone mad” theme was barked like demented hyenas throughout the commentaries on Farrar’s Twitter post and Kiwiblog.

Unfortunately, only a couple of Farrar’s commentators picked up on one simple fact: the Fairfax/Stuff article – upon which Farrar based his brief blogpost on – was factually incorrect;

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Kudos to those two more-lucid, clear-thinking commentators. (Further on the conversation, the commentator known as Psycho Milt also understood how badly the Fairfax/Stuff story had been written. I stopped checking other comments after Milt’s 3 January  2019 8:24am comment. If anyone else picked up on the bullshit nature of the story, they are in a lofty minority of questioning thinkers.)

The Fairfax/Stuff article was based on a report from Brighton & Hove City Council dated 3 December 2018. The BHCC report  outlined how better support could be offered to students in the Council’s area for sanitary products during menstruation. The Council report outlined measures that could be taken to offer support where needed, remove stigma and shame associated with menstruation, and provide better education on the subject.

This was outlined on page 10 of the report.

Also on page 10 was a section headed;

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Key messages for learning about periods

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The tenth bullet-point made this observation;

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The statement reads “Trans boys and men and non-binary people may have periods“.

It should actually read; “Trans boys and Trans men and non-binary people may have periods“. Or even “Trans boys/men and non-binary people may have periods“. (Which reflects their original internal biology, as opposed to the gender they later identify as.)

The BHCC report does not refer to CIS men.

Which ever way you look at it, the only thing Brighton & Hove City Council are guilty of is a poorly-worded statement. The meaning to anyone who understands biology and transgender issues should be clear enough. The intent of the statement should be obvious to all except the most uninformed.

I do not believe for a moment that David Farrar was too stupid to pick up on the fact that the authors of the Fairfax/Stuff article got it horribly wrong. Yes, “Stuff” stuffed up.

I do, however, believe he wilfully continued to mis-represent the media story, hyping it up with his wildly inflammatory (and wholly inaccurate) blogpost headline.

Even after I pointed out on Twitter that his blogpost was based on a fundamental inaccuracy;

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– both his ‘tweet’ and blogpost remained in-situ, without any correction.

This is lazy and/or dishonest on his part.

One of the roles that bloggers/citizen journalists is to hold the mainstream media to account when they omit facts or are inaccurate in the way facts are presented. In this case, the Fairfax/Stuff reporting was so carelessly written as to make it utterly worthless.

Practically every single comment left on Twitter, Kiwiblog (with three notable exceptions), and the “Stuff” comments-section was hysterically whipped-up and enflammed on the non-existent premise that men could have periods, as ordained by the Brighton Hove City Council. Conservative readers must have been  having coronary attacks at the time!

Farrar did nothing to set the record straight.

Instead he fanned the moral panic/hysteria/ignorance generated by a crappy Fairfax/Stuff story.

It was disappointing. I expected better from someone with his experience in media/blogging.

This is how vulnerable minorities become demonised and de-humanised.

Addendum

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy at gmail dott com>
to: Keith Lynch <keith.lynch@stuff.co.nz>
date: 5 Jan 2019
subject: Complaint

Keith Lynch
Deputy Editor
Stuff.co.nz

Kia ora Mr Lynch,

I am lodging a formal complaint that a story on your website (and in print?) headed “UK school children to be taught boys can have periods too“, published on 18 December 2018.

I submit that the headline and story was not factually accurate and severely mis-represented a published report from the United Kingdom. The mis-repesentation was such that it elicited a hostile and angry response from readers.

Link to story: https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/parenting/109414247/uk-school-children-to-be-taught-boys-can-have-periods-too

The article’s headline stated that ” boys can have periods too“.

The body of the text also stated;

“Primary school children in the United Kingdom will be taught that all genders can have periods under new sex education guidelines that aim to tackle the stigma around menstruation.”

Nowhere in the BHCC report does it state that ” all genders can have periods“. This is an incorrect assertion that is not true. The report clearly refers to trans boys, [trans] men, girls, women , and non-binary people.

The story quoted from the report commissioned by the Brighton & Hove City Council (UK) which correctly said (on page 10);

“trans boys and men and non-binary people may have periods”

The BHCC report does not state anywhere that ” boys can have periods too“. The report clearly states that “trans boys and [trans] men” may have periods.

Trans boys and [trans] men were, at an early stage, biologically female. They subsequently identified as male.

The word “trans” should have preceded the word “men” to clarify the point being made in the BHCC report. However, the term “trans” is clearly used preceding the word “boy”. The intent of that sentence “trans boys and men…” should therefore have been clear to the author of that Stuff story.

A photograph of students in a classroom carried the caption;

New guidelines in the UK suggest lessons on menstruation “must be inclusive of all genders”

The reference to “ lessons on menstruation must be inclusive of all genders” is mis-leading in this context, as ” lessons on menstruation” has been linked to the erroneous premise that ” boys can have periods too”.

The lack of factuality to the Stuff story is evidenced by the following Comments Section. Readers have mis-interpreted what the BHCC actually stated based purely on the headlining and the manner in which statements were mis-reported or presented out-of-context. There has been a massive response hostile to the BHCC report based on the Stuff story mis-representing that ” boys can have periods too” and ” all genders can have periods”.

Much of that hostility has been directed at trans-people/LGBTQI, and as such the erroneous nature of the Stuff story may have led to incalculable harm to an already marginalised minority in our community.

I request that Stuff correct this badly written story and to make any such correction with a high degree of publicity.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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References

Twitter: David Farrar – UK kids to be taught men can menstruate

Kiwiblog: UK kids to be taught men can menstruate

Fairfax media: UK school children to be taught boys can have periods too

Brighton and Hove City Council: Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities, and Equalities Committee Addendum

Previous related blogposts

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study

When the mainstream media go feral

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

David Farrar – Challenging Slater for Sultan of Sleaze?

David Farrar – A Question for you please?

According to David Farrar, John Key must resign!

When Stupid meets Hypocrisy, the result is David Farrar

When Stupid meets Hypocrisy, the result is David Farrar – *Update*

Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land…

The Neverending Story in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

Worse than “fake news” – sloppy news!

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part tahi)

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part rua)

Ali Jones rips right wing blogger a “new one” on Radio NZ’s “The Panel”

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 January 2019.

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Ali Jones rips right wing blogger a “new one” on Radio NZ’s “The Panel”

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Unexpected fireworks erupted on Jim Mora’s ‘The Panel’ on Radio NZ on Tuesday 15 May when PR consultant and  former Christchurch City Councillor, Ali Jones, took on National Party apparatchik, pollster, wannabe Bond-villain, and right-wing blogger, David Farrar.

Farrar began by parroting the current National party propaganda line – at 1.51 – that “despite being nine years in opposition, the government hasn’t actually come in with a lot of detailed policy“.

Ali Jones responded – at 3.15 – taking umbrage at Farrar’s pro-National spin. She replied with a scathing critique of National’s poor track record for the last nine years. It is worth listening to;

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National’s artificially manufactured reputation for “sound/prudent fiscal management” didn’t just take another hit from Ms Jones.  It got a swift, hard kick in the ‘goolies’ by a person unwilling to take any bullshit from one of National’s chief apologists.

Nicely aimed and delivered, Ms Jones.

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References

Radio NZ: Labour accused of doing nothing but setting up committees (alt.link)

P & R Communications

The Press: Ali Jones not seeking second term on Christchurch City Council

Kiwiblog

Previous related blogposts

The Mendacities of Mr English – No, I wasn’t told – Yes, I was told

National’s housing spokesperson Michael Woodhouse – delusional or outright fibber?

The many mendacities of Mr Bridges – a few volts short of an EV

Newsflash: apparently our public hospital system is in crisis?!

National spins new “fake news” narrative: there is no health crisis

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 May 2018.

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Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part rua)

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Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves.” – Eric Hoffer, 1902 – 1983

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Recent Timeline*

4 April: Trump announces he wants all remaining US forces out of Syria “very quickly”. Trump says; “Saudi Arabia is very interested in our decision. And I said, Well, you know, you want us to stay? Maybe you’re going to have to pay”.

8 April: First reports emerge of chemical gas attack in Douma, the last rebel-held town in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta province. Reports are unverified.

8 April: Russian government calls reports of alleged gas attack in Douma “fake news” and describes the story as a “false flag” operation. Russia’s Foreign Ministry states; “The goal of this… baseless speculation is to shield the terrorists and… the radical opposition that refuse to engage in a political settlement [process], as well as to justify potential military strikes from the outside”.

9 April: Trump promises major decision in next twentyfour hours  on alleged gas attack.

10 April: Syria  and  Russia invite Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate allegations of chemical attack in Douma.

10 April:  Chairman of the State Duma’s Defense Committee,  Colonel General Vladimir Shamanov warned the West; “ The double standard policy has overstepped all possible boundaries. At this point, the [pro-Putin parliamentary majority] United Russia party must responsibly state that we are going to take all political and diplomatic measures, and also military measures if such need arises. Not a single unlawful action will be left without response.”

11 April: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says it will support any military strike on Syria in retaliation for the alleged gas attack in Douma; “If our alliance with our partners requires it, we will be present”.

11 April: Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, repeats Colonel General Shamanov’s warning to the US: “If there is a US missile attack, we – in line with both Putin and Russia’s chief of staff’s remarks – will shoot down US rockets and even the sources that launched the missiles.

12 April: French President Emmanuel Macron declared that France has evidence that Syria carried out the gas attack in Douma; “We have proof that last week, now 10 days ago, that chemical weapons were used, at least with chlorine, and that they were used by the regime of (President) Bashar al-Assad. Our teams have been working on this all week and we will need to take decisions in due course, when we judge it most useful and effective.”

Two days later, hours after the US-led attack on Syria, France releases statement on evidence of alleged gas attack: “After examining the videos and images of victims published online, (French intelligence services) were able to conclude with a high degree of confidence that the vast majority are recent and not fabricated.

12 April: OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) fact-finding team lands in Syria to investigate alleged gas attack in Douma. Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, said; “We will facilitate the arrival of the team to anywhere they want, in Douma, to check whether or not there was use of chemical substances”.

14 April: Trump announces US-led attack on Syria, launching 105 missiles at targets in that country. Trump  states: “So today, the nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality”.

14 April: President Putin of Russia states categorically: “Just as one year ago, when the Shayrat Airbase in Syria came under attack, the US used as a pretext a staged chemical attack against civilians, this time in Douma, a Damascus suburb. Having visited the site of the would-be chemical attack, Russian military experts did not find any traces of chlorine or any other toxic agent. Not a single local resident was able to confirm that a chemical attack had actually taken place.”

15 April: Trump declares: “Mission accomplished!”

15 April: Russia loses vote in UN Security Country to condemn US-led military strike. Russian UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia said: “Today is a very sad day for the world, the UN, its charter, which was blatantly, blatantly violated.”

15 April: US Ambassador to UN, Nikki Haley, tells Fox News Sunday that US troops will remain in Syria: “Yes, it is all of our goal to see American troops come home. But we’re not going to leave until we know we’ve accomplished those things. ”

.

* International time-zones not taken into account: above dates are approximate.

.

Local media reporting…

The response of our local media to report Saturday’s missile strike has been largely superficial and followed the Western narrative;

(a) the gas attack happened

(b) Syrian government forces were responsible

…From NZ Herald

Most, if not all stories published on the Herald’s website originate from Associated Press.

One of the first reports, dated 8 April, was headed “Syrian regime accused of killing civilians in chemical attack“. The first two paragraphs gave equal space to claim/counter-claim;

A Syrian rebel group has accused government forces of dropping a barrel bomb containing poisonous chemicals on civilians in Eastern Ghouta, and a medical relief organisation said 35 people had been killed in chemical attacks on the area.

Syrian state media denied government forces had launched any chemical attack as soon as the reports began circulating and said rebels in the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma were in a state of collapse and spreading false news.

The third paragraph referred to “an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma“.

While an un-named “medical relief organisation said 35 people had been killed in chemical attacks on the area” – curiously the UK-based anti-Assad organisation, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, appeared more non-committal;

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 11 people had died in Douma as a result of suffocation caused by the smoke from conventional weapons being dropped by the government. It said a total of 70 people suffered breathing difficulties.

Interestingly, this early statement ties in with an investigation and interviewing of eye-witnesses,  by Middle East correspondent, Robert fisk, who reported nine days later;

War stories, however, have a habit of growing darker. For the same 58-year old senior Syrian doctor then adds something profoundly uncomfortable: the patients, he says, were overcome not by gas but by oxygen starvation in the rubbish-filled tunnels and basements in which they lived, on a night of wind and heavy shelling that stirred up a dust storm.

Could it be that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights inadvertently told the truth before a new version was framed, blaming the incident on so-called “poison gas”, instead of a lack of air and heavy dust?

The Herald/AP story admits as such;

Rami Abdulrahman, the Observatory director, said he could not confirm if chemical weapons had been used.

In the same article, the so-called Medical relief organisation, Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), put  the blame on an alleged “chlorine bomb”. They stated it  “hit Douma hospital, killing six people, and a second attack with “mixed agents” including nerve agents had hit a nearby building“.

The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)  is a US-based organisation and according to the Russian government-aligned website, RT News, is funded through a United States government department. RT News is scathing of SAMS;

SAMS is not merely a group of Syrian doctors tending to the wounded in war torn areas, nor can it be considered a objective source on chemical attacks and other atrocities. The organization is a USAID-funded lobbying powerhouse that functions with a single-minded determination to stimulate a US-led war of regime change that will place Syrian Islamists in power in Damascus.

It is unclear at this stage how SAMS knew within a day that Douma had been hit by an alleged “chlorine bomb”.

The 8 April Herald/AP  story continued with reporting of the battle for rebel-held Douma, and that Syrian government forces were advancing on the town. There was no further mentioned of a so-called chemical weapon being used.

The following day, the Herald ran another AP story. This time, there was no reference to the term ‘alleged’. Instead, ‘suspected’ entered the framing of the narrative, being used three times.

One statement referred to “a suspected poison gas attack” – whilst stating definitively that “at least 40 people were killed“;

The missile attack followed a suspected poison gas attack Saturday on the last remaining foothold for the Syrian opposition in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. At least 40 people were killed, including families found in their homes and shelters, opposition activists and local rescuers said.

The story  related allegations of a “chlorine attack” from both well-known anti-Assad organisations, SAMS and the White Helmets;

They did not identify the substance used, but the civil defense organization, also known as the White Helmets, and the Syrian American Medical Society, a medical relief organization, said survivors treated at clinics smelled strongly of chlorine.

To it’s credit, a disclaimer immediatly followed;

Those reports could not be independently verified because of a government blockade around the town.

The three authors of this AP  story appeared very keen to impress upon readers that allegations of a “gas  attack” had not been independently verified. This despite that Trump was already ‘tweeting’  of a “mindless chemical attack” before any evidence had been gathered or facts verified. (Who needs facts or evidence when you’re the President of the United States?)

Unfortunately, despite the not-independently-verified disclaimer, parts of the Herald/AP story neglected to insert the all-important term, ‘alleged’;

First responders entering apartments in Douma late Saturday said they found bodies collapsed on floors, some foaming at the mouth.

By omitting the term ‘alleged’, the above phrase takes on a factual status that is not deserved. There was simply no independent corroboration of any bodies “ collapsed on floors“, nor that “some [were]  foaming at the mouth“. What is the point of a not-independently-verified disclaimer if  unsubstantiated claims are presented as facts?

Again it is worthwhile noting that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights refused to apportion blame on alleged chemical weapons;

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights issued a higher death toll, saying at least 80 people were killed in Douma, including around 40 who died from suffocation. But it said the suffocations were the result of shelters collapsing on people inside them.

With the heavy bombardment on Douma, the above statement makes far more sense as to a cause of fatalities. It also ties in with Robert Fisk’s findings.

By contrast, a Herald/AP story on 11 April yielded fourteen uses of ‘suspected’; five of ‘apparent’; four of ‘alleged’, and three of ‘allegations’;

The U.N. Security Council has rejected a Russian resolution that would have welcomed an investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons into a suspected poison gas attack in the suburbs of Syria’s capital.

[…]

The international chemical weapons watchdog says it will send a fact finding mission to the Syrian town where an alleged chemical weapons attack occurred over the weekend.

The OPCW mission to Syria was referred to early-on in the story;

British Ambassador Karen Pierce said the U.K. opposed the resolution because an OPCW investigative team is already headed to Syria and the Russian text did not include a new body to determine accountability for chemical weapons attacks.

Occassionally, though, an assertion was presented as factual, omitting the use of ‘alleged’ to maintain the unverified aspects to these events;

Syrian opposition activists say 40 people [allegedly*] died in Saturday night’s poison gas attack in the town of Douma, the last remaining rebel bastion near Damascus.

[…]

Syrian opposition activists say 40 people [allegedly*] died in Saturday night’s [unverified*] poison gas attack in the town of Douma, the last remaining rebel bastion near Damascus.

[…]

Syrian opposition activists say 40 people [allegedly*] died in Saturday night’s chemical attack in the town of Douma, the last remaining rebel bastion near Damascus. The opposition blamed President Bashar Assad’s forces for the [alleged*] attack, accusations the government strongly denies.

[* – inserted by Author]

Another story on 11 April occasionally referred to an ‘alleged’ attack;

The Syrian air base was struck by missiles a little more than 24 hours after the alleged chemical attack. Israel does not typically comment on its operations in Syria, and it is unclear whether the missile attack was linked to the alleged use of chemical weapons

As was ‘suspected’ attack;

The international chemical weapons watchdog said Tuesday it was sending a fact-finding mission to the Syrian town where a suspected chemical gas attack took place over the weekend, following a request from the Syrian government and its Russian backers that appeared to be aimed at averting punitive Western military action.

Russia’s doubts that an alleged chemical attack even took place at all was canvassed, as was the OPCW mission to Syria.

However, statements by rebel groups were still reported as facts;

Syrian opposition activists and paramedics said more than 40 people were killed in last weekend’s suspected chemical attack and blamed the government.

Nowhere was it stated explicitly that reports of any deaths were unverified.

Such an omission might lead a reader to unconscious bias, accepting the alleged chemical attack as a proven event because of the claim – still unverified – that people had died.

A 13 April Herald/AP story reported that Syrian government forces had retaken Douma from rebels. The so-called “gas attack” was described as ‘alleged’ seven times.

With the defeat of the rebels in Douma,  no one had been reported as asking two basic questions;

1. What did the Syrian government hope to gain by allegedly using chemical weapons to retake Douma – when it was already close to victory anyway?

2. Why was the alleged  gas attack carried out against civilians, rather than rebel fighters? If the alleged gas attack was indeed orchestrated by the Syrian regime, it would have made more strategic sense to target armed enemy combatants rather than unarmed civilians.

A subsequent NZ Herald/AP story on 13 April carried the claim that the French government had “proof that the Syrian government launched chlorine gas attacks”. The story did not mention what that “proof” was, or how it had been obtained. The OPCW mission to Syria had not yet reached Douma to carry out their investigation.

The article did not use ‘alleged’, and ‘allegations’ was used only in conjunction with the Syrian government denying culpability for any so-called “attack”. In fact, the story abandoned any consideration that the alleged attack was still to be verified;

He [President Emmanuel Macron] previously said any French action would target Syria’s chemical weapons abilities.

Note: not, “Syria’s *alleged* chemical weapons abilities“.

The US-led strike on Syria was only a day away.  Media stories now seemed to lean further toward the alleged gas attack as factually proven, rather than still-to-be-verified.

Macron’s so-called “evidence” was revealed the following day, in a story run by Reuters;

The French services analyzed the testimonies, photos and videos that spontaneously appeared on specialized websites, in the press and on social media in the hours and days following the attack.

Testimonies obtained by the French services were also analyzed. After examining the videos and images of victims published online, they were able to conclude with a high degree of confidence that the vast majority are recent and not fabricated. The spontaneous circulation of these images across all social networks confirms that they were not video montages or recycled images. Lastly, some of the entities that published this information are generally considered reliable.

In other words, Macron – and later Prime Minister Ardern – based their “evidence” on unverified video footage and photographs supplied by rebel groups in Douma.

Macron’s “evidence” brings back memories of  strident insistence by the US in 2003 that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Those claims were eventually proven false.

All, of which was pointed out in a subsequent Herald/AP story on 15 April;

The West’s assessments of what happened April 7 in Douma rely mainly on open source information. That includes witness testimony, as well as video and photos shot by aid workers, victims of the attacks and unspecified additional intelligence about barrel bombs and chlorine canisters found in the aftermath.

The same story pointed out to Herald readers;

The three countries launched their missiles even as the fact-finding team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was in the Syrian capital and had been expected to head on Saturday to Douma.

Though these valid points were utterly lost amidst unsubstantiated allegations by the US and it’s clients in Syria;

The White House said doctors and aid organizations on the ground in Douma reported “the strong smell of chlorine and described symptoms consistent with exposure to sarin.” A senior administration official told reporters Saturday that while there was more publicly available evidence pointing to the use of chlorine, the U.S. has “significant information that also points to sarin use.”

It would be a very astute, politically aware, member of the public to “read between the lines” and arrive at any other conclusion that – on the balance of probabilities”, and not “beyond reasonable doubt” – that the West had reliable evidence to point to Assad’s forces being the culprits in the alleged gas attack on Douma.

Indeed, this very fact was highlighted when an acquaintance of this blogger referred to “Assad being responsible for the [so-called] gassing of his own people”. Upon closer questioning, my acquaintance was unaware that;

A. There was no evidence who carried out the alleged attack,

B. That it may not even have occurred at all,

C. And that an OPCW team was presently in Syria awaiting an opportunity to enter Douma to conduct their investigation.

It is against a back-drop of media stories that fail to reinforce that the so-called “gas attack” has not been verified, nor has the OPCW not carried out their investigation – yet statements by Western governments and Syrian rebels are reported as “facts – that a subtle narrative has taken hold in the public’s collective consciousness.

The fact that Robert Fisk’s own investigation has cast serious doubt on supposed events in Douma on 7 April has barely been reported. Only two  references to Fisk’s reporting (according to a Google search) can be found in New Zealand’s mainstream media;

Mediaworks “Newshub” reported on 19 April;

Syrians living at the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack say it never happened, according to a new report.

British journalist Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, says when he visited the site in Douma his questions about the attack were met with “genuine perplexity”.

The attack was used as a pretext for last weekend’s air strikes against the Russia-backed Assad regime.

“Oddly, after chatting to more than 20 people, I couldn’t find one who showed the slightest interest in Douma’s role in bringing about the Western air attacks,” Mr Fisk wrote.

“Two actually told me they didn’t know about the connection.”

The video of civilians suffering from the effects of chemical weapons – believed to be chlorine and sarin – is undoubtedly real, but a local doctor told Mr Fisk they were suffering from hypoxia – oxygen loss – and dust inhalation.

“On this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived,” said Assim Rahaibani. “People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss.”

The confusion began when someone shouted “gas!” and panic broke out.

“People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”

And on 22 April, Mark Dawson, editor of the Whanganui Chronicle, wrote a suprisingly radical (for the msm) critique of US military involvement in other nations’ affairs;

[Prime Minister Ardern]… has taken some criticism for her less-than-enthuiastic take on bagging Russia, rallying behind the United States and cheering on Donald Trump’s missile strikes on Syria.

It has been pointed out, with underscores, that she “accepts” rather than “supports” the US bombing of Syria, and that puts her out of step with other leaders gathered in London this week. Oh dear, a national leader who doesn’t relish killing people … how terribly squeamish.

But hang on …

On Thursday, Robert Fisk of the Independent reported from Douma, the city where the Syrian chemical attacks that prompted the US retaliation are said to have occurred.

Fisk travelled the pummelled city freely — most of the fighters and government minders from Bashar al-Assad’s regime have got out. His report casts serious doubt on whether there actually was a chemical attack.

Fisk has lived in and reported from the Middle East for 40 years; he is fluent in the languages and has never been tainted by suggestions of political partiality or propaganda. In short, he is the genuine article — a journalist.

The United States has said al-Assad used chemical weapons in Douma, and maybe that is correct.

But it should be remembered that for more than 50 years US foreign affairs have featured two constants — putting its troops in other people’s countries and lying.

Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Grenada, Afghanistan, Iraq … all have been marked by a consistent policy of lying to the American people and the world.

So perhaps Ms Ardern has good reason to be cautious.

…From TV1 News

The first reference from TVNZ’s “One News” was on 8 April, with war reporting centered around the Syrian government’s ongoing battle to retake Douma, in Eastern Ghouta, from the rebel group known as “Jaysh al-Islam – The Army of Islam Syria“. Jaysh al-Islam is funded by the Saudi Arabian government and fought against ISIS.

A brief one-sentence referred passingly to the so-called gas-attack in Douma;

CNN and other outlets are reporting a possible chemical attack against civilians has taken place.

The word ‘alleged’ is not used anywhere in the story.

On 9 April, a news story on the TVNZ website is unambiguous in determining that the so-called ‘attack’ took place. The headline left no room for doubt;

.

.

The source of the story is Associated Press, but no other indication where it originated from.

The text of the story, though, is somewhat more circumspect than the guilty-judgement of the headlines;

The report comes after a suspected poison gas attack killed at least 40 in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, the last foothold for the Syrian opposition in the area.

President Donald Trump has promised a “big price to pay” for the suspected chemical attack.

And for some strange reason, TVNZ placed an image of a launching rocket at the bottom of the ‘story’.

.

.

Though what that image has to do with Douma is unclear, as rebels have claim that the alleged gas attack was dropped by Syrian Government helicopters – not by missile(s).

The terms ‘alleged’ and ‘unverified’ are not used in the above ‘story’.

Two days later, TVNZ  ran another story – and again the headline was unequivocal:

 

Trump promises ‘forceful’ action after chemical attack on civilians in Syria

 

There was no mention of ‘alleged’, ‘suspected’, or ‘unverified’: the headline stated the so-called gassing as fact.

But again, the text of the story made belated attempts to appear impartial;

“…apparent chemical weapons attack…”

The term ‘alleged’ finally made an appearance;

“…the weapon of choice in a US attack one year ago on an airfield in Syria following an alleged sarin gas attack on civilians….”

Curiously, the author of the story touched on one peculiarity in this so-called “attack” that – until Robert Fisk’s investigation – had not been noticed;

The White House sharply rejected any suggestion that Trump’s own words about pulling US troops out of Syria had opened the door for the attack, which killed more than 40 people, including children.

There was no follow-up on this point. The un-named author does not elaborate on the suggestion that “Trump’s own words about pulling US troops out of Syria had opened the door for the attack“.

In what way had “Trump’s own words about pulling US troops out of Syria had opened the door for the attack“?

