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Polls, propaganda, and Tracy Watkins

12 September 2014 2 comments

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Fairfax media - if you think, the bolsheviks win

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1. A bit of personal history…

Since I became more and more politically active, part of the growth of my political consciousness was an awareness that the media – whether print or electronic – was not always a clear reflection of what really was happening.

The first time I became starkly aware of the disconnect between a media story and reality was in 1989, when an associate and I made a submission to a Parliamentary Select Committee on the Classifications Bill. The Bill was aimed at replacing the old, antiquated Censorship Act.

There were some aspects of the Bill which we took exception to (from a liberal viewpoint) and we put together a submission, and requested an opportunity for a supporting oral submission.

We were due to ‘appear’ near the end of the day, and thus had an interesting opportunity to listen to all the submissions made by various groups, organisations, and individuals. Submitters ranged from the Nurses Organisation; Film Directors Association,  NZ Law Society, etc.

I took note of the tenor of each submitter, and it was roughly 50/50 toward strengthening the proposed Classifications Act or liberalising it.

The following morning, the Dominion featured two stories on two submitters – both from the “pro-censorship” camp.

A critical submission from the NZ Law Society, regarding an aspect of the Bill which they deemed to be fatally flawed, was not reported. Neither did the Dominion report an astounding comment by then-MP, Trevor Rogers, who threatened to “change officials of the Courts” who could not, would not, implement the new law, whether flawed or not.

Had I not attended the Select Committee hearing personally, I would have assumed that all submissions were of a similar nature; would not have been aware of opposing views; would have been unaware of the Law Society’s views; and been oblivious to a Member of Parliament threatening to interfere with the judicial system of this country.

After 25 years, the incident remains vividly clear in my memory.

That was my very first lesson – not just in Select Committees – but media (mis-)reporting.

Since I began this blogging lark in July 2011,  I have found no reason to lessen my wariness of  media reporting, accuracy, and fairness. In fact, sadly, quite the opposite.

2. Once upon a time, in a fairy-tale land called Fairfax Media…

So begins this analysis of a recent Fairfax-Ipsos Poll which, upon closer scrutiny, is a fantasy lifted straight from the pages of Brothers Grimm.

A very recent  Ipsos poll was taken over a five day period, starting from Saturday, 30 August – the day of Judith Collins’ resignation from her ministerial portfolios (though not from Parliament itself).

The results, as a graphic;

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Fairfax poll - november 2011

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The infographic shows National at 54% and the Labour-Green bloc at 38%.

Right?

Wrong.

The above poll infographic was taken from a Research International poll, commissioned also by Fairfax Media – and released on 23 November, 2011three days before the General Election, three years ago.

The actual current, September 2014  poll results from Fairfax and it’s “newly” commissioned polling agent, Ipsos;

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Fairfax poll - september 2014

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Compare the two polls above.

Two “different” polls. Two different polling companies. Three years apart. Almost exactly same figures.

Now let’s chuck in the actual election results for the 2011 Election;

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2011 poll - 2014 poll- fairfax - 2011 general election

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In the 2011 poll,  Fairfax’s polling agent over-estimated National’s support by a staggering 6.69 percentage points – well outside the stated margin of error  by Research International (3.1%).

Considering that other mainstream polling companies have National ranging from 45% (Roy Morgan) to 46.4% (NZ Herald-Digipoll and TV3 News) to 50% (TVNZ News), it could be safely argued that the Fairfax-Ipsos results are in Wacky-Doodle Land.

The figures are not only dubious – but Fairfax buries an important fact;

The undecided vote remained steady at 13 per cent, which is higher than in some other polls. [my emphasis]

That statement is buried near the bottom of Vernon Small’s article, “National soars without Collins – poll“.

Incredibly, Small then adds – almost seemingly as an after-thought;

Benson said if Ipsos included those who said they were undecided, but when pressed were leaning towards a particular party, that number dropped to about 7 per cent and saw National’s vote come in about 2 percentage points lower.

Anything else we need to know, Vernon?!

The problem here is not just Fairfax presenting dodgy polling figures over two consecutive election periods – but the fact that Vernon Small, who wrote a story covering the poll,  was thoroughly accepting of the results – and made no effort to question the veracity of the figures. Some  comments from Small;

Two weeks out from the election National’s popularity has soared after the dumping of justice minister Judith Collins, putting John Key on course for a thumping victory on the evidence of a new Stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll.

[…]

Assuming all the small parties hold their current seats, but independent Brendan Horan is not returned, National would have a dominant 70 seat bloc in a 125 seat Parliament.

Small also quoted Ipsos pollster Matt Benson without any real critical analysis;

Ipsos pollster Matt Benson said the poll followed the first televised leaders’ debate and straddled the resignation of Collins.  ‘‘Despite a difficult week for National the poll shows support rise for the National Party, and John Key as preferred PM has also increased to 51.7 percent.’’ 

He said the rise may have been caused by wavering voters, uncomfortable with Collins, swinging in behind Key for finally taking action against her.

In no way could this poll and associated story be considered critical political analysis or news in the traditional sense.

Little wonder that, after only ten comments, Fairfax closed down posting on it’s comments section, at the end of Small’s article;

* Comments are now closed on this story.

– Stuff

The criticism of Fairfax must have been excoriating!

The problem here, as I see it;

Firstly, Ipsos is paid by Fairfax to conduct it’s polling.

Therefore, Fairfax has an inherent, undeclared financial interest in the source of  “story”. Fairfax is not reporting on a story from the point of view of an impartial, disinterested party. They have a vested, commercial stake in promoting Ipsos’ findings.

As such Fairfax would be as critical of Ipsos as the Editor of the Dominion Post would commission an investigative piece on sub-editors being made redundant from his own newspaper (the redundancies happened – the story reporting  the event never materialised).

In fairness, it should be pointed out that Fairfax is by no means unique in this obvious conflict of interest. The NZ Herald, TVNZ, and TV3 all have their own contracted pollsters. None of them will question the accuracy of their respective polling agents.

Secondly, because Fairfax (and other media) have a vested interest with their respective pollsters, they are locked in to using that sole company as a source for polling “news”. Hence,  each media outlet’s authoritative reputation rests on pushing up the credibility of their respective polls. They must not question their own polling for fear of damaging their reputation for “authoritative political analysis”.

Regardless if their own polling is hopelessly implausible, it must be presented as factual and inarguably credible.

Even if it is clearly not.

3. Radio NZ – an oasis of information in a desert of pseudo “news”

The non-commercial Radio New Zealand not only reports polling results from various pollsters, but is currently running a Poll of Polls;

The POLL of POLLS is an arithmetical average of the four most recent major polls since mid-June from among: TV1 Colmar Brunton, TV3 Reid Research, Fairfax Media-Ipsos, NZ Herald DigiPoll, Roy Morgan New Zealand and UMR Research, which is not published.”

– and is well worth keeping an eye on.

Off the main pollsters, the most accurate one to keep an eye on is Roy Morgan, as it alone calls respondents on cellphones. All others rely solely on landlines to contact respondents.

4. Tracy Watkins

Associated with Vernon Small’s front page article on the Dominion Post on 5 September, was a side-bar “opinion piece” by the paper’s political editor, Tracy Watkins. This is the on-line version;

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tracy watkins - dominion post - fairfax news - all over bar the shouting

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“Two weeks down, two weeks to go and on today’s stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll it’s all over bar the shouting.”

I was stunned when I read that comment. In effect, Watkins has elevated Fairfax’s 3 September  public opinion poll to supplant the up-coming general election and accept a National Party victory based on Ipsos’ findings.

I put this issue to Neil Watts, blogger (Fearfactsexposed) and long-time commentator/critic of Fairfax Media and it’s policies. I asked him about the credibility of Fairfax’s polling and he replied,

“Having watched Fairfax Media make an art form of National Party propaganda for many years now, nothing they publish surprises me anymore. Their polls are notoriously, willfully unreliable, and they blatantly use them to manipulate  rather than inform  the electorate.”

This would certainly seem to be the case, as it should be noted that two different polling companies contracted by Fairfax consistantly over-rated National in their results. Neil had definite thoughts on why that might be. He said;

“Their political coverage is partisan, anti-opposition, anti-democratic, and their spin consistently comes from the exact same angle that the National Party are taking via Crosby Textor.

In fact, this is so reliable, that I only bother to read stuff.co.nz these days to find out what the Government’s spin will be on any given issue.”

When I pointed out Watkins’ piece, “All over bar the shouting”, Neil was scathing about her lack of impartiality;

“Political editor Tracy Watkins is clearly enamored with the Prime Minister and unprofessionally close to him. After several international trips with John Key and a substantial back catalogue of journalese ‘love letters’ to him, she really has zero credibility as an objective reporter.

To the informed reader, her copy is generally one-eyed, propagandist tripe. The weight of evidence is in their reporting, but I have heard from sources within Fairfax Media that their blatant goal is to get Key’s Government re-elected.”

If true, and the Fourth Estate has become a mouth-piece for The Political Establishment, it may explain why people are turning away from the mainstream media as well as politics. The previous general election had the lowest voter turn-out since 1887 – no feat to be proud of, and seemingly  indicative of a growing malaise of alienation, apathy, and disconnection from our heretofore strong civic pride.

It simply beggars belief that a journalist such as Ms Watkins with many years experience could publish such an off-hand comment that effectively undermines current efforts by the Electoral Commission, trade unions, political parties, et al, to encourage people to enroll and to vote.

The Commission is spending tax payers’ money to encourage voter turn-out – and Watkins’ casual, flippant, remark that “it’s all over bar the shouting” undermined that campaign with half a dozen words. The fact that the Dominion Post reinforced that off-the-cuff remark by placing the Fairfax-Ipsos poll-story on the front page of the edition reinforced her comment with a subtle message; “don’t bother voting – National has won – it’s all over bar the shouting”;

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dominion-post-5-september-2014-fairfax-ipsos-poll-2014-election-tracey-watkins

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Note the heading in big, black, bold lettering,

Poll sees Nats in command

In command“? Was the election held on 5 September?! Did I miss it?

Note also the hidden subtext of an image of the PM, John Key, twice the size of his opponant, David Cunliffe. Note the victorious look on Key’s face – and the open-mouth “petulance” of ‘disappointment’ on Cunliffe’s.

The impression is clear; Key has “won” the election.

Cunliffe’s annoyance validates Key’s trimphant expression.

This is not reporting the news – it is manufacturing it.

Meanwhile, with more than a hint of irony, the real news of election-related events are buried within the newspaper;

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dominion-post-5-september-2014-fairfax-ipsos-poll-2014-election-tracey-watkins

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Little wonder that Neil Watts summed up Fairfax’s agenda thusly,

 “For a media corporation to be effectively aiming for oligarchical rule in New Zealand is a gross abuse of power and position. At the very least, they should be honest and open about their political loyalties, so that ordinary Kiwi voters can make an informed choice about where they source their news.”

I see nothing to disabuse me of the notion I began to develop in  1989, that a healthy dose of skepticism is required when presented with information from a media source.

Their agenda is no longer to present news.

Their agenda is to manufacture it; embellish it; use it to sell advertising; and to further political goals.

How else does one explain naked propaganda-masquerading-as-“news”?

Because looking at the full-blown story on the front page, I can see no other interpretation than the conclusion I have arrived at.

According to the Dominion Post, the election is done and dusted and the Nats are “in command”. So don’t bother voting. It’s all over.

Bar the shouting.

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References

Fairfax media: National still cosy in polls after tea break (2011)

Fairfax media: National soars without Collins – poll (2014)

Wikipedia: New Zealand 2011 General Election

Roy Morgan: ‘Dirty Politics’ muddies the water for major parties in New Zealand

NZ Herald: National or Labour could form a Government – poll

TV3 News: Key could need Maori Party post-election

TVNZ News: National unscathed by Dirty Politics – poll

Radio NZ: Election 2014 – Poll of Polls

Dominion Post: All over bar the shouting

Massey University: Massey commentators preview key election issues

Dominion Post: Tracy Watkins on politics

Additional

Fairfax media: Ipsos Polling Station

Previous related blogposts

Mr Morgan phoned

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones (part tahi)

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones (Part rua)

 


 

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20 september 2014 VOTE

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 September 2014

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Letter to the Editor – Dom Post editorial off into LaLaLand…

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Today’s (9 June 2014)  editorial in the ‘Dominion Post was an interesting take on the John Banks Affair and National’s cynical exploitation of MMP’s “coat tailing” provision;

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Stuff.co.nz

Editorial: Discredited flaw still being exploited

Last updated 05:00 09/06/2014

Every electoral system has flaws which politicians exploit. The coat-tailing provision of MMP is now utterly discredited, but it survives because it serves powerful political interests – especially the National Party’s. The clause should be abolished, but no National-led government will do so.

Labour promises to quickly abolish the clause, which allows a party with just one electorate seat to avoid the 5 per cent parliamentary threshold, if it gains power. There is already a paradox here. Labour might have to rely on the votes of the Mana-Internet Party to do so. But Mana-Internet will get into Parliament only via the coat-tailing clause. Nobody believes it will get 5 per cent of the vote.

The case for abolishing coat-tailing is overwhelming, and was made by the Electoral Commission in 2012. That inquiry grew out of John Key’s promise to “kick the tyres” of MMP, but his government ignored the recommendations. The reason is quite simple: coat-tailing helps the National Party. The Government’s refusal to take any notice of the inquiry was naked realpolitik and a supremely cynical act.