There is no explanation. No follow-up. In one passing sentence, the writer may have missed a critical possible motive for the alleged gas attack. As the time-line above shows, eleven days after Trump announced that the US will withdraw its forces from Syria – the American ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, stated unequivocally, “… We’re not going to leave until we know we’ve accomplished those things.”

On 14 April, the term ‘alleged’ is used for the first time (?) in a TVNZ headline;

 

Russia says alleged chemical attack in Syria staged by UK

 

The story used terms;

“…victims of the purported attack were staged…”

“…the suspected chemical attack…”

“…threatened military action in response to the alleged attack…”

“…She said of the alleged chemical attack…”

“…the suspected gas attack in Douma…”

“…the suspected April 7 attack…”

“…previous alleged use of chemicals by the rebels…”

The nature of the impartiality of the terminology may have been prompted by the re-taking of Douma by Syrian government forces, and serious doubts being raised regarding the veracity of the so-called “gas attack”. Or, the author of this particular write-up may have been more conscious of the fact that the so-called “gas attacks” were, as yet, unverified.

However, sadly the non-judgemental terminology was undone with a claim that was yet to be supported by independent investigators;

“… and killed more than 40 people in Douma…”

The phrase should have read “… and *allegedly* killed more than 40 people in Douma…”, to keep it consistent with the unverified nature of this story.

The story reported that OPCW was sending a team to investigate the situation in Douma. It also featured strong counter-claims from Syria’s Russian ally.

The following day, another headline presented the so-called attack as a fact, omitting any reference to ‘suspected’ or ‘alleged’;

 

Russian Defence Ministry claims chemical attack in Syria was a ‘planned provocation’ by UK

 

– though the opening statement indicated otherwise;

The Russian Ministry of Defence on Friday (local time) said it has enough evidence showing that a planned provocation was carried out in the case of alleged chemical attack in Syrian town of Douma on April 7.

The headline and the body of the text are contradictory.

Another story on 15 April raised concerns about the actual claims of chemical weapon usage by the Syrian army. The story quoted a Syrian official who asked an obvious question after a so-called “chemical weapons manufacturing facility” was destroyed by American missiles;

 “If there were chemical weapons in the building, we would not be here. My colleagues and I came here at 05:00 this morning. If there were chemical weapons, we would need to wear masks and take other protective measures to be staying here.”

It would be interesting if there were a follow-up to this story to determine if – after the buildings were destroyed by missiles –  the surrounding area had been contaminated by toxic chemical fall-out.

The story headed;

 

Syrian research facility hit by US strikes didn’t have chemical weapons, says official

 

– did not pre-judge the veracity of the rebel’s gas attack claims.

A further story on 15 April again reverted to predetermined judgement, with the opening paragraph suggesting that the unverified was now verified;

President Donald Trump on Saturday declared “Mission Accomplished” for a US-led allied missile attack on Syria’s chemical weapons programme, but the Pentagon said the pummeling of three chemical-related facilities left enough others intact to enable the Assad government to use banned weapons against civilians if it chooses.

A paragraph near the end of the story also accepted “as fact” that chemical weapons facilities were targeted;

The strikes “successfully hit every target,” White told reporters at the Pentagon. The military said there were three targets: the Barzah chemical weapons research and development site in the Damascus area, a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs and a chemical weapons “bunker” a few miles from the second target.

With few exceptions, most other headlines also presented the so-called gas attack as factually proven, without the all-important caveats of ‘alleged’, ‘suspected’, etc;

.

.

Despite being a state-owned broadcaster, TVNZ – like its privately-owned cousins – has used language that pre-determined (a) the veracity of the alleged “gas attack and (b) those culpable. Attempts to use neutral, non-judgemental terms have been sporadic and mostly within the text of the stories.

The headlines cannot be viewed in any other way than casting blame on the Syrian government as being the ‘authors’ of the so-called gassing of Douma.

None of which has yet to be verified by the OPCW acting on behalf of the U.N.

…From TV3 News

On 8 April , TV3 News reported the so-called “gas attack” with headlines that left zero room for doubt;

.

 

.

The  alleged “gas attack” was reported without question;

Dozens have been killed in a chemical attack in Syria after a barrel bomb dropped poisonous chemicals on civilians in eastern Ghouta

A medical relief organisation has estimated 35 people have died as a result of the attack, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has confirmed 11 deaths.

A Syrian rebel group is accusing government forces of launching the attack. State media has denied this claim.

More than 70 people suffered breathing difficulties due to the attack, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

According to the Syrian American Medical Society, a chlorine bomb targeted Douma hospital and a second bomb with “mixed agents”, including nerve agents, was dropped on a nearby building.

The most basic journalistic tenet was ignored: question everything. The story could have been written by hired propagandists writing for any government. It was not news – it was a copy-and-pasted press release.

The following day, a subsequent headline read;

 

Syrian gas attack death toll tops 70

 

Though the term “a suspected chemical attack” was used and Russian statements denouncing the claim as bogus were published, the headline carries the weight of pre-judged pseudo-authenticity. The headline conveyed the firm message: the “gas attack” happened; people died; an atrocity was committed. The subtext is that the culprit was the Syrian government (or its allies).

After all, why would the rebels gas their own? That would be like questioning whether the “gas attack” occurred at all.

A further headline on 9 April also repeated the certainty of Assad’s guilt;

 

Retaliation on Syrian military base after chemical attack

 

As the West launched its missile strike on Syrian targets, a 14 April Newshub headline read;

 

US, UK and France launch strikes on Syria following suspected chemical weapons attack

 

The opening statement referred to a “suspected chemical attack” – not ‘alleged’;

The United States, France and the UK have launched military strikes in Syria to punish dictator Bashar al-Assad for his suspected chemical attack against civilians and to deter him from doing it again, President Donald Trump has announced.

– and then declared that the Western attack was launched to “punish dictator Bashar al-Assad for his suspected chemical attack against civilians and to deter him from doing it again“.

Doing it again“? Is the world completely convinced Assad did it the first time on 7 April?

The same Mediaworks/Newshub story then made an even more astounding (and unsupported) claim;

The one-off missile strike in April 2017 targeted the airfield from which the Syrian aircraft had launched their gas attack. But the damage was limited, and a defiant Mr Assad returned to episodic use of chlorine and perhaps other chemicals.

There was no corroborating evidence to back up the assertion that “a defiant Mr Assad returned to episodic use of chlorine and perhaps other chemicals“. It was an assertion based purely on Western government’s press releases.

On 15 April, another story perpetuated the slanted, partisan nature of the “gas attack” claims;

 

First images emerge of latest bombing in Syria

 

The US military says the joint air strikes by the US, UK and France have set back Syria’s chemical weapons capability “for years”.

The story reported;

The target, a chemical research centre outside Damascus, was on the receiving end of 76 of 105 cruise missiles fired at Syria on Saturday.

– without a shred of evidence that the destroyed buildings housed “a chemical research centre“. For all we know those buildings may have been producing pharmaceuticals, as one Syrian official stated. Or buzzy-bees, for Syrian children. There is zero evidence either way.

Another story on the same day reported a statement made by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, parroting the non-fact that the destroyed buildings housed chemical weapons facilities;

Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday New Zealand “accepts why” the strikes, which targeted Syrian chemical weapons facilities, took place.

“The action was intended to prevent further such atrocities being committed against Syrian civilians.

“We stand firm in our condemnation of the use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta. This is clearly in breach of international law.”

Not even the lesser term ‘suspected’ was used.

Unfortunately, the Green’s condemnation of the US-led bombing failed to mention anywhere that the alleged “gas attacks” had yet to be verified by the OPCW. Their statement in Spinoff on 14 April accepted the so-called “gas attack” in Douma as factual.

It was not until 17 April – ten days after the alleged “gas attack” – that Newshub revealed in depth that the OPCW had not even visited Douma to investigate the alleged attack;

 

International inspectors push to see Syria gas site

 

At no point does Mediaworks/Newshub recognise the contradiction of apportioning blame to Assad before the OPCW had had a chance to investigate.

Which does not prevent the same article from asserting;

The United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles targeting what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for the suspected poison gas attack in Douma.

Note the phraseology: “Three chemical weapons facilities in Syria” – not “three *alleged* chemical weapons facilities in Syria“.

On 16 April, Mediaworks/Newshub’s Anna Bracewell-Worrell published a story that explicitly stated;

On April 7, civilians in Syria were attacked with chemical weapons.

The images that came out of the attack were horrifying – civilians convulsing and struggling for breath, children ash-faced and terrified. At least 42 people were killed.

[…]

It is the second time Mr Trump has ordered retaliation after the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

Claims by Russia and the Syrian government that the so-called “gas attack” was fake was casually dismissed;

Russian officials have even suggested the attack was staged.

Yet, further down in the same story, the author referred to;

Mr Trump said that attack was also a direct punishment for Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

It was a rare moment for Mediaworks/Newshub to employ the term ‘alleged’. At some point, the author may have realised that allegations of a “gas bombing” had yet to be proven. Thus far the story appeared to be firmly in the realm of war propaganda.

Unfortunately, a subsequent comment by the author returned to the Official Western Narrative;

Following the missile attack on chemical weapons…

Then came the explosive (no pun intended) on-the-scene report by veteran Middle East Correspondent, Robert Fisk, that locals in Douma had no knowledge of a “gas attack” in their city;

“Oddly, after chatting to more than 20 people, I couldn’t find one who showed the slightest interest in Douma’s role in bringing about the Western air attacks.”

One would find it inconceivable that the smell of chlorine would go unnoticed by citizens in a sizeable city such as Douma.

Mediaworks/Newshub – to its credit – ran a story on Fisk’s investigation on 19 April;

 

Syria gas attack didn’t happen – local doctor

 

As far as this blogger can determine, Mediaworks/Newshub was only one of two media outlets that reported on Fisk’s findings in any meaningful way. The other was Mark Dawson, writing an editorial for the  Whanganui Chronicle.

All of which makes Tova O’Brien, Newshub’s Political Editor, “opinion” piece on 17 April another example of Western media “pundits” banging the war-drum of hysteria;

 

Tova O’Brien: PM’s position firmly on the fence isn’t good enough

 

No stranger to flawed “news” reporting, Ms O’Brien abandoned any pretext of journalistic impartiality and the search for truth when she tried and convicted the Syrian government as the culprit behind the alleged “gas attack” on Douma;

These are just a few of New Zealand’s close friends who got in behind the United States, United Kingdom and France when they launched airstrikes against the murderous Syrian regime and its chemical weapons sites…

Ms O’Brien didn’t doubt for a moment that the alleged “gas attack” occurred, and that there were (allegedly) victims;

The attacks came after yet another gas attack that killed 75 people, including children.

[…]

US airstrikes in Syria last year in response to a chemical weapons attack clearly didn’t deter further similar attacks by the Syrian regime.

[…]

But meanwhile the Syrian war wages on. Children keep dying, being gassed, poisoned by nerve agents – eyes weeping, noses and mouths streaming and frothing. They’re vomiting, and if the exposure is great enough they’re lucky if they die fast.

Ms O’brien blamed “an impotent UNSC that has diplomatically done sweet FA when it comes to the Syrian War” and demanded, “should innocent Syrians and their children suffer because the UN is inherently flawed?

Nowhere does she mention that not only is the alleged “gas attack” unverified – but that the OPCW has despatched an investigatory team to search for evidence.

Evidence.

The stuff we usually require before confirming a crime took place and assigning guilt to the culprit.

Even as Ms O’Brien towed the Pentagon-line that the dastardly Bashar al-Assad was guilty of a chemical weapon atrocity,  her employer went from this;

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… to this;

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Luckily for us there are real journalists operating who ask the hard questions and risk their well-being to bring us the truth. It is far harder than Ms O’Brien and her desk-bound colleagues who operate well away from “theatres of conflict” and instead rely on propaganda from governmental media “advisories” (ie; propaganda).

Unfortunately, when the truth is eventually teased out and presented to the world (as when the mythical “weapons of mass destruction” were shown to be a Western governmental fabrication), it is rarely presented with the same mass-coverage as the original “fake news”.

In this case, Robert Fisk went to Douma and discovered that the so-called “gas attack” lacked credibility with the locals. In other words, he revealed that it was fake news.

The question we – especially so-called professionals in the mainstream media – should be asking is: did the public notice?

…Conclusion

What makes governmental war pronouncements sound so credible is not from whence they emanate – but that they are given a veneer of factualness by constant, non-critical repetition by the mainstream media.

Our media is tasked with running a critical gaze over government-supplied information. Alleged “events” are supposed to be tested  and “facts”  fact-checked.

Instead, when it comes to war, in many instances they have become a compliant mouthpiece for State propaganda far more effective than anything Josef Goebbels could have envisioned in his widest dreams.

No wonder George Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” was never built. Instead it was outsourced to private enterprise. They apparently do it so much better.

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References

NZ Herald:  Syrian regime accused of killing civilians in chemical attack

The Independent:  The search for truth in the rubble of Douma – and one doctor’s doubts over the chemical attack

RT News:  Al-Qaeda’s MASH unit – How SAMS is selling regime change & driving US to war

NZ Herald: Syrian news reports missile attack – US denies it fired them

Twitter: Trump – 9 April 2018

NZ Herald:  The Latest – UN nixes Russian text on Syria gas attack probe

NZ Herald:  Chemical weapons experts to inspect attack site in Syria

NZ Herald:  The Latest – UN Security Council schedules meeting on Syria

NZ Herald:  France mulls military action against Syria for gas attacks

Reuters:  French declassified intelligence report on Syria gas attacks

TVNZ News:  Prime Minister reaffirms that she ‘accepts the decision’ to bomb Syria – but would have preferred going through the UN

NZ Herald:  Certain of gas attack, allies struck Syria before UN report

Mediaworks:  Syria gas attack didn’t happen – local doctor

Whanganui Chronicle:  Please be careful what you ‘accept’, Jacinda

TV1 News:  Suspected Syrian gas attack reportedly kills 70 Douma

Wikipedia:  Jaysh al-Islam

Daily Mail:  The Army of Islam: Militant group battling ISIS and the Syrian regime show their might in ‘graduation ceremony’ featuring 1,700 soldiers and a fleet of armoured tanks

TV1 News: Strikes hit Syrian airfield one day after chemical attacks on civilians, – reports, US denies responsibility

The Independent:  Syrian government accused of using nerve agents as death toll from Douma ‘chemical weapons attack’ rises

TV1 News:  Trump promises ‘forceful’ action after chemical attack on civilians in Syria

TV1 News:  Russia says alleged chemical attack in Syria staged by UK

TV1 News:  Russian Defence Ministry claims chemical attack in Syria was a ‘planned provocation’ by UK

TV1 News:  Syrian research facility hit by US strikes didn’t have chemical weapons, says official

TV1 News:  ‘A perfectly executed strike’ – Trump declares ‘Mission accomplished!’ after US-led missile attack on Syria

TV1 News:  France says decision to launch strike on Syrian chemical weapons based on trusted information

TV1 News:  US vows to hit Russia with fresh sanctions in wake of Syrian chemical attack

TV1 News:  Syrian Minister meets with international chemical weapons watchdog over deadly chemical weapons attack

TV1 News:  Shots fired at UN security team visiting site of suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria

Mediaworks/Newshub: Dozens killed in Syria chemical attack

Mediaworks/Newshub: Syria gas attack didn’t happen – local doctor

Mediaworks/Newshub: Syrian gas attack death toll tops 70

Mediaworks/Newshub: Retaliation on Syrian military base after chemical attack

Mediaworks/Newshub: US, UK and France launch strikes on Syria following suspected chemical weapons attack

Mediaworks/Newshub:  First images emerge of latest bombing in Syria

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Greens condemn ‘Trump-led’ strike on Syria

Spinoff:  Bombing Syria will never bring peace. NZ must stand up against ad hoc violence

Mediaworks/Newshub:  International inspectors push to see Syria gas site

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Strikes on Syria – How we got to the edge of ‘World War III’

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Syria gas attack didn’t happen – local doctor

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Tova O’Brien – PM’s position firmly on the fence isn’t good enough

Additional

The Times: Critics leap on reporter Robert Fisk’s failure to find signs of gas attack

Previous related blogposts

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election

Trump escalates, Putin congratulates

Trumpwatch: The Drum(pf)s of War

Trumpwatch: One minute closer to midnight on the Doomsday Clock

One minute to midnight?

It is ten seconds to midnight

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part tahi)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 May 2018.

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Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part tahi)

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“The first casualty when war comes is truth…” Hiram Johnson, 1866 – 1945

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Recent Timeline*

4 April: Trump announces he wants all remaining US forces out of Syria “very quickly”. Trump says; “Saudi Arabia is very interested in our decision. And I said, Well, you know, you want us to stay? Maybe you’re going to have to pay”.

8 April: First reports emerge of chemical gas attack in Douma, the last rebel-held town in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta province. Reports are unverified.

8 April: Russian government calls reports of alleged gas attack in Douma “fake news” and describes the story as a “false flag” operation. Russia’s Foreign Ministry states; “The goal of this… baseless speculation is to shield the terrorists and… the radical opposition that refuse to engage in a political settlement [process], as well as to justify potential military strikes from the outside”.

9 April: Trump promises major decision in next twentyfour hours  on alleged gas attack.

10 April: Syria  and  Russia invite Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate allegations of chemical attack in Douma.

10 April:  Chairman of the State Duma’s Defense Committee,  Colonel General Vladimir Shamanov warned the West; “ The double standard policy has overstepped all possible boundaries. At this point, the [pro-Putin parliamentary majority] United Russia party must responsibly state that we are going to take all political and diplomatic measures, and also military measures if such need arises. Not a single unlawful action will be left without response.”

11 April: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says it will support any military strike on Syria in retaliation for the alleged gas attack in Douma; “If our alliance with our partners requires it, we will be present”.

11 April: Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, repeats Colonel General Shamanov’s warning to the US: “If there is a US missile attack, we – in line with both Putin and Russia’s chief of staff’s remarks – will shoot down US rockets and even the sources that launched the missiles.

12 April: French President Emmanuel Macron declared that France has evidence that Syria carried out the gas attack in Douma; “We have proof that last week, now 10 days ago, that chemical weapons were used, at least with chlorine, and that they were used by the regime of (President) Bashar al-Assad. Our teams have been working on this all week and we will need to take decisions in due course, when we judge it most useful and effective.”

Two days later, hours after the US-led attack on Syria, France releases statement on evidence of alleged gas attack: “After examining the videos and images of victims published online, (French intelligence services) were able to conclude with a high degree of confidence that the vast majority are recent and not fabricated.

12 April: OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) fact-finding team lands in Syria to investigate alleged gas attack in Douma. Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, said; “We will facilitate the arrival of the team to anywhere they want, in Douma, to check whether or not there was use of chemical substances”.

14 April: Trump announces US-led attack on Syria, launching 105 missiles at targets in that country. Trump  states: “So today, the nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality”.

14 April: President Putin of Russia states categorically: “Just as one year ago, when the Shayrat Airbase in Syria came under attack, the US used as a pretext a staged chemical attack against civilians, this time in Douma, a Damascus suburb. Having visited the site of the would-be chemical attack, Russian military experts did not find any traces of chlorine or any other toxic agent. Not a single local resident was able to confirm that a chemical attack had actually taken place.”

15 April: Trump declares: “Mission accomplished!”

15 April: Russia loses vote in UN Security Country to condemn US-led military strike. Russian UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia said: “Today is a very sad day for the world, the UN, its charter, which was blatantly, blatantly violated.”

15 April: US Ambassador to UN, Nikki Haley, tells Fox News Sunday that US troops will remain in Syria: “Yes, it is all of our goal to see American troops come home. But we’re not going to leave until we know we’ve accomplished those things. ”

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* International time-zones not taken into account: above dates are approximate.

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Saturday: a proven crime of aggression

On 14 April, the  United States launched 105 ‘Tomahawk‘ cruise missiles against Syria. The United Kingdom sent four RAF  ‘Tornado‘ jetfighters to attack and destroy targets at a former missile base near Homs. France also participated.

Despite assurances from Western governments that Bashar al-Assad’s forces were responsible for the alleged gas attack, no actual evidence has been presented regarding;

(a) who carried out the alleged attack

(b) if the so-called ‘attack’ happened at all.

Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, was not even certain what gas weapons were used. At a Press Briefing after the attack, he disclosed;

We are very much aware of one of the agents. There may have been more than one agent used. We are not clear on that yet. We know at least one chemical agent was used.

An OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) fact-finding team had barely reached Syria to determine what took place at Douma (if anything), when the US-led attack took place shortly afterwards. The OPCW team could not have found evidence or reached conclusions in the brief period of time (see timeline above) available to carry out their UN-mandated duties.

Local media reporting…

The response of our local media to report Saturday’s missile strike has been largely superficial and followed the Western narrative;

(a) the gas attack happened

(b) Syrian government forces were responsible

…From Radio NZ

Radio NZ has attempted to maintain a measure of cautious agnosticism, referring to “a suspected chemical attack“; “alleged chemical weapons sites“; and, “suspected poison gas attack“.

In most instances, the terms “suspected” and “alleged” are used. In one of it’s first stories, Radio NZ explicitly stated;

There has been no independent verification of the reports.

That caveat was not repeated on most (if any)  updates from Radio NZ.

On occasion, though, Radio NZ has reported US and other sources without questioning veracity or indicating that statements presented as facts may or may not be accurate;

At a Pentagon briefing shortly after Mr Trump’s announcement, Gen Joseph Dunford listed three targets that had been struck:

  • A scientific research facility in Damascus, allegedly connected to the production of chemical and biological weapons
  • A chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs
  • A chemical weapons equipment storage and an important command post, also near Homs

And;

UK strikes carried out by four Tornado jets hit one of the targets mentioned by the Pentagon – a military site near the city of Homs which is believed to have housed precursor materials for chemical weapons, according to the UK ministry of defence.

The term “allegedly” is noticeably missing in these paragraphs from a 13 April story;

The attack on the city on Saturday is said by activists and medics to have killed dozens of people when government aircraft dropped bombs filled with toxic chemicals.

The international Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is due to send monitors to Douma, but it is [unclear] how much evidence of any chemical attack might remain.

And from this 12 April story;

May, also speaking earlier on Wednesday, said all the indications were that the Syrian authorities were responsible for the chemical attack in the town of Douma and that such shocking assaults could not go unchallenged.

Radio NZ had reported that a OPCW fact-finding team had landed in Damascus on Saturday, the day of the U.S.-led attack, and in subsequent stories;

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) says a fact-finding mission has been “gathering information from all available sources and analysing it”.

Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are currently in Damascus and are expected to visit Douma this weekend.

No reference to the fact that Syria and Russia had both invited the OPCW to send a fact-finding team.

…From Newstalk ZB

Commercial radio station , NewstalkZB,  was the complete polar opposite to Radio NZ.  They made no pretense to journalistic impartiality, and the term “alleged” was notably missing from their stories;

14 April:

President Donald Trump says the United States has “launched precision strikes” on targets associated with Syrian chemical weapons program.

This coordinated strike marked the second time in a year that Trump has used force against Assad, who U.S. officials believe has continued to test the West’s willingness to accept gruesome chemical attacks.

…since the reported chemical attack that killed civilians in the rebel-held town outside Damascus last weekend.

…an attack could pull the United States into Syria’s civil war and trigger a dangerous conflict with Assad ally Russia – without necessarily halting chemical attacks.

In the wake of last weekend’s gruesome attack, some U.S. officials advocated a larger, and therefore riskier, strike than the limited action Trump had ordered in April 2017, also in response to suspected chemical weapons use.

But the airfield targeted by the Pentagon resumed operations shortly after the attack and, according to Western intelligence assessments, chemical attacks resumed.

And  just in case anyone doubted who NewstalkZB held responsible for the alleged gas attack in Douma;

Planning for these strikes focused on ways to curb Assad’s ability to use such weapons again.

Since last year’s strike, multiple chemical attacks have been reported in opposition areas, most of them involving chlorine rather than the nerve agent sarin, as was used in 2017, suggesting the government may have adjusted its tactics.

An attribution at the bottom revealed; “Additional reporting by AP and The Washington Post“. Not surprising then that NewstalkZB’s story looked more like a rehash of a Pentagon press release than any notion of impartial reporting;

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A subsequent story on 16 April stated;

It’s unknown whether missile strikes in Syria will prevent or evoke the use of chemical weapons in future.

The only thing missing from NewstalkZB stories on Syria is a disclosure, “Approved by The White House Politburo”.

…From Fairfax

Fairfax media fared not much better than NewstalkZB, making only cursory attempts to qualify reports. As far as can be determined by this blogger, the phrase ‘unverified’ was used only once on the day the reports were first published in various Fairfax publications.

On 9 April, in a story headlined “Dozens killed in apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria, rescue workers say“, the term ‘apparent’ was as close as Fairfax dared in lieu of ‘alleged’;

Dozens of men, women and children have been killed in an apparent chemical attack on a besieged Syrian enclave near Damascus, doctors and rescue workers say.

Even when the term ‘alleged’ should have been used, it was omitted – giving reportage an air of conclusive factuality when it was not deserved;

Gregory D Koblentz, the director of George Mason University’s Biodefense Program, said the [alleged*] attack appeared to reflect how much the clout of US policy has faded in Syria.

[…]

US President Donald Trump responded to the [alleged*]   attack Sunday morning on Twitter.

[…]

The [alleged*]   attack came as Syrian government forces stepped up an eight-week long offensive against Douma, outside Damascus, the last stronghold controlled by hardline rebels from the Jaish al-Islam group.

[…]

Multiple reports, including from rescue workers and the US State Department, said an initial [alleged*]   attack had targeted a hospital. It was unclear, however, what type of [alleged*] chemicals may have been used.

[…]

Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert described the [alleged*] reports from Eastern Douma as “disturbing and “horrifying,” saying they required an “immediate response by the international community.”

[…]

Syrian doctors and rescue workers on Sunday shared with journalists [alleged*] graphic images of men, women and children they said had been [allegedly*] killed or wounded in the [alleged*] attack.

[* Author’s insert: ‘alleged’]

A statement  from UN Secretary General, António Guterres, was the only instance where the reader was reminded that reports of a so-called “gas attack” were unconfirmed and nothing more than unproven allegations;

A representative for the United Nations said that Secretary General António Guterres was “particularly alarmed by allegations that chemical weapons have been used against civilian populations in Douma” but that the United Nations was “not in a position to verify these reports.”

At no point does the 9 April Fairfax story mention that an OPCW fact-finding team had landed in Damascus after the alleged gas attack and had not yet had an opportunity to verify events. Once again, the U.S. had circumvented an ongoing investigation to judge and apportion guilt without any corroborating, independent evidence.

Another  Fairfax story on 9 April attempted to put a caveat on the alleged gas attack with the term “suspected” – but that does not convey the same meaning as ‘alleged’;

The reported strike comes after a suspected poison gas attack killed at least 40 in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, the last foothold for the Syrian opposition in the area.

US President Donald Trump has promised a “big price to pay” for the suspected chemical attack.

Curiously, the end of the story makes a brief reference to another state ‘actor’ in the Syrian civil war, citing;

Israel has also struck inside Syria in recent years.

Again, no mention  that the alleged incident was unproven and that the OPCW  had yet to determine the facts.

Also on 9 April, an emotive piece penned by Josie Ensor presented a seemingly chilling “eye witness account” of victims of the alleged attack. The story presented the so-called “attack” as factual, with supposed “eye witness” statements and descriptions of “victims”.

The sympathies of the author is evident when she writes;

Both Syria and its Russian backer denounced the allegations as “fabrications”, while Iran, another of Bashar al-Assad’s patrons, called it a “conspiracy”.

There is no questioning of the incident’s veracity – until near the end of the article;

Saturday’s alleged attack pushed the holdout rebels back to the negotiating table. Hours later, they agreed to a Russian evacuation deal, signalling the end of the rebellion in one of the opposition’s most important territories.

Despite belatedly describing the so-called ‘attack’  as “alleged”, the author then reverted to indicating that it was a factual, proven event;

Reports sparked international outrage. But as Syrians have learned over the years, those responsible are unlikely to ever be held to account.

How can anyone be “responsible” if the so-called “attack” was “alleged” and not yet proven? If the “attack” is shown to be false, then no one could be held “responsible” for an incident that never happened. QED?!

The following day, another Fairfax article abandoned any pretext of an ‘alleged’ gas attack;

The prime minister has expressed “the strongest condemnation” of the chemical attack in eastern Ghouta, Syria, while the foreign minister has labelled it a war crime.

Dozens of men, women and children have been killed in the chemical attack on a besieged Syrian enclave near Damascus.

The deadly attack came as Syrian Government forces escalated their offensive to recapture the last rebel strongholds near the capital.

At least 40 people were killed on Saturday evening (local time) in the attack in Douma, eastern Ghouta, about 20 kilometres from Damascus, according to the Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS), a Washington-based nonprofit group that supports health facilities in the area.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Foreign Minister Winston Peters condemned the attack, and said those behind it needed to be held to account.

[…]

News of the attack comes after the Labour-led Government promised to double New Zealand’s refugee quota from 750 to 1500 each year.

Only Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, to his credit, held out by keeping an open mind;

“When we know who to point the finger at, we’ll point the finger then… It’s abhorrent, and it’s against international laws and standards.”

Only on 14 April – six days after reports emerged of the alleged attack –  Fairfax deigned to refer to the supposed incident as ‘alleged’;

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The story even referred to an impending investigation by the OPCW and carried substantial statements from the Russians.

Was this a realisation by Fairfax management that the alleged incident in Douma had yet to be verified? That coverage by New Zealand’s mainstream media had been less than “fair and balanced”?

Unfortunately, no. The above story emanated from PBS News Hour and was carried via Associated Press, which Fairfax picked up. It did not originate from the hands of any New Zealand journalist. (Much to our shame.)

A day later, after the U.S. had launched 105 cruise missiles at various locations in Syria, Trump announced with glee; “Mission Accomplished”.  Fairfax reported the post-strike event, abandoning all notions of keeping an open mind on the alleged gas attack;

Allied missiles struck at the heart of Syrian chemical weapons arsenal in a show of force and resolve aimed at punishing the Assad government for a suspected poison gas attack against civilians and deterring the possible future use of such banned weapons.

Notice that the opening paragraph referred to “Syrian chemical weapons arsenal” – not “Syria’s [alleged] chemical weapons arsenal“. There is zero evidence that Syria possessed any chemical weapons after they were removed under international supervision in 2014;

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If such banned weapons still remained in Syria, Western powers were mysteriously silent on the issue.

The “Mission accomplished” story goes on to point out – albeit briefly,  almost as an afterthought – that the OPCW had sent a team to Syria;

A global chemical warfare watchdog group said its fact-finding mission would go as planned in Douma, where the apparent use of poison gas against civilians on April 7 that killed more than 40 people compelled the Western allies to launch their attack. Syria has denied the accusation.

None of the  story’s three writers could bring themselves to use the word ‘alleged’, substituting instead  the more bland “apparent use of poison gas”.

The next paragraph again abandons any notion of journalistic skepticism;

But France’s foreign minister said there was “no doubt” the Assad government was responsible, and he threatened further retaliatory strikes if chemical weapons were used again, as did Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, who said the assault was a “one-time shot,” as long as chemical weapons weren’t used again.

As far as Fairfax’s journalists were concerned, there was no doubt that the attack had occurred; gas was used against civilians; and Assad’s forces were the guilty party. No doubt at all; no question that Western governments were 100% truthful.

The OPCW had yet to find any evidence, but that seemed not to matter for most Western journalists.

What other areas of state-government activities draws such unquestioning fealty from our much-vaunted “free press”?

For example, when the story reported that;

Dunford said missiles first struck a scientific research centre in the Damascus area that he said was a centre of Syrian research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological warfare technology. The second target was a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs. He said this was believed to be the main site of Syrian sarin and precursor chemical production equipment.

The third target was a chemical weapons equipment storage facility and an important command post, also west of Homs, Dunford said.

– did no one in the Fourth Estate bother to ask the most basic question: why were those “facilities” destroyed when they potentially held vital evidence that the OPCW team could have uncovered?

By 16 April, the murky smog of  chemical weapon hysteria began to part just a little so that questioning voices could be heard. Perhaps someone at Fairfax realised that Western allegations of a so-called “gas attack” were just that: unproven allegations.

A story entitled “Syrian government deploys forces in Douma after alleged chemical attack” used the term ‘alleged’ three times, once in the title;

Syrian state TV says another 5,000 security forces are deploying in a town near the capital that was brought under full government control a week after an alleged chemical attack.

[…]

In Assad’s view, the airstrikes that were launched in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by Syrian forces on the town of Douma will unify the country.

Following paragraphs returned to the less neutral term ‘suspected’;

The town was also the scene of a suspected poison gas attack on April 7 that prompted the US, Britain and France to launch missiles on Syrian military targets early Saturday.

[…]

The pope spoke after airstrikes by the United States, France and Britain aimed at taking out Syria’s chemical weapons capacity, following a suspected poison gas attack on a Damascus suburb that killed dozens, including children.

The OPCW fact-finding mission to Syria was again only briefly alluded to;

An international fact-finding mission from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is in Syria and expected to visit Douma.

Better than previous reporting, without doubt. But not by much.

[To be concluded in Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part rua).]

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Acknowledgements

Thanks to ‘Francesca‘ for the OPCW link,  Progress in the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme.

References

Wikiquotes: Hiram Johnson

Politico:  Trump – ‘I want to get out’ of Syria

BBC:  Syria war – At least 70 killed in suspected chemical attack in Douma

RT News:  Moscow calls ‘chemical attack’ in Douma ‘fake news,’ warns against Syrian intervention

BBC:  Trump promises ‘major decision’ on Syria chemical attack

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons:  OPCW Will Deploy Fact-Finding Mission to Douma, Syria

RT News:  Duma defense chief says Russia may respond with military force to US strike on Syria

Reuters:  Saudi could take part in military response in Syria – Crown Prince

Al Jazeera:  Russia threatens to shoot down any US missiles fired at Syria

Reuters:  France has proof Syrian government conducted chemical weapons attack – Macron

USA Today: French report lays out the evidence – Assad forces conducted chemical attack on civilians

RT News:  ‘They can go anywhere they want in Douma’: OPCW team arrives in Syria to investigate alleged attack

Military Times:  President Trump’s statement on the U.S. military action in Syria

Kremlin.ru:  Statement by President of Russia Vladimir Putin

Bloomberg:  Trump Says ‘Mission Accomplished’ With Syria Strike Unanswered

The Guardian:  Russia loses vote condemning strikes

Fox News:  Amb. Nikki Haley on Trump administration’s Syria strategy

The Guardian: ‘No alternative’ – Theresa May sends British jets to join airstrikes on Syria

US Department of Defense:  Briefing by Secretary Mattis on U.S. Strikes in Syria

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons:   Progress in the elimination of the Syrian chemiucal weapons programme

Radio NZ:  Syria – Toxic gas attack kills at least 70 in Douma

Radio NZ:  US and allies launch strikes on Syria chemical weapons sites

Radio NZ:  US ‘has no moral right to blame other countries’ – Russia

Radio NZ:  Macron has ‘proof’, to decide on Syria air strikes

Radio NZ:  UK’s May summons ministers for Syria meeting

Radio NZ:  The path to the attack on Syria

Radio NZ:  Syria warned US still ‘locked and loaded’

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons:  OPCW Will Deploy Fact-Finding Mission to Douma, Syria

NewstalkZB: Russia vows to retaliate after missiles target Syria

NewstalkZB:  Effects of Syria strikes unknown

Fairfax: Dozens killed in apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria, rescue workers say

Fairfax: Syrian news agency reports missile attack

Fairfax:  Nowhere to hide from Syria ‘gas attack’

Fairfax:  NZ expresses ‘strongest condemnation’ of chemical attack on Syrians

Fairfax:  Russia claims alleged chemical attack in Syria staged by UK

PBS News Hour:  Russia says suspected chemical attack in Syria was staged by UK

Fairfax:  ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Syria, Trump declares on Twitter

BBC:  Last of Syria’s chemical weapons shipped out

NPR:  Syria Gives Up Chemical Weapons … But A War Rages On

Reuters:  Syria hands over remaining chemical weapons for destruction

Fairfax: Syrian government deploys forces in Douma after alleged chemical attack

Additional

The Independent:  The search for truth in the rubble of Douma – and one doctor’s doubts over the chemical attack

Reuters:  French declassified intelligence report on Syria gas attacks

Previous related blogposts

The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election

Trump escalates, Putin congratulates

Trumpwatch: The Drum(pf)s of War

Trumpwatch: One minute closer to midnight on the Doomsday Clock

One minute to midnight?

It is ten seconds to midnight

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 April 2018.

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Letter to the editor: What’s up with Richard Griffin and National’s Melissa Lee?

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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Interesting to note this little item which has been all but over-looked by the mainstream media;

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Which begged these questions;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: 31 March 2018
subject: Letter to the editor
.The editor
NZ Herald
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The recent furore over the so-called “secret” meeting between broacasting minister Clare Curran and RNZ’s Carol Hirschfeld revealed that Board chair and former National government advisor, Richard Griffin, phoned National MP, Melissa Lee to inform her that Ms Hirscheld had tendered her resignation. This barely reported event raises several questiins that have yet to be fully answered;

Why did Griffin contact Ms Lee?

Is it appropriate for a Board member to be discussing sensitive employment matters with an Opposition National MP?

Did Griffin get Board approval to discuss this with Ms Lee?

What other contact has Griffin had with National MPs?

If Griffin’s discussion with Ms Lee was inappropriate, will he be resigning as RNZ’s chair of the Board?

And who advised National MP Melissa Lee of the not-so-secret meeting between Clare Curran and Carol Hirscheld?

There is more to this story than coffee-chats beteen two people. The apparent behind-the-scenes machinations hint at something far deeper between the National Opposition and an unknown “agent” working from within Radio NZ.

Plans to expand the public broadcasting service of Radio NZ may be threatened by a secretive faction at work.
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Frank macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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Questions remain – and not just of Minister Curran to answer.

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References

Radio NZ:  Richard Griffin ‘gobsmacked’ by details of interaction

Additional

Radio NZ:  Political commentators Matthew Hooton and Stephen Mills

Fairfax media:  Melissa Lee was given a heads up about Carol Hirschfeld’s resignation

FYI.org:  Communications between Melissa Lee and Richard Griffin

Twitter: Tim Murphy

Other blogs

Werewolf:  Gordon Campbell on Clare Curran’s dim future

Previous related blogposts

National pissed off: Labour is nicking John Key’s dodginess!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 March 2018.

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Worse than “fake news” – sloppy news!

31 March 2018 2 comments

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What’s worse than “fake news”? Sloppy news.

Sloppy as in: where a supposedly reputable mainstream media outlet presents a news story, but with a glaring error.  Case in point, TVNZ’s story on 25 March, reporting that “$1.7 million of taxpater’s money had been spent last year on airfares and escorts to deport overstayers – more than in any of the last five years“;

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The figures  presented were accurate enough.

The presentation, though, was misleading, with the intro statement reading;

The Government is spending a startling amount of money to get rid of overstayers in New Zealand, but few people are being deported and very little of that money is being recovered.

The most recent figure of $1.7 million related to 2017. (See image above).

The money had been spent by the previous, National government – not by the current Labour-NZ First-Green Coalition. By referring to “the government”,  TVNZ’s story suggested that responsibility for this spending lies with the current Coalition.

Silly slip-ups of this nature present an unfair critical picture of the newly elected Coalition government and let’s the National Party off the hook when it comes to owning their chronic mismanagement and waste of taxpayer’s money.

It may seem trivial to some, but it is inaccurate and misleading. It is sloppy news.

Not many people would have picked up on that error. The public may likely assume that the news reader’s reference to “the government” refers to the current Coalition.

The Coalition will have enough problems cleaning up nine years of National’s toxic legacies  without the msm trying to point responsibility to Labour, NZ First, and the Greens. (They’ll have their own stuff-ups to own up to in the future.)

Not good enough, TVNZ.

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References

TVNZ:   More than 10,000 overstayers in NZ and Immigration not actively looking for most of them

Previous related blogposts

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study

When the mainstream media go feral

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 March 2018.

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2017: Parting shots from the Right: tantrums, bloated entitlements, and low, low expectations for our Youth – tahi

5 January 2018 2 comments

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Taking personal responsibility Mike Hosking-style

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Former ‘Seven Sharp‘ presenter and National Party stooge, Mike Hosking, recently gave us an illuminating insight into how seriously he takes personal responsibility.

On an episode of ‘Seven Sharp‘, on 23 August 2017, Hosking said to his co-presenter, Toni Street;

“…you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate.”
The statement was factually incorrect, and people rightly objected. The following day, Hosking made a half-hearted “clarification”;

The fact that anyone can vote for [the Māori Party] as a list party I automatically assumed we all knew given we have been doing this for 20 years… and it went without saying. So hopefully that clears all of that up.

It didn’t “clear all that up”. Not by a long-shot.

After a complaint was laid with the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA), the finding was scathing of Hosking. On 19 December, the BSA found;

The Authority upheld a complaint that Mr Hosking’s comments were inaccurate and misleading, and that the alleged clarification broadcast on 24 August 2017 was flippant and too general to correct the inaccurate information for viewers. Voters not enrolled on the Māori electoral roll can cast a party vote for the Māori Party, or vote for one of the 18 Māori Party candidates representing general electorates in the 2017 General Election.

In reaching its decision, the Authority recognised the high value and public interest in political speech during the election period, but emphasised the importance of ensuring audiences were accurately informed about election matters. It said Mr Hosking’s inaccurate comments were presented at a critical time, when voters required accurate information to enable them to make informed voting decisions.

“This was an important issue, particularly during the election period, and had the potential to significantly affect voters’ understanding of the Māori roll and of New ealand’s electoral system”, it said.

In considering whether orders should be made, the Authority commented on the important and influential role held by programme hosts and presenters,particularly during the democratic election process.

Note that the BSA wasn’t commenting on an opinion held by Hosking. Hosking did not say,

“…you [shouldn’t] vote for the Māori Party because X-Y-Z.”

He stated an incorrect fact;

“…you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate.”

An example of “fake news” some might say.

Furthermore, the BSA found that Hosking’s “clarification” was;

…flippant and too general to correct the inaccurate information for viewers“.

Quite clearly, Hosking made a mistake.  Whether he genuinely believed that “you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate”, or he mis-spoke, is almost irrelevant. The fact is that his statement – made on prime time television, with an audience of several hundred thousand people – was untrue. It couldn’t be any more untrue.

The BSA demanded;

… it would be appropriate for the broadcaster to publicly acknowledge the breach of the accuracy standard to its audience by way of a broadcast statement on air.The Authority directed that the statement be broadcast before the 2017 summer holiday break.

Which, by 19 December, was about four months too late. The election had been ‘done and dusted’ by the time the BSA made it’s ruling. Any damage to voters – who were unfamiliar with the intracacies of MMP – had been done.

Hosking could have “taken it on the chin”. But he didn’t, and he broke the cardinal rule for those in public life; ‘when in a hole, stop f—–g digging’!

Hosking kept digging, getting deeper and deeper in the cesspit hole he had dug for himself. Writing for the Herald on 20 December – the day following the BSA’s findings released to the public – Hosking reacted with the equanimity of a spoiled, pinot-sipping, Maserati-driving, rich brat;

My Christmas gift from the BSA, the Broadcasting Standards Authority, is I misled the nation. Sorry nation, I misled you.

I didn’t of course, but they don’t have a sense of humour, or indeed any understanding of the realities of broadcasting, like you shouldn’t take everything literally.

[…]

But the BSA was having none of it. And so sadly, once again, we have paid for a bunch of humourless earnest clipboarders to sit around pontificating and writing reports.

The irony being they decided a statement had to be made rectifying my outlandish behaviour, and it had to be done before Seven Sharp took a summer break.

They released their report yesterday – five days after the show had gone off-air. And they might have known the show had gone off air, because the final show got quite a bit of coverage for other reasons.

Then he added, in a final shot of petulance that only a ten year old could appreciate;

So what has been achieved here? Nothing. The show is finished. The election is over. I’ve quit.

He left out this bit; “…so I’m taking my ball and going home.”

Hosking wondered “why we have a BSA that busies itself with such nonsense“.

Tim Watkin, writing for The Pundit, was unimpressed;

Suck it up, buttercup. Take your medicine. Don’t whinge and claim to be misunderstood, just take responsibility. That’s the sort of advice often offered on talkback radio, yet Mike Hosking seems to have missed that memo with his ill-advised Herald column this morning on a Broadcasting Standards Authority ruling against him.

Watkin added that Hosking’s whinge in his on-going NZ Herald column was, in itself, an abuse of power;

This is dangerous stuff and a rather worrying abuse of power. When someone is sentenced by the Court in New Zealand, they don’t get a newspaper column in which to vilify the judge. And for good reason. Hosking may disagree with the ruling, but you suck it up and take your dues. That is another of the realities of broadcasting, and Hosking should realise that.

Yes, standards bodies get to pontificate; it’s their job. I know, as the digital rep on the New Zealand Media Council (until recently, the Press Council). The bodies exist to protect free speech, balance the power between the media and the audiences it serves and ensure those people with the megaphone act according to agreed ethics. As with anything we do in society, there are rules. If Hosking doesn’t like the rules, he can argue to change them. He can cry into his pinot at home.

But he doesn’t get to whine about them in print when he gets pinged.

Watkins is on the nail on every point made.

But it is illuminating that the Right – which fetishises personal responsibility to the  nth degree – is the last to take personal responsibility seriously.  Hosking demands personal responsibility from just about everyone else;

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This is one the pitfalls of our hyper-commercialised mainstream media, when it sets up “media personalities” to pontificate to the nation on various issues. Such “media personalities” become an embarrassing liability when they get their feet firmly wedged in their oft-open mouths, having said something incredibly (a) stupid or (b) wrong or (c) both.

In this case, Hosking achieved (c): both. And worse still, his masters in the National Party must have been pulling their hair out in tufts. Hosking’s bullshit comment would have impacted badly on the Maori Party. How many votes did the Maori Party lose because of Hosking’s mis-information?

If they did lose a sizeable chunk of votes – was Hosking inadvertently responsible for the Maori Party losing their seats in Parliament? In which case, Hosking may have single-handedly denied National a fourth term in office by destroying one of their coalition partners.

“Own goal” doesn’t begin to cover Hosking’s incredible feat of self-destruction for his Party.

The role of  pundits  is to engage with the public and offer matters to think about and/or to inform us. On 23 August 2017, Hosking achieved neither of those admirable goals. Instead, he was sloppy. His “Maori electorate” comment was sloppy, and mis-informed viewers. His clarification was sloppy, treating viewers with thinly-disguised disdain.

And to make matters worse; it was abundantly obvious he couldn’t care less.

This should be an end to Mike Hosking’s career in broadcasting.

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References

Broadcasting Standards Authority: Seven Sharp presenter’s comments about voting for Māori Party inaccurate and misleading, BSA finds

NZ Herald:  Mike Hosking – ‘Pontificating’ Broadcasting Standards Authority humourless earnest clipboarders

Newstalk ZB:  Mike’s Minute – What about consumer responsibility?

Additional

Mediaworks:  BSA has no sense of humour – Mike Hosking

Mediaworks:  Mike Hosking officially broke broadcasting rules with false Māori Party comments

Other Blogs

The Pundit:  Mike Hosking – You do the crime, you do the time

Previous related blogposts

Mike Hosking as TVNZ’s moderator for political debates?! WTF?!

Mike Hosking – Minister for War Propaganda?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 December 2017.

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The Neverending Story in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

27 October 2017 1 comment

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“Public backlash grows against pointless media speculation on coalition talks”

— is, unfortunately, not a headline we’ll be seeing  any time soon.

The media role is reporting post-election politics has not been an edifying spectacle to watch. Put simply, the most exacerbating aspect of three weeks of coalition negotiation has not been the length of time – remarkably short by international standards – but the interminable, inane,  media commentary we’ve had to endure.

As  reported on 7 October, in lieu of any actual news-worthy stories, the msm (mainstream media) has taken to either parroting National Party propaganda on a non-existent “Teal Coalition” – or engaged in an onanistic beat up on the length of time needed for coalition negotiations.

National Party de-facto spokesperson, Maserati-owner, and legend-in-his-own-mind, Mike Hosking, waxed lyrical about a so-called “Teal” arrangement;

The concept of a grand coalition? Naive in theory yes, in reality not the slightest chance.

The best suggestion for the deal that never was – but could so easily have been – was the teal coalition, the Nats and Greens.

The Greens held themselves to ransom by tying themselves to Labour.

[…]

A teal coalition could well have worked and the Greens would almost certainly have got more out of it than they will get if the nod goes their way tomorrow (or whenever Winston decides).

Although why Hosking considers a “Grand Coalition between National and Labour as “naive” without “the slightest chance” and a National-Green coalition as something that “could so easily have been” – is never explained by him. But that’s the thing with public displays of  political-porn – it requires no internal logic or consistency.

On 14  October, I watched TV3’s The Nation – expecting a one-hour long exercise in pointless navel-gazing as to who Winston Peters will “go with”.

To my pleasant surprise, adults had taken over the programme and the viewer was treated to more pressing issues;

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In segment one, Lisa Owen discussed workers’ rights and workplace safety with Richard Wagstaff, Hazel Armstrong, and Jackie Blue. It was a critical look at the grim stats surrounding workplace accidents; deaths; injuries, and maimings.

Former National Party MP – and now Human Rights Commissioner – Jackie Blue, made the startling  admission that low unionisation in the workforce was part of the problem of workplace accidents;

I also think a fact in the forestry deaths is that they have very low rates of unionisation. They don’t have anyone speaking for them. There’s no voice for forestry workers. And I listened to an interview Helen did a year before she died, and she said she got to know the forestry workers, and once they understood the concept of a union, they wanted to be part of one.

The second segment featured an interview with BNZ CEO, Anthony Healey, supporting the Left’s call for a capital gains tax. Some of Healey’s comments would have come straight out of The Daily Blog;

“It’s really about equity in the tax system.

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Well, I think you can take a very broad based approach to it, but one of the things that I think is really important in this discussion is we’re not talking about, and my opinion is we need to tax in aggregate more; it’s about redistributing tax. So if you were to apply a broad based capital gains tax, that gives you the ability to address other things in the tax system, like company tax, like income tax, especially for those that are more needy.

[…]

Well, I think where we really need to address tax is at the lower end of the taxation system. If you were to apply a capital gains tax where you see a lot of wealth accumulation as opposed to income, then you have room to move, and you can look at the lower income tax rate, particularly for those who are struggling to make ends meet.”

When bank CEOs are advocating Labour and Green Party tax policies, you just know that the neo-liberal paradigm has lost it’s 1980s/90s gloss.

The last segment featured a good look at how Artificial Intelligence (AI) would be impacting on jobs in the coming years and decades. People closely connected with the AI industry – Greg Cross, Grant Straker, and Ben Goertzel shared their insights as to where we were heading with increasingly advanced technologies.

Then came the panel – Tracy Watkins from Fairfax media; former National Party parliamentary researcher, Chris Simpson, and political pundit,  Vernon Tava.

What came next in the following ten to fifteen minutes was not a word uttered to discuss any of the three issues raised in The Nation. Even Lisa Owen’s opening remarks on the one year anniversary of trade unionist Helen Kelley’s death and the role she played in highlighting workplace  accidental deaths was not discussed.

Instead, Owen led the panelists down the garden path to discussing… the coalition talks and “the mysterious NZ First Board”.

It was ten to fifteen minutes of pointless pontificating and using up valuable oxygen as Fairfax political reporter Tracy Watkins lamented that Winston Peters  “ just doesn’t look like he’s enjoying it very much“.

The obligatory cliche of “the tail wagging the dog” was trotted out by Watkins and Owen. Watkins description of the coalition talks as a “circus” suggests she has been too long in politics and jaded cynicism has coloured her view of things.

Only Vernon Tava’s comments struck home when he pointed out;

“…Media, who are becoming increasingly desperate standing around in cold lobbies in Wellington shouting questions at people as they walk briskly from one hallway to another…”

The only “circus” has been a media one.

Meanwhile,  broadcast and print media have been going nuts with their ongoing speculations. For example, the 16 October edition of The Dominion Post had no less that seven distinct pieces in that edition, including an editorial headedTime for Waiting to end“;

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(Curiously, the very same editorial was republished in Christchurch’s The Press, and headed, “New Zealand needs to know who will govern it“.)

The opening statement was so ludicrously dripping with sanctimony that it beggared belief anyone could write it with a straight face;

“The New Zealand public is to be congratulated for it’s extraordinary patience over the last three weeks since the general election.”

The New Zealand public is not only patient – but a darned sight more mature than the children who currently work in our mainstream media, and who constantly pester their Uncle Winston from the back seat of  the family stationwagon;

“Are we there yet?”

“No.”

“Are we there yet?”

“No!”

“Are we there yet?”

“NO!!!”