National’s coat-tailing deals with ACT in Epsom have left an especially sour taste in voters’ mouths. Key’s “tea-party” with the-then ACT leader John Banks before the 2011 election was widely recognised as a stunt.

The politicians invited the media to their meeting and then shut them out of the coffee-house while they had their “secret” and entirely meaningless chat. It added insult to injury that Key complained to the police after a journalist taped their conversation.

National and ACT had done similar self-serving deals in Epsom before, and showed just how unfair coat-tailing can be. In the 2008 election ACT got 3.65 per cent of the vote but won five seats in the House thanks to coat-tailing. New Zealand First, by contrast, got slightly more than 4 per cent of the vote but no seats in the House, because it won no electorate. This was mad, but highly convenient to the two right-wing parties.

Coat-tailing, in fact, has kept the dying and discredited ACT party alive. It delivered John Banks a seat in the House, and this week Banks stood disgraced when found guilty in the High Court of knowingly filing a false electoral return. Key, whose self-serving deal with Banks has hurt his own credibility, has even persisted in defending Banks’ “honesty” since the verdict. Now, of course, the Left is doing its own tawdry coat-tailing deal in Te Tai Tokerau. Without Hone Harawira’s electorate seat, Internet-Mana would go nowhere.

Hard-nosed strategists such as Internet Party leader Laila Harre argue that this is “taking back MMP”, as though this kind of thing was a blow for people power instead of the cynical politicking that it really is.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, no matter what power-hungry politicians might think. The Government should abolish the coat-tailing clause, along with its associated overhang provision, and drop the 5 per cent threshold to 4 per cent. However, it won’t happen while National is in power.

– The Dominion Post

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Note the highlighted sentence; ” Now, of course, the Left is doing its own tawdry coat-tailing deal in Te Tai Tokerau. Without Hone Harawira’s electorate seat, Internet-Mana would go nowhere“.

That statement demanded a response…

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FROM:   "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letter to the Editor
DATE:    Mon, 09 Jun 2014 10:11:45 +1200
TO:     "Dominion Post" <letters@dompost.co.nz> 

 

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Your editorial on National's exploitation of MMP's
'coat-tailing' provision was insightful until this jarring
statement ruined it;

"Now, of course, the Left is doing its own tawdry
coat-tailing deal in Te Tai Tokerau. Without Hone Harawira's
electorate seat, Internet-Mana would go nowhere." (9 June)

What "tawdry coat-tailing deal" might that be?

Because every indication is that not only will Labour refuse
to engage in any deal-making, but  MPs Chris Hipkins, Kelvin
Davis, Stuart Nash, et al, have been vociferously attacking
the Internet-Mana Party on social media. If any such "deal"
exists, someone forgot to tell those Labour MPs.

However, if even Labour and Mana-Internet came to an
Epsom-like arrangement - so what?

Those are the rules that this government has decreed and
must be played. Anyone playing by some other mythical
"principled" rules will sit saint-like on the Opposition
benches whilst National gerrymanders the system.

Suggesting otherwise creates an unlevel playing field that
benefits one, at the expense of others, and is untenable.

If it's good enough for National to arrange deals in Epsom,
Ohariu, and soon with the Conservative Party, then it should
be good enough for everyone.

No one takes a knife to a gunfight unless they are dead-set
on losing.


-Frank Macskasy
[address and phone number supplied]

 

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References

Dominion Post:  Editorial – Discredited flaw still being exploited

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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Some more repetitive bene-bashing & a reply

8 August 2013 5 comments

From the letters to the editor page in the Dominion Post, on 8 August – a letter to the editor I took exception to;

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Amanda Purdy - Dominion Post - 8 August 2013

Amanda Purdy – Dominion Post – 8 August 2013

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My reply to Ms Purdy,

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from:     Frank Macskasy
to:     Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date:     Thu, Aug 8, 2013 at 11:42 AM
subject:     letter to the editor

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The Editor
DOMINION POST
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It’s a shame that Ms Purdy mistakenly conflates the worthy issue of workplace safety with that of denigrating the unemployed. (8 Aug)

Since when have those who’ve been made redundant since 2008 become ‘druggies’? This is what she is suggesting with the blanket statement, “smoke dope or work but we can’t expect the taxpayer to fund people who smoke dope”.

Is she suggesting that those laid off from Summit Wool Spinners, Southern Institute of Technology, Geon Group, Ellerslie TAB,  Department of Conservation, Telecom, Park Road Post,  Fonterra, Fisher Funds, Ministry of Justice, NZ Post,  Solid Energy, Delta Utility Services, Canterbury Spinners, WINZ, Holcim Cement, Oringi Freezingworks, Tiwai Smelter, etc, etc – have all suddenly acquired a taste for cannabis?

These people are not dope-heads. They are all Ms Purdy’s fellow New Zealanders – victims of a global financial crisis they had no hand in making, and which is still making it’s effects felt throughout our society and economy.

If Ms Purdy is concerned about workplace safety – as is the CTU – then drug test everyone. No exceptions.

That includes politicians and letter writers like Ms Purdy and myself.

Otherwise she is simply repeating, ad nauseum, National’s desperate  bene-bashing  distractions, to avoid responsibility for rising unemployment.

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-Frank Macskasy
(address & phone number supplied)

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Meanwhile, unemployment has risen from 6.2% to 6.4%, according to the most recent Household Labour Force Survey,

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Economists play down jobless rise

Source: NZ Herald – Economists play down jobless rise

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Another 5,000 drug-users according to people like Ms Purdy?

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Bob Rigg, of Roseneath, Wellington writes…

6 August 2013 4 comments

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Bob Rigg letter to the editor Dominion Post 6 August 2013

Source: Dominion Post, 6 August 2013

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Anyone wanting to express their views in a similar vein can email the editor;

  • letters@dompost.co.nz
  • Or send snailmail to The Letters Editor, PO Box 1297, Wellington
  • Word limit: 200
  • Don’t forget to include your full name, home address, and a contact phone number (not published)

Happy writing!

 

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The GCSB Act – Tracy Watkins gets it right

6 August 2013 13 comments

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Spy bungles start to entangle PM

Source: Dominion Post – Spy bungles start to entangle PM

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“The GCSB’s interpretation of the law was so loose it managed to spy on 88 New Zealanders even though the law specifically stated it was not allowed to do so.”

Nice to see the MSM finally catching up with the blogosphere.

Since the introduction of the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill on 8 May 2013, the Prime Minister – with his usual talent for mis-representing the truth and talking absolute bollocks – maintained the fiction that the current law surrounding the GCSB (the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003) was “vague” and “not fit for purpose”,

“In addition, the Act governing the GCSB is not fit for purpose and probably never has been.

It was not until this review was undertaken that the extent of this inadequacy was known.”

Source: johnkey.co.nz – PM releases report into GCSB compliance

This was nothing less than a barefaced lie, designed to deceive the public.

The 2003 GCSB Act was actually crystal clear with it’s wording, and Section 14 of said Act states with unambiguous clarity;

14Interceptions not to target domestic communications
  • Neither the Director, nor an employee of the Bureau, nor a person acting on behalf of the Bureau may authorise or take any action for the purpose of intercepting the communications of a person (not being a foreign organisation or a foreign person) who is a New Zealand citizen or a permanent resident.

Source: legislation.govt.nz – Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003

For a long time, the mainstream media parroted this fiction (see: The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!! ). Evidently no one in newsrooms had bothered to do a simple check.

Not until Audrey Young wrote a piece acknowledging the clarity of the current GCSB law on 24 June. (see:  Audrey Young on the GCSB)

So it’s refreshing that Tracy Watkins, writing for the Dominion Post on 3 August, has also got it right.

Now all that remains is for a journo to actually ask Key why he bullshitted us in the first place.

What are the chances…?

Andrea – time for utu.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 August 2013.

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Those who love Big Brother

1 August 2013 6 comments

The majority of sensible, clear-headed New Zealanders are clearly opposed to  any further extension of the power of the State to spy over all of us;

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march-27-july-gcsb-bill-spying-peter-dunne-parliament-wellintgton-new-zealand-27

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But there are a few, as evidenced by a handful of comments on various fora, who seem to be “relaxed” with the growth of the Surveillance State. They seem to be unconcerned that state apparatus  can violate our privacy at will, without just cause, and with minimal checks and balances.

People like these on a post-article Comments section, in a piece written by Rob Kidd and Francesca Lee for the Dominion Post;

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In support of the GCSB Bill

Source: Dominion Post – Thousands join rally against GCSB

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If you aint got anything to hide why should you worry???” – says “Niggly”.

Which is an interesting statement to make since all five supporters of the GCSB Bill (including “Niggly”) are using pseudonyms.

What have they got to hide, I wonder?

It seems fairly clear that supporters of the GCSB Bill are not so keen to abandon their privacy after all. Or, perhaps, being National Party supporters, they believe that Dear Leader Key will be Prime Minister forever, and “their man” would never spy on his loyal supporters.

The word deluded springs to mind.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 July 2013.

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If you aint got anything to hide why should you worry???

Pay Walls – the last gasp of a failed media business-model?

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Humpty Dumpty and Paywall

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NZ, Wellington, 25 May – Journalists and other staff working for Fairfax media, were told last week  of a review that the company was carrying out. Management told staff that times are tough; advertising revenue was down; and that job losses had not been ruled out. Incredulous staff were told that there would have to be a reshuffle to make things work and that their would be job losses.

Staff were given no further details.

According to Radio NZ,

Acting general manager Andrew Boyle says there are potential job cuts across the entire company, from advertising to editorial.

Acknowledgment: Radio NZ – Fairfax looks at job cuts

And according to Stop Press,

He’s unable to say how many of Fairfax NZ’s roughly 1800 staff will be affected by the restructuring, as the company is still in early consultation with its business departments. However, he does expect it to be wide reaching including editorial, sales and operational roles. Pre-press (ad placing) and a contact centre run by Fairfax are also in the scope, he adds.

Acknowledgment: Stop Press –  Job cuts on the horizon for Fairfax, company looks towards paywalls

Fairfax NZ acting general manager, Andrew Boyle, was quick to make reassuring noises to his readers,

We still intend to be the largest newsroom in the country. We know competing with quality local content is vital to our future.”

Acknowledgment: NBR – More jobs at risk as Fairfax continues to restructure

Which was reinforced with his statement to Stop Press,

At the end of all this we will remain the largest newsroom in the country and we won’t compromise what we’ll do for our readers.”

Unfortunately, if past trends with the Dominion Post, Evening Post, and The Dominion are any indication, Mr Boyle’s optimism is not confirmed by past experience.

Since 1983, newspapers in  Wellington have gone through radical changes in both style; the number of titles available – and page-count.

Whilst prices have risen, the number of pages has dropped.

To illustrate;

Monday 20 May 2013

Tittle: Dominion Post

Price: $1.70

Page count: 24

Front Page Headlines (stories):

  1. “Mystery as China blocks NZ meat”
  2. “The tragic toll of asthma”

Monday 26 May 2003

Title: Dominion Post

Price: $1.00

Page count: 44

Front Page Headlines:

  1. “Millions creamed from pokies”
  2. “Only two All Black canes expected”
  3. “Woman with rifle threatens shoppers”
  4. “Hollingworth resigns for sake of office”
  5. large photo-story of father/son Tae Kwon Do contestants in national competition

Monday  24 May 1993

Title: The Dominion

Price: 60 cents

Page count: 44

Front Page Headlines:

  1. “Cyclist killed in horrific accident”
  2. “Woman dies in domestic related incident”
  3. “Referendum may not have Senate vote”
  4. “Bolger rules out Aussie marriage”
  5. “Hutt Council may scrap its school recreation programme”
  6. “EnergyDirect faces another court challenge”
  7. + 6 mini-item single-column stories
  8. + photo-story on rugby league player, Robert Piva

Title: The Evening Post

Price: 60 cents

Page count: 28 (TV  Week: 16 pages)

Front Page Headlines:

  1. “Projects blamed for Hutt debt”
  2. “Eve determined to keep going”
  3. “Waite caps off  Kiwi golf clean-up”
  4. “Million Cambodians vote for peace”
  5. + 6 mini-item single-column stories

Monday 23 May 1986

Title: The Dominion

Price: 25 cents

Page count: 20

Front Page Headlines:

  1. “Sea and air rescue of 20,000 gears up”
  2. “Grampa takes a bow”
  3. “Rock fall injures rafters”
  4. “Car batters wineshop”
  5. “Bodies found in snow”
  6. “Tear gas use defended”
  7. “Mosely ends racing career”
  8. “Tour lifts cloud for Dairy Board Chief”
  9. “Tories get jobless vote”
  10. “Wholesalers seek change in margins”
  11. “Wages action meets tough line”
  12. “Douglas expects Cabinet reversal”
  13. + 6 mini-item single-column stories
  14. + 1 mini-item story

Title: The Evening Post

Price: 25 cents

Page count: 36

Front Page Headlines:

  1. “Freeze stretched to Feb 29 – Back-dating kills allowances”
  2. “Ferries sale, planes fly – Storm battering travellers”
  3. “600 bed down on board”
  4. “Her new car met train”
  5. “Gale shuts out containership”
  6. “Edward lunches with Cabinet”
  7. “Mud, water rupture hill road fill”
  8. “The longest gale”

Generally speaking, as the price of newspapers has risen, the page count has dropped, and the number of news stories on the front page has also reduced in number. Content within newspapers has most likely also reduced.