The public are patient. They fully understand  the complexities of forming a government and that it must be done carefully. As Labour leader Jacinda Ardern explained on Radio NZ’s Morning Report on 17 October with pained patience for the benefit of the media, ;

“…The ability of a government to be both  stable and durable ultimately comes down to whether or not you have enough commonality to form a government that’s going to  last the distance.”

In the same edition of the Dompost, Tracy Watkins had a front-page piece beneath the paper’s banner, entitled, “Is the coalition deal a crown or a poisoned chalice?” She stated matter-of-factly;

“After weeks of secrecy and the bizarre silence of the two major party leaders…”

“Secrecy”? “Bizarre silence”?!

Another way of  phrasing Watkins’ prose could be;

“After weeks of  nothing to write about by the two major newspaper chains…”

As a political blogger, I write often and passionately about transparency in government; government departments; NGOs, etc.

On coalition negotiations, however, confidentiality is a prerequisite for meaningful dialogue between the parties, unfettered by pressure from pious media pundits.

Case in point, TV3’s  Patrick Gower passing judgement in 2014 on an electoral arrangement between Mana Movement and the Internet Party;

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Second case-in-point; numerous media commentators (Mike Hosking, et al) calling for the Green Party enter into coalition dialogue with National. As if such a scenario were remotely possible (or desirable).

On 11 October, Radio NZ’s Tim Watkin (former Producer of TV3’s The Nationexpressed his own personal frustration in a way that was verging on the farcical;

“Well, I hate to say ‘I told you so’. But as frustration builds over the way our new government is being built – amid casual abuse, secrecy and over-reach – we really only have ourselves to blame, for the way this administration is being born in darkness, at least. Its mother is our own complacency.

[…]

Yet many New Zealanders fell in behind the parties’ spin, complaining that journalists were wasting time asking coalition questions and pushing for answers the poor party leaders couldn’t possibly give. ‘Focus on the issues,’ they cried.

How many of them are now among those bemoaning the lack of transparency in these negotiations and the deals being done behind closed doors?

We are left with little idea of which policies are being traded for which and have next to no notion about the priorities of whichever government might emerge, because we failed as a public to demand answers before the election.

I have no problem with these negotiations being conducted in confidence. I don’t mind New Zealand First shuttling back and forth between parties and being able to handle this process in secret. This is a time for a veil, of sorts.

But we should know, from reportage and interviews pre-election, what’s being traded.”

Tim demanded that “we should know, from reportage and interviews pre-election, what’s being traded” – seemingly forgetting that any post-election agreement would eventually reveal precisely “ what’s being traded“.

The rest of his intemperate commentary is symptomatic of political journos and commentators venting their impatience. In the meantime, the public went about their daily lives, content with leaving coalition-building to those who had been elected to carry out that task.

This is not how the Fourth Estate should be behaving. This is not reporting unfolding political events. It is not even analysis of unfolding political events. This was a naked move to artificially generate political events.

No news?  No problem.

Make some up.

The impatience of the msm was highlighted when, on several occasions, TV3’s news led with the length of time being taken for coalition talks – complete with this melodramatic graphic;

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It takes a remarkable talent to create a story out of simply… waiting. This desperation of the msm for any political activity to report  was remarked on by Auckland University political scientist, Jennifer Curtin on 15 October;

Associate Professor Curtin said the amount of time being taken was reasonable and in Nordic countries such as Sweden taking two to three weeks to form a government was the norm.

“So asking for something to happen since October the 12th in four or five days is probably a little bit unrealistic and a little bit first past the post really, in the way we’re thinking about government formation.”

Four days later, as if further illustration was required, on 19 October Mediaworks presented us an updated report that… well… there was nothing to report;

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When Tracy Watkins referred to a “circus” on The Nation, she was almost right. There has been a circus in this country since 23 September. But this time  it hasn’t come from our  political representatives.

Lisa Owen from The Nation on 21 October was honest when she admitted on behalf of the Fourth Estate;

“We’re impatient. We are impatient.”

The ‘Devil finds work for idle hands’, it is said. More so for idle children and  journalists with nothing to do, and too much time to do it in.

Let’s hope that all these well-paid, well-resourced journalists will be devoting equal air-time or column-inches to scrutinising the attacks-to-come from the Neo-liberal Establishment. Those attacks have already started.

That is where the real reporting, analysis, and commentary should be focused on.

What are the chances?

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References

NZ Herald:  Mike Hosking – Reading the coalition tea leaves

Mediaworks: The Nation (14 October 2017)

Scoop media: The Nation – Workers’ Rights Panel

Scoop media:  The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Anthony Healy

Mediaworks:  Panel – Tracy Watkins, Chris Simpson and Vernon Tava

Radio NZ:  Labour, Greens ‘ready to go’ – Ardern

Fairfax media:  It’s difficult to know if Winston Peters is offering a crown or a poisoned chalice

Twitter: Patrick Gower

Radio NZ:  Negotiation secrecy a snub to democracy

Mediaworks: Newshub Live at 6pm (18th October 2017)

Radio NZ: NZ First board set to consider possible coalition deal

Mediaworks: Newshub webpage 19 October

Scoop media:  The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Jacinda Ardern

Other Blogs

Cut Your Hair:  Don’t blame MMP for bad king/queenmakers

Sciblogs:  For a teal coalition

The Standard: “Reporters”

Previous related blogposts

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (tekau)

An Open Letter To Winston Peters

Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 October 2017.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (tekau)

13 October 2017 1 comment

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At 2PM today (7 October 2017), the Electoral Commission announced the final vote results, including some 446,287 special votes cast (17% of  total  votes cast).

As a result, National has lost two seats and the Greens and Labour each pick up one seat in Parliament. The Green’s  Golriz Ghahraman and Labour’s Angie Warren-Clark enter Parliament on the Party List.

The final seat counts and voting figures:

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Acknowledgement for graphic: Radio NZ

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Acknowledgement for graphic: Radio NZ

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The results show a decisive  swing against National:

Election Results

 

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 2014  2017  change (-/+)  2014 seats  2017 seats
 National  1,131,501 (47.04%) 1,152,075 (44.4%) + 20,574
(- 2.64)
60 56 (-4)
Labour  604,534 (25.13%) 956,184 (36.9%) + 351,650
(+ 11.77%)
32 46 (+14)
Greens  257,356 (10.70%) 162,443
(6.3%)
– 94,913
(- 4.4)
14 8 (-6)
CombinedRed-Green Vote  861,890 (35.53%) 1,118,627
(43.2%)
+ 256,737
(+ 7.67)
46 54 (+8)
NZ First  208,300 (8.66%) 186,706
(7.2%)
21,594
(- 1.46)
11 9 (-2)
Special Votes 330,985
(13.5%)
446,287
(17%)
115,302
(+3.5)
Total Votes 2,446,279
(77.9% t/out)
 2,591,896
(79.8% t/out)
 + 145,617
(+ 1.6)
 —  —

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Observations

(1) The rise of Labour (aka, the “Jacinda Effect”) appears to have stripped support from the Maori Party, NZ First, and the Greens. Any shift of voters from NZ First to National was insufficient to boost the Nats percentage of total votes.

(2) As expected, Special Votes have favoured the Left.

(3) Winston Peters has been proven correct to wait before Special Votes were counted and announced before initiating coalition talks. A National-NZ First Coalition (65 seats) would prove little different to a Labour-Green-NZ First coalition (63 seats).

With only a two seat difference, Peters is in a better position to consider a three-way coalition with Labour and the Greens. The question is, will he align himself with the 1,152,075 who voted  National – or the 1,305,333 who voted against the Nats, and supported Labour, the Greens, and NZ First?

National may be the ‘largest’ party in Parliament – but the largest bloc of voters was Labour-Green-NZ First.

Choose wisely, Mr Peters, choose wisely.

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References

Radio NZ:  Election17 final results are coming

Radio NZ:  Final Election17 Results – UPDATED

Wikipedia:   New Zealand general election, 2014

Electoral Commission:  New Zealand 2014 General Election Official Results

Electoral Commission:  2017 General Election – Official Result

Other Blogs

The Standard: And the final result is…

Previous related blogposts

Election 2014; A Post-mortem; a Wake; and one helluva hang-over

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (ono)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (whitu)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (waru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Iwa)

Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 October 2017.

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Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land…

12 October 2017 4 comments

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You can feel mainstream media’s frustration with the news-vacuum created by the two week period necessary to count the approximately 384,072 (15% of total votes) Special Votes that were cast this election.

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Winston Peters has announced on several occasions that he will wait until the Specials are counted and announced by the Electoral Commission on 7 October,  before making any announcements on coalition;

“This will be the last press conference I am going to hold until after the 7th of October… I can’t tell you what we are going to do until we have seen all the facts.

I can’t talk to you until I know what the 384,000 people who have cast their vote said…”

And you know what? He’s 100% right.

All the media pundit speculation; all the ambushing at airport terminals; all the annoyingly repetitive questions are utterly pointless. Peters simply cannot say anything meaningful until 7 October because the 2017 Election has not yet fully played out.

This is not a game of rugby where, after eighty minutes, a score determines a winner and loser (or draw).  In this game of “electoral rugby”, the score will not be delivered for two weeks.

The media – still feeling the adrenaline from Election Night “drama” – appears not to have realised this. The 24-Hour News Cycle is not geared toward a process lasting days or weeks.

One journalist writing for the NZ Herald, Audrey Young, even suggested that initiating coalition talks before the Specials were counted and announced was somehow a “good thing”;

It is surprising that NZ First has not begun talking to National yet, at a point when it has maximum leverage.

Not doing so before the special votes runs the risk having less leverage after the specials are counted should there be no change in the seats, or in the unlikely event of National gaining.

That bizarre suggestion could be taken further; why not announce a government before any votes are counted?

Pushed to maximum absurdity, why not announce a government before an election even takes place?  Banana republics fully recommend  this technique.

It says a lot about the impatience and immaturity of journalists that they are demanding decisions on coalition-building before all votes are counted. It is  doubtful if any journalist in Europe – which has had proportional representation far longer than we have – would even imagine  making such a nonsensical  suggestion.

Little wonder that Peters lost his cool on 27 September where he held a press conference and lambasted the mainstream media for their “drivel”;

“Now frankly if that’s the value you place on journalistic integrity you go right ahead, but the reality is you could point to the Electoral Commission and others and ask yourself why is it that 384,000 people will not have their vote counted until the 7th of October. 

Maybe then you could say to yourselves that may be the reason why New Zealand First has to withhold its view because we don’t know yet what the exact precise voice of the New Zealand people is.

All I’m asking for is a bit of understanding rather than the tripe that some people are putting out, malicious, malignant, and vicious in the extreme.”

The mainstream media did not take kindly to the critical analysis which they themselves usually mete out to public figures. They reported Peters’ press conference in unflattering terms and a vehemence usually reserved for social/political outcasts who have somehow dared challenge the established order of things;

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The Fourth Estate does not ‘do’ criticism well.

Even cartoonists have piled in on Peters, caricaturising him for daring to impede the [rapid] course of democracy;

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Or satirising Peters for being in a position to coalesce either with Labour or National. Despite this being a feature of all proportionally-elected Parliaments around the world, this has somehow taken the mainstream media by surprise;

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Perhaps Winston Peters was correct when he accused  New Zealand’s mainstream media of continuing to view the political landscape  through a First Past the Post prism;

“You ran a first past the post campaign in an MMP environment. And things suffer from that.”

Without a hint of self-awareness of irony, the usually insightful Bernard Hickey  offered this strangely familiar ‘advice’ to Peters;

It could have been so different. He could have simply said he couldn’t disclose his negotiating position until after the counting of the special votes and that he could not say who he would choose. Everyone would have accepted that as a fair stance.

Really? “Everyone would have accepted that as a fair stance”?!

How many timers did Peters tell journalists  that he “couldn’t disclose his negotiating position until after the counting of the special votes and that he could not say who he would choose” and how many times did those same journalists (or their colleagues) persist?

I have considerable respect for Mr Hickey’s researching and reporting skills. He is one of New Zealand’s most talented journalists/commentators.

On this point, however, he has over-looked the stubborn persistence of his colleagues in their unrelenting demands on Peters.

That media drivel has extended to journalists reporting on a non-existent, fabricated “story” – a potential National-Green (or “Teal”) Coalition.

Nowhere was this suggestion made seriously – except by National-leaning right-wing commentators, National party supporters, and National politicians. It should be blatantly clear to the most apolitical person that,

(a) such a coalition has been dismissed by the Green Party on numerous occassions

(b) such a coalition would be impractical due to wide policy differences between National and the Greens

(c) such a coalition scenario was being made only as a negotiation tactic by National to leverage against NZ First, and

(d) such a coalition would offer very little benefit to the Greens.

Green party leader, James Shaw, had to repeat – on numerous occassions – that any notion of a National-Green deal was out of a question;

“Our job is to form a government with the Labour Party, that’s what I said on election night, that’s what I campaigned on for the last 18 months and that’s what we are busy working on.

I said on election night that I think the numbers are there for a new government and that’s what we are working on, so everything else frankly is noise and no signal.”

This did not stop the mainstream media from breathlessly (breathe, Patrick, breathe!) reporting repeating the “story” without analysing where it was emanating from: the Right. Or who it would benefit: National.

Writing a series of stories on an imaginary National-Green coalition scenario, Fairfax ‘s political reporter Tracy Watkins could almost be on the National Party’s communications-team payroll;

Metiria Turei’s departure from the Greens co-leadership seems to be what lies behind National’s belief that a deal may be possible – she was always cast as an implacable opponent to any deal with National. James Shaw is seen as being more of a pragmatist.

But National would only be prepared to make environmental concessions – the Greens’ social and economic policy platform would be seen as a step too far. Big concessions on climate change policy would also be a stumbling block.

On both those counts the Greens would likely rule themselves out of a deal – co-leader James Shaw has made it clear economic and social policy have the same priority as environmental policy.

There is a view within National, however, that a deal with the Greens would be more forward and future looking than any deal with NZ First.

One concern is what is seen as an erratic list of NZ First bottom lines, but there is also an acknowledgement that National was exposed on environmental issues like dirty water in the campaign.

That’s why National insiders say an approach to the Greens should not be ruled out.

But Watkins was not completely oblivious to the Kiwi-version of ‘Game of Thrones‘.  She briefly alluded to comprehending that National is pitting the Greens against NZ First;

Senior National MPs have made repeated overtures through the media that its door is open to the Greens, who would have more leverage in negotiations with the centre-right than the centre-left.

Watkins and her colleagues at Fairfax made no attempt to shed light on National’s “repeated overtures”. She and other journalists appeared content to be the ‘conduit’ of National’s machiavellian machinations as prelude to coalition talks.

Such was the vacuum caused by the interregnum between Election Day and Special  Votes day.  That vacuum – caused by the news blackout until coalition talks begin in earnest after 7 October – had obviously enabled sensationalism to guide editorial policy.

Writing for another Fairfax newspaper, the Sunday Star Times, so-called “journalist” Stacey Kirk cast aside any remaining mask of impartiality and came out guns blazing, demanding a National Green Coalition;

They should, and the reasons they won’t work with National are getting flimsier by the day. But they won’t – it’s a matter that strikes too close to the heart of too many of their base – and for that reason, they simply can’t.

[…]

For all their dancing around each other, National is serious when it says it would be happy to talk to the Greens. But it’s also serious when it says it knows it has to make big environmental moves regardless.

If the Greens are serious about putting the environment above politics – and the long-term rebuild of the party – they really should listen.

Kirk’s piece could easily have emanated from the Ninth Floor of the Beehive – not the Dominion Post Building in downtown Wellington.

The media pimping for a fourth National-led coalition, involving the Greens, would be comical if it weren’t potentially so damaging to our democracy. Media are meant to question political activity such as coalition-building  – not aggressively promote them in an openly partisan manner. Especially not for the benefit of one dominant party. And especially not to install that political party to government.

One person went so far as launching an on-line petition calling for just such a coalition;

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The organisor is one, Clive Antony, a Christchurch “organic fashion entrepreneur”. (That’s a ‘thing’? Who knew?)  Mr Anthony explained why he wanted a “Teal” coalition;

“I genuinely think there is common ground between the National Party and the Green Party, which could result in practical policy wins for New Zealand. Environmental issues such as carbon neutrality and social issues like child poverty come to mind.”

Mr Anthony happens to be a National Party supporter.

Mr Anthony failed to explain what National has been doing the last nine years to protect the environment; why rivers have continued to be degraded; why the agricultural sector has been left out of the emissions trading scheme; why National has squandered billions on new roading projects instead of public transport; etc, etc. Also, Mr Anthony has failed to ask why National has not willingly adopted Green Party policies in the last nine years.

What has stopped them?  Party policies are not copyright.  After all, you don’t have to be in coalition with a party to take on their policies.

Although it helps if National were honest enough to release official reports in a timely manner, instead of the public relying on them to be leaked;

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This is how National demonstrates transparency and integrity.  This is the party that attempts to suppress critical information on climate change.

This is the party that some media pundits are clamouring to enter into a meaningful working relationship with the Greens.

As former Green MP, Mojo Mathers pointed out on Twitter;

“Oh my, National love the Greens now do they? Pity they couldn’t show some love for the environment over the last 9 years. #NoGreenWash

Dirty coal. Polluted rivers. Industrial dairying. Rising emissions. Billion dollar motorways. Seabed mining in blue whale habitat and more.”

Another, former Green MP, Catherine Delahunty, voiced what probably 99.9% of Green Party members are thinking right now;

“I would rather drink hemlock than go with the National Party. The last thing I want to see is the Green Party or any other party propping them up to put them back into power. They’ve done enough damage.”

Green Party (co-)leader, James Shaw, was more diplomatic;

“A slim majority of voters did vote for change, and so that’s what I’m working on… We campaigned on a change of Government, and I said at the time it was only fair to let voters know what they were voting for – are you voting for the status quo, or are you voting for change?”

Other individuals pimping for a Nat-Green coalition are sundry National party MPs such as  Paula Bennett or former politicians such as Jim Bolger.

All of which was supported by far-right blogger, Cameron Slater’s “intern staff”, on the “Whaleoil” blog;

Currently we are sitting in wait for old mate Winston Peters to choose who is going to run the country. After watching all the pundits in media talk about what the next government would look like, it started to annoy me that everyone has been ruling out a National/Green coalition and rightly so as both parties have basically written it off.

[…]

A quick Blue-Green arrangement with the appropriate Government Ministries assigned to Green Ministers would kill the NZ First posturing dead and would probably be the death knell for NZ First forever once Mr Peters resigns.”

National’s pollster and party apparatchik, David Farrar, was also actively pimping for a National-Green Coalition;

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When even the far-right are salivating at the prospect of a Blue-Green coalition, you know something is seriously askew.

However,  judging by comments posted by Kiwiblog’s readers, the prospect of a Blue-Green coalition does not sit well with his audience.

As an interesting side-note, both Whaleoil and Kiwiblog both published their first stories on a Blue-Green coalition around 27 and 28 September. The Tory communications-strategy memo talking up a Blue-Green scenario appears to have been sent to Slater and Farrar at the same time.

It beggars belief that very few media commentators have picked up on what is really the bleedin’ obvious: National’s strategy is obviously a ploy to leverage against NZ First.

Of all the pundits, only one person seems to have sussed what was really happening and why. Otago University law professor and political commentator,  Andrew Geddis,  put things very succinctly when he wrote for Radio NZ on 30 September;

Media coverage of the post-election period echoes this existential angst. With Winston Peters declaring that he – sorry, New Zealand First – won’t make any decisions on governing deals until after the final vote count is announced on October 7, we face something of a news vacuum.

Commentators valiantly have attempted to fill this void with fevered speculation about who Peters likes and hates, or fantastical notions that a National-Greens deal could be struck instead…

That is as close to sensible commentary as we’ve gotten the last two weeks.

The 2017 General Election may be remembered in future – not for Winston Peters holding the balance of power – but for the unedifying rubbish churned out by so-called professional, experienced journalists. In their thirst for something – anything!! – to report, the media commentariate have engaged in  onanistic political fantasies.

They have also wittingly allowed themselves to be National’s marionettes – with strings reaching up to the Ninth Floor.

The National-Green Coalition fairytale promulgated by some in the media was a glimpse into the weird world of journalistic daydreaming. In other words, New Zealanders just got a taste of some real fake news.

Like children in the back seat of a car on a two-week long drive, this is what it looks like when bored journalists and media commentators become anxious and frustrated. Their impatience gets the better of them.

And a politician called them on it;

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When the antiquated, binary system of First Past the Post  was replaced with a more sophisticated; more representative; more inclusive MMP in the 1990s, our political system matured. Our Parliament became more ethnically and gender diverse. We even elected the world’s first transgender MP.

MMP is complex and requires careful consideration and time.

It is fit-for-purpose for the complexities of 21st Century New Zealand.

The Fourth Estate is yet to catch up.

 

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References

Electoral Commission: Preliminary results for the 2017 General Election

Otago Daily Times:  Peters will wait for special vote count

NZ Herald:  Winston Peters – 7 per cent of the vote, 100 per cent of the power

Newsroom:  Winston’s awful start

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters launches tirade on media, stays mum on coalition talks

TVNZ:  ‘Next question!’ – belligerent Winston Peters has press pack in stitches after shutting down Aussie reporter

NZ Herald:   Attack on media, some insults and stonewalling – Winston Peters comes out firing in press conference

Newstalk ZB:  Winston Peters hits out at media in fiery press conference

Radio NZ:  Green Party dismisses National-Green speculation

Fairfax media:  The Green Party also hold the balance of power, but they don’t seem to want it

Fairfax media:  National says don’t rule out an approach to Greens on election night

Fairfax media:  Stacey Kirk – Honour above the environment? Greens hold a deck of aces they’re refusing to play

NZ Herald:  Grassroots petition calls for National-Green coalition

Fairfax media: Govt sits on climate warnings

Twitter: Mojo Mathers

Radio NZ:  ‘Snowball’s chance in hell’ of a Green-National deal

Mediaworks:  ‘I will hear the Prime Minister out’ – James Shaw

Mediaworks:  Winston Peters’ super leak ‘great gossip’ I couldn’t use against him – Paula Bennett

Fairfax media:  Greens have a responsibility to talk to National – Jim Bolger

Radio NZ:  Special votes – why the wait?

NZCity:  Have patience, says Winston Peters

E-Tangata: Georgina Beyer – How far can you fall?

Other Blogs

Kiwiblog:  What could the Greens get if they went with National not Winston?

Kiwiblog:  How a National-Green coalition could work

The Daily Blog: Martyn Bradbury – Let’s seriously consider David Farrar’s offer to the Greens and laugh and laugh and laugh

Liberation:  Cartoons and images about negotiating the new government

Previous related blogposts

Election 2014; A Post-mortem; a Wake; and one helluva hang-over

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (ono)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (whitu)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (waru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Iwa)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 October 2017.

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Letter to the editor: Duncan Garner has a John Key-style brain-fade

1 September 2017 Leave a comment

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: 27 August 2017
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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Duncan Garner’s column “Where’s that Brighter Future we were all promised” must be one of the worst researched and slanted pieces I’ve ever read.(26 August)

“When the Nats took command nine years ago they might as well have been presented with … the paralysing decade of deficits dished up by Labour.”

The term “decade of deficits” was coined by the National Party, not Treasury.

Treasury’s 2008 PREFU referred to deficits caused by “the sub-prime mortgage crisis, which developed in the United States in mid-2007, was the trigger for the unwinding of these imbalances and the world economy…this process of adjustment is expected to be protracted and to involve both developing and developed economies”.

In reality, Labour’s Finance Minister, Michael Cullen, posted eight budget surpluses in a row and paid down government debt. National, by contrast, increased debt to over $60 billion.

Cutting taxes in 2009 and 2010, National was forced to borrow even more.

Garner’s selective memory overlooks the GFC when he castigates “Labour’s never-ending golden economic summers had crashed, burned and disappeared” – but then excuses National’s “promise of a brighter future being ravaged by international economic cancers”!

No wonder the public distrust the media when a supposedly impartial journalist writes this kind of fake ‘news’.

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-Frank Macskasy

(Name & address supplied)

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References

Fairfax media: Duncan Garner – After nine years in power, why is National’s report card so full of fails?

Previous related blogposts

Labour: the Economic Record 2000 – 2008

That was Then, This is Now #19 – A “Decade of Deficits”

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(Acknowledgement for meme: Michael Woods)

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Time to speak up for Metiria Turei! (Part Rua)

11 August 2017 1 comment

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>
date: 5 August 2017
subject: Letters to the editor

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The Editor
The Wellingtonian

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It astounds me that several reactionary media “personalities” have demanded Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei, to resign from Parliament because she was forced to lie to social welfare so her benefit would not be cut.

In 2009 then Deputy Prime Minister, Bill English was caught claiming a ministerial housing allowance for a Wellington property he already owned through a family trust. After public anger mounted, he was eventually forced to repay $32,000 to the taxpayer. (“Bill English buckles over housing allowance”, Dominion Post)

This despite his ministerial salary of $276,200 per year – plus perks, gold-plated super scheme, and free/subsidised air travel after he retires from Parliament. (“Key backs $900-a-week subsidy for English home”, NZ Herald)

Meanwhile, Metiria Turei, a 23 year old solo-mum, struggled to make ends meet and put food on the table. All this during Ruth Richardson’s infamous benefit cuts. Thousands of families were forced deeper into poverty, and the effects are still with us today with rising homelessness.

Despite this, the Establishment Media led by Duncan Garner, Mike Hosking, and Patrick Gower mount a nasty vendetta against her?

Their actions illustrate precisely why Ms Turei voluntarily disclosed misleading social welfare in the mid-1990s; the stench of double standards is stomach turning.

-Frank Macskasy

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>
date: 5 August 2017
subject: Letters to the editor

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The Editor
Sunday Star Times

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Several media “personalities” are demanding that Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei resign from Parliament because she happened to register and vote in an electorate she did not usually live in?

How many thousands of New Zealanders live overseas and still vote in the last electorate they were registered in, prior to emigrating?

In 2005, then Opposition-leader, John Key, was guilty of the same “crime” Ms Turei is now accused of, as the media reported;

“National Party rising star John Key won’t be able to vote in the Helensville electorate he represents in the election this year… The former banker, who owns six New Zealand homes, said he made the change to clear up potential misunderstanding. Mr Key and his wife, Bronagh, are listed in electoral rolls for 2002, 2003, and 2004 as “residing” at a Waimauku address in the Helensville electorate, but have never lived there.” ( “National MP’s home away from home”, NZ Herald)

The matter of “multiple residences” did not stop Key from becoming Prime Minister three years later, and later knighted.

But if a poor, young, brown woman does the same thing, the Establishment Media goes crazy?

The Electoral Act 1993 is clear:

“A person resides at the place where that person chooses to make his or her home by reason of family or personal relations, or for other domestic or personal reasons.”

It is time for the media hysteria to stop and focus on the real critical problems confronting us as a nation. Enough fake news!

-Frank Macskasy

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: 5 August 2017
subject: Letters to the editor

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The editor
NZ Herald

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Metiria Turei’s honest disclosure of her interaction with WINZ in the 1990s may have caused an unintended consequence.

In being upfront and honest about her indiscretions with WINZ, she has sparked a storm of hysteria from reactionary “media personalities”, right wing politicians, conservative commentators, and those who gleefully sit in judgement of others.

As a consequence, she has become a warning to other politicians that truthfulness, openness, and candor will not be rewarded.

Every other politicians will look at the witch hunt pursuing Ms Turei and double-down on keeping secret their secrets.

Politicians will become even more risk-averse to telling the truth.

The next time a politician is challenged to be more open, the fate of Ms Turei will cross their mind and serve as a grim warning; honesty is not well rewarded in politics. It is brutally punished.

So. Which politician would like to raise his/her hand to reveal some skeleton from their closet? Someone? Anyone?

-Frank Macskasy

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: 4 August 2017
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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National as been very quiet over Metiria Turei’s admissions of neglecting to tell WINZ that she had flatmates, so her DPB would not be cut. In the early 1990s, welfare had been savagely cut in Ruth Richardson’s notorious “Mother of all Budgets” to a level where starvation and homelessness loomed to rising numbers of unemployed.

By the end of 1991, nearly 200,000 Kiwis were out of work as free-market policies were thrust upon us.

Perhaps National does not want to draw attention to Deputy PM, Paula Bennett, who was also on welfare at the time? Questions have been raised over Ms Bennett’s activities at the time.

Some in media have been less reticent. Certain reactionary “media personalities” have attacked her mercilessly. No doubt these same (predominantly white, well-paid, middle-aged male) critics lived saintly lives when they were in their 20s? Of course they did.

She was 23 when she filed an incorrect address so she could vote for a friend in the McGillicudy Serious Party. The whole point of McGillicudy was to take the mickey out of politics.

When did some lose their tolerance for youthful silliness to such a degree that, decades later a pack would be baying for her blood?

-Frank Macskasy

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: North and South <north&south@bauermedia.co.nz>
date: 5 August 2017
subject: Letters to the editor

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The editor
North & South

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Recent disclosures by Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei, that she was forced to lie to social welfare in the 1990s has provoked the usual outrage from the reactionary Establishment media. Media “personalities” Patrick Gower, Duncan Garner, and Mike Hosking – all affluent white men – are baying for her blood.

However, this is not about so-called welfare fraud. This is about one gutsy woman speaking out against a broken welfare system. Since Ruth Richardson’s disastrous benefit cuts in 1992, thousands of families became mired deeper in poverty; creating worsening homelessness; hungry and barefoot children going to school; and a rise of poverty-related disease.

It is in this environment of punishing the poor and those who lost their jobs during the ideological re-structuring of our economy, that has pushed many to lie or with-hold information to WINZ. It is a matter of sheer desperate survival.

Not that Messrs Garner, Hosking, and Gower would know anything of surviving poverty. Their homes are warm; their beds comfy; their bellies full. When Fairfax political journo, Tracy Watkins joined the media feeding-frenzy, accusing Ms Turei that she “failed the most basic political test – the hypocrisy one”, it was probably written after a nice meal, with a glass of ‘cheeky pinot’ (or was it a Brown Bros riesling?) on her work-desk at home. (“Mad, bad or bold? Metiria Turei’s big gamble”, Tracy Watkins, Fairfax)

No cold, damp homes or empty stomachs for these Media Establishment journos, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, Deputy PM, Paula Bennett, has been noticeably low-key on this issue.

Herself a former DPB beneficiary, Bennett made full use of social welfare to obtain a free University education through a Training Incentive Allowance (TIA), and a Housing NZ grant to buy her own home. (“Bennett knows about life on Struggle St”, Fran O’Sullivan, NZ Herald)

As Social Welfare Minister, one of her first acts in 2009 was to terminate the TIA. No other solo-mum or solo-dad would have the same chance she did.

There have been questions asked about Bennett’s activities whilst on the DPB. Those questions remain unanswered. Unlike Metiria Turei, the Ministry of Social Development appears to show no interest in our Deputy PM’s past.

While Bennett keeps her head down, her “attack dogs” in the Establishment media are ripping into her opponant, Ms Turei.

After all, how dare she speak out about the grim realities of living on welfare?

Such is Ms Turei’s real “crime”.

-Frank Macskasy

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[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Fairfax media:   Bill English buckles over housing allowance

NZ Herald:  National MP’s home away from home

Legislation:  Electoral Act 1993

NZ Herald: Key backs $900-a-week subsidy for English home  (alt ref: The Indian Weekender:  Know your leaders – Bill English and Paula Bennett)

Fairfax media:  Tracy Watkins – Mad, bad or bold? Metiria Turei’s big gamble

NZ Herald:  Fran O’Sullivan – Bennett knows about life on Struggle St

Additional

NZ Herald:  Political Roundup – The Consequences of Metiria Turei’s benefit confession

Previous related blogposts

Hon. Paula Bennett, Minister of Hypocrisy

Tips from Paula Bennett on how to be a Hypocrite

Some background info for Guyon Espiner

Time to speak up for Metiria Turei!

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“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over

 

humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the

 

habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed,  and well-fed.”

 

– Herman Melville, 1819 – 1891

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 August 2017.

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Journalist blocks TDB Blogger

8 August 2017 4 comments

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On 2 August, The Daily Blog’s administrator – Martyn Bradbury – published a story on Gerry Brownlee accusing Mediawork’s journalist Patrick Gower of being a “cheerleader for Labour”;

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If that message truly came from National minister Gerry Brownlee, I thought it was a ‘Trumpian’ example of childish stupidity. An intemperate ‘tweet’ from a naive, newly elected, fresh-faced member of Parliament could be excused on the basis of inexperience.

But a senior politician of  Brownlee’s record should know better. He has been in Parliament for two decades.

I sought out Gower’s Twitter account to make precisely that point.

When I access Patrick Gower’s twitter account – @patrickgowernz – this is what I found:

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A close up of the message informing that I had been ‘blocked’ by Mr Gower;

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I was a little surprised.

Three years ago I ran a series of blogposts on Gower’s own intemperate twitter posts and media comments on Laila Harré  and the electoral accommodation between the Mana Movement and the fledgling Internet Party;

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The three stories above were highly critical of  Gower’s attacks on the Mana-Internet alliance. In my view Gower’s on-going vendetta was a naked attempt to influence the 2014 election.

As I wrote in August of that year;

It seems obvious that Gower has a personal thing against Mana and Kim Dotcom.

His most recent utterances on 29 July made that perfectly clear, when he has again stated,

“And David Cunliffe has repeatedly and pointedly refused to rule out working with Internet-Mana to form a Government.”

At every opportunity, Gower has repeatedly demanded Cunliffe rule out working with Mana-Internet.

Why?

When a journalist demands that a political party make a definitive policy statement to rule out a potential coalition partner is not reporting the news – it is a naked attempt to influence it.

It is one thing to ask a party leader who they will/won’t deal with, post-election. That is a perfectly legitimate question to ask.

But to pressure a party leader to rule out a potential coalition partner?

Gower has stepped beyond the bounds of what is acceptable journalism. It is not his job to dictate to any party leader who they should/shouldn’t coalesce with. His job is simply to report their decisions.

The rest is up to us, the people to evaluate that information.

Pull your head in, Paddy.

I was unaware up until 2 August that Gower had – at some point – blocked my access to his Twitter account.

Think about that for a moment. A journalist’s job is to present information to the public. It is their paid role; their raison d’être.

I can understand if Gower declines to allow me to post comments on his page. It’s his Twitter account; he sets the rules (within Twitter’s own Terms and Conditions). I have no argument with that.

But his action to block a person from even reading what he has written strikes me as totally contrary to what a journalist should be. Journalists should never decide who can  and can’t read their material. (Which raises an interesting side-issue on pay-walled journalism.)

Gower’s action poses some interesting questions;

Who else has Gower blocked?

How on Earth can a seasoned journalist feel so threatened by a blogger that probably 99.99% of the population does not read?

What will Gower’s employers do if they expect him to interview me on a breaking story that I may be privy to – and I decline?

Is this professional behaviour from a seasoned journalist?

And how will Gower react if a public figure blocks him from their Twitter or Facebook account?

Gower’s blocking of me suggests that he has taken my criticisms badly. Which is ironic, considering the harsh criticism that Gower has dished out to Hone Harawira, Kim Dotcom, Laila Harré, et al.

Not a good look, Mr Gower.

Heat. Kitchen. Door.

 

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References

Wikipedia: Gerry Brownlee

Twitter: Patrick Gower

TV3: Opinion – Dotcom does Key a Winston favour

Other Bloggers

The Daily Blog: Martyn Bradbury –  Twitter Watch – Witness Gerry Brownlee’s petty & dangerously paranoid attack on Patrick Gower

Previous related blogposts

Patrick Gower – losing his rag and the plot

Waiting for Gower’s Twittering of indignation

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 August 2017.

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Some background info for Guyon Espiner

1 August 2017 5 comments

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On Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘ on 26 July, Co-Host Guyon Espiner interviewed Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei on why she didn’t find a job to support herself at University and pay for the care of her baby. He was critical in her activities in the McGillicudy Serious Party and the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party instead of seeking some sort of part-time employment.

The reason why any job seeking by Ms Turei during the early/mid 1990s would have been futile is common knowledge to those who remember the ‘Mother of All Budgets’ by then Finance Minister, Ruth Richardson;

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Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Finance Minister Ruth Richardson make their way to the House of Representatives for the presentation of the 1991 budget. Richardson was from the radical wing of the National Party, which promoted individual liberty and small government. This was reflected in the budget, which severely cut government spending, including on welfare. Richardson proudly proclaimed her plan as the ‘mother of all budgets’, but such was its unpopularity among voters that it – along with high levels of unemployment – nearly cost National the next election.

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Unemployment at that time reached levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1920s/30s;

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Unemployment Rate

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Unemployed Number of People

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Nearly 200,000 people were out of work at the time.

There simply was no  work for thousands of New Zealanders who had lost their jobs.

In April this year, a well known journalist wrote this analysis of Jim Bolger and the extreme neo-liberal “reforms” of the early 1990s;

Bolger says neoliberal economic policies have absolutely failed. It’s not uncommon to hear that now; even the IMF says so. But to hear it from a former National prime minister who pursued privatisation, labour market deregulation, welfare cuts and tax reductions – well, that’s pretty interesting.

“They have failed to produce economic growth and what growth there has been has gone to the few at the top,” Bolger says, not of his own policies specifically but of neoliberalism the world over. He laments the levels of inequality and concludes “that model needs to change”.

But hang on. Didn’t he, along with finance minister Ruth Richardson, embark on that model, or at least enthusiastically pick up from where Roger Douglas and the fourth Labour government left off?

Bolger doesn’t have a problem calling those policies neoliberal although he prefers to call them “pragmatic” decisions to respond to the circumstances. It sets us up for the ride we go on with Bolger through the 1990s, a time of radical social and economic change.

Judge for yourself whether or not they were the right policies but do it armed with the context. Bolger describes his 17-hour honeymoon after becoming PM in 1990. He recalls ashen faced officials telling him before he was even sworn in that the BNZ was going bust and if that happened nearly “half of New Zealand’s companies would have collapsed”.

The fiscal crisis sparked the Mother of All Budgets and deep cuts to the welfare state. Some believe this was the start of the entrenched poverty we agonise about to this day.

That author was Guyon Espiner, co-host of Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report’.

Either Espiner has forgotten the lessons of history, grimly recounted to him by former Prime Minister Jim Bolger – or he wilfully chose to ignore the dire circumstances that Metiria Turei, and thousands of other New Zealanders, found themselves in at the time.

Neither is an edifying prospect for a supposedly professional journalist with a wealth of knowledge to tap into. He should have known that he was demanding the near-impossible from Ms Turei.

The interview was one of a series throughout mainstream media where the scent of blood has been picked up by the journalist-pack, and they are in full flight of their quarry.

The circumstances of why she was forced to lie to WINZ is almost incidental.

The fact that she did lie to WINZ is of secondary importance to the Right; the mainstream media; and to the Establishment.

The real reason she is being pursued and vilified is because she dared to speak out. While the Establishment will tolerate benefit fraud – and occassionally make sport of anyone discovered doing it – they will not tolerate anyone from the lower classes stepping forward to tell their story.

Ms Turei’s grievous crime is not the money she took. It is her subversion.

That is the real threat to the Establishment.

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#iammetiria

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References

Radio NZ:  Greens say household income report is damning

Te Ara – The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand:  The ‘mother of all budgets’

Trading Economics: Unemployment Rate

Trading Economics: Unemployed Number of People

The Spinoff:  Neoliberalism has ‘failed’ and the ‘model needs to change’

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 July 2017.

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= fs =

TV3’s The Project – A Babyboomer lowers the boom

2 April 2017 2 comments

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“TV3 have attempted to make current affairs for people who listen to the Edge, the problem is that generation doesn’t watch TV. So TV3 have alienated Gen X and Boomers who want actual current affairs at 7pm to gain a generational audience who don’t bother with the platform TV3 are using.” Martyn Bradbury, 26 March 2017

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I don’t often comment on other bloggers who have contributed a piece for The Daily Blog. Ninety percent of the time, my ideals, values, and beliefs are  muchly similar to those expressed by others on this forum.

Martyn Bradbury’s piece on   “The Project meltdown raised a point that has been on my mind since I saw the very first ‘Project’ billboard in Kilbirnie, Wellington. Waiting patiently at the lights, my gaze wandered over to the billboard on my hard right (metaphor?);

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The Billboard was situated just above clothing bins where unwanted stuff is dumped by people. (Irony?)

At first, I was stumped. I couldn’t work out what ‘The Project’ or the logo, ‘+HR=E’ was supposed to signify. My first impressions were that it was promoting a new New Zealand comedy movie. Or a novel, upmarket chain of childcare centres was entering the country. ‘+HR=E’ would be a pretty nifty corporate logo for the latter. ‘+HR=E’. Three year olds. Geddit?

A few moments later, as the lights were still red,  I noticed the blurb “News delivered differently” and “Weeknights 7pm”, and then it dawned on me. It was Mediawork’s latest effort to wrest primacy of the 7pm timeslot from ‘Seven Sharp’ and ‘Shortland Street’.

The lights turned green, meaning my *facepalm* moment had gone and I kept both hands gripping the wheel as I mercifully left the scene of the Braindead Zone I had stopped in.

My thoughts turned to another image I remembered from Google Images;

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Oh, how times change.

From sombre anchormen (and they were all men during Phillip Sherry’s time at the NZBC), to… muppets.  Yes, really, muppets. ‘The Project’ has muppets on its set. Here’s the evidence, from an episode on 4 March 2017;

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Let’s play a game, children… see who can spot The Muppet.

Take…

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Your…

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Time…

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No?

Can’t pick it?

Ok, it’s probably this one;

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(But I could be wrong.)

Now, I’m not suggesting for one micro-second that we return to the era when our NZBC was practically an off-shoot of the 1950s-version of the BBC.

But Mediaworks already had a well-recognised, well-respected ‘brand’ in the form of TV3’s ‘Campbell Live‘. It was solid journalism covering a wide range of stories, from the sombre and thought-provoking to the occassionally light and frothy.

Its in-depth coverage the  GCSB Bill, and the Ian Fletcher scandal  in 2013 and 2014 were perhaps one of only two serious media  analysis (the other being Radio NZ) of National’s widening of the surveillance state in this country;

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Campbell Live’s‘ on-going investigation of  post-earthquake events in Christchurch also raised new standards of journalism, as well as nationwide consciousness of events and on-going problems in that stricken city.

Indeed, John Campbell and his talented team at TV3 were so successful at raising public awareness on the GCSB issue that it provoked our former-Dear Leader Key to respond in his usual trivialising, shoulder-shrugging, *meh*-sort of way;

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Jessica Wright: “How do you think that Kiwis feel about the bill?

John Key: “I think they’re much more interested in snapper quota.”

Jessica Wright: “But I’m not talking about snapper quota, I’m talking about the GCSB Bill. How do you think that they feel about the GCSB Bill?”

John Key: “Yeah, I think they’re much more interested in snapper quota.”

Jessica Wright: “Why?”

John Key: “Because they like catching fish.”

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Despite ‘Campbell Liverise in ratings, it was insufficient to save the programme from it’s apparently pre-determined doom.  It was soon followed by the jaw-droppingly  inane New Zealand-version of  ‘Come Dine With Me‘;

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Rivetting stuff. Almost as engaging as watching grass grow.

By sheer coincidence the producer of ‘Come Dine With Me‘ was  none other than Mediawork’s Board Member, and unReality TV porn-purveyor, Julie Christie.

When Mediaworks axed ‘Campbell Live‘ in May 2015 – most likely at the behest of corporate head-kicker Mark Weldon, aided by his trustee henchwoman, Julie Christie – they opened a can of worms.

There were (unsubstantiated) rumours that Key had contacted Weldon, demanding that Campbell be gotten rid off.

The short-lived garbage  that was ‘Come Dine With Me‘ was considered unappetising by the viewing public, and was quickly canned after only two months. It was followed by Story’  in August 2015 but seemed not to engage viewers. The last chapter of ‘Story’ was broadcast in December 2016.

Now we have ‘The Project‘.

Firstly, I have no idea where Mediaworks execs get their ideas from or why they think that something as vacuous as this programme would appeal to the public.

As “Bomber” Bradbury succinctly put it;

“TV3 have attempted to make current affairs for people who listen to the Edge, the problem is that generation doesn’t watch TV. So TV3 have alienated Gen X and Boomers who want actual current affairs at 7pm to gain a generational audience who don’t bother with the platform TV3 are using.”

We ‘boomers  are the generation that grew up on serious investigative journalism. We are the who watched as Muldoon was taken down by a younger Simon Walker and John Campbell took on Helen Clark. We’ve enjoyed the stellar talents of committed professionals like  Lindsay Perigo, Louise Wallace, Brian Edwards, Maggie Barry, Bill Ralston, Kim Hill, Ian Fraser, Mihingarangi Forbes, Liam Jeory, Kathryn Ryan, Carol Hirschfeld, Paul Holmes, Anita McNaught, Cameron Bennett, Melanie Reid, Guyon Espiner, Genevieve Westcott, Mike McRoberts, Lisa Owen,  and so many, many more. 

Regardless of their politics, these were dedicated journalists who we could rely on to ask the questions that we ordinary Citizens were rarely in a position to do. They were persistent. They asked the hard questions which demanded answers and in doing so, challenged those in authority.

That is the purpose of journalism.

Not to look like this;

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I can’t speak for all Babyboomers (of which I am a member of that privileged demographic), but I want my current affairs and news more like BBC/Al Jazeera/Radio NZ/CNN/etc instead of this;

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I want to see this;

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And most certainly not this;

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Next, the number one rule in business is;

#1 The customer is always right

The second rule is;

#2 If in doubt, refer to Rule One

That rule may not always apply. If a customer requests cyanide in their latte, that request can be rightly declined (or not, depending on what is clearly stated on the menu board).

Aside from issues of life and death, public morality, and physical/biological impossibilities, the customer (in the form of the Viewing Public) is always right when it clearly expressed a desire to keep ‘Campbell Live‘ very much alive. So, how right was the  customer?

Viewers:

Campbell Live – 23 May 2015: 330,830

According to comparative ratings, approximately 186,830 customers were very much right. They “walked” from TV3, en masse. Consider me one of them.

Instead of telling us, the viewers what we want to watch, perhaps Mediaworks should have listened to us in the first place. Businesses that turn a deaf ear to their customers usually end up like this;

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If Mediaworks is attempting to cater to Babyboomers, then shite offerings such as ‘The Project‘ will not cut the mustard. It is a pale, immature, sickly parody of professional journalism. What else can you call something that is fronted by people whose day-jobs are comedians? (Though, to be fair, Jesse Mulligan and Josh Thompson are pretty damned good comedians. I’ve enjoyed watching their gigs on ‘7 Days‘.)

It is an insult to my intelligence.

It is an insult to the intelligence of every person who has grown up (or not) watching real journalism, covering real stories, in a real, professional manner.

To be blunt, Mediawork Execs, if you can’t cobble together credible meaningful journalism for your 7pm timeslot, just repeat F.R.I.E.N.D.S or M*A*S*H* or anything else with excessive punctuation marks in the title.

Or just show this;

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Add a bit of background elevator-music and you’re sorted.

Or, you could try something Different/Not Different. Hire a bunch of the most respected, experienced, capable journalists; resource them properly; and give them sufficient editorial-independence to do their jobs properly.

Guarantee them security from interference by the Mark Weldons and Julie Christies of the world.

Spend money on promoting the product. If Mediaworks can spend millions promoting ‘The Block‘, ‘The Batchelor‘, ‘The Project‘, and other programmes of dubious value – then it should be able to promote a serious, flagship current affairs programme.

Treat the viewing public with respect.

That is how a business succeeds.

It’s not that hard. Does it really have to be explained?

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References

Radio NZ: Labour calls for inquiry over GCSB appointment

Scoop media: The GCSB Bill – We at least have to try

Fairfax media: Come Dine with Me to replace Campbell Live

Fairfax media: John Campbell bows out of Campbell Live show

NZ Herald: Political roundup – Who killed Campbell Live?

Wikipedia: Story

NZ On Screen: Tonight – Robert Muldoon interview

NZ On Screen: 3 News – ‘Corngate’ interview with Helen Clark

Throng: TV Ratings – 22 May 2015

Fairfax media: MediaWorks boss – Project is here to stay and will win the ratings war

Other Bloggers

The Daily Blog: The Project meltdown – when Executives come out to support your 7pm Show, that’s when you know you are in trouble

The Standard: I want that left wing bastard gone

Previous related blogposts

The Curious World of the Main Stream Media

Producer of ‘The Nation’ hits back at “interference” allegations over ‘Campbell Live’

Campbell still Live, not gone

Friends, Kiwis, Countrymen! I come to praise John Campbell, not bury him

Mediawork’s Julie Christie at war with NZ on Air – Possible conflict of interest as first reported last year on TDB

Blogger threatened with lawsuit over questions of conflict-of-interest regarding Mediaworks

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 March 2017.

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= fs =

Is Karl du Fresne happy now?

19 August 2016 1 comment

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10834164_10205533855372897_1327407034_n-960x675

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In March 2013, former Dominion editor and right-wing columnist, Karl Du Fresne, spat an almighty dummy when he launched a diatribe of accusations of “bias” against Radio New Zealand;

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RNZ's bias needs to be tackled

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I responded shortly thereafter with my own interpretation of Du Fresne’s accusation, writing;

Du Fresne referred to RNZ as “left wing”. And then listed all those people whom he thinks are guilty of being “left”. People like,

Kim Hill

Chris Laidlaw

Jeremy Rose

Kathryn Ryan

Obviously, these people all need to be brought before Parliament’s House Committee for Un-New Zealand Activities. (Which, we don’t have – yet – but I’m sure one of Mr Du Fresne’s right wing colleagues such as Maggie Barry could easily organise one. More on Maggie Barry in a moment.) Then the H.C.U.N.Z.A.  can ensure that Hill, Laidlaw, Rose, and Ryan never work in this town again.

Du Fresne claimed;

“So what might the new RNZ chief executive do to enhance the organisation’s standing in a political climate that is less than favourable? One obvious step is to take a tougher line against the editorial bias that still permeates some RNZ programmes.

Public broadcasting organisations, by their very nature, tend to be Left-leaning.”

Left-leaning“?!

Du Fresne did not hold back in his trenchant criticism of the state broadcaster;

But publicly funded broadcasters have an obligation to make programmes that reflect the views and interests that I’m comfortable with – not just those the broadcasters happen to favour for the rest of New Zealand who are a bunch of leftie, pinko, mung-bean eating, hippies.”

I responded by listing the right-wing commentators who were regular or semi-regular guests and commentators on Radio NZ;

  • ex-National President, Michelle Boag;
  • National & ACT supporter and anti-MMP campaigner, Jordan Williams
  • rightwing blogger and National Party apparatchik,  David Farrar;
  • ex-ACT MP and Party President,  Rodney Hide;
  • ex-ACT and later, ex-National MP, Stephen Franks;
  • former speech-writer and press secretary for National and right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooten;
  • and former police officer and front-person for television’s “Police Ten 7″, Graham Bell (who holds right wing views on many issues).

Not forgetting also;

  • Richard Griffin, Radio NZ’s one-time political editor, who worked for National Party ex-Prime Minister Jim Bolger, as his  press secretary in the late 1990’s, and is on Radio NZ’s Board of Governors
  • Maggie Barry (who I referred to above), was the morning presenter on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report’  in 1986, and hosted  ‘Nine To Noon’ show in 1990. Later, in November 2011, Ms Barry stood as a political candidate in the general election, and won the seat of  North Shore. She stood as a National Party candidate.

On Wednesday 10 August, another guest featured on Radio NZ;

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The Panel with Jeremy Elwood and Karl du Fresne - radio nz

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Karl du Fresne – his name pointed out with a big, ‘pinko’ arrow.

So, is Radio NZ still biased?

Especially when the only person to be publicly banned from that broadcaster was left-wing commentator Martyn Bradbury;

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State Media Bans Dissident - frankly speaking - frank macskasy

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Not so self-righteous with indignant cries of “Bias!” now are we, Mr Du Fresne?

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References

Manawatu Standard: RNZ’s bias needs to be tackled

Radio NZ: Board of Governors

NBR: Maggie Barry selected as National’s North Shore candidate

Radio NZ: The Panel with Jeremy Elwood and Karl du Fresne

Additional

TV3: Blogger Bomber banned from RNZ for criticism of Key

Other Blogs

Tumeke: Banned from Radio NZ for criticizing the Government

Previous related blogposts

State Media Bans Dissident!

Karl Du Fresne has a public baby waa-waa cry-session

Karl Du Fresne has a public baby waa-waa cry-session – part rua

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RNZ's bias needs to be tackled - smells like bullsit

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 August 2016.

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= fs =

“Spinning” in a post-truth era

18 August 2016 3 comments

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ministry-of-truth-update

 

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Two recent media stories, on two utterly disparate issues, were clear examples of how tax-payer funded media “spin doctors” were guiding government ministers to respond to questions in a certain way.

Two interviews; two ministers; both on Radio New Zealand’s ‘Morning Report‘ – and both interviews left the audience none-the-wiser afterwards.