According to one source, whilst readership levels remain fairly positive, advertising revenue has also dropped by at least 40% in the last financial year alone.

Staffing levels have also been slashed. Three years ago, about a hundred sub-editors were made redundant – a process that began in 2008, but received very little media coverage (see:  Fairfax says 100 further jobs to be cut in NZ ). Those who were kept on were reassigned to “hubs” that Fairfax set up to supply a centralised news service to service  its various metropolitan dailies.

Only Fairfax’s on-line staffing levels – those who maintain the Stuff.co.nz website – have shown an increase in numbers, as the company diverted more resources to it’s web presence.

Financially, APN’s NZ Herald is in an even  worse financial state. So much so that APN has not found any willing buyers for the ailing newspaper and remains on the market to this day.

According to Stop Press, Boyle is considering pay-walls Fairfax NZ’s online publications,

We’re investigating quite actively what paywalls might mean. There’s a lot of modeling and research work being done but I can’t tell you a definitive time line for it or what it might look like.”

Both Fairfax and APN are actively considering the pay-wall model – but are afraid to make the first move, lest  the other hold off, and readers flock to a free web-version of their competitor.

As Whakatane Beacon editor, Mark Longley pointed out,

If one major newspaper website charged and the other one remained free, well, that would be a tough call.”

Acknowledgment: TV3 News – News sites to adopt pay wall

An additional problem is that there are plenty of other on-line sources of free msm news; Radio NZ, Radiolive, NewstalkZB, TV3, TVNZ, etc. On-line readers may simply desert Fairfax and APN to where free material can be accessed.

There are already three pay-to-view publications in New Zealand; the Listener, Whakatane Beacon, and the Ashburton Guardian.

On TV3 News, Ashburton Guardian editor, Coen Lammers said,

If you want to know about Ashburton you have got to come to us, people have no choice really. If they value our journalism they’ll pay for it.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

That may work well in a town or small city, but in larger cities people have recourse to alternative sources of news. In fact, this blogger questions whether a pay-wall will turn around the fortunes of these large media chains when the problem is not with the readership – but with the content of their publications.

As the numbers above show (with one exception), the page count has dropped dramatically since 1983. It’s not possible to offer a similar service to readers even as page numbers drop – and advertising clients still have their advertisements crammed into fewer remaining pages.

Something has to give, and it has unfortunately been the quality of news presented.

To give an example; in the mid 1990s, the Evening Post alone assigned two reporters  to covering Wellington City Council issues. A third reporter was assigned part time. The Dominion most likely also had their own reporters covering Council issues.

This blogger has learned that the Dominion Post – an amalgamation of the former Evening Post and The Dominion – has assigned just one reporter to cover Council business.

How is that geared toward improving coverage of City Council issues?

Another case in point;  “fluff pieces” dominating  the front page does not help to present a serious, credible image of a newspaper;

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dominion-post-21-may-2013-front-page

Acknowledgment; Dominion Post, 21 May 2013

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Whilst burying serious news stories – of a nature that may  will have incalculable consequences for the future of our country – somewhere in the back pages, does not scream Serious Media;

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dominion-post-21-may-2013-business-page

Acknowledgment; Dominion Post, 21 May 2013

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Putting  Fairfax’s Stuff  (a god-awful name, by the way) website behind a pay-wall simply presents the same reduced news service, with a price-tag attached. This is not a clever business model. Especially when the “consumer” has free alternatives to choose from.

If Fairfax (and APN) are finding that revenue from advertising is falling, perhaps it is appropriate for management to re-visit their business strategy. Their model may be wrong when they treat print advertising separate from their online service.

Perhaps if Fairfax and APN proprietors treated both print and online media as a combined service, their clients may think more favourably about using it. Shoe retailers are masters at presenting a good deal for shoppers.

The last thirty years have shown that reducing the quality of media publications has proven disastrous in terms of  building readership and a strong advertising base. Trying to ‘sting’ readers for using an on-line service harks back to the old  “cost-plus” business mentality. That didn’t work out well either.

If Fairfax and APN want to grow their revenue then they need to get a lot more clever than simply putting their hands out and expecting readers to ‘cough up’. They will be mightily disappointed.

There is good reason why this blogger ceased buying newspapers ten years ago. I have a reasonably good memory that harks back to fine journalists like Lidia Zatorski who use to cover the Wellington City Council brief. If the mayor so much as sneezed – Ms Zatorski and her colleagues knew about it.

The Dominion Post is a pale shadow of it’s predecessors. My current short-term subscription of the Dompost confirms to me that nothing much has changed for the better (and said subscription will shortly be cancelled). Quite simply, the Dompost is hardly worth the paper it’s written on.

As a customer, this is how I see it.

And really, isn’t the customer always right?

Good luck on the pay-wall.

I’ll be on the other side.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 May 2013.

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Source Acknowledgments

Various individuals

References

National Business Review:  Fairfax says 100 further jobs to be cut in NZ (26 Aug 2008)

Stop Press: Sky TV profits up, APN suffers losses, and Fairfax not doing so well (22 Feb 2013)

Stop Press:  Job cuts on the horizon for Fairfax, company looks towards paywalls (21 May 2013)

Radio NZ: Fairfax looks at job cuts (21 May 2013)

National Business Review: More jobs at risk as Fairfax continues to restructure (22 May 2013)

TV3 News: News sites to adopt pay wall (24 May 2013)

NZ Herald: Maori TV payout and the year of the paywall (24 May 2013)

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= fs =

National Party spin on Aaron Gilmore and MMP

12 June 2013 1 comment

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Want a good reason for voting for MMP

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Something I’ve noticed in the last few days, as the Aaron Gilmore saga drags on, is the number of snide references being made to our electoral system, MMP (Mixed Member Proportional).

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"...what he's reflecting actually is the reality of MMP. Which whether we like it or not every party leader is powerless."

what he’s reflecting actually is the reality of MMP. Which whether we like it or not, every party leader is powerless.”John Key, 9 May 2013

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 As with the sacking from NZ First's caucus of list MP Brendan Horan, who continues to sit in the House and draw his generous salary and perks, that has underlined a key flaw in the rules for MMP. List MPs are in Parliament solely because of the positions allocated to them by their parties. If they are no longer acceptable to their parties at large, they should likewise be kicked out of Parliament.

As with the sacking from NZ First’s caucus of list MP Brendan Horan, who continues to sit in the House and draw his generous salary and perks, that has underlined a key flaw in the rules for MMP.
List MPs are in Parliament solely because of the positions allocated to them by their parties. If they are no longer acceptable to their parties at large, they should likewise be kicked out of Parliament.”Un-named author, 11 May 2013

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“It is absolutely the curse of MMP that you can’t get rid of an MP that doesn’t deserve to be there.”

“It is absolutely the curse of MMP that you can’t get rid of an MP that doesn’t deserve to be there.”Michelle Boag, May 2013

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The new meme is that the MMP system is somehow permitting Aaron Gilmore to remain in Parliament, and is vexing his Leader’s desire to remove him. The subtext is that MMP is severely ‘flawed’,  allowing errant members of Parliament to flout the ‘system’ and disregard the wishes of the public – and their Party leaders.

The corollary is that the previous system, First Past the Post (FPP) was somehow ‘superior’; tougher on wayward politicians, and allowed Party leaders to ditch them.

Both views are patently false.

As usual, watch out for politicians and their hangers-on – they speak with a forked tongue.

The reality is that pre-MMP, during our First Past the Post era, there were several members of Parliament who split away from their Parties (either National or Labour).

The Roll Call of Honour/Dis-Honour – depending on your point of view:

Matiu  Rata – resigned from Labour, 1979

Jim Anderton – resigned from Labour, April 1989

Gilbert Myles – resigned from National, late 1991

Hamish MacIntyre – resigned from National, late 1991

Cam Campion – resigned from National, March 1993

Winston Peters – resigned from National, early 1993*

Of the six MPs listed above, only Peters resigned from Parliament (as well as his Party), prompting a by-election on 17 April 1993. Rata prompted a by-election the following year, in June 1980.

Peters’ resignation was made of his own volition, as he sought a mandate from his Electorate after a public and very acrimonious split from the Bolger-led National Government of the day. (Indeed, Peters’ by-election was  dismissed  as a “stunt” by his opponants. I guess you can’t win either way.)

The remaining for MPs, Anderton; Myles; MacIntyre; and  Campion all remained as sitting Independent MPs until the following general election. Only Anderton and Peters were re-elected in subsequent elections.

All five MPs were electorate-based, and elected under FPP. In this respect, both MMP and FPP share a common feature; at no time could either Labour or National force their five ‘rogue’ MPs from Parliament.

This is a fact that Key, Boag, and the un-named author of the Dominion Post editorial should be fully aquainted with.

It appears to me is that by ‘dissing’ MMP, the conservative elements in politics (Key, Boag, and an obviously right-leaning anonymous  editorialist) are attempting to shift blame from their own short-comings  onto our electoral system. “Scape goating” is the appropriate term, I believe.

But worse than that – by smearing our electoral system, the Conservative Establishment is further undermining the public perception of democracy in New Zealand.  The apalling low voter turn-out in 2011 –  74.2% , the lowest turnout since 1887 – can only be exacerbated when those with a loud public voice ridicule and deride our electoral system.

The subtext here is; “our electoral system is crap; don’t bother using it; don’t vote; disengage”.

This, of course, suits the purposes of the Conservative Establishment. The less people who vote, the better for them. Their hope is that their own voter base will ignore the subliminal messaging and continue to cast their ballots on Election Day.

It is a sad day in our country when those with a strong public voice (political leaders, public figures, anonymous editorial writers, etc) use their positions to undermine democracy and further erode public participation, when instead they have a duty to promote a sense of  civic duty in our nation.

What’s the bet that come the next election, John Key, Michelle Boag, and the anonymous Dominion Post editorialist will all be voting?

Of course they will. They understand the power of the ballot.

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When you stop voting

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 May 2013.

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References

TVNZ:   Gilmore refuses to resign amid fresh allegations (9 May 2013)

Dominion Post: Editorial: Gilmore should accept it’s time to go  (11 May 2013)

National Business Review: Boag: how best to deal with Gilmore

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= fs =

Budget 2013: Student debt, politicians, and “social contracts”

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budget 2013 - education - tertiary education - student debt

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The problem of student debt – now at over $13 bllion – continues to be a thorn in the side of successive governments. Labour tinkered with it by cancelling interest whilst student were studying; National has taken a ‘stick’ to the problem  by threating to arrest so-called “loan defaulters” if they dare return to New Zealand.

If National’s aim was to force New Zealanders to stay overseas and never return, it’s a fantastically clever plan. No one in their right mind would come back to New Zealand if they faced a risk of arrest.

Even conservative media have jumped into the fray with this anonymously written editorial in today’s (20 May) Dominion Post,

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Dominion Post Editorial Loan defaulters break 'social contract'

Acknowledgment: Dominion Post – Editorial – Loan defaulters break ‘social contract’

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Part of the unattributed (are editorial writers so frightened of public back-lash?) editorial stated,

“After all, if the people concerned had a low income and found it genuinely hard to repay, they were free to argue the point and try to make a deal with the tax-gatherer. Others could easily repay their loans but simply ignored the Government’s inquiries.

Those who have refused to do anything now face the threat of the bailiffs and, if they persist, of arrest. It’s hard to know what else the Government could do. Those who refuse to respond are breaking the social contract.

Students, after all, do not pay the full cost of their tertiary education. Even with the loans, they are being subsidised by the taxpayer. In return for that aid, however, they must make a contribution themselves.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

This demanded a response to the anonymous author of that piece;

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from:     Frank M <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:     Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date:     Mon, May 20, 2013 at 12:03 PM
subject:     Letter to the editor

 

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The Editor
DOMINION POST

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In your editorial, “Loan defaulters break ‘social contract”you state, “Those who have refused to do anything now face the threat of the bailiffs and, if they persist, of arrest… Those who refuse to respond are breaking the social contract.” (20 May)

There is no such “social contract”.

The original social contract was for taxpayers to fund education; allow students to graduate without massive debt; get into good careers;  earn good salaries, and then pay it forward for the next generation to gain a free education.

That was the social contract.

And considering the numbers of politicians who got a free education in the 1970s and 1980s (John Key, Steven Joyce, Peter Dunne, Judith Collins, Bill English, Nick Smith, et al), it worked very nicely for them.

How much have they paid paid of their tertiary education?

Not one bean, I’ll wager.

Perhaps Key and English should set an example and make a “contribution” (plus interest for delayed payment) for the free tertiary education that was paid by taxpayers at the time.

It’s called leading by example.

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-Frank Macskasy

(address & phone number supplied)

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Previous Related Blogposts

Budget 2013: How NOT to deal with Student loan defaulters

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= fs =

Does the Soviet Pravda’s spirit live on as the Dominion Post?

25 April 2013 7 comments

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The latest  anonymously-penned, propaganda-piece, for the National Party, by the establishment media,

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Editorial - Key should consider MRP sale delay

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OPINION: An unholy mess. There is no other way to describe the Government’s partial asset sales programme.