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“Guidelines”

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The first, on 5 August, featured Finance  and Social Housing Minister, Bill English, defending Housing NZ’s use of flawed testing regimes for methamphetamine-use in state housing.

On 20 June this year, Housing NZ admitted that the current testing for methamphetamine use (smoking)  was flawed;

“…The current standard guidelines were written to address meth ‘cooking’ and not use, meaning they are not entirely suitable for the contamination that occurs through use of meth.

The Ministry of Health guidelines were written a while ago. At that time it wasn’t perceived that consumption would be at the levels that it has reached. For this reason the guidelines do not cover all they need to.”

Drug Foundation executive director, Ross Bell, was scathing;

“I think they’re out of control…

[…]

I don’t know how they can justify that. Housing New Zealand has spent over $20 million in the last financial year doing these tests and these cleanups. Knowing that these are flawed the minister should step in and stop taxpayers’ money being wasted and vulnerable people being punished.”

Despite the testing regime  – which TVNZ’s  ‘Fair Go‘ programme used to “detect” methamphetamine on bank-notes – “not fit for purpose”, Housing NZ has continued to use the flawed guidelines to evict tenants;

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Expert questions meth contamination evictions

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Housing NZ Minister, Bill English, agreed that the testing for methamphetamine was flawed;

“They’re operating to a Ministry of Health guideline which I understand is internationally standard, but is regarded as not quite appropriate, particularly for dealing for use of P in houses…

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Now, the test as I understand it, indicates the presence of any P at all which may be a very low health risk.”

The interesting aspect to Radio NZ’s Susie Ferguson’s interview with Minister English was not that he disagreed with the premise that the P testing regime  was flawed. He gave a straight answer to Ms Ferguson’s question;

Susie Ferguson: “Are these tests fit for purpose?”

Bill English: “Ah, no. And Housing NZ have said that.”

English then spent the next seven minutes defending the flawed testing regime.

In part of his interview, the “g”-word became glaringly  prominent;

“Housing New Zealand is in the position where there is currently a moh guideline, you can’t just wish that away – Housing New Zealand are not health experts.

Ministry of Health stand by the guideline, and the Ministry of Health are the statutory organisation that promulgates the guideline.

I think everyone involved with this is frustrated, I suppose except for the scientists that gave us the guideline in the first place.”

It is obvious what phrase English’s media spin-doctors told him to stay “on-message”.

He referred to “guidelines” no less than sixteen times within those seven minutes.

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“Technical matters”

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On 8 August, in an unrelated matter, our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, was interviewed over  China’s threats to launch a trade war if New Zealand investigated cheap imports/dumping of sub-standard Chinese steel.

As Vernon Small described the situation on 4 August, in the Dominion Post;

Now let’s see if we’ve got this right.

In early June Chinese officials find a type of fungus (Neofabraea actinidiae) on board a bunch of kiwifruit heading into the country.

Nothing much happens.

Then in early July a message is passed, through back channels, to Zespri and Fonterra (and potentially other primary producers) that China is extremely peeved that a complaint has been laid about the potential dumping of cheap Chinese steel in our market.

A steel inquiry by regulators here could lead to the imposition of non-tariff barriers that could slow down our exports, the warning suggests. And, what’s more, China is angry that the complaint was even accepted for consideration by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

After some to-ing and fro-ing, China officially denies it draws a link between a potential steel-dumping inquiry and sales of our food products. The various New Zealand agencies and exporters chant in unison that it is an “unsubstantiated rumour” that such a link had been made.

Trade Minister Todd McClay at first tries to dismiss media reports as reflecting a single low-level source talking to Zespri. But he later back tracks and apologises to Prime Minister John Key and concedes the Zespri warning was not all. In fact, there had been “discussions and limited correspondence over the past few months as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has endeavoured to assess the veracity of these reports”. But in the end they were not verified.

[…]

On July 22, Zespri said it had experienced no problems. 

But on July 29, just a few weeks after the initial “warning” – and right in sync with that warning –  Chinese border agencies impose non-tariff barriers, involving a risk notification and strengthened inspection and quarantine processes, on our kiwifruit.

Zespri says their unwelcome fungal friend does not affect food safety and is not a pathogen. It exists in several countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Holland, the United States and Ecuador – and potentially China itself, the home of the chinese gooseberry to which the noble kiwifruit is whakapapa.

But in contrast with Zespri’s relatively sanguine view, the Chinese notice from the AQSIQ, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, describes Mr and Mrs Neofabraea actinidiae in very unflattering terms as a “rot pathogen” and a “major disease” that could infect other fruit such as apples and persimmons, thus inflicting “serious economic loss”.

It saying the fungus hails from New Zealand and Australia – the targets of Chinese suspicions that we are acting in league with Uncle Sam.

And through it all ministers and Zespri are ruling out any link to the “unsubstantiated” trade threat.  “China throws up these non-tariff barriers all the time” is the tenor of the message emanating from the Beehive. Nothing to see here.

(The full text of Vernon Small’s analysis is worth reading, and reminiscent of the sort of critical journalistic insights that we used to have in abundance in the Fourth Estate, and which could ultimately do great harm to an encumbent government’s reputation.)

On Radio NZ’s Morning Report, on 8 August, Guyon Espiner interviewed our esteemed Dear Leader on China’s blocking of our kiwifruit exports.

Key’s responses to Espiner’s questions were a tribute to the Prime Minister’s media spin-doctors. Throughout the entire four and a half minutes interview, Key stayed on-message, referring to the blocking of Zespri’s export as “a technical issue“.

The phrase “technical issue” was used three times.

Other answers given were verbose – but not very enlightening for the listener;

Espiner: “Did he [Todd McClay] tell the truth about that, though?

Key: “Yeah, he did, but he was-“

Espiner: “You said he was dancing on the head of a pin.”

Key: “He was very specific in the answer that he gave to a very specific question.”

Espiner: “He was misleading, wasn’t he?”

Key: “Well, I just think, in our business the problem is that even though often a journalist will ask me a direct and specific question, you really know they’re  asking a broader question. And it’s kind of tidier if you can at least give a, give them [a] more fulsome answer.”

So according to Key, if “a journalist will ask… a direct and specific question, you really know they’re  asking a broader question“?

This was quintessential Key silly-speak for “Yes, Todd McClay lied”.

The curious aspect to Key’s “spun” answers is that Guyon Espiner – a seasoned journalist of the calibre of Lisa Owen, Kim Hill, Simon Walker, et al – allowed Key to make his specious drivel unchallenged.

At the very least, Espiner should have challenged Key of his references to “technical matters” with the simple question,

“Prime Minister, is the phrase “technical matters” the on-message phrase you’ve been told to use?”

Key would have responded with a resounding “No, of course not!”.

But that would have blown that phrase out of the water from that point on in the interview. The carefully ‘spun’ message crafted by his spin-doctors would have been rendered neutralised, and Key would have had to rely on other answers to Espiner’s probing. Perhaps even something approaching the truth.

The best way to counter “spin” is to clearly identify it as such.

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Shades of Bill Birch

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In 1991, when former Finance Minister, Bill Birch, was promoting the Employment Contracts Bill to the New Zealand public and media, his constant mantra was that it would “raise real wages”;

” The challenge New Zealand faces in industrial relations is to create an environment that delivers high productivity, high income and high employment.”

The promise of “higher wages” was an attempt to justify  the de-unionised, laissez-faire bargaining aspects of the Employment Contracts Act (later passed into law as an Act of Parliament).

But such was not to be. As economist, Andrew Morrison, reported for the  Parliamentary Library in 1996;

“The content of employment contracts has also changed. There are more flexible work practices, greater multi-skilling and increased use of performance pay. Rates for overtime and penal rates have dropped.

[…]

Econometric work shows the ECA as having had no significant effect on the aggregate level of wages. There may have been some deterioration in working conditions, however evidence is not clear-cut.”

Birch’s claims of the ECA “raising wages” were utterly bogus of course.

In reality, the Act increased wages for a few – but either froze or reduced wages for the majority, as Morrison pointed out.

It was the first occassion when this blogger noticed an oft-repeated phrase used by a politician to promote a wildly unpopular piece of legislation. It may have been one of the first (?) uses of ‘spin’ in such a context (as opposed to mis-use of information or outright lies).

In 1991, the “raising wages” mantra was not challenged in any meaningful way (that this blogger can recall).

A quarter of a century later, we still seem to have a problem with political ‘spin’.

The scary thing is, that our elected representatives don’t really seem perturbed that we recognise their ‘spin’ for what it is. In a post-truth environment, it seems to be the “new norm”.

As Andrea Vance wrote in an opinion piece on 1 July;

Politicians are now playing a game in which it’s up to their opponents to fact-check, to catch out their lies. (“People have had enough of experts,” as British Tory leadership hopeful Michael Gove put it.)

They presume media and the voters should accept what they say as fact.

Earlier this week, Trump’s supporter Jeffrey Lord dismissed this “fact-checking business” as an “elitist, media-type thing”.

People only care about “what the candidates say”, he added.

But if what the candidates say are bare-faced lies…then where does that leave us?

Indeed, where does that leave us?

Perhaps needing new standards for political honesty?

We can call them “guidelines“.

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References

Radio NZ: Drug Foundation critical of meth contamination evictions

Housing NZ: HNZ supports new meth standards committee

Radio NZ: English calls for more specific housing meth tests

Radio NZ: Expert questions meth contamination evictions

Radio NZ: NZ braces for effects on Zespri’s halt of kiwifruit exports

Fairfax media: China’s attack on kiwifruit after trade reprisal warning ‘just a coincidence’

Radio NZ: NZ braces for effects on Zespri’s halt of kiwifruit exports

Parliamentary Library: The Employment Contracts Act and its Economic Impact – Andrew Morrison, Economist (November 1996)

Otago.ac.nz: Labour’s Labour Relations

Additional

TV1 News: A post-truth era in politics

TV1 News: Perhaps the Government might want to say sorry

Radio NZ: Is a ‘post-truth’ era upon us?

Radio NZ: Give facts a chance

Previous related blogposts

Military ‘spin-doctoring’ – the media catch-up

The Art of ‘Spin’

Paula Bennett on unemployment: spin baby, spin!

The Dark Art of ‘Spin’ – How It’s Done

The Dark Art of ‘Spin’ – How It’s Done (Part #Rua)

When spin doctors go bad

“Spin me a conspiracy”, said Dear Leader!

“Spin me a brain exchange”, said Dear Leader!

National Party spin on Aaron Gilmore and MMP

National spins BS to undermine Labour’s Capital Gains Tax

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

The Mendacities of Mr English – Fibbing from Finance Minister confirmed

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quick it's an emergency - spin doctors

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 August 2016.

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Letter to the editor – Mark Weldon’s fan club offers support

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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It appears that there are now two supporters for Mark Weldon;

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mark weldon - tv3 - mediaworks - letter to editor - dominion post - 7.5.16

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It demanded a response…

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Mon, May 9, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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“It concerns me that Mark Weldon has become a scapegoat”, writes Gaylene Freeth (7 May) She asks, “why should all the finger pointing be directed solely at him, when surely the responsibility and accountability rest primarily with the Mediaworks chairman and board members”.

The reason is quite simple. As CEO, Mark Weldon carried out certain policies – policies ostensibly in accordance with Mediaworks’ Board directives.

However, no one forced Weldon to carry out those policies. No one held a gun to his head as he oversaw the mass-redundancies of highly skilled, experienced professionals from their jobs and cancellation of “Campbell Live”.

He could have resigned at any time.

The old argument that “he was only following orders” is one that was firmly rejected as recently as 1945.

When Ms Freeth – herself an experienced businesswoman – demands to know “why is Weldon the only one being targeted at present”, the answers are glaringly obvious;

1. He agreed to carry out Board directives
2. He was paid to do the job
3. CEOs are ultimately responsible for their actions

Ms Freeth says that “any board directive must be implemented regardless”.

No, Ms Freeth. Mark Weldon had a choice and he exercised it. The buck stops with him.

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– Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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References

Radio NZ: MediaWorks CEO Mark Weldon resigns

Previous related blogposts

Campbell Live, No More

Blogger threatened with lawsuit over questions of conflict-of-interest regarding Mediaworks

Mediawork’s Julie Christie at war with NZ on Air – Possible conflict of interest as first reported last year on TDB

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weldon - tv3 - mediaworks

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 May 2016.

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Categories: Media Tags: ,

Mediawork’s Julie Christie at war with NZ on Air – Possible conflict of interest as first reported last year on TDB

22 February 2016 2 comments

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the-jc

 

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In June last year, as news of the cancellation of Campbell Live rocked the nation, I reported on possible conflicts of interest between Mediaworks’ programming decisions, and one of it’s board members, Julie Christie;

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Just when you thought Mediaworks couldn’t possibly dumb-down their television service any further;

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Come Dine with Me to replace Campbell Live

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When I first heard this, my initial reaction was someone on Facebook, with a wry sense of humour, was playing ‘silly buggers’ at Mediaworks’ expense.

Then I was pointed to the media report on Fairfax’s website.

Honestly – how does one react to a decision like this? Deep sobbing tears and face-palming – or maniacal laughter that might do The Joker proud?!

If this is Mediaworks’ idea of a joke – exacted against Campbell Live supporters as revenge for daring to question executive decisions – then someone has a rather cruel, demented sense of humour.

If this is what passes for sound business decision-making in Mediaworks’ boardrooms these days – then their next round of bankruptcy will not be far away. I’m picking three months.

Whoever was responsible for this awful programming decision would be wise to never, ever admit  their part in this insanity. Their career would be in tatters if word got out. To quote a Mediaworks press release describing ‘Come Dine With Me‘;

“Week one features Monika, a Slovakian child carer, who’s all about silly with a side of spice; Tony, an eccentric real estate agent with some cutting critiques and a few ‘endearing quirks’; Hinemoa, a part-time tattooist and full-time eyebrow enthusiast; motor-bike riding, insurance broker Kyle; and stylish yoga enthusiast Sarah.”

Perhaps an answer to this incomprehensible decision to replace a highly successful, well-respected current affair show like ‘Campbell Live‘ with another (and somewhat gormless-sounding) “reality” programme lies with Mediaworks’ board member, Julie Christie.

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julie christie - gerry brownlee - mediaworks - minister - national government - TV3

“Politicians have also had a strong affection for her over the years. Murray McCully and Gerry Brownlee have been photographed out and about at her bar in the Viaduct.” John Drinnan, 15 February 2013

Image acknowledgement: Postman Productions

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In 1991 Christie founded television production-company, Touchdown Productions.The company was responsible for “reality” (aka “unscripted television“) programmes such as ‘My House My Castle’, ‘Whose House Is It Anyway’, ‘DIY Rescue’, ‘Trading Places’, ‘Treasure Island’,Game of Two Halves’,  ‘Pioneer House’,  ‘Dragons’ Den’, and others.

Julie Christie quickly acquired a reputation for being New Zealand’s own television “Reality Queen“, as TV3 itself described her, two years ago;

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Reality TV queen quits production firm - Julie Christie - Mediaworks - Eyeworks - Campbell Live - John Campbell

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More on Christie’s involvement with reality-TV and TV3 in a moment.

In February 2006, Touchdown was sold to Dutch media group, Eyeworks. She remained as CEO of Eyeworks NZ until 31 October 2012, when she resigned. Eight months later, in June the following year as Mediaworks was put into receivership, Julie Christie was appointed to the board of directors.

There is no telling how much earlier  Christie’s June appointment had been planned by parties involved, though this had been tipped by NZ Herald media columnist, John Drinnan four months earlier.

Julie Christie remained closely involved with the company, as confirmed by Eyeworks on their website;

Former CEO Julie Christie will no longer work for Eyeworks New Zealand but remain connected to the Eyeworks Group (15 territories, HQ Amsterdam) working in an international creative role.

There is indeed a strong, formal link between Christie and Eyeworks.

The directors of Eyeworks New Zealand Ltd are;

  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE (NZ)
  • Johannes Petrus Christoffel KERSTENS (Netherlands)
  • Peter LANGENBERG (United Kingdom)
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY (NZ)

The parent company of Eyeworks New Zealand Ltd is Eyeworks Holding New Zealand Ltd. It’s directors are the same four individuals;

  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE (NZ)
  • Johannes Petrus Christoffel KERSTENS (Netherlands)
  • Peter LANGENBERG (United Kingdom)
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY (NZ)

Christie has a separate company, JGM Investments Ltd, whose directors happen to be;

  • Julie Claire CHRISTIE
  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE (Director)
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY

And JGM Investments No2 Ltd, whose directors are also;

  • Julie Claire CHRISTIE
  • Greg Anthony HEATHCOTE
  • Michael David Joseph MOLLOY

Christie’s JGM Investments No2 Ltd company is described as;

JGM Investments No. 2 Ltd. is a public hotels and motel founded in 2010. With 11 employees, the company is larger than the average hotels and motel.

By “coincidence”, the New Zealand version of ‘Come Dine With Me‘ – which has taken ‘Campbell Live’s‘ “plum” 7pm time-slot – is produced by none other than – Eyeworks NZ.

Eyeworks was not wrong when it stated that Christie “remains connected to the Eyeworks Group”.

Not exactly conspiracy theory stuff – but a possible conflict of interest?

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For full story, see related blogpost: Blogger threatened with lawsuit over questions of conflict-of-interest regarding Mediaworks

Written questions put to Eyeworks and Mediaworks on this issue went unanswered. Instead, Rod McGeoch, Chairperson of Mediaworks, responded with a thinly-veiled threat of legal-action for defamation.

My investigations failed to uncover a further salient fact about Christie’s on-going “close relationship” with Eyeworks – Michael David Joseph Molloy is Julie Christie’s brother. Molloy happens to sit on Eyeworks’ board (now known as Warner Bros NZ), as well as Christie’s own  JGM Investments Ltd.

On 14 February, this story appeared in Fairfax’s Sunday Star Times;

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TV row erupts over $5m funding of soap that reflects modern NZ as a bit 'mongrel' - Mark Weldon - Julie Christie

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Journalist Amy Maas reported that NZ on Air has rejected an application for a Mediawork’s soap opera;

The funding pitch proposed the drama would run five nights a week at 5.30pm. The concept pitched to NZ on Air said Trinity Point was a fictional mid-sized beach town, 90 minutes north of Auckland “and one of the last bastions of the Kiwi dream”. It would feature a white-sand beach and an estuary, the main road of the town would host a Santa parade, Dawn Parade and feature a large Four Square supermarket.

[…]

Confidential emails sent six months before funding was declined, and obtained under the Official Information Act, revealed Christie accused NZ on Air board members of questioning her integrity because she used to own Eyeworks/Warner Bros NZ – the production company awarded the proposal to make the drama, despite 50 other applications.

Christie was not impressed, and was scathing in her response to NZ on Air;

After a meeting between MediaWorks and NZ on Air board members, Christie emailed chair Miriam Dean saying: “Your management continues to use this as one of the reasons to decline the necessary level of funding for MediaWorks’ serial drama to proceed”.

“I am assured by leading drama producers in our industry that the only people perpetrating this rumour are your own management and, as a result, TVNZ who are now gleeful that they have been successful,” Christie wrote.
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Christie pointed out that not only did she not have any conflict with the potential producers of the show, she had not worked there for nearly three years and had sold the company seven years ago. She said she had not even met with the current Warner Bros NZ owners.

However, Dean said it was necessary to question her because she previously owned the production company, and her brother, Michael Molloy, was a director of Warner Bros NZ. But “after appropriate probing”, Dean said NZ on Air found there was no conflict, but she could not provide any evidence that the other production companies had expressed concern.

Evidently, charges of conflict of interest had come from several sources;

But in the June 2015 exchanges between Christie and Dean, the NZ on Air chair explained that some of those whose proposals had been rejected had raised the issue of a potential conflict of interest with it being awarded to Warner Bros NZ.

“The complainants expressed their concerns in confidence by telephone, with no records taken. Several production companies conveyed a sense of disquiet regarding the selection process to the effect that, despite the [request for proposals], the outcome was predetermined.”

Christie then referred to her close connections to various government bodies;

In her emails, Christie made a point of mentioning that she currently sat on three government boards, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, New Zealand Story Board and the Flag Consideration Panel, and had a “deep knowledge of responsible public funding”. 

“It is clear that the Government considers me to be a board member of the upmost integrity. I was awarded ONZM for services to film and television. Yet, NZOA continues to suggest I would behave inappropriately.”

And then, to drive home the point of her and Mark Weldon’s “connections” to the National government, threatened NZ on Air;

Christie said she would like to bring the matter “to the attention of the minister”.

Christie’s and Weldon’s close relationship with National is a matter of record, as pointed out in this story by Rex Widerstrom, in the Daily Blog; Thirteen things you (probably) didn’t know about Mark Weldon (CEO of Mediaworks.

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julie christie - gerry brownlee - mark weldon - john key

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Mark Weldon also lashed out at NZ On Air;

During the mud-slinging, MediaWorks chief executive Mark Weldon also waded in to the debate with a terse email to NZ on Air’s chief executive Jane Wrightson, accusing them of prioritising funding for TVNZ programmes.

In the email he wrote that he “had someone do some work” on the discrepancy between funding received by both TVNZ and MediaWorks. He pointed out that TVNZ had been awarded $27m in the last funding round, compared to MediaWorks’ $4m.

“Looking at the documentation, it does not appear to be the case that you have budget constraints … It is clear that you do have budget choices.”

For Amy Maas’ full story, click here.

As I wrote last year;

I seem to have “touched a nerve”. When thinly-veiled threats of defamation lawsuits start flying, it suggests that someone finds the tenor of questioning to be uncomfortable.

To make it crystal clear for Mr McGeoch and his 40 year old lawyering career, I am asking questions, not making assertions. It would be a fairly simple matter to refute the questions with simple answers.

Thus far, no refutations or clarifications have been forthcoming.

However, an apparent conflict-of-interest still remains to be addressed by Mediaworks. Especially when the programme that replaced ‘Campbell Live‘ was created by a company – Eyeworks – with which Julie Christie is still associated, and whose Board members also sit on two companies with which Christie is involved with.

The perception of murkiness in all this cannot easily be overlooked.

[…]

There is no telling how Christie has benefitted from Eyeworks acquiring the contract to produce ‘Come Dine with Me‘. But what we do know – from Eyeworks’ own admission – is that Christie continues to “remain connected to the Eyeworks Group… working in an international creative role”.

Whilst Christie is no longer a Director of Eyeworks, she is still closely associated with two  Eyeworks Directors via two other companies.

We do not know how Eyeworks acquired the contract to produce ‘Come Dine with Me‘. But we do know that Christie is on Mediaworks’ Board of Directors.

We do not know what role Christie played in the production of ‘Come Dine with Me‘, except;

  • her involvement in the reality TV industry is well known
  • Eyeworks admits that she continues to “remain connected to the Eyeworks Group… working in an international creative role“

The 7pm-7.30pm time slot is prime time, and a lucrative slot for advertising within programmes, as  Rod McGeoch, Chairperson of Mediaworks, stated candidly on 11 April 2015;

“We put news on, but only because it rates. And we sell advertising around news. This is what this is all about.”

For Eyeworks to produce a product and schedule it at prime time would have meant a profitable exercise for the company. That required, first of all, to get rid of ‘Campbell Live‘, thereby leaving the slot open.

It has taken nearly eight months, but after my initial findings, this story has finally been reported by the msm.

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References

Fairfax media: Come Dine with Me to replace Campbell Live

TV3 “News”: Come Dine with Me launches on Monday

Mediaworks: Management

NZ on Air: Julie Christie

Wikipedia: Eyeworks Touchdown

TV3 News: Reality TV queen quits production firm

Scoop media: Sale of Touchdown Television to Eyeworks Group

NZ Herald: Julie Christie quits Eyeworks

NBR:  MediaWorks in receivership

NZ Herald: Media – MediaWorks eyes TV queen Julie Christie

NZ Herald: Anger over Campbell Live’s replacement Come Dine With Me

Fairfax media: TV row erupts over $5m funding of soap that reflects modern NZ as a bit ‘mongrel’

The Daily Blog: Thirteen things you (probably) didn’t know about Mark Weldon (CEO of Mediaworks)

Additional

NZ Herald: Political roundup – Who killed Campbell Live?

Previous related blogposts

Campbell still Live, not gone

The Curious World of the Main Stream Media

Producer of ‘The Nation’ hits back at “interference” allegations over ‘Campbell Live’

Radio NZ – Mediawatch for 24 May 2015 – TV3’s Mark Jennings interviewed re Campbell Live

Friends, Kiwis, Countrymen! I come to praise John Campbell, not bury him

Campbell Live, No More

Blogger threatened with lawsuit over questions of conflict-of-interest regarding Mediaworks

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Campbell - TV3 - cartoon - walking the plank

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on  17 February 2016.

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The slow starvation of Radio NZ – the final nail in the coffin of the Fourth Estate?

26 November 2015 4 comments
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save radio new zealand - facebook
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The chilling of the mainstream media

Whether by machiavellian, subtle and covert political pressuring from on-high; bad management decision-making,  or an inevitable process of  dumbing-down brought on by the never-ending need for advertising revenue and rapacious returns to share-holders, news media in this country continues to suffer at the on-going impacts of “market forces”.

The demise of Campbell Live and the loss of Mihingarangi Forbes from Maori TV’s Native Affairs and Dita De Boni from the NZ Herald should give all thinking New Zealanders cause for concern. Those three were amongst the most talented and critical voices from the mainstream media, and their dumping no doubt had a chilling effect throughout the media in this country.

With few exceptions, journos have mortgages and  bills to pay; mouths to feed; and careers they are passionate about. The constant possibility  of sudden termination of their contract is a sword of damocles that probably weighs on their minds when considering how critical of the Establishment they really want to be.

The may be risking their jobs if they stick their heads too far above the parapets.

The only people whose jobs are apparently safe are Mike Hosking and Paul Henry (who seems to bounce from company to company without any deleterious effects to his credibility).

Interestingly,  each has been ’embedded’ with  the two major television networks, TVNZ and Mediaworks’ TV3. Neither are journalists and  both Hosking and Henry  are unashamedly  linked to National.

This is “independepent media freedom” in New Zealand, circa 2015AD.

Who watches the Watchmen?

The last bastion of an independent  freedom, free from commercial imperatives and political interference (hopefully) is, Radio NZ. Despite an incident three years ago, where blogger Martyn Bradbury was banned from Radio NZ for making comments highly critical of our esteemed Dear Leader, the broadcaster maintains a strong ability to project itself as a serious, credible news and current affairs medium.

It continues to carry out strong investigative reporting; interviewing government ministers; State sector leaders;  and other public figures; and offering political analysis from both the Left and the Right.

One of Radio NZ’s most insightful (and often under-valued) programmes is  Mediawatch, which scrutinises, analysis, and holds to account, New Zealand’s mainstream media in a way that is not matched anywhere else by any other MSM outlet. As the Radio NZ promo-blurb states;

“Mediawatch looks critically at the New Zealand media – television, radio, newspapers and magazines as well as the ‘new’ electronic media. It also examines the performance of the agencies, corporations and institutions that regulate them. It looks into the impact the media has on the nation, highlighting good practice as well as bad along the way – and it also enquires into overseas trends and technological developments which New Zealanders need to know about.

It aims to enlighten everyone with an interest in the media about how it all works, how quickly things are changing – and how certain significant stories and issues are being covered. It’s also intended to be essential listening for those who work in the industry itself – as well as those who simply enjoy well-produced and lively radio.”

A recent prime example was on 9 August, when TV3 reporter, Tova O’Brien was taken to task for attributing a quote to someone who never actually said what she claimed;

@ 2:50 –

Colin Peacock: In New York, Tova O’Brien also got a second opinion on Murray McCully’s lofty dream of reforming the veto powers of the so-called Big Five at the UN. And 3 News introduced that story like this;

TV3 News: Former Prime Minister Helen Clark thinks Murray Clark is dreaming if he thinks New Zealand can rid the UN Security Council veto. Russia used the veto yesterday during… [fade-out]

Colin Peacock: Though Helen Clark had actually applauded Murray McCully for his ambition. It was Tova O’Brien who used the word ‘dreaming’ in a question to Helen Clark.

Helen Clark: It [New Zealand] should go for it. It [New Zealand] should follow it’s [New Zealand’s] dream.

Tova O’Brien: But in this case he’s dreaming.

Helen Clark: It’s not a short-term objective.

That was downright dishonest reporting.  Only Radio NZ’s Mediawatch picked up on it.

Last year, on 7 July, Mediawatch was the only  mainstream media team that questioned and criticised the NZ Herald’s dubious stories surrounding unsubstantiated claims of large donations made by migrant businessman, Donghua Liu, to the Labour Party. (Those claims were later “clarified”  with a half-hearted  retraction by the Herald.)

No other mainstream media questioned any of the astounding and unsupported claims made by Donghua Liu, and reported uncritically by the Herald.

It is a sobering thought that aside from the toothless “watch dog” of the Press Council, and only marginally more effective Broadcasting Standards Authority,  there is no real scrutiny of  mistakes, omissions, and mis-reporting made by our media.

Self-criticism does not come easily to the Fourth Estate.

Gutting by slow starvation?

Funding for Radio NZ is channelled through New Zealand on Air – a body described on Wikipedia, as “…an independent New Zealand broadcast funding agency” and  “autonomous crown entity separate from central Government and governed by a Board of six appointed by the Minister of Broadcasting. NZ on Air is responsible for the funding of public-good broadcasting content across television, radio and new media platforms“.

The funding figure of $31.816 million is an easy one to remember – it has remained unchanged since 2009-10, when National assumed the reins of government. The figure has been maintained until next year.Using the Reserve Bank inflation calculator, Radio NZ’s funding should have risen to $35.26 million. In effect, by not keeping pace with inflation, Radio NZ’s funding has been cut by around 10%.

By contrast, Budget data showing increases to the Prime Minister’s Department makes for sobering reading.

  • Michael Cullen’s last budget,  2008/09, allocated $25,470,000 to Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet.
  • In the same 2008/2009 Budget, Radio NZ was allocated $31,718,000 through NZ on Air, an increase of $2,644,000 (approx 8%) from the previous year.
  • In National’s first Budget, 2009/10, Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet was allocated $33,021,000 – an increase of $7,551,000 – or just under 25%!
  • In the same 2009/2010 Budget, Radio NZ’s allocation went up by $98,000 to $31,816,000 – not even a 1% increase.

For the first time, the Prime Minister’s Departmental budget exceeded that of Radio NZ. Furthermore;

  • Since 2009/10, Radio NZ’s allocation has stayed the same; $31,816,000.
  • By contrast, the amounts allocated to the Prime Minister’s Department has increased, and in the 2015/16 Budget was allocated  $49,298,000 – an increase of $24,476,000 since 2008 and  a near-doubling of John Key’s department and Cabinet expenditure since Michael Cullen’s last budget, seven years ago.
  • In the 2015/16 Budget, Radio NZ was allocated  $31,816,000 – a nil increase.

Framed another way, a news media organisation – dedicated to informing the public about government activities – has had no increase in resourcing since John Key’s administration came to power in late 2008.

By contrast, the Prime Minister’s Department – dedicated to promoting the power of the Government and more specifically, pursuing National’s political agenda – has had a doubling of taxpayer funding.

Where to for funding Radio NZ?

On 17 August, I wrote to NZ on Air’s Chief Executive, Jane Wrightson and asked;

“In your Annual reports, NZ on Air’s income from  Crown revenue went from $109,813,000 (for the year ended 30 June 2008 ) to  $128,726,000 (for the year ended 30 June 2015) – an increase of nearly $19 million.

Can you explain why none of that increase, according to your Annual Reports,  was directed at Radio NZ?”

On 21 August, Ms Wrightson responded;

“NZ On Air does not set Radio New Zealand’s Crown funding. This is done by Ministers. I am not aware of any government-funded entity that has an automatic inflation provision to increase funding.”

When questioned whether “Radio NZ’s funding has been frozen (effectively reduced, after inflation is factored in) because it is considered to be politically “inconvenient” or “embarrassing”  to the government”, Ms Wrightson replied;

“NZ On Air is a funding agency independent of Government in terms of our content funding strategy and decisions. Radio New Zealand’s funding has been static in the same way that all publicly funded agencies in the cultural sector have been static, during a time of fiscal constraint.”

Fiscal constraint” does not appear to be a limiting factor when the Prime Minister’s Department is funded from the tax-payer’s purse/wallet.

Questions for the Broadcasting Minister

On 6 September, I asked the Minister of Broadcasting, Amy Adams;

It is my understanding that Radio New Zealand’s funding has not increased since 2009, when it’s budget was set at $31,816,000.

With it’s funding frozen, and no means of other revenue, it has effectively had a funding cut after inflation and salary increases are taken into account.

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has not, at the very least,  been inflation-indexed?

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has been frozen whilst at the same time, the Prime Ministers Department has had a budget increase since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16 – a near doubling in just seven years?

Are you committed to increasing Radio NZ’s budget next year? If not, why not?

How do you expect Radio NZ to deliver excellent service  when it has effectively had a cut in funding?

On 20 May this year, you were enthusiastic about Radio NZ’s growth in market-share;

“While there has been a decline in listenership across traditional platforms, over the last twelve months RNZ’s online audience has grown significantly as their multi-media strategy is implemented.”

For example:

  • In 2013/14, 3.5 million podcasts were downloaded.
  • In 2013/14, radionz.co.nz page views reached 21 million and over 2014 unique users of the website grew by over 50 per cent.
  • In 2013/14, regular user of the RNZ mobile app grew by almost 62 per cent.

Ref: https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/bill-update-radio-nz-charter-passes-second-reading

Whilst this is evidence that Radio NZ is a prudent manager of it’s funding, it is unreasonable to expect that this situation is  sustainable for the foreseeable future.

If the Prime Minister’s Department required a 100% increase from 2008, then why has Radio NZ not been accorded the same benefit?

There have been suggestions that Radio NZ’s frozen funding is a covert attack on the broadcaster and an attempt to reduce it’s effectiveness. What is your response to this assertion?

On 17 September 〈¹〉,Minister Adams replied to my questions;

“I have been pleased to see the steps RNZ is taking to ensure its success in the
changing media environment and the ways it has expanded to reach new audiences,
such as The Wireless, an online service for young people. Although operating
within a static funding environment, RNZ continues to meet it’s objectives and
has become an established multi-platform broadcaster with the annual funding of
$35 million it receives.

While I share your concern about the funding constraints RNZ has faced over
recent years, this is common across all public services. In a time of fiscal
constraint, it is especially important that the Government manages the public
finances in a prudent and responsible manner and makes sustainable choices about
the prioritisation of public funds. I welcome the approach RNZ has taken to
ensure the business is run as efficiently as possible and that public funds
are utilised as effectively as they can be to maximise the public value of content.”

Adams went on to state;

“While I recognise your concern about the funding constraints RNZ has faced over
recent years, this is common across all public services. In a time of fiscal
constraint, it is especially important that the Government manages the public
finances in a prudent and responsible manner and makes sustainable choices about
the prioritisation of public funds. I welcome the approach RNZ has taken to ensure
the businrss is run as efficiently as possible and that public funds are utilised
as effectively as they can be to maximise the public value of content.”

To put it mildly, her response was utterly unsatisfactory, and in no way offered any sensible answers. Her comments also did not appear to reflect realities surrounding Radio NZ and required clarification.

Awkward Questions and Questionable Answers

On the same day, I wrote back to the Minister, seeking new answers;

As I pointed out to you in my 6 September email,

It is my understanding that Radio New Zealand’s funding has not increased since 2009, when it’s budget was set at $31,816,000.

With it’s funding frozen, and no means of other revenue, it has effectively had a funding cut after inflation and salary increases are taken into account.

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has not, at the very least,  been inflation-indexed?

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has been frozen whilst at the same time, the Prime Ministers Department has had a budget increase since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16 – a near doubling in just seven years?

In your response to me, dated 17 September, you stated in-part;

“While I share your concern about the funding constraints RNZ has faced over
recent years, this is common across all public services. In a time of fiscal constraint, it is
especially important that the Government manages the public finances in a prudent and
responsible manner and makes sustainable choices about the prioritisation of public
funds. I welcome the approach RNZ has taken to ensure the business is run as
efficiently as possible and that public funds are utilised as effectively as they can be to
maximise the public value of content.”

This response does not address the questions and issues I raised in my email.

Namely; why has Radio NZ’s funding been frozen since 2009 – whilst funding for the Prime Minister’s Department has doubled  since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16.

 The next point I raised was;

Why has Radio NZ’s funding been frozen since 2009 – whilst funding for the Prime Minister’s Department has doubled  since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16.

You state that “In a time of fiscal constraint, it is especially important that the Government manages the public finances in a prudent and responsible manner and makes sustainable choices about the prioritisation of public funds” – yet this constraint does not seem to have been applied to the Prime Minister’s Department, with funding increases every year since 2008.

Can you shed light on  why Radio NZ’s funding has been frozen, but the Prime Minister’s Department has not?

And the last point I raised;

Secondly,  you write that “ it is especially important that the Government manages the public finances in a prudent and responsible manner and makes sustainable choices about the prioritisation of public funds“.

Can you explain the meaning of term, “sustainable choices” in the context of your letter? What, precisely, do you mean by “sustainable choices“?

Lastly, you refer to Radio NZ as a “business”. Considering that RNZ is non-commercial; has very little revenue; does not return a dividend; and has no profit-making capability – can you explain in what sense the broadcaster is a “business”?
This time, the Minister’s response was not so promptly forthcoming, and after sending a reminder on 1 October to her office, I was advised on 15 October;

The section of your email relating to the budget of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has been transferred to the Department, as it is better able to respond to your query.

Minister Adams will respond to your questions regarding the funding of RNZ.

It was now apparent that I was asking awkward questions that could not be fobbed off with a three-paragraph letter written in bland political jargon-speak.

Having transferred part of my OIA to the Prime Minister’s Department, I suspected it would be a long wait for a response.

On 13 November, Minister Adams responded to my request for clarification to her statement on 17 September. She first said;

“With regards to the first matter you raise, no government agency’s budget is inflation
linked. Ministers make decisions on an annual basis about potential funding increases
based on the requirements of the agencies. As you will be aware, these decisions involve
prioritisation across the entire public sector to ensure that any additional funding is
focused on the areas of most need.”

The Minister’s claim that “no government agency’s budget is inflation linked”appears to be at variance with the fact that the Prime Minister’s Department’s budget has doubled since 2008. This is an area which she obviously has no answer to, hence “transferring” my query to the PM’s Department.

However, Adams’ assertion that “ministers make decisions on an annual basis about potential funding increases” is actually at the nub of this problem. It is precisely the fact that Radio NZ’s budget has been frozen by a decision at a  ministerial level, that Minister Adams herself admits.

In effect, by deciding that Radio NZ’s budget is not to be increased, it is a form of political interference in an otherwise independent agency’s affairs.

National has long since abandoned Muldoonist-style direct interference in state sector departments and agencies. The more subtle – but just as destructive technique – is to quietly starve a recalcitrant independent body of funding.

When Minister Adams insists that “Ministers make decisions on an annual basis about potential funding increases based on the requirements of the agencies“, she is being duplicitous.

No one could sensibly suggest that a nationwide broadcaster could operate on a long-term basis without an increase to it’s funding.

Executives warn Parliamentary Select Committee of dire financial situation for RadioNZ

Radio NZ’s growing financial problems was raised during the 2012/13 financial review of Radio New Zealand,  by the Parliamentary Commerce Committee. The Committee referred to the issue at the beginning of their Report;

“Crown funding for Radio New Zealand has not increased in six years; we asked how this had affected staff and services.”

Labour’s Kris Faafoi was direct when he asked RadioNZ’s, Deputy Chief Executive, Ken Law;

“…you’ve been under a pretty difficult financial situation for 5 or 6 years now. I notice in the questions that you gave back to us that you’ve managed to make some savings of around $2 million in the last year, but how much longer can you cut your cloth until there is no more cloth to cut?”

Law, responded;

“I would suggest that that funding will have to be externally generated. But we have been very successful. We’ve made a number of
savings, particularly in production systems. We have some excellent expert staff in audio production. They’ve made some major savings in audio production systems and procedures. We’ve taken out some of the resilience or some of the duplication in transmission networks. That’s been a very calculated risk, but one that we think we’ve been able to manage and we can manage into the future. But really your question—how much longer? Not much longer.”

That was review was held around 8 May 2014. Despite putting on a brave face to the Parliamentary Committee and voicing up-beat comments, Radio NZ’s executives are clearly concerned that they are fast running out of cost-saving options.

Also noteworthy is that, in an attempt to cut costs, managerial decisions have been implemented to cut “some of the resilience or some of the duplication in transmission networks“.

Law described  cut-backs to “resilience” as “a very calculated risk”. This can be taken as to mean that Radio NZ’s technical infrastructure has been undermined and compromised for cost-saving purposes.

“Sustainability” and job losses looming

Minister Adams’ also explained what she meant by the term, “sustainable choices” and  in what sense was the broadcaster  a “business”, considering it is non-commercial, and has no revenue-income to speak of;

“With regards to the term ‘sustainable choices’ as used in my previous
correspondence, I meant choices about fiscal policy that keep government debt at
prudent levels and manage fiscal risks. As mentioned above, when Ministers make
decisions about agency funding they have to prioritise initiatives from across the
state sector to achieve this.

[…]

Although RNZ is not a commercial business, the Crown expects commercial disciplines
to be applied to the use of public funds and for RNZ to act in a professional and
business-like manner.”

Minister Adams’ candour was startling. She was admitting that her use of the phrase “sustainable choices” referred not to Radio NZ – but to National’s own attempts to balance it’s Budget and post a surplus.

Like other areas of the State sector – health, education, housing, police, etc – National has been cutting budgets to meet Budgetary demands. Those demands were exacerbated by National’s tax cuts of 2009 and 2010. Using the Minister’s phraseology, those tax cuts were ultimately “unsustainable choices“.

A year and a half  after  Ken Law’s fateful words to the Commerce Committee, Radio NZ’s chief executive, Paul Thompson, announced that the broadcaster would be shedding jobs;

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson confirmed staff had been sent memo outlining the proposed changes at the state-owned broadcaster on Tuesday.

Newsreaders and producers at Radio New Zealand are in the gun, with the national broadcaster planning to shed jobs in their push into digital.

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson confirmed staff had been sent memo outlining the proposed changes at the state-owned broadcaster on Tuesday.

This included cutting the overall headcount at RNZ from 283 to 270 by July next year, with 20 jobs disestablished and seven new digital roles created.

“We are having to find some savings which is no surprise.”

National’s on-going refusal to adequately  fund Radio NZ  has  predictably been  “un-sustainable“.

The Prime Minister’s Office confirms doubling of their Budget

Having heard nothing since 15 October, when the Broadcasting Minister’s office transferred part of my OIA request to the Prime Minister’s Department, follow-up enquiries were made on 23 October as to what progress they were making;

“It is my understanding that Radio New Zealand’s funding has not increased since 2009,
when it’s budget was set at $31,816,000.

With it’s funding frozen, and no means of other revenue, it has effectively had a funding
cut after inflation and salary increases are taken into account.

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has not, at the very least, been inflation-indexed?

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has been frozen whilst at the same time, the Prime
Ministers Department has had a budget increase since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000
in 2015/16 – a near doubling in just seven years?”

By 12 November, a month after Minister Adams’ office had transferred part of my OIA request to the Prime Minister, no reply had been forthcoming and I asked again whether I could expect a reply.

A little over twentyfour hours later, I received a two-page response from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. (The full text of the document is available for viewing here.)

In response to my questions;

“Why has Radio NZ’s funding been frozen since 2009 – whilst funding for the Prime Minister’s Department has doubled  since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16?”

“This [funding] constraint does not seem to have been applied to the Prime Minister’s Department, with funding increases every year since 2008. Can you shed light on  why Radio NZ’s funding has been frozen, but the Prime Minister’s Department has not?”

– the answers were “interesting” to say the least.

Anne Shaw, Director of the Office of the Chief Executive, confirmed that the budget for the DPMC had doubled  since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16.

She described the doubling of the Prime Minister’s Department as taking on “new responsibilities“;

“The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) serves the Executive (the
Governor-General, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet) through the provision of high
quality impartial advice and support services. DPMC is comprised of five business
units: Cabinet Office, Government House, Policy Advisory Group, Security & Intelligence
Group, and Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management. The functions of DPMC
have changed significantly over the period of time covered by your request with taking
on new responsibilities. The changes in funding largely reflect this.”

Interestingly, Shaw refered to political management  and the Civil Defence  bureacracy as “business units”. Are those “business units” run with the  expectation of  commercial disciplines  to be applied to the use of public funds and to act in a professional and business-like manner” – as Minister Adams demanded of Radio NZ?

Shaw then provided alleged examples which appeared to justify the doubling of funding for the Prime Minister’s office.

However, Budget documents are not always clear as to what “additional fundings” were made from the Prime Ministers Department (DPMC), as purported by Shaw. In several instances, there was no apparent reference to any increase for a given purpose;

(1) “Additional funding” for the  “conservation of Government House in Wellington” between 2009/10 and 2010/11:

Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet 2009/10 Budget: $20.1 million

Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet 2010/11 Budget: $17.4 million

Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet 2011/12 Budget: $1.1 million

Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet 2012/13 Budget: $1 million

(2) “Payments made as a result of the September 2010 and February 2011 Canterbury Earthquakes, including support for response and recovery as a result  of the 22 February 2011 Canterbury Earthquake“. There were no payments found  for “support for response and recovery activities”  relating to the earthquakes within the 2010/11, 2011/12, or 2012/13 Budgets.

(3)  “Relocating the intelligence and security functions to a new purpose-built facility for the New Zealand intelligence community” 2010/11.  There were no payments found  for any such “relocation” within the DPMC Budget.

However, the Budget for Vote Communications Security and Intelligence increased massively during the 2010/11 period which Shaw claimed as justification for the DPMC’s budget increase:

Vote Communications Security and Intelligence 2008/09:  $49.368 million

Vote Communications Security and Intelligence 2009/10:  $59.142 million

Vote Communications Security and Intelligence 2010/11:  $73.926 million

Any increase for “relocating the intelligence and security functions to a new purpose-built facility for the New Zealand intelligence community” appears to have come from Vote Communications Security and Intelligence, not Vote Prime Minister’s Department.

(4) There is no reference to expenditure for “Cabnet”  or establishment of the National Cyber Policy Office within the 2012/13 Budget for Vote Prime Minister’s Department. If it exists, it was “buried” under one or another classication.

(5)  Shaw also referred to costs incurred for “depreciation funding for the refurbished Government House“. These entries do exist in each DPMC Budget.

“Funded depreciation” is described as “… a fixed asset management method that helps a company set aside funds to renew machinery and equipment that it uses in operating activities“.

It is highly unlikely that any government will be building a new Government House any time soon.

(6) Shaw gave another explanation to the ballooning Prime Minister’s Department’s budget; “In April 2014, the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM) became part of the DPMC. This meant an additional funding increase in 2013/14 with the transfer of civil defence and emergency management functions from Vote Internal Affairs and an additional 39 staff“.

Ms Shaw is correct, and the cost of transitioning – according the the 2013/14 Budget – $1.354 million.

Even with three related costings included, the sum reaches only $3.6 million. This hardly explains why the PM’s Department’s budget has doubled since 2008.

(7)  Ms Shaw’s final explanation for the budgetary increases for the DPMC was perhaps the most galling, citing “an increase in 2015/16 reflecting the expected costs of supporting the process to consider changing the New Zealand Flag“.

However, Shaw’s explanation is not convincing. The 2015/16 Budget reveals a figure of $4.4 million for the DPMC’s “Supporting Flag Consideration Process” – not the full estimated costing of $26 million.

Even so, considering that Ministers have consistantly fetishsised  the “need for fiscal restraint”, it is hard to see that funding the flag referendum is a necessity that excuses the need for on-going “fiscal restraint”.

Especially when agencies such as Radio NZ have not had funding increases for seven years.

It appears that money can be readily found when John Key needs it.

Solutions?

On 17 September, broadcasting spokespeople for Labour, the Greens, and NZ First were approached for comment on Radio NZ’s funding.

The Greens and NZ First did not provide any response.

Labour’s Clare Curran responded and said;

In October I released a private member’s bill to put to an end Radio New Zealand’s punishing
six­year funding freeze that matches funding to inflation and population growth and assists
the broadcaster’s transition to a multimedia public service network

The Radio NZ (Catch­Up Funding) Amendment Bill, which has been placed in the private
member’s bill ballot, provides for an 11 per cent increase based on total inflation and an
overall population increase of 6.7 per cent from June 2009 to June 2015.

Current NZ on Air funding for Radio New Zealand for the 2015/16 year is $31,816,000. The
one­off ‘catch up’ for the 2015/16 year would be an increase of around $6.5 million.

The Bill provides for the catch­up funding to be sustained and for inflation and population
adjustments to occur annually. It is the first step in a broad strategy by Labour to improve the
quantity and quality of New Zealand voices in broadcasting.

Public service broadcasting is gradually being eroded in New Zealand. Despite the population
of New Zealand growing ever larger and more diverse, the range of voices in broadcasting is
narrowing.

This bill is a stake in the ground on the importance of public interest media.

Ms Curran also replied to several specific questions I put to her,  if Labour was to be part of the next government, post­-2017;

Frank Macskasy: Will you make an immediate capital-injection into Radio NZ, to take into account inflation since 2008?

Clare Curran: Labour’s broadcasting policy for 2017 is yet to be announced. However I draw your attention
to the private member’s bill in my name which provides for an immediate funding increase
for RNZ based on inflation since 2008 and population increase.

FM: Will you inflation-index any subsequent funding for Radio NZ?

CC: Bearing in mind we haven’t announced formal policy I think you take that as a yes.

FM: What strategy do you have, if any, to entrench regular funding increases for Radio NZ to take such funding  decisions away from ministers and eliminate/reduce potential covert political interference by chronic under-funding?

CC:  This is an excellent question and one that Labour takes very seriously. We are undertaking
community engagement as we speak about these very matters. As Broadcasting
spokesperson, and as a former journalist, I believe editorial independence from ministerial
interference is a fundamental tenet of democracy. Recent events inside Maori TV have raised
serious questions about the ability of a Minister to influence programming decisions which he
doesn’t like. Political party That’s deeply concerning no matter which political party is
involved.

I don’t believe our publicly ­funded media is arms­-length enough from government. What’s
happening in Australia with the ABC and even in the UK with the BBC is testament to that.

In order for true democracy to flourish, commercial –free public interest media is an essential
pillar. Just as we have established and entrenched the watchdogs of government in the
Ombudsman, Auditor General, Human Rights Commission, Privacy Commissioner etc.. so
must we ensure that our public media entities are given a public mandate to operate
independently from state influence, overtly or surreptitiously. As you rightly point out,
removing funding decisions from ministers may be an important mechanism to do that.

However, I make the point that it must be a political policy decision to move in that direction.
I signal that Labour will move in that direction.

FM: Would an independent decision-making body, such as the Remuneration Authority which rules over MP’s salaries, be a practical solution to this problem?

CC: This is a matter for further discussion which I welcome and will participate in, in any forum.

Clare Curran’s response was appreciated.

It also gives hope that a future progressive government will not only restore Radio NZ’s funding – but will implement a policy that will entrench and safeguard this taonga from covert under-mining by unsympathetic governments.

The job of media is not to serve up infantilised ‘pap’ for an increasingly disconnected audience. The job of media is to hold truth to power, full-stop.

A democracy simply cannot function without a flourishing, well-resourced, critical media.

Governments without a watchful media is authority without brakes. It is political power without independent over-sight. It is dangerous.

At a time when print media is “down-sizing” (ie, sacking) skilled, experienced staff, and electronic media serves up a daily evening diet of superficial “current affairs” and even more vacuous “news”; gormless formulaic “reality shows”; and a never-ending stream of stomach-churning crime “drama” – Radio NZ is the last bastion of serious, professional media.

It is the last institution left standing. It is holding the line.

But only barely.

Note1 – Minister Adams responded to my OIA in one and a half weeks. This is an outstanding achievement for any National Minister’s office. Most National Ministers take weeks, if not months, to respond.

NZ Treasury: Budget 2015 – Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet

Additional References

NZ on Air: The Board

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2008

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2009

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2010

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2012

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2013

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2014

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2015

Additional

The Daily Blog: CBB supports Private Members Bill to increase funding to Radio NZ

Labour: Labour bill to stop stealth cuts to Radio NZ

The Standard:  David Cunliffe on the state of the media in New Zealand

Parliament: Radio New Zealand (Catch-up Funding) Amendment Bill

Previous related blogposts

TVNZ7, Radio New Zealand, and distracting trinkets.

State Media Bans Dissident!

Karl Du Fresne has a public baby waa-waa cry-session

Karl Du Fresne has a public baby waa-waa cry-session – part rua

Talkback Radio, Public Radio, and related matters

NZ media; the Good, the Bad, and the Very, Very, Ugly

Campbell Live, No More

The Donghua Liu Affair: One Year On

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charlie hebdo

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 November 2015.