With just days to go before the public offering of shares in Mighty River Power closes, the float is shrouded in uncertainty. Is the country’s single biggest consumer of electricity about to shut its doors? Will Labour and the Green Party be part of the next government and, if so, will they make good on their promises to renationalise the electricity industry by stealth?

Potential investors have no way of knowing whether Rio Tinto is serious about closing the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter unless it can wring further concessions from the Government and Meridian Energy. Likewise, they have no way of knowing whether Labour and the Greens will be in a position to implement their policies after the next election.

But, amid all the uncertainty, there is one certainty: the price the Government and, ultimately the public, will receive for shares sold in Mighty River Power will be lower because of the uncertainty. Immediately after Labour and the Greens announced their plans to establish a new Crown entity to take over the running of the electricity industry, shares in publicly listed Contact Energy dropped almost 10 per cent in value. A similar drop in the value of Mighty River Power would reduce the amount the Government hopes to receive for the 49 per cent of the state generator it is putting up for sale by more than $150 million.

In similar circumstances, a prudent private-sector business owner could be expected to consider the wisdom of proceeding with the sale in such an uncertain environment.

Perhaps John Key and his ministers should do likewise. The Government has a mandate to sell, but it is not a mandate to sell regardless of the price. Suspending the process would be a bitter political pill for Mr Key to swallow. He has made the partial asset sales programme the centrepiece of his second term in government.

However, political considerations should not determine the fate of an asset worth billions of dollars that has been built up by generations of taxpayers. The Government’s overriding concerns should be ensuring that taxpayers get fair value for the business and that as many New Zealanders as possible take advantage of the opportunity to become shareholders in it.

Neither of those goals are likely to be achieved while there is a possibility of the country being flooded with cheap electricity and the next government telling generators how much they can charge for electricity and how they should operate their power stations.

Labour and the Greens’ Stalinist proposals are as unattractive as the free-market ideologies that have produced windfall profits for power companies and ever-rising prices for residential consumers.

But, delaying the sale till after the next election would at least allow voters to choose which of the two approaches offers the better prospect of sensible pricing and secure supply. It would also allow time for the future of Tiwai Point to be resolved.

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media –  Editorial: Key should consider MRP sale delay

Labour and the Greens’ Stalinist proposals are as unattractive as the free-market ideologies that have produced windfall profits for power companies and ever-rising prices for residential consumers.

WHOA!!!  Back up there, fella!! There’s nothing “Stalinist” about this. It’s out for the public to determine and we get to vote on it. Having a single-buyer desk is as “Stalinist” as Zespri, Fonterra, Pharmac, etc.

Every time I hear abject fear-mongering like “stalinism”, I’m wondering what the writer’s  secret agenda is? Have  they no intellectual rigour in promoting a sensible, rational debate?

Is ‘McCarthyism’ the only knee-jerk response that the Right Wing has to Labour-Green’s policy on NZ Power?

This is a shabby way for a supposedly ‘respectable’ newspaper to behave. It is as “Stalinist” as the old totalitarian regimes it complains off.

I’ve put my name to a post on the messageboard immediatly after this so-called “editorial” . Will  the author  of this biased piece of dogma put his/her name to the editorial, I wonder?

The Dominion Post demands that all letter-writers to the paper provide their own name and address to anything submitted.

Funny how the same policy doesn’t apply to the authors of their editorials?

The “editorial” pretends to take a swipe at neo-liberal policies by stating,

Labour and the Greens’ Stalinist proposals are as unattractive as the free-market ideologies that have produced windfall profits for power companies and ever-rising prices for residential consumers.

However, pointedly it offers no constructive alternative solutions.

Why?

Because by condemning Labour-Green proposals for real reform, it undermines the prospect for meaningful change – whilst at the same time, allowing the status quo to remain intact. Every time a proposal to effect meaningful change is derided – but not offering alternatives – the neo-liberal ideologies remain unchallenged.

It is the same technique that the Right used in their campaign against MMP.

It’s a sneaky way to sow doubt in the public mind.

As for claiming,

“The Government has a mandate to sell, but it is not a mandate to sell regardless of the price.”

Bollocks.

It has no such thing.

As has been pointed ad nauseum, more voters voted against the asset sales than for it. Whilst the National-ACT-Peter Dunne Coalition has 61 seats, and Labour, NZ First, Greens, Mana, and Maori Party have 60 seats – the number of Party votes cast tells a different story.

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National , ACT, United Future Party Votes Labour, Greens, NZ First, Maori Party, Mana, and Conservative Party votes

National – 1,058,636

Labour – 614,937

ACT – 23,889

Greens – 247,372

United Future – 13,443

NZ First – 147,544

Maori Party – 31,982

Mana – 24,168

Conservative Party* – 59,237

TOTAL – 1,095,968

Total – 1,125,240

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* Note:  Whilst the Conservative gained no seats in Parliament (because of the 5% threshold), their numbers are included because they gained over double the electoral-support for ACT.

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= fs =

Seven Sharp turns into Serious Shite?

23 February 2013 11 comments

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toilets-watching-bare-ass-on-tv

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The State of Media

With so much happening in this country over the last thirty years, one would think that this should be the Golden Age for investigative journaliasm and documentary-making.

Sadly, this is not the case.

On the contrary, our print and electronic journalism  have been relegated and turned into ‘McMedia ‘; quickly produced; lacking in any substance of value; and just as quickly (with some exceptions) forgotten.

In terms of documentary-making, what really stands out (confirmed by a ten second survey conducted in my household) is Bryan Bruce’s insightful and provocative doco, ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ (see:  Inside Child Poverty – A Special Report).

No other single, one-off documentary came to mind.

In terms of television current affairs, the only recent stories that came to us were stories to do with Novopay and the Bronwyn Pullar-ACC story which saw a government Minister and several ACC executives lose their jobs. ‘Campbell Live‘ and several ex-TVNZ7 documentaries such as  ‘The Court Report’ featured in our household discussion of what stuck in our minds.

Other current affairs such as ‘Q+A’, ‘The Nation’, and vastly under-rated ‘Think Tank’, were consigned to ghetto-times of Sunday mornings. TVNZ’s ‘Sunday‘ programme – on at a more watchable time-slot of 7pm – was cut from an hour to thirty minutes (less, once you excise advertisements for unfeasibly fast cars, personal hygiene products, and the latest Briscoes “sale”).

The print media is still reasonably diverse, though Wellington’s “Dominion Post” is fast losing circulation and becoming thinner and thinner. (Don’t think we haven’t noticed Mr Williams and Mr Thompson.) Constant reductions in staffing levels has resulted in a predictable down-turn in news stories – especially relevant news stories, which put issues and events into context.

For example, prior to the ‘Evening Post’ and ‘Dominion‘ being amalgamated, the ‘Post‘ employed two journalists to cover Wellington City Council issues on a full-time basis, and a third journalist, part-time. Former journalist, Lidia Zatorski, wrote some of the most insightful pieces on Council-related issues. (The mayor couldn’t sneeze without Ms Zatorski noting time, place, and potential effects on the capital city.)

As a result, Wellingtonians were well-served with an on-going stream of local body reports that not only informed readers – but also put events into context. Events weren’t isolated – they were linked, giving us an overall impression what was taking place in our city.

These days, Fairfax media has one journalist, working part time, covering City Council issues. There could be a mass shoot-out between Councillors, disagreeing on what colour to paint park-benchs, and we’d probably not know until a week later.

With TVNZ, a state-owned, supposed “public broadcaster”, dumbing-down has plumbed new depths in a stagnant pool of irrelevancy with it’s much-criticised, ‘Seven Sharp‘.

The replacement to ‘Close-up‘ (which, in itself was a replacement to ‘Holmes‘), ‘Seven Sharp’ may have met “demographic targets” and “consumer needs” – but fewer and fewer people are watching it. In fact, it’s turning viewers away in droves.

TVNZ’s descent into Idiocracy – like many things in the last 30 years – began with the corporatisation of state-owned bodies. Turning a profit was to be the number one goal – and television was no exception.

In 2003, the  Labour Government attempted to mitigate the worst effects of commercialisation by implementing a Charter for TVNZ to follow. The Charter would supposedly direct TVNZ to offer quality programmes for viewers,

Provisions included,

  • Having the presence of a significant Maori voice, including programmes promoting the Maori language and programmes addressing Maori history, culture and current issues;
  • Include the tastes and interests not generally catered for by other national television broadcasters;
  • Provide independent, comprehensive, impartial, and in-depth coverage and analysis of news and current affairs;
  • Promote understanding of the diversity of cultures making up the New Zealand population;
  • Feature New Zealand films, drama, comedy and documentary programmes;
  • Provide for the informational, entertainment and educational needs of children and young people;
  • Observe a code of ethics that addresses the level and nature of advertising to which children are exposed.
But National would have none of that “socialist” stuff, and by July 2011, Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman had repealed the Charter with the euphemistically sounding Television New Zealand (TVNZ) Amendment Bill. It was the end of any semblance of public broadcasting and Coleman’s assurances that,

The removal of the Charter will have little impact on what is shown on the screen. TVNZ will still screen content of relevance to a broad cross section of New Zealanders, and they will still screen high levels of New Zealand content.”

Source

– was a mealy mouthed, empty promise.

In fact, almost 16 months earlier, Coleman had told the public what he really wanted for TV 1 and TV2,

Everyone … could be a lot happier if they had that clear view where you go in TVNZ to find public broadcasting content and where you can expect to find frankly nakedly commercial stuff.”

Source

Coleman also made this extraordinary at the same time, in March 2010,

My view was if we could get that demarcation … once everyone has got access to digital television, which isn’t too many years away, if you know that if you go to 7 or maybe 6 and 7 you can get what most people could describe as quality broadcasting content.

“Then if you flick to One and Two you get whatever they serve up … it would bring some more honesty and clarity to the situation,” Coleman said.

“The 7 schedule pretty much already fits that definition broadly.”

IBID

His reference to  “going to [TVNZ]7 or maybe [TVNZ]6 and 7 you can get what most people could describe as quality broadcasting content” was the same TVNZ7 that National canned in July year, despite strong public opposition. (And politicians wonder why we distrust them?)

Parts of TVNZ6 was later leased to SkyTV for pay-viewing only.

In July 2011, Coleman stated as bluntly as he could, that removing the Charter and rejecting non-commercial   public-service content, would give TVNZ,

“…the flexibility it needs to effectively pursue commercial objectives”.

Under National, TVNZ programming was pre-ordained  to be 100% commercialised and ratings-driven. Much like giving children ice cream on demand, the viewing public got what they (supposedly) wanted; entertainment ‘lollies’.

In return, National would “milk” it as a cash-cow (as with Genesis, Mighty River Power, Meridian, Air New Zealand, and until lately, Solid Energy).

Seven Sharp‘ – or ‘Seven Shite‘ as one Facebook commentator labelled it – was simply the natural end-result of this process.

This was made no more clearer than when TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick admitted to a Parliamentary Select Committee that the broadcaster was now,

“... entirely driven by consumer behaviour”, and Seven Sharp was “absolutely in the right territory…”

“… And now there are so many more opportunities and places you can access the news and as a result of them I think that consumers are looking for short, sharp soundbites; they’re looking for a punchy delivery.”

Source

Well, if viewers are “looking for short, sharp soundbites; they’re looking for a punchy delivery” – they are showing it in a strange way by deserting TVNZ and switching on to ‘Campbell Live‘ instead,

The ratings head-to-head between Seven Sharp and Campbell Live reveals TVNZ’s new offering outperforming TV3 in total audience terms all but twice in its first two weeks.

But over the same period, the TVNZ show lost the key demographic both channels are chasing, those aged between 25 to 54, eight times.

Figures supplied by Nielsen TAM show that apart from the first big bang on February 4 where 508,500 tuned into Seven Sharp compared to 246,300 on TV3, there have been plenty of nights where the two have been separated by barely a percentage point or two of the total television audience.

For Campbell Live, February 12 was historic. It was the first time the channel won the slot since TV3 began in November 1989, a win it repeated three days later by taking 7.2 per cent of the total audience aged five and over with 298,800 viewers to 242,300.

Source

Perhaps TVNZ’s attitude toward public broadcasting and criticisms for a lack thereof, can be summed up by  this comment by Kendrick,

There has been a lot of commentary about Seven Sharp which has typically come from less than 12 commentators, and they tend to reinforce a more traditional perspective of what current affairs has been as opposed to a reflection of what it might be.”

Source

There is an underlying arrogance in Kendrick’s remarks. It is a “We Know Best What You Want” conceit. Never mind if the public are craving intelligent, challenging TV content – we’ll get dumbed-down viewing because that’s what “We Really Want”.

Which is a self-fulfilling curse; the more crap broadcast, the more crap some viewers will watch, which then shows up in the Ratings…

Public reaction

Meanwhile, apart from the “12 commentators” that Kendrick dismisses  in a cursory, derisory manner, what people are really  expressing is just as critical of ‘Seven Sharp’.

As Facebook users have said to this blogger,

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Jenny B

“Apparently it has the pollings. Sad reflection that NZ’ers prefer to be entertained than educated.

 Loving Campbell taking on social issues now. But last Century, Sunday night was the time for hard political journalism – why are we being fed sop?”

Taura J

“They assume the audience is stupid. They assume the ratings won’t be good enough, which in turn, won’t draw the advertisers. Which in turn, won’t pay for their prime time news slot. They apparently don’t think there’s enough local news around because everyone is watching garbage.

The so called mainstream media has been manipulated by other influences for years. I have sat and watched the quality of journalism rot like a gangrenous limb every night in TV. Watched objectivity, that grand bastion of true journalism vanish in favour of opinion pieces and puerile garbage about feuding families and neighbours and the bad natives who are too lazy to do anything worthwhile.”

Hone W

“Advertisers react to raw data, and I’d be fairly sure the drive for less hard news content on TV is coming from the viewers, (us).. not any grand conspiracy…
As long as the value of a given programme is rated by viewer numbers, and nothing else, car crash footage will always beat political debate.”

Matthew H

“every body i know is crying out for decent news & political shows in prime time, instead of this diet of cooking shows & crap sitcoms, with all the political talk on a sunday morning… if, as he says,  consumers are the ones who ask for this low-rent shit that claims to be ‘news’, then no bastard asked me”

David MF

“Seven Shite”

Alastair F

“State television has been wallowing in the sewer for at least 15 years. Nothing has changed.

 Their political independence has never been credible. You wouldn’t trust TV3 to report impartially on a corporate scandal involving Mediaworks and you wouldn’t trust The Press to report impartially on a scandal involving Fairfax, so why would you trust state television to duly criticise its owner?”

Jill M

“I didn’t think it was possible to get worse… but it has.”

Mike P

“TVNZ news and current affairs seem to be following an agenda of ‘keep ’em dumb.’ Looking at comparisons between SevenSharp and Campbell this is plainly obvious, but the the same is true between  Breakfast and Firstline, and increasingly so in the 6pm slot.

Here’s a question, as state broadcaster how much influence is placed on their independence and impartiality. Can we truly believe that at a time when John Key is singing the ‘nothing to see here’ tune that the state owned and operated news service are singing along.”

Mike M

“Is it for education or entertainment ?”

Robbie K

“Given Kiwi’s television addiction, you could put any crap on TV and it will find an audience, so ratings don’t really come into it. Television is the cheapest form of entertainment available, so not hard to understand our love affair with the box.

However, I cannot accept New Zealanders are so intellectually deficient they can’t handle cerebral programming. Natural history and science programs rate very well in this country, so the problem is not what Kiwi’s choose to watch, it is simply that what is offered up is mindless rubbish. Is Kevin Kenrick cerebral enough to understand this? Now there’s a question.”

Robert G

“Some harder journalism asking questions about things like the obscene prices expected of us by oil companies, the Sky City Casino deal, a constitution for New Zealand among other things, would be better.”

Mark H

“Feel free to include my thought that Kevin Kenrick is an idiot.”

Marianne H

“I’ve switched to 3 and Campbell after years of sticking with TV One”

Wendy EM 

“I do not believe the content that 7 sharp even hits it with the under 35 year olds after all they have SKY television and reality shows and Seven sharp is hideous of course the people that are over 20 tend to be with Campbell Live, I have moved to Campbell being in my 50!!! I am embarrassed by TV ONE in every journalism respect. Campbell Team are on the pulse night after night.”

Alison W

“The mainstream media generally get their tips and news from Tweets, Facebook posts and freelance bloggers. I would rather read and view the news of intelligent, articulate, investigative, freelance bloggers and journos, than have my mind dumbed down and filled with the biased agendas of a right wing, Fairfax driven media. That being said, Campbell Live does at least demonstrate a social conscience, and I made the switch to watching that over a year ago now. Seven Sharp is Seven Dull.”

Taura J

“The so called mainstream media has been manipulated by other influences for years. I have sat and watched the quality of journalism rot like a gangrenous limb every night in TV. Watched objectivity, that grand bastion of true journalism vanish in favour of opinion pieces and puerile garbage about feuding families and neighbours and the bad natives who are too lazy to do anything worthwhile.”

Daphne M

“NZ tv show’s are alright! It’s when the MP’s start adding their bits in that the flavour become’s kawa (sour). If MP’s, had real job’s, instead of being in a studio for picking on somebody about their job,..  then,it’s time to GO!!! Leave the real worker’s to do their own job’s….KEEP YOUR NOSE, OUT!!!”

Duncan L

“I no longer watch what passes for news generated by any teevy broadcaster in NZ – I turn to Triangle/Face for Al Jazeera and DWTV, and occasionally, if I can stop my soul from rising up and strangling my moral conscience, Voice of America.

News on NZ teevy is dominated by road accidents, boozy teenagers, sport and scandal – as for expecting any in-depth analysis or anything remotely resembling investigative or critical journalism, well, we’re screwed, unless you happen to be one the unlobotomised, multi-tasking few who can listen to the radio (and I’m refering exclusively to the National Programme here) at the same time as they walk and chew gum. 

I’m ashamed, sometimes, to be part of the institution which churns out the next-generation of wannabe journalists whose sole ambitions seem to be getting a job with a corporation and their grinning mugs on the small screen.”

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Sell it?

Writing for the Herald on 8 February (see: Perhaps now’s a good time to sell off TVNZ), columnist Toby Manhire suggested that TVNZ was so far gone in terms of quality that it was irredeemable and fit only to be hocked of.  He said, in part,

So sell TVNZ. It would end any residual confusion within the organisation about their purpose. It would end any misplaced vestigial attachment by audiences who still dream of the Goodnight Kiwi. Paradoxically, it might encourage TVNZ to pursue more public-interest journalism to retain a “national voice” reputation. For anyone who believes, as I do, that New Zealand should have a mainstream public TV broadcaster, it would blow away any fog around the question of whether we currently have one. We do not.”

In case Toby Manhire is being dead serious and not indulging in wry tongue-firmly-in-cheek black humour, any suggestion to sell TVNZ because it has been dumbed down, is simply rewarding National for deliberately undermining our State broadcaster.

It is not a solution. It is a reward for bad behaviour.

Not only would it fulfill what might be a deliberate agenda to alienate public support for TVNZ – but it closes of future avenues to bring the broadcaster back from the brink.

A future progressive government would have a massive task on it’s hands; to effectively undo decades of commercialisation and bring back a true public service.

But it’s not impossible.

If free-marketeers can wreck it – we should be able to repair or replace it.

One classic suggestion is to make TV1 a non-commercial station, funded by a fully commercial, go-for-trash, TV2 broadcaster.

Or to fund public television through a small levy on pay-to-view broadcasters, such as SkyTV.

More importantly, any such progressive reform would have to be entrenched in legislation and tied up in so many safe-guards that it would take years for any future National government to undo  and wrecking it all over again. (See upcoming blogpost, ‘Talkback Radio, Public Radio, and related matters’, on ‘The Daily Blog‘, on 1 March.)

One-stop shop or multiple platforms?

An argument has been made that public-service programming should be left to NZ on Air, which would be responsible for dispensing contestable funding for documentaries, current affairs, and other public interest programmes.

So  programmes like ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ and ‘The Nation‘ could be funded by ‘NZ on Air‘, and broadcast by any number of  electronic media, irrespective of whether of who owns said broadcaster. As it’s curreently mandated to do.

To a degree that has some validity.

Unfortunately, at least two cases point against ‘NZ on Air‘ as the sole agency for intelligent tv viewing,

Key defended ‘NZ on Airs‘ public funding for ‘The GC’ by claiming,

They make their decisions completely independentlyOur board is to appoint the board, and their job is to make the funding calls.

Source

Yeah. Nah.

“Independent”, Mr Key?

I don’t think so.

Not when your own Electorate Chairman and National Party Regional Deputy, Stephen McElrea, sits on ‘NZ on Airs‘ Board – which is responsible for funding decision-making. (see:  Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air)

Only a politician might think  that is “independepent” and “non-partisan”.

Secondly, there are two other  reasons why this country needs a committed non-commercial; fully funded; dedicated  public service broadcaster.

It is the same reasons why we have a committed non-commercial; fully funded; dedicated  public service radio station, Radio New Zealand. Namely;

  • Convenience

Much like going to a supermarket which retails a wide range of goods, and saves us the effort of going to separate retailers for fruit & veg; meat; fish; hardware, the supermnarket is a convenient  one-stop shop.

It’s what consumers want. And in a market-driven society, what consumers want, consumers get.

Why should it be any different for a one-stop broadcaster/shop?

In fact, we already have racing channels; religious channels; shopping channels; cartoon channels; etc, etc, etc.

So why not a committed non-commercial; fully funded; dedicated  public service television station?

  • A sense of purpose

TV3 did well to broadcast  ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ and it’s ‘Campbell Live‘ programme is to be commended for it’s investigate and advocacy journalism. Long may TV3 survive and return good dividends to it’s shareholder(s).

But we also need a dedicated  public service television station that has a sense of purpose that is different to commercial TV.

We need a sense of purpose that is not controlled by ratings; has public service as it’s #1 goal; and broadcasts programmes that are challenging as well as informative. Programmes that might not be commercially successful, but nevertheless spark public debate on isues.

Such as ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ did, in November 2011.

Unfortunately, programming such as ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ by commercial broadcasters is a rarity, and TV3 received much flak for the courage they displayed that day.

It is a fact that almost every OECD nation, as well as Russia,  has a public service tv broadcaster. Australia has seven; ABC1, ABC2, ABC3, ABC News 24, SBS1, SBS2, and NITV (National Indigenous TV).

It is depressing to realise that this   National government refuses to give New Zealanders what other countries already have.

Conclusion

There is no arguing with the simple fact that Nationaland ACT have zero interest in public service broadcast.

In fact, if anything, the dumbing down or ghottoisation of public broadcasting serves their political  interests. After all, a commercialised broadcaster will most often choose to focus their News stories around crime/police/court reporting – which is cheaper than investigative journalism, as police feed information directly to journalists in News Rooms.

Investigative reporting – such as  “Campbell Live”  – is much rarer.

Documentaries that look behind the superficialities of our society – such as  Bryan Bruce’s  ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ – is rarer still.

Which is probably why right wing governments love the commercialisation of our broadcasting.

Evidence for this is  on TV1, 7pm, week nights.

I rest my case.

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Previous related blogposts

NZ on Air funding soft-core porn garbage? Since when? Since now!!

Public Broadcasting – down, but not out

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want

The Ridges are on tonight!!!

NZ media; the Good, the Bad, and the Very, Very, Ugly

Sources

Fairfax media: Government signals big changes for TVNZ (13 March 2010)

TV3: TVNZ Charter abolished (13 July 2011)

NZ Herald: Perhaps now’s a good time to sell off TVNZ (8 Feb 2013)

NZ Herald: Susan Wood new host of TVNZ’s Q+A (21 Feb 2013)

NZ Herald: Seven Sharp staff in talks on show (22 Feb 2013)

NZ Herald: Seven Sharp vs Campbell Live – who’s winning? (22 Feb 2013)

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NZ media; the Good, the Bad, and the Very, Very, Ugly

17 January 2013 13 comments

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could anything be more exciting than television

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A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” – Oscar Wilde

It’s no great secret that the news media in this country – with perhaps one or two exceptions –  has been going downhill  in the last three decades.

As an example, the previous entities, the ‘Evening Post‘ and ‘Dominion‘ in Wellington,  once employed three reporters – two full time and one part-time – to cover  local body politics and events in the city.  No councillor or mayor could pass wind without one of the journos picking it up. If something smelled rotten, the journos would sniff it out fairly smartly.

Now, with continuing cutbacks at Fairfax media, and most sub-editors gone, the combined entity known as the ‘Dominion Post‘ has one journalist covering City Council activities on a part-time basis. Coverage has becomes sporadic, disjointed, and out of context.

Which is why Wellingtonians now have little idea what’s happening at their  Council.

TVNZ and TV3 once had current affairs programmes, at prime time, conducting in depth investigations into government activities and dubious behaviour from dodgy politicians.

Many of those programmes, ‘Holmes‘, ‘Assignment‘, have gone.  ‘Sunday” was an hour long on Sunday nights – that’s been cut to thirty minutes.

The main current affairs prpgrammes – TVNZ’s ‘Q+A‘ and TV3’s ‘The Nation‘ – have been relegated to Sunday mornings at 8am and 9am. Hardly conducive to encouraging the public to be aware of political issues in our country. Only insomniacs and the  most committed political junkie would be willing to forego a Sunday morning lie-in to watch TV journos in action with our elected representatives.

Private and State radio is perhaps  the only part of the  industry that has remained consistent.

Talkback Radio – idiot voices screaming at other idiot voices on issues that idiots know little about.

It is the realm where superficial “knowledge”  is the main currency and shrill prejudice holds sway over calm reasoned analysis on issues. Imagine allotting a bunch of bigoted, ill-informed rednecks  equal speaking time at the Oxford debates, shouting down their more knowledgeable and wiser debating opponants, and that gives an insight into talkback radio.

Even the talkback “hosts” are not ones to rise above the common, noisome mud of prejudice and wilful ignorance, as happened last week,

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Radio Network apologises for 'dyke' slur against Alison Mau

Full story

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Charming.

But hardly surprising.

It’s all part of the commercial radio game; win as many listeners as you can by being as offensive and outrageous as you can. That wins ratings, which in turn let’s you sell more advertising, leading to higher profits, which results in  increasing dividends to ever more demanding shareholders.