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TPPA – media reports and blogposts

12 October 2015 2 comments

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TPP_map-660x330

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On Tuesday 6 October, the announcement was made that  TPPA negotiations had been completed and signed by the twelve participating nations. The following Radio NZ interviews, as well as other media reports and blogposts, present a wide-ranging picture of this event…

Radio NZ – Morning Report

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Trans-Pacific Partnership signed in Atlanta - radio nz

Trans-Pacific Partnership signed in Atlanta

The Trans-Pacific Partnership deal has been reached in the early hours of this morning in Atlanta. (alt. link)

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Special trade envoy says TPP dairy deal was always going to be tough - radio nz

New Zealand’s special agricultural trade envoy Mike Petersen returned from Atlanta early this week, but has been kept up to date on the latest developments. (alt. link)

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Some key facts about the TPP deal - radio nz

The deal once ratified by the twelve countries will be phased in with some parts not coming into full effect for as long as 25 years. (alt. link)

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Former US trade representative reacts to TPP announcement - radio nz

Former US trade representative reacts to TPP announcement. And as we’ve been reporting this morning the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal has been reached in the early hours in Atlanta. (alt. link)

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Labour's reaction to overnight TPP deal announcement - radio nz

Listening to that is Annette King — the Labour Party’s acting leader.(alt. link)

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International trade policy expert on overnight TPP deal - radio nz

Joseph Stiglitz on the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal,  reached in the early hours in Atlanta. (alt. link)

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More analysis on the TPP deal with our economics correspondent - radio nz

With us again is our economics correspondent Patrick O’Meara. (alt. link)

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Fonterra's chairman John Wilson on TPP deal - radio nz

Fonterra’s chairman John Wilson says the TPP outcome for dairy is far from perfect but he appreciates the effort made by the trade minister Tim Groser and his negotiators and some progress in market access has been made. (alt. link)

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Radio NZ – Nine to Noon

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The trade pact TPP - what will it mean for NZ - radio nz

“It’s been called the most sweeping trade pact in a generation, and will affect 40 percent of the world economy. The Trans-Pacific Partnership was finally signed overnight in Atlanta. It will cut trade barriers and set common standards for 12 countries. But the devil remains in the detail … and the written details have yet to be released. Crawford Falconer is a professorial chair in Global Value Chains and Trade at Lincoln University and a former trade negotiator with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.” (alt. link)

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Business commentator Rod Oram - radio nz

Business commentator Rod Oram;

The TPPA, the Government’s new science investment strategy and banking arrangements. (alt. link)

 

 

 

 

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Jane Kelsey, Scoop media

National government betrays NZers in TPPA deal

Tuesday, 6 October 2015, 12:16 pm
Press Release: Jane Kelsey

‘This deal is a travesty of democracy’, said Professor Jane Kelsey about the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) in Atlanta, USA.

‘The government has ignored, insulted and lied to its citizens.’

‘Minister Groser has misled New Zealanders. He always knew he was on a hiding to nothing on dairy. I have predicted many times that he would not do as he said and walk away from a lousy deal, but would make claim that there were some intangible future gains from being in the club. That’s exactly what’s happened’. (read more)

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TVNZ  News

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TPP deal agreed, but not an ‘ideal result’ for NZ key exports

7.03am

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been sealed in the US overnight with New Zealand agreeing to terms with 11 other countries.

Trade Minister Tim Groser told TVNZ’s Breakfast this morning it hasn’t been an “ideal result” for New Zealand’s key exports.

However, TPP opponent Professor Jane Kelsey said “government has ignored, insulted and lied to its citizens” and that “this deal is a travesty of democracy”.

Access for our dairy products to key markets Canada and Japan have not been as fulsome as first hoped, with several countries refusing to remove all blocks to free trade for New Zealand’s beef and dairy exports. (read more)

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‘This deal is a travesty of democracy’ – reaction to TPP agreement

1.27pm

The controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership was sealed in the US overnight, with New Zealand agreeing to terms with 11 other countries including the US and Japan. 

Here is some of the reaction: (read more)

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Fairfax media

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Ministry breaks down TPPA tariff gains; dairy, meat the biggest winners

Countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership may have finally come to an agreement but the dominant source of support for the New Zealand dollar is still the United States interest rate debate. 

New Zealand and 11 other Pacific Rim countries, including the United States, Japan and Canada, reached a deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after the anticipated announcement on Monday was dragged out due to a sticking point regarding access to international markets for New Zealand dairy.

The Kiwi was trading at US64.64 cents on Monday afternoon, lifting to US65.09c on Tuesday morning. (read more)

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Labour to carry on regardless of TPPA – Ardern

Benn Bathgate
Last updated 15:42, October 6 2015

A Labour Government will make laws without regard to the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and if necessary “face the consequences”.

That was the view of Jacinda Ardern, Labour MP and spokesperson for small business, speaking at a Chamber of Commerce event in Rotorua on Tuesday.

“When we’re in Government we’ll continue to legislate as we would and we’ll face the consequences,” she said. (read more)

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Canty manufacturer excited about TPPA

Alan Wood
Last updated 15:43, October 6 2015

Christchurch Metal foundry AW Fraser expects to be one of many manufacturers to benefit from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Canterbury manufacturers say the needs of the dairy sector have dominated too much when it comes to the pluses and minuses of reaching the trade deal.

Members of the New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association (NZMEA) say that dairy only represents 20 per cent of the country’s exports. (read more)

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Tv3 News

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TPPA countries reach deal

Tuesday 6 Oct 2015 5:20 a.m.

New Zealand’s failed to get all trade barriers for its beef and dairy exports lifted as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

After several days of intense negotiations in the US city of Atlanta, trade ministers from the 12 countries involved in the TPPA announced they had reached agreement on the world’s largest free trade pact early today (NZ time).

One of the major sticking points in the negotiations was securing greater access for New Zealand dairy products to a number of protected markets. (read more)

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TPPA response swift, varying

By Aziz Al-Sa’afin and 3 News online staff
Tuesday 6 Oct 2015 10:09 a.m.

An urgent law change proposed by New Zealand First would mean international treaties need to be approved by Parliament before they are signed.

The policy comes after the massive and controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) was agreed to by New Zealand and 11 other Pacific countries today.

Reaction to the TPPA has ranged from descriptions of it being a “betrayal” and “disappointing” to hugely congratulatory.  (read more)

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TPPA: What you need to know

By 3 News online staff

After years of tough negotiations, New Zealand and 11 other Pacific Rim countries have agreed to the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, but what does it mean?

The deal was agreed to early this morning (NZ time) and gets rid of 93 percent of tariffs on New Zealand exports, but Prime Minister John Key admits not eliminating tariffs on dairy was “disappointing”.

The deal is expected to be worth $2.7 billion a year by 2030. (read more)

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TPP agreement boosts NZ shares

Tuesday 6 Oct 2015 6:25 p.m.

New Zealand shares have gained after agreement was reached on the Trans Pacific Partnership deal.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 37.57 points, or 0.7 percent, to 5668.11 today. Within the index, 30 stocks rose and 11 fell. Turnover was $113 million.

Overnight 12 Pacific Rim nations including New Zealand reached a deal on the controversial TTP, which covers 40 percent of the global economy. (read more)

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NZ Herald

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Fran O’Sullivan: TPP deal – Tim Groser puts foie gras on dead rats

Tim Groser’s brinksmanship in the final brutal hours of the marathon Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations secured New Zealand a deal on dairy.

The Trade Minister had to swallow a “few dead rats”. But there’s still plenty of what Groser earlier termed “foie gras” to make for an tasty trade package estimated to be worth $2.7 billion a year for NZ by 2030.

Groser has not secured a gold-plated outcome – as far as NZ’s prime export is concerned – but considerable gains have been made through controlled market access for dairy to major consumer markets like the US, Japan, Mexico and Canada. (read more)

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TPP deal: Now 90 days for scrutiny

Now the Trans Pacific Partnership talks have concluded, New Zealand and the 11 other countries must tick several boxes before the agreement can be brought into force.

Under a rule set by the United States, any agreement cannot be signed until 90 days after negotiations end, to allow time for full consideration of its pros and cons. The same rule also says the agreement’s full text must be made available to the public after 30 days.

In New Zealand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will provide a report to the Cabinet on the costs and benefits. The Cabinet will then decide whether to approve the agreement. (read more)

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TPP deal ‘failed to deliver for NZ’ – Labour

The Labour Party says the Trans Pacific Partnership appears to have failed to deliver for New Zealand with few gains for dairy farmers and potential implications for medicines.

Deputy leader Annette King would not say this morning whether the party would back the deal because details about its contents were “scant”.

“[Trade Minister] Tim Groser did say that there would be some ugly compromises,” she said. “We would now like to see what those ugly compromises were.” (read more)

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TPP deal: New Zealand and 11 other countries strike Pacific trade pact

Audrey Young & Jamie Gray,

• TPP deal struck after final, brutal hours of negotiations
• Hailed as the biggest deal of a generation
• Has power to affect 40 per cent of world’s economy
• NZ dairy sector is disappointed
• Tariffs on 93 per cent of NZ exports to new free trade to be eventually eliminated
• But no change to the 20-year patent period for pharmaceuticals

After years of talks, the controversial and secretive Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal has been finalised. (read more)

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Dr Pat Neuwelt: Doctors not prepared to swallow TPP pill

11:20 AM Tuesday Oct 6, 2015

Now that the Ministerial Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) meetings in Atlanta are completed New Zealanders are one step closer to being locked into a comprehensive new set of rules.

At this stage we still don’t know the details of what Minister Groser’s self-confessed “ugly compromises” are, but we know enough to be certain the agreement has us on the road to stagnation in health and to drive up the cost of medicines. The only question is, by how much?.

It is difficult, at this point, to trust that the government has fully assessed the pros and cons of the deal for New Zealanders now and in the future. (read more)

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Charles Finny: TPP quite different, isn’t it?

1:55 PM Tuesday Oct 6, 2015

I was interviewed on Morning Report by Kim Hill on the TPP outcome. I answered every question as accurately as I could based on the facts that had been made public on the negotiating outcome.

Clearly there were a few inconvenient truths there as I was attacked pretty solidly and pretty viciously by a number of people from around the world on social media.

This should not have surprised anyone. (read more)

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‘What do I do now?’ – Tim Groser

After the completion of exhaustive TPP talks in Atlanta, Trade Minister Tim Groser sounded anything but elated as he talked down the phone at 3 am.

“I feel like I used to feel after university exams,” he said with a certain battle-weariness.

“I would be studying 20-hour days and I would be thinking ‘I cannot wait for the exams to finish’ and then when they finished I would feel slightly ‘well, what do I do now?'”  (read more)

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The Dim Post

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First thoughts on the TPPA

October 6, 2015 6:46 am

I am a little staggered that they actually made a deal. The Herald article on the deal is here:

  • ‘Mr Groser is very upbeat about the overall result, which will be published later today, but less so on dairy.’
  • Access for dairy was literally Groser’s one job when negotiating this deal and he has, characteristically, failed to do it. I’m not that worried though. We’re already well over the environmental capacity for dairying. It’s probably costing more in long-term environmental costs than its earning in export revenue. So the last thing we needed was a trade deal incentivising more dairy. Best case scenario is that this new deal encourages exporters to move up the value chain and make high quality high wage products instead of shipping raw logs and milk powder.
  • ‘There will be no change on the current patents for biologic medicines, although an extension on copyright by 20 years will be phased in.’ (read more)

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The Standard

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TPPA agreement reached

Written By: mickysavage, 7:28 am, October 6th 2015

The deal has been done. We are told that it is the best thing since sliced bread although we are not allowed to know the details.

Tobacco companies will not be allowed to use the investor state resolution procedure which is a good thing. All other industries will however which is very bad. Stand by for the lawyering to start.

Dairy will have a minuscule increase in the amount it can export. Milk powder access will be phased in over 25 years. Fran O’Sullivan describes Groser’s analysis of the deal as putting fois gras on a number of dead rats. (read more)

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As expected, TPPA gives a peanut return

Witten by: lprent,  9:15 am, October 6th 2015

In 15 to 25 years, the expected tariff reduction return to NZ will be (summarized by kiwiblog)

The Beehive site has some details on the deal. The savings on tariffs, once full implemented by sector are:

  • Dairy $102 million
  • Meat $72 million
  • Fruit and vegetables $26 million
  • Other agriculture $18 million
  • Wine $10 million
  • Manufacturing $10 million
  • Forestry $9 million
  • Fish $8 million
  • Wool $4 million

Somewhere around $260 million per year in possible benefits long after I have retired. The upbeat guesstimates by the beehive propaganda sheet say

“The full benefit of TPP is estimated to be at least $2.7 billion a year extra in New Zealand’s GDP by 2030.” (read more)

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No Right Turn

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Just a bit shit really

So, the biggest trade deal in a generation has been finalised. The thing National was pinning all of its hopes of economic success on, John Key’s “something special”. And it turns out to be just a bit shit really, because it doesn’t include dairy. New Zealand’s primary industry, the whole reason why we engage in these talks, and absent some reduced tariffs on cheese in twenty years or so, its excluded. Slow clap, Mr Groser. Heckuva job you’ve done there. You’ve totally earned that knighthood you were gunning for, you royalist suckup. (read more)

MPs are listening on open diplomacy

One area of huge public disquiet around the TPP negotiations is secrecy: everything about them is secret, and a precondition of negotiations was accepting a “confidentiality” agreement forbidding the release of negotiating material for five years after any deal is agreed. The net result is that “our” government has been telling its negotiating partners things without telling us, enabling them to lie to us about what they are negotiating away. And they were explicitly caught doing so on the issue of the investment-state dispute settlement clause. (read more)

 

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Public Address

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TPP, eh?

by Rob Salmond, 11:05 Oct 6, 2015

As everybody knows, the TPPA deal is settled, and we can expect a full text to scrutinise within a month.

The deal really is a very big one globally; it’s just not such a big deal for New Zealand.

It looks to me like the biggest loser in the deal is Mexico. It doesn’t get much in the way of market access that it didn’t already have via NAFTA, and the US-Japan deal on autos hurts a lot of Mexican factories purpose-built to supply auto parts from Japanese car companies into the US. (read more)

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Pundit

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TPP can help lift incomes in New Zealand but to make a difference for people, there’s a lot more work still to do.

The TPP was never going to be the miracle that shot New Zealand to the top of the global supply chain. Neither was it ever going to be the Darth Vadar of deals where American corporations got to destroy the planet. 

It was always going to be a little bit disappointing to everyone. The deal calls for Vietnam to allow free unions and Malaysia to stop people smugglers, but in most countries there aren’t enough gains for politicians to campaign on it. Stephen Harper doesn’t want the text made public until after the Canadian election and Hilary Clinton’s team just want the damn thing off the agenda by 2016. (read more)

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The Daily Blog

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How bad is the TPPA? Read this now!

By Martyn Bradbury, October 6, 2015 

We have been conned into agreeing to this madness. This is a geopolitical war it isn’t a bloody trade agreement and our media have utterly ignored this dimension to the TPPA.

This isn’t a gold standard deal, it’s a gold plated deal. Groser and Key have come back after selling our cow at the free market with 3 magic TPPA beans.

The winners here are corporations and the people have lost. (read more)

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Gordon Campbell

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On the TPP deal reached in Atlanta

October 6th, 2015 If the TPP was the Rugby World Cup, the New Zealand team probably wouldn’t be making it out of pool play. While the final details will not emerge for a month, the TPP is offering disappointing returns for New Zealand… and over a very long phase-in period… of up to 25 years in major areas important to us, even though many of the concessions we have made would take immediate effect. Typically, Prime Minister John Key has already been spinning the “93% tariff free” outcome across the TPP region, as if that situation was entirely due to the TPP deal. To get that figure, Key is adding all pre-existing tariff reductions and adding them to the TPP. To take a relevant example… 80% of US trade with other TPP members is already duty free. (read more)

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TPPA jack of all spades - cartoon

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 October 2015.

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Categories: Media, The Body Politic Tags: ,

Polls and pundits – A facepalm moment

25 September 2015 3 comments

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color-chart-graph-glass-positive-1000

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19 September – This morning’s  episode of The Nation on TV3 featured leaders from Labour, Greens, NZ First,  ACT, and Steven Joyce spinning for National. The episode was an appraisal of National’s performance since last year’s election.

Joyce, Little, Shaw, and Peters were given decent time to respond to questions from hosts Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower. David Seymour seemed short-changed with an unseemingly hasty, brief interview, though at 0.69% of the Party vote his five minutes of question-and-answer might be deemed appropriate. Except that ACT has considerable influence on National out of proportion to it’s miniscule electoral support.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect to the episode were continual references to poll ratings for John Key and National being “unchanged” and continuing to ride high. The implication being that National and Key’s poll ratings remain unchanged.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

A Roy Morgan poll reported on Radio NZ on Friday – the day before The Nation went to air – gave a shock result for National;

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roy Morgan - radio nz - poll

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According to the poll, National National’s support  has plummeted  by six percentage-points, with support for the  Labour/Green bloc jumping by eight percentage points.

NZ First support had also fallen by 2.5 percentage points.

The inescapable conclusion is that, according to this poll, Labour and the Greens had achieved the Golden Rule; increase support by taking from their opponants, and not by the two Left-wing parties cannibalising each other. As Patrick Gower pointed out;

@5.27

“They have to find a way to take votes of National. They can’t just shuffle it around between the Greens and New Zealand First to get to 33, 34. That ain’t gonna do it.”

In the Roy Morgan poll, National and NZ First’s fall mirrors almost exactly the rise of the Labour-Green bloc. No “shuffling” – National’s support has moved over to Labour and the Greens.

How was this reported on The Nation? Not at all. No mention made whatsoever of a poll – which while it should not be taken in isolation – should still give government party strategists cause for alarm and rate a mention from our current affairs media.

This made a mockery of Patrick Gower’s comment to Labour leader, Andrew Little,

@ 2.05

“But still the poll ratings haven’t changed. John Key is exactly where he has always been.”

@ 4.40

“That’s what the polls say. The polls put them at 47%.”

Or this comment from Lisa Owen;

@ 0.01

“So while National’s well ahead in the polls, it’s not been a year without its challenges.”

During the Panel discussion with Guyon Espiner, Patrick Gower, and  Tracy Watkin, similar  mis-leading references were made by professional political journalists who should know better.

Guyon Espiner

@ 0.18

“I think it’s tracking pretty well, if you look at the polls. I mean, 47% for National is extraordinary at that point.”

Tracy Watkins;

@ 1.15

“47%, if that’s that the numbers in the latest poll, I mean  that is quite incredible, it really is.”

Tracey Watkins;

@ 7.15

“Well I’m going to have to say John Key [is the winner]… Well, I mean, if he’s still on 47% [interruption] Winner! Winner! He’s…Despite everything,  y’know, third term and he’s still massively popular  and his government is still hugely popular.”

To be fair, if  the interviews for Saturday morning were pre-recorded throughout the week, the Roy Morgan poll results appeared too late to be included in questions asked of Party leaders. Though the lead-in from Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower was a live (?) broadcast. They should have been aware of the shock result only twentyfour hours previous.

The reality is that Roy Morgan polls are rarely reported by either TV1 or TV3. Both broadcasters have their own contracted polling companies and ignore all other results.

What is totally inexplicable is that the producers and hosts of The Nation ignored polling from their own company, Reid Research.

Polling from Reid Research has shown a steady decline in John Key’s popularity, as I reported on 13 July and  28 July;

As was reported previously, the personal popularity of our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, has been in slow free-fall since 2009;

Oct/Nov 08: 36.4%

(Source)

Feb 2009: 52.1%

April 2009: 51.1%

Aug 2009: 51.6%

Oct 2009: 55.8%

Feb 2010: 49.4%

April 2010: 49.0%

June 2010: 49.6%

Jul/Aug 2010: 48.7%

Sept/Oct 2010: 50.6%

Nov/Dec 2010: 54.1%

Feb 2011: 49.1%

April 2011: 52.4%

May 2011: 48.2%

Jun/Jul 2011: 50.5%

Aug 2011: 53.3%

Sept 2011: 54.5%

Oct 2011: 52.7%

1-8 Nov 2011: 50.0%

9-16 Nov 2011: 49.4%

16-23 Nov 2011: 48.9%

Feb 2012: 45.8%

April 2012: 44.2%

May/Jun 2012: 40.5%

July: 43.2%

(Source)

Feb 2013: 41.0%

April 2013: 38.0%

May 2013: 41.0%

Jul 2013: 42.0%

Nov 2013: 40.9%

Jan 2014: 38.9%

Mar 2014: 42.6%

May 2014: 43.1%

Jun 2014: 46.7%

Jul 2014: 43.8%

5-3 Aug 2014: 44.1%

19-25 Aug 2014: 41.4%

26 Aug-1 Sept 2014: 45.1%

2-8 Sept 2014: 45.3%

9-15 Sept 2014: 44.1%

Jan 2015: 44.0%

May 2015: 39.4%

(Source)

The most recent 3News/Reid Research Poll is no better for John Key. His PPM ranking has slipped again;

July 2015: 38.3%

From the rarified-atmosphere heights of 55.8% (2009), Key has dropped 17.5 percentage points in the Preferred Prime Minister rankings by July of this year.

Not referencing a polling company that Mediaworks has no contractual relationship with is, perhaps understandable, even if it means not presenting their audience with a full picture of New Zealand’s ever changing political environment.

But not referencing a polling company that Mediaworks is contractually bound with, and has previously used their results for several years? Especially when that polling company has recorded a massive fall in popularity for Key since 2009?

The only explanation for this strange over-sight of data is that it did not fit with The Nation’s narrative of a “hugely popular Prime Minister”. Otherwise, Owen and Gower would have had to completely change their interviewing tactics with Little and Shaw.

Perhaps this is one reason why Key’s popularity has “remained so high” – a reluctance by certain MSM not to reassess the narrative around our esteemed Dear Leader. In doing so, the perception of Key’s “high popularity” is artificially maintained, creating a perpetual, self-fulfilling scenario.

In part, this provides an answer why Key is so “hugely popular”. Because we are told it is so.

Tim Watkin Responds

When the issues raised in this story were put to The Nation’s producer, Tim Watkin, he generously took time  give his response;

“On your Roy Morgan critique:

Media organisations always refer to their own polling, not others. The Roy Morgan poll is well known as the most volatile. Indeed, to emphasise why we wouldn’t base a programme discussing the past year in politics around a single poll by another organisation, Radio New Zealand and no lesser poll-watcher than Colin James reported this in just the past few days: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/284109/national-back-in-poll-position

Polls are about trends, as you know, not single results. So I’m afraid your “nothing could be further from the truth” couldn’t be much further from the truth.

On your quotes of Lisa, Paddy, Tracy and Guyon:

Looking at the 3News-Reid Research poll, National has been remarkably consistent since 2011. National is indeed at 47%, as those on the programme said. When Guyon mentioned 47% he was likely referring to RNZ’s poll of polls, which also has National at 47%. Labour is in the low 30s. So all the quotes you mention are absolutely correct. Paddy’s mention of John Key being unchanged I took to mean ‘still well ahead of you, Mr Little’.

On John Key’s numbers:

Though you’re changing the goalposts by switching from party numbers to personal numbers, you’re right that Key’s own preferred PM numbers are down and right to focus on the trend, rather than a single poll. But when you say a couple of times that we didn’t reference that, you have simply ignored our final couple of questions to Steve Joyce. We didn’t mention those numbers precisely, but the ones behind that, on honesty, capability, narrow-minded etc. We put to Joyce that Key was sliding, exactly as you argue. So your outrage at our pre-ordained narrative is somewhat misplaced, isn’t it? We raised the point that you say we didn’t.

Still, to take a step back, the thing about those numbers is that while trending down (as Lisa stressed with Joyce), they are still at a level any other politician in the country would give a limb for. So when you talk about “freefall” etc, I think you’re missing the big picture, which is how those numbers are a) so much higher than others, b) unusually high for a third term PM and c) have gone down before, only to bounce back up.

So there’s no agenda or telling people how to think; just a cold hard look at the trends.”

Appendix1

Acknowledgement: some quotes have been used from transcripts provided by The Nation, to this blogger.

Appendix2

Roy Morgan polling is conducted by calling  both landline and mobile telephones throughout New Zealand, and is the only polling company to do so.

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References

The Nation: Steven Joyce interview

The Nation: Andrew Little interview

The Nation: Winston Peters

The Nation: James Shaw interview

The Nation: David Seymour

Wikipedia: 2014 General Election – Overall Results

Radio NZ: Labour, Greens support outstrips National

The Nation: The Panel discussion

Previous related blogposts

Mr Morgan phoned

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones (Part rua)

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones

The slow dismantling of a populist prime minister

The slow dismantling of a Prime Minister continues

Colmar Brunton-TV1 News – not giving us the complete picture

 

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The people will believe what the media tells them to believe

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 September 2015.

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NZ Herald changes – For Real?

24 September 2015 1 comment

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typewriter-bleed

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The following two reports were posted on Radio NZ’s website within a few hours of each other on Friday 18 September (ignore the date given on one item; Updated at 2:39 pm on 20 August 2015).

The first item reported that “APN [parent company of the NZ Herald] plans to begin registration of visitors to its New Zealand Herald website before the end of the year, as the company’s profits fall“.

The article went on to outline how “The Australian-based APN News and Media – parent company of NZME which owns the Herald – has indicated it wants to charge customers for online content“.

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NZ Herald to start digital registration of readers

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The next item reported that some of NZ Herald’s most experienced columnists were being dumped;

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High-profile NZ Herald jobs under review

 

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Now call me old-fashioned, but it strikes me as a rather bizarre business strategy that, on the one hand, the owners will shortly be raising a paywall on NZ Herald’s on-line content, and demanding payment to read material…

… whilst on the other, they are cutting some of their most experienced contributing writers?!

How does that work?

Actually, it doesn’t.

Expecting consumers to pay for a product that the company owners are busily gutting is an insane proposition. Reducing the content of the paper, written by some of the most insightful, respected columnists in this country,  is a self-defeating policy. It will only achieve one thing; a reduction in quality leading to an eventual  loss of readership.

In commercial-speak: No sound business model can succeed if consumers are presented with a lower standard of quality of product.

In plain english: gutting a newspaper is bad business, and harmful to the democratic process.

This is not a solution, this is an ill-considered panic-move. As usual, it is workers who will pay for bad management decisions that any fool can see will not work.

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References

Radio NZ: High-profile NZ Herald jobs under review

Radio NZ: NZ Herald to start digital registration of readers

Previous related blogposts

Pay Walls – the last gasp of a failed media business-model?

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"WTF?!?!"

                                                   “WTF?!?!”

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 September 2015.

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Categories: Media Tags: ,