In a free market society, being offensive and prejudiced (or even better still, offensively prejudiced) is profitable. (See: Laws told off for ‘shoot rabid reporters’ comment)

Ever wondered why radio stations and newspapers “love” Michael Laws so much? Wonder no more. He sells advertising.

Ironically, when radio stations like NewstalkZB are then held to account for  offensive behaviour, the additional publicity they gain – as in the case of the subsequent NZ Herald story above – gives them even more public attention. And higher ratings. And sell more advertising… It’s a win/win for them.

Radio NZ – after the political assassination of TVNZ7 – the last remaining non-commercial, public service media in this country.

And National is gunning for it,

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Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

Full story

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It’s fairly obvious why Peter Cavanagh is resigning as  Chief Executive: National has plans to commercialise Radio NZ.

This will no doubt be aided and abetted by Radio NZ board chairman, Richard Griffin. As well as having been a former Radio NZ political editor, Griffin took the job of  press secretary to former National, prime minister, Jim Bolger (See:  Richard Griffin to chair Radio NZ board).

The stage is set…

For National,  non-commercial SOEs such as Radio NZ and TVNZ are anathema to their free market ideology – the very same ideology that saw the closure of TVNZ7 by deliberate political design, despite public support for the channel,

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We need public service TV

See: TVNZ7 supporters rally at Parliament

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The commercialisation of  media such as TVNZ is of considerable benefit to National Party (and perhaps Labour?) politicians, for two very good reasons,

  1. They yield a profit to the State, thereby making government’s job much easier to balance The Books.
  2. Commercialisation encourages ratings-driven programming. Hence the preponderence of crime ‘drama’, reality TV shows of every description, cheap US sitcoms, home improvement shows, and more cooking programmes than you can shake a wooden spatula at.

The second rationale has a by-product that governing politicians welcome with cunningly-disguised glee; ratings driven programming does not include current affairs shows and documentary making. These are now funded by NZ on Air – and even NZOA has been captured by National’s party apparatchiks,

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Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

Full story

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… to fund brain-deadening crap like this,

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The GC

See previous blogpost: NZ on Air funding soft-core porn garbage? Since when? Since now!!

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It is no coincidence that the gradual demise of intelligent programmes that inform and challenge  the viewer has been consistant with the rise and rise of commercialisation of the media – especially the state owned “public broadcaster”, TVNZ.

Quite simply, junk programmes such as cooking porn;  MaF officials measuring the size of fish in someone’s bucket; and crime ‘dramas’ depicting the latest grisly murder (usually a female victim) in ghoulish detail, is what sells advertising.

And it should be no surprise that as the media shies away from serious reporting of current affairs, we had the lowest voter turnout last year since 1887 (see:  Steve Liddle: Election apathy shows need for civics at school).

The Americanisation of our media (“if it bleeds, it leads”) is creating the Americanisation of our electoral process (apathy and low voter turnout – see: Voter turnout in 2012 US presidential elections 9% lower than 2008 ).

Major political parties – especially those on the Right, such as National – love this kind of thing. An unsophisticated public results in low-information voters. Low information voters allow  governments to get way with all manner of dubious policies such as cuts to services; more user pays; environmentally-damaging activities, and further implementation of neo-liberal ideology.

It literally encourages the dumbing-down of society until the consequences are satirised in movies like this,

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idiocracyposter0eo4

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Idiocracy” was produced as a speculative “what if” sf movie. It’s now more like a documentary. If you haven’t see it – this blogger strongly recommends that you do. You’ll be feeling a creepy sense of deja vu throughout it (and you’ll never look at ‘power drinks’ in quite the same way again).

It now appears that we, the New Zealand public, have till the end of the year to mobilise to pressure National not to interfere with the running of Radio NZ.

A statement from the Coalition for Better Broadcasting on 16 January, said,

The real story here is that the National Government – having fully commercialised TVNZ and done away with non-commercial TV channels Stratos, TV6 & 7 – is also slowly strangling RNZ to the point that it cannot survive. In 2007 a KPMG report to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage found that RNZ was already running as efficiently as possible. It recommended a funding increase to allow RNZ to continue its high standards. But the following year, the National Government froze the RNZ budget and that freeze still exists with RNZ operating on the same budget as 5 years ago.

The CBB believes this is a shockingly poor way to treat our national radio broadcaster: the station we rely on in times of emergency, disaster and crisis. We note the repeated absence on RNZ of our Prime Minister (who prefers to goof around on commercial stations) and many of his Cabinet colleagues. This fact and frequent remarks made by Ministers, makes it clear that the decision to freeze funding to RNZ is an attempt to influence the station’s ability to present in-depth news and current affairs. This contradicts statutory requirements that the government does not influence RNZ editorial stance and may even be illegal.

See: Response to the Resignation of RNZ CEO Peter Cavanagh

The under-funding of Radio NZ has been abysmal, with National wilfully attempting to strangle the broadcaster by a lack of money.

The situation for Radio NZ has become so dire that in late 2011, the Crown Entity registered itself as a charity,

The state-owned broadcaster registered itself as the Radio New Zealand Charitable Trust with the Charities Commission last month.

Some of its charitable purposes, which were listed on the commission’s website, included education, research, fundraising and providing grants to a number of individuals and groups.

A spokesperson for Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said the broadcaster still received $34 million a year but couldn’t say how long it had been receiving that amount.

A financial review of Radio NZ for the 2009/10 financial year showed it had a net deficit of $498,000 after tax, compared to a surplus of $13,000 the year before.

The review said RNZ had been too cash-strapped to participate in the 2010 New Zealand Radio Awards or put in a bid for the Rugby World Cup 2011 coverage.

See: Radio New Zealand ‘forced to register as charity

This is a deliberate campaign against Radio NZ and constitutes political interference – something that is strictly forbidden by law. National has found a way to circumvent that law.

Make no mistake, the dumbing down of Radio NZ is National’s final mission-plan to eliminate all critical, in-depth  media analysis and reporting  in this country. Turning Radio NZ in a radio-version of TVNZ would destroy any remaining  semblance of serious current affairs programming, resulting in another medium for mindless, unquestioning, consumerism.

This is the neo-liberal agenda at it’s nastiest. To be successful in re-shaping a society into a “free market”, the new right must first remove all critical elements in society and either destroy it or marginalise it.

The commercialisation of Radio NZ would be the beginning of that marginalisation. Next would be a partial privatisation, followed by a full-scale sell-off.

This blogger encourages the reader to;

1.

Join Save Radio New Zealand on Facebook. Get your friends and family to “Like” the facebook page – the more the better! Support a replacement for Peter Cavanagh  who will  maintain the non-commercialised status  of Radio NZ.

2.

If you have a National MP as your electorate MP, let him/her know your your vote in 2014 will depend on what happens to Radio NZ.  Tell your National MP that not only will you vote for another Party, but you’ll be making a donation to them as well! Demand that Peter Cavanagh’s replacement support and maintain the non-commercialised status  of Radio NZ.

3.

Write a short letter to your local newspaper and voice your feelings on this issue. The deliberate demise of TVNZ7 was bad enough – but attacking Radio NZ is the final straw. Demand that Peter Cavanagh’s replacement support and maintain the non-commercialised status  of Radio NZ.

4.

Write to Labour Leader David Shearer and demand that, if he expects voter support, that Labour reverse National’s  policies and undoes any commercialisation of Radio New Zealand.

On Point #4, the demise of TVNZ7 and impending commercialisation of Radio NZ  underscores one very critical issue: that important services such as Radio NZ must be protected by entrenched legislation that makes it difficult – if not impossible – for incoming  National regimes to to undermine such Crown entities.

It is unbelievable that an organisation such as Radio NZ – which has been operating in one form or another since 1925 – is vulnerable to the ideological machinations of a “government” that has been in office for only the last four years.  In existence for 88 years – vulnerable to attack in four?!

A new Labour-led government’s Broadcasting Minister’s first task must be to enact legislation that;

  • entrenches protection for Radio NZ,
  • denies right governments any opportunity to commercialise the broadcaster,
  • ring-fenches funding and ties it to the rate of inflation – perhaps by the Remuneration Authority which also sets MP’s salaries and perks.

The same protections must be in place for any new non-commercial public TV broadcaster that is set up by an incoming Labour-led government. Crown Entities must be free of covert political interference by the likes of Key, English, Joyce, et al, who cannot resist sticking their grubby fingers into places they shouldn’t.

At the risk of sounding overly-dramatic, this issue is not just about saving Radio NZ from commercialisation. This is a battle for the minds and souls of New Zealanders.

As Dave Armstrong wrote in August 2011,

Despite its budget freeze, National Radio continues to do an excellent job. Its current affairs programmes are intelligent and objective. That’s why you rarely hear the prime minister on Morning Report or Checkpoint. As the recent BBC Hardtalk episode showed, Mr Key becomes dangerously exposed when interviewed by a tough, intelligent journalist. He tends to send in street-smart Gerry Brownlee to take one for the team on Radio New Zealand, while he has a cosy yet inane chat with ex-children’s presenter Petra Bagust on Breakfast or talks to Veitchy on sports radio about hot chicks. That’s far more fun than explaining to Mary Wilson why parents are going to have to pay more for childcare.”

See: Govt consigns RNZ to an undeserved chilly place

In countries ruled by totalitarian regimes (late Soviet Union, North Korea, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Syria, United States, etc), despots control the media with an iron fist. Members of the state security apparatus watch every word printed; every word uttered; every picture or video screened.

In the West, we do despotic control of the media in more subtle ways. We use “market forces” instead of  secret police forces.

The Western model is far more successful because the general populace doesn’t realise it’s happening. In fact, the general populace rather like “Master Chef Albania” or “CSI Timbuktu” or “Mumbai Squalid Home Improvement”. Unfortunately, watching such drivel doesn’t make the populace any smarter or informed. It simply prepares them for Talkback radio.

It’s up to the rest of us to lead the fight and stop National in it’s tracks.

Spread the word, people.

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FB save radio nz page

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Previous related blogposts

The Ridges are on tonight!!!

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want

Public Broadcasting – down, but not out

From July 1 onwards

TVNZ7 – value for money!

TVNZ7 – Picking at the body before it’s cold

21 May – Public meeting: TVNZ7 gets the big tick!

The radio station, the newspaper columnist, and Dear Leader

NZ on Air funding soft-core porn garbage? Since when? Since now!!

References

Scoop.co.nz:  PM has questions to answer over NZ on Air link

Fairfax: Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

NZ Herald: Radio Network apologises for ‘dyke’ slur against Alison Mau

NZ Herald: TVNZ reveals Seven Sharp presenting team

NZ Herald: Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

Scoop.co.nz: Response to the Resignation of RNZ CEO Peter Cavanagh

Other blogs

Tom Frewen: GC In Breach Of Funding Agreement?

Pundit:  TVNZ kills ad-free channels to grow profits

Tumeke: Seven Sharp already looks blunt

Brian Edwards: TVNZ exchanges current-affairs for a mess of pottage at 7pm

Tumeke: Is the NZ Herald a newspaper or a Police press release?

Tumeke: The future of RNZ

Whoar: “..Radio NZ tops 2012 ratings..”

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Nat’s support plummets in yet another poll

Neil Watts, Blogger, Fearfactsexposed

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But Fairfax subscribers denied the leading news, again. 

Little wonder Fairfax Media are struggling financially and virtually giving their publications away to attract subscribers.

Consistently failing to provide their readers with the news – if the news is damaging to their friends in the National Party – means that Fairfax Media’s credibility as a news provider is poor, and declining.

While less partisan news media jumped immediately on the third poll in a month showing National’s support crumbling, Fairfax avoided the story, as they have done with other polls that are unfavourable to their mates on the Right.

While this highly newsworthy story led the political news on TV last night, as well as on the New Zealand Herald website and Radio New Zealand, Fairfax once again applied the eerie Orwellian denial they have used in the past when a news item doesn’t suit their political agenda.

Predictably, when stuff.co.nz  finally got around to mentioning the poll just before 9am today – some 15 hours after their rivals – it was only to provide readers with the National Party’s spin on the results, with a piece heavily dominated by John Key’s response.

As usual, the Opposition were completely sidelined from Fairfax’s story, and more importantly, the major implications of the latest poll – that Labour and the Greens could form a centre-Left government with a combination of support partners – were completely avoided.  This angle is so obvious to any real journalist, that Fairfax again show their desire to provide propaganda over news, by avoiding it all together.  As I noted here three weeks ago, after they avoided reporting on another negative poll for National, this illustrates exactly why such powerful, biased media corporations are a very real danger to our democracy.  By stifling the debate, controlling the message, and starving the Opposition of comment, media organisations like Fairfax can and do have a frightening influence on our freedom.

Remember how their brainfart polls told readers over and over how the National Party were going to romp back into the Beehive last year?  In detailed analysis of the reasons why New Zealanders didn’t vote, it was found that “a large proportion of non-voters cited the polls predicting the National Party’s victory, and decided the election was a foregone conclusion. The percentage of non-voters who said this was a factor was far higher in 2011 than in 2008″, according to The New Zealand Herald.

Critics at the time – myself included – noted the flawed methodology of these polls, and suggested that they were designed more to influence rather than inform voters.  The resulting election turnout was the lowest in 120 years, with the supposably invincible National Party pushed much closer than the polls had suggested.   Funny that, when their chums in the National Party are riding high in the polls, stuff.co.nz and the Dom Post can’t find a font big enough, but when the news is bad…well, it just ain’t news.  Orwellian, Fairfaxian, call that what you will

Following a week where their political editor was heavily criticised for providing the Prime Minister with a series of glowing PR pieces as she escorted him around Europe,  and where the most damaging elements of a number of issues were avoided, this is not a good look for Fairfax.  Last week, they effectively ran the spin for John Key on the class size backdown, painting Key as “a leader who listens”, complete with a leading survey.  They neglected to mention that the “listening leader” is ignoring New Zealanders over asset sales, and dodged figures picked up by other media showing that power prices would rise significantly once the assets were privatised.  As if all of this isn’t damning enough for Fairfax’s credibility, another survey showed that 50% of stuff respondents favoured the Nazi solution of eugenics to tackle the problem of breeding “ferals”; is this a clear sign of Rightwing propaganda in action?

Had enough of this international corporation providing propaganda disguised as news?  Please share this blog [Fearfactsexposed], join us on Facebook , and tell your friends to boycott everything that this National Party spin corporation publish.  Only a strong public backlash will make Fairfax Media take notice, so let’s bloody have one!

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Fearfactsexposed:  Jet-setting Key accompanied by Fairfax political editor, again

NZ Herald:  Poll: Labour could form Government

Fairfax:  Key not fazed by poll results

Radio NZ: The National Party’s support is faltering in the wake of a series of political difficulties this year

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Acknowledgement

Reprinted from the blog, Fearfactsexposed, with kind permission.

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Headlines that come back to haunt us…

12 June 2012 4 comments

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Every so often, headlines from the past come back to haunt us because of some striking element of relevance. This  story from the Dominion Post last year, is perhaps exceptionally pertinent, as John Key’s popularity is now in free-fall. It appears that those who dis-trusted the ‘Teflon Don‘ had good reason to be suspicious,

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Full Story

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An associated poll – whilst not scientifically reliable – supported the claims made by Danya Levy and Paloma Migone that more people trusted Phil Goff to be truthful than John Key,

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As National continues to spring surprises on the electorate; as John Key continues to have to defend unpopular policies; and as the economy fails to improve – his teflon coating has peeled away and he is under  greater critical scrutiny than ever.

The “smile & wave” approach doesn’t work anymore.

National has had three and a half years in office and almost every social and economic indicator is worse than it was in 2008.

People are holding National to account.  And according to polls, they are not liking what they are seeing,

Prime Minister John Key who has been overseas for a fortnight, has dropped in the preferred Prime Minister stakes by 3.7 to 40.5%. Labour leader David Shearer is up by 1.9 to 12.3%…”

With Key’s evasiveness when it comes to fronting up to the public, people’s distrust in him is growing.

Ironically, Key’s  high rating for “best grasp on economic issues” may be his un-doing. Part of his electability was his knowledge (so- called)  of international finance and other economic-related matters. But even with his high rating against Goff (62% vs 16%) he has been spectacularly unsuccessful in meaningful achievement, including,

  • Job creation to cut unemployment
  • Skills training programmes
  • Motivating young New Zealanders to stay in the country instead of jumping the ditch
  • Growing the economy in any meaningful way

Instead, the public have seen only a pathetic  attempt to grow the economy, lacking any real imagination or boldness,

  1. Partial asset sales
  2. Beneficiary bashing
  3. Ongoing cuts to the state sector

… and that’s it.

No wonder that the business sector, last year, voiced their frustrations at any apparent lack of planning by National,

”  Businesses have echoed Labour’s criticism that the Government lacks a blueprint to develop the economy.

Party leaders and their finance spokesmen yesterday fronted up to lobby group Business NZ’s election conference to outline their economic vision.

Business NZ also released the results of its election survey of more than 1300 small to large businesses. While almost all believed it was important for the government to have a co-ordinated plan of action that raised economic performance, little more than a third thought John Key’s Government had one.

Deloitte chief executive Murray Jack said the finding was “disturbing” and the plan Mr Key had earlier in the day confidently spoken to the conference about “was obviously news to most people in this room”.  “

See:  Business NZ sees no economic plan

New Zealanders had high expectations from a John Key-led government. In large part, those expectations were raised unfeasibly high by Key himself. Whether it was promises to raise wages to parity with Australia or grow the economy – Key raised expectations to the heights of Mt Everest,

”  When Sir Ed climbed Mt Everest back in 1953, he wasn’t the only New Zealander on top of the world. We all were.  We were among the five wealthiest countries on earth. Not any more.

Fifty-five years on, we are no longer an Everest nation.  We are among the foothill nations at the base of the OECD wealth mountain. Number 22 for income per person, and falling.

But what does a wealth ranking matter, you might ask?  Why does it matter if we’re number 22 or number four? 

It matters because at number 22 your income is lower, you have to work harder, and you can save less.  You face more uncertainty when things go wrong, when you or your family get sick or lose a job.  No New Zealand sports team would be happy to be number 22.  Why is the Government?

This is a great country.  But it could be so much greater.  It has been so much greater. 

So the question I’m asking Kiwi voters is this:  Do you really believe this is as good as it gets for New Zealand?  Or are you prepared to back yourselves and this country to be greater still? National certainly is. 

Under Helen Clark and Labour, our country has become a story of lost opportunities. 

Despite inheriting the tail wind of a strong global economy, Helen Clark has failed to use that momentum to make significant improvement in areas of real importance to New Zealanders.  She has squandered your economic inheritance by failing to build stronger foundations for the future. 

Tomorrow, Helen Clark will tell us what she thinks about the state of our nation.  In all likelihood, she’ll remind us how good she thinks we’ve got it, how grateful she thinks we should be to Labour, and why we need her for another three years. 

Well, I’ve got a challenge for the Prime Minister.  Before she asks for another three years, why doesn’t she answer the questions Kiwis are really asking, like:

  • Why, after eight years of Labour, are we paying the second-highest interest rates in the developed world?
  • Why, under Labour, is the gap between our wages, and wages in Australia and other parts of the world, getting bigger and bigger?
  • Why, under Labour, do we only get a tax cut in election year, when we really needed it years ago?
  • Why are grocery and petrol prices going through the roof?
  • Why can’t our hardworking kids afford to buy their own house?
  • Why is one in five Kiwi kids leaving school with grossly inadequate literacy and numeracy skills?
  • Why, when Labour claim they aspire to be carbon-neutral, do our greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at an alarming rate?
  • Why hasn’t the health system improved when billions of extra dollars have been poured into it?
  • Why is violent crime against innocent New Zealanders continuing to soar and why is Labour unable to do anything about it?

Those are the questions on which this election will be fought…

[abidged]

The National Party has an economic plan that will build the foundations for a better future.

  • We will focus on lifting medium-term economic performance and managing taxpayers’ money effectively.
  • We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.
  • We will cut taxes, not just in election year, but in a regular programme of ongoing tax cuts.
  • We will invest in the infrastructure this country needs for productivity growth.
  • We will be more careful with how we spend the cash in the public purse, monitoring not just the quantity but also the quality of government spending.
  • We will concentrate on equipping young New Zealanders with the education they need for a 21st century global economy.
  • We will reduce the burden of compliance and bureaucracy, and we will say goodbye to the blind ideology that locks the private sector out of too many parts of our economy.
  • And we will do all of this while improving the public services that Kiwis have a right to expect.  “

See:  2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand – John Key

Very few of those expectations have been met.

In fact, the only ones who appear to have benefitted the most are… the 1%.

See:  Rich list shows rich getting richer

Perhaps, at this point, someone close to John Key should remind him of this old maxim, by a great man,

You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time. ” – Abraham Lincoln

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National – The End is Nigh

19 March 2012 6 comments

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This recent Roy Morgan poll in the ‘Dominion Post‘ caught my eye,

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Source

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At first glance, the Fairfax report sounds like good news for National and terribly bad news for Labour.

On closer analysis, nothing could be further from the truth. The story is mostly ‘spin’ – a somewhat disingenous attempt to paint the poll results in a good light. National’s own Party strategists will be viewing that poll with considerable dismay.

Here’s why…

A corresponding poll by Roy Morgan in March last year, had National on 52.5% and Labour on 32.5%,

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Comparing March 2011 with March 2012, we see the following results:

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2011 Poll Result

2012 Poll Result

+/-

National

52.5%

48.5%

– 4%

Labour

32.5%

30%

– 2.5%

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Both parties have actually dropped – not risen – as the Fairfax story claims.

Then we compare the Roy Morgan results with last year’s  election results, and the figures become even more interesting,

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March 2011 Poll Result

November Election

March 2012 Poll Result

National

52.5%

47.31%

48.5%

Labour

32.5%

27.48%

30%

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Now let’s factor in the pre-election polling results from Roy Morgan, in the week prior to the November 26 general election,

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March 2011 Poll Result

Pre-Election 2011 Morgan Poll

November 2011 Election

March 2012 Poll Result

National

52.5%

49.5%

47.31%

48.5%

Labour

32.5%

23.5 %

27.48%

30%

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Now a clearer picture emerges and nothing could be further from the truth with regards to the Fairfax report. As the polling – and the General Election results – amply illustrates, National is heading down, steadying currently at 47-48%. (And expect further falls.)

Conversely, Labour dipped from a March 2011 high of 32.5% to 23.5%, and is now climbing again.

More importantly – and this is the point that will be unsettling for National’s party strategists – a year ago,  National went into the 2011 general election from a high of 52.5%. (Other polls had National even higher at 55%-plus.) From that high, as campaigning by other parties offered alternatives to voters,  National shed some support, and their final end-result was 47.1% – a drop of of 5.19%.

If – as is likely – polling patterns are the same in the next couple of years,    a change of government in 2014 is inevitable.

My advice to David Shearer;

  • Get your party policy sorted, asap.
  • Get your party restructuring sorted, asap.
  • Treat other Opposition parties as your coalition partners and with respect. Form a broad Front. This will be the new reality, and if you can show that opposition parties can work together, the public will take notice.
  • Get a (new?)  speech writer – someone who has a flair with words, ideas,  and understands what is required to spark the public’s imagination. Yes, people want policy. But more than that, they want hope and a vision. JFK had it by the truckload.
  • Lastly, and most important;  act as the Prime Minister-in-Waiting that you are. Treat National as an Opposition-In-Waiting, and dismiss their policies accordingly. In fact, don’t be shy in stating boldlly that National’s policies are temporary; have a Use-By date; and Labour will review them.

This is what National has to look forward to in the next couple of years,

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Labour is now a government-in-waiting.

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Key on ropes as Fairfax grope for a lifeline back to the people

Neil Watts,  Blogger, Fearfactsexposed

March 4, 2012

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National’s heartland backlash echoes Fairfax’s credibility collapse.

Since becoming leader of the National Party, and then elected as Prime Minister four years ago, Wall Street banker John Key has been able to rely on Fairfax Media to offer a handkerchief and say ‘bless you’ every time he sneezed.

But, today’s Sunday Star Times suggests that this anti-democratic relationship has – in the end – served only to damage both.  The frontpage headline ‘Key’s heartland backlash’ has Fairfax’s Sunday newspaper suddenly distancing itself from a dogmatic Rightwing Government in freefall, and desperately looking for a way back to centrist credibility.

Fairfax political editor and unofficial National Party press secretary, Tracy Watkins, has been sidelined, with the more moderate John Hartevelt handling a political front page lead that, for almost the first time in five years, doesn’t look like it was written by the National Party.  As this Government’s popularity suddenly collapses, have Fairfax finally decided to abandon their unhealthy partisanship, in a last ditch attempt to save themselves from commercial disaster and media irrelevancy?

Quite possibly.

Fairfax’s publications have been long regarded by many thinking New Zealanders as something of a sad joke.  Their commercial demise has been documented alongside their journalistic one on this blog, and few in the capital take The Dominion Post for anything other than National Party propaganda these days.  Their stuff.co,nz website increasingly attracts heavy journalistic criticism attached to the comments forum of stories, and the most damning of these are censored by Fairfax themselves.  A Facebook page and blog dedicated to holding this company to account has fueled the debate for three years, and while much of their demise is of their own making, we have clearly had a dramatic impact on how New Zealanders view their work.

Circulation is in freefall; they now quote ‘readership’ rather than ‘circulation’ to advertisers and subscribers, and recent financial figures published on this page show that, while their rivals are riding out tough economic times, Fairfax are struggling to attract advertisors as well as subscribers.  Fairfax are, it seems, in a desperation of their own editorial making.  In fact, just last week, I recieved a letter from Dominion Post editor, Bernadette Courtney, saying that: “Because we really want you back we have put together this exclusive offer, all for the low price of just $5.40 per week.”  This exclusive offer consists of six newspapers, delivered to the door, plus a subscription to a glossy monthly magazine.  At about half the price of a pint in most Wellington bars, this unsustainable initiative points to abject desperation at Fairfax Media, and genuinely makes me sad.

As I’ve always said, I love newspapers.  I’ve grown up with them.  I’ve studied, practiced and taught journalism, and literally had newspapers for breakfast for much of my life.   Like many who’ve lost faith in the industry, I don’t need some special offer that virtually gives the product away.  I want to see news media flourishing, making healthy profits, and employing fairly paid staff.  If the product is striving for fairness, accuracy and balance, and holding those in power to account, rather than misleading the people on their behalf, I will gladly renew my subscription and welcome the reporters’ analysis back into my home.  And, if Fairfax Media are genuinely signalling a return to real journalism and abandoning National Party spin, I’ll be the first to sing their praises from the capital’s rooftops.

As always, you can rely on Fearfactsexposed to keep you posted.  Thank you for helping to make a difference.

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Additional

Heartland backlash over Crafar farm fallout

Acknowledgement

Fearfactsexposed

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Dominion Post – asking the wrong questions?

10 February 2012 5 comments

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Today’s Dominion Post has highlighted Hone Harawira’s travel costs, incurred from 1 October 2011 to 31 December 2011,

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Full Story

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The article state,

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira topped the list at $54,961, followed by Labour leader Phil Goff with $32,566.” – Ibid

Blah, blah… blah, blah, bah… … … … …blah.

The article then repeats Harawira’s travel expenditure, for good measure – just in case we missed the statement at the beginning, plus the photo with the comment,

TOP DOLLAR: Mana Party leader Hone Harawira topped the list of MP travel expenses during election time.

Obviously, this article is a thinly-disguised attack on Hone.  It’s called  “having a go at someone” since Harawira is an easy target for lazy journos, right wingers, and racists.

Otherwise, Ms Vance has missed the real story relating to the release of  MP’s travel costs, to whit,

Hone Harawira’s travel costs,

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John Key’s travel costs,

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Source: Members’ expense disclosure from 1 October 2011 to 31 December 2011

Hang on a mo’…

$1,710 spent by John Key on all domestic and air travel?!?!

How does that work???

Especially when National MP, Nikki Kaye (immediatly above Key) spent $14,569 and National MP, Colin King (immediatly below Key) spent $20,037?!?!

After all, Key was all over the country in the run-up to the election – especially his little “day excursion” to Epsom, to have a cuppa tea,

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Full Story

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Who paid for Key to travel to Epsom?

And shouldn’t that question be a matter of interest to journalists?  Or is it much easier to simply pluck the highest figure from the list, and repeat it without any context or analysis at all?

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As an aside, Hone Harawira is MP for the Te Tai Tokerau electorate – one of the biggest electorates in the country.

Also, Te Tai Tokorau takes in the general  general electorates of  East Coast Bays, Helensville, North Shore, Northcote, Northland, Rodney, Te Atatū, Whangarei,  part of Waitakere and some  islands located within the Auckland Central electorate.

Harawira is therefore covering an area which, in the General Electorates, is covered by ten MPs.

 

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It would be remarkable if Harawira didn’t incur a larger-than-normal travel bill. His electorate is larger-than-normal.

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Did Goff resign too soon?

3 December 2011 8 comments

The election may have ended at 7pm last Saturday – but political “aftershocks” may yet change the Parliamentary landscape,

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As the Dominion Post story states, “National could theoretically lose up to two seats on special votes and its majority could be affected“.

After the 2008 general election, Cam Calder (number 58 on the National Party List), became an MP based on election night provisional results.

However, a subsequent seat re-allocation due to counting of special votes reduced  National’s entitlement (by one seat) in the final count, preventing Calder from entering Parliament.

Instead, the counting of specal votes gave the Greens an extra seat, and Kennedy Graham became an MP.

Fast-forward to the 2011 general election: If Te Ururoa Flavell’s coup succeeds, and the Maori Party chooses not to give Supply and Confidence to the National-Dunne-ACT coalition – then matters could get very interesting, very quickly.

It would be bleak irony if National lost it’s election night wafer-thin majority; the Maori Party chose not to  support a second John Key administration; and a Labour-led coalition became a new reality.  In which case, Phil Goff’s resignation was somewhat “premature”.

Irony indeed if, having stepped down, one of the two Davids became the new Prime Minister – on the back of Phil Goff’s hard work and victory.

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Politics – reality TV at it’s finest.

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Jobs up, jobless down?

7 October 2011 4 comments

Two articles in the Dominion Post today (7 October) seem to suggest that unemployment was on it’s way down and that the country was witnessing a growth in jobs,

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Full Story

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The article states that “more than 4000 people came off the unemployment benefit and more than 2200 youths came off welfare, including 351 youths who came the unemployment benefit.”

However, the article continues with this,  “Bennett said the total number of people on welfare remained high, rising by 0.1 per cent in September to 328,496.”

So, the reality is that a certain number of those 4,000 people who   “ came off the unemployment benefit ”   may well have moved on to another benefit? Because that is what Bennett is saying, quite clearly,  ” the total number of people on welfare … [rose] by 0.1 per cent in September to 328,496 “.

The article also does not state where those 2200 youths who “came off welfare  ” went. Did they find employment? Is is full time or part time – and if the latter, are their wages still being subsidised by WINZ? Have they move “side ways” onto another benefit? Are they in training/education, or one of WINZ’s many, ultimately-futile “training” programmes?

The story simply does not enlighten us.

Paula Bennett’s comment here may be somewhat less-than-helpful,

Job hunting isn’t easy, but it’s fair to say that if you’re not looking, you won’t find a job…”

Thank you, Paula, you’re a real fountain of wisdom.

The second Dominion Post article is also vague and contradictory,

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Source

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The article states “SEEK Employment Index rose half a per cent in the last month, showing the new jobs listed on the employment website have grown faster than job applications.”

But then continues with “when seasonally adjusted, the index actually fell by 1.1 per cent in September…”.

It also seems bizarre to read that, “The five most sought category of employees in September were accounting, government and defence, healthcare and medical; engineering and automotive trades.

“Government and defence”?

This seems clearly at odds with current government  policy of curring back the civil service. The military and other government sectors have lost at least 2000 workers, with more job losses planned.

The above articles may sound optimistic, but redundancies are still hitting our economy and impacting on society,

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Full Story

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The question that springs to mind is that if the drop in unemployed is real – is it due to new jobs or new job vacancies? The difference may seem subtle, but is very real. New jobs are an indicator that the economy is beginning to grow again.

Job vacancies are existing jobs that have been vacated for one reason or another, and are being replaced. It is sometimes referred to as “churn“.

With current wages low and not keeping pace with inflation and the recent increase in gst, it is hardly surprising that most New Zealanders have had the lowest wage increases in a decade,

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Full Sad Story

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By contrast, we had somewhat more generous wage increases during the previous, unfairly-maligned, Labour Government,

Wage growth at a record high

Annual wage growth in the adjusted LCI (which measures changes in pay rates for a fixed set of jobs and excludes performance related pay increases) remained steady at 3.4% in the March 2008 quarter.  This is the equal highest rate recorded since the LCI began in 1992 matching the annual increase for the December 2007 year.

The unadjusted LCI (which includes performance related pay increases) shows annual wage growth of 5.4% in the March 2008 quarter, up from 5.0% at December 2007.
Annual wage growth in the QES (which includes performance related pay increases and is affected by the composition of employment) increased to 4.6% for the year to March 2008, up from 4.1% in the previous quarter.Source

Good times, eh, my fellow New Zealanders?

Despite John Key’s priority-pledge to raise wages – and not just by 38 cents!!! – we now have  a record flight of New Zealanders moving to Australia – 3300!

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Full Story

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As Ms Visser said,

It’s definitely a wake-up call – with 20 per cent of our workforce looking to leave at any one time it’s a scary thought.

Which indicates that this current government has done very little of practical value to motivate New Zealanders to stay and help build our own economy. Two tax cuts have certainly not worked the “magic” that Key, English, et al, had hoped.

Which suggests that Bill English’s May 2011 Budget statement, promising 170,000 new jobs may be a tad over-optimistic.,

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Full Story

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I guess the ‘moral’ of this piece is two-fold,

  1. Be cautious about  media stories that do not present the full story. A bit of ‘digging’ soon yields a fuller picture.
  2. Be cautious about politicians who promise you the world (you’ll be the one paying for it).

And I’ll finish this piece with a message from our Prime Minister, John Key,

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"The billboard also highlights Labour's failure to stem the tide of people voting with their feet and leaving New Zealand." - John Key, 1 Sept 2008

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Additional reading

Inflation outpaces income growth

Bill English: Focus on Finance – Budget 2011

Labour Market Reports – Archive Wage Growth – March  2008 Quarter

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Military ‘spin-doctoring’ – the media catch-up

11 September 2011 4 comments

On 2 August, the issue of the NZDF spending large sums of tax-payers money was raised by Andrea Vance in the “Dominion Post”. I wrote on this issue the following day; “It’s a Man’s World, I guess“.

It seems somewhat odd then, that Neil Reid, has written on this very same issue, in the Sunday Star Times, stating, “Documents obtained by the Sunday Star-Times show the department – covering Army, Air Force and Navy – spent more than $2.7 million in the past financial year on public relations and communications.

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This story has at least three componants to it;

1. PR spend.

Last time I looked, the job of the military was to carry out such actions as determined by the Government-of-the-Day. The military is tasked with certain missions, to achieve certain objectives, as laid down by the Minister of Defence, and the Government. In effect, the politicians tell the soldier boys (and girls) to go to “Spot X” and do what soldiers do best; point guns at other people.

As such, it boggles the mind as to what on Earth the NZDF would need to spend $20 million tax-dollars of Public Relations on?!?!

Spending $20 million on tanks, guns, ammunition, radios, tents, medical equipment, planes, trucks – I think we get that. Military gear doesn’t come cheap – not since we moved away  from clubs and pointy-sticks.

But spending that kind of money on PR? That just makes no sense whatsoever.

Unless…

Unless the NZDF were doing something overseas that the Government(s)-of-the-Day were not being totally candid with us, the New Zealand public?

PR is basically ‘spin’ – putting the best possible image of an unpleasant situation. Another word that might be appropriate is propaganda. Authoritarian regimes (such as Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Maoist China, et al) are exceedingly good at propaganda. But Western Democracies have also developed ways and means to use PR/spin/Propaganda to make the public believe something that may not be strictly-speaking, true. (Telling lies, in other words.)

Which leads us to the Big Question: what requires a big enough lie to be told that warrants $16 million dollars of tax-payers’ money to be spent on Public Relations from Saatchi & Saatchi, plus another $4.2 million in media advertising?

Personnel recruitment?

That is difficult to believe when, currently, this government is laying off around 400 military personnel and removing  another 600 out of uniform, to re-employ them more cheaply as civilians.

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There seems to be an obvious and serious “disconnect” from what the NZDF is telling the public, and where the money is being spent, and what for.

$20 million of tax-payers money is not “small change”. Where is it going, and why?

And why aren’t the media delving more deeply into this issue, instead of two, very brief, superficial newspaper stories?

Perhaps the following provides us with a possible answer…

2. “Media product vetting”

The Sunday Star Times article, by Neil Reid, states that,

“…Locke also provided the Star-Times with a contract TVNZ signed before sending a journalist to join the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan, which states the role of defence officials included “media product vetting”.

It follows claims by Hager that the Defence Force had been selective in what it had allowed to be reported in New Zealand on the role of the joint-services team in Afghanistan…”

Commander Phil Bradshaw’s response that the NZDF is vetting images of  “LAVs [light armoured vehicles] [and]  the Humvees” beggars belief.

Is Cmdr Bradshaw seriously telling us that “media product vetting” (ie; censorship) relates to pictures of light armoured vehicles and humvees?!?! In which case, someone needs to advise Cmdr Bradshaw that there as been a serious security breach: a “Google” search using the parameters “NZ Defence Force lav” yielded 79,400 results for images alone.

Let’s hope Al Qaida has no access to “Google”, or we’re stuffed.

No, folks, there is more to the NZDF’s “media product vetting” (censorship) than  pics of a few dusty Army vehicles.

Nicky Hager has pointed the way on this issue, and the media – to it’s eternal shame – has not followed up on this story.

3. Media Complicity?

Not only is there a question mark hanging over how $20 million was spent – but it seems that the mainstream media (MSM) have been decidely blase about asking any serious questions. To date, we’ve seen two newspaper articles by Neil Reid and Andrea Vance – but precious little else in the MSM.

As well as Nicky Hager’s investigative book,  “Other People’s Wars“, Jon Stephenson wrote an article for “Metro” magazine on Afghan prisoners’ treatment after being captured by New Zealand’s SAS. This excellent piece of investigative journalism  resulted in…

“…Prime Minister John Key’s extraordinary ad hominem attack on independent  journalist Jon Stephenson, of ‘Metro’ magazine.

Recently, Stephenson wrote an article in Metro alleging that New Zealand was not meeting its Geneva Convention obligations in its handling of prisoners captured in the course of SAS operations in Afghanistan. You might think that as the only NZ journalist who has regularly been reporting from Afghanistan, Stephenson speaks with some authority.” Source

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“Stephenson speaks with some authority”, writes Gordon Campbell.

But not according to the Prime Minister, who dismissed Stephenson’s article with  almost sneering derision.

In contrast, two senior journalists, Vernon Small and Guyon Espiner, both stated that they were aware of a CIA “presence” at the Kiwi base in Bamiyan.

“In fact, I, and other reporters before me, were introduced to US intelligence and communications staff at Bamiyan and at other Kiwi forward bases and ate and chatted with them. The stars and stripes flies alongside the New Zealand flag at Bamiyan to advertise the US contingent…”  – Vernon Small,  Source

Neither felt it necessary to report this fact to the New Zealand public? In fact, both Small and Espiner remained silent until Nicky Hager’s book blew the whistle on the real situation.

For journalists to withhold information that reveals a truth about our government and/or military,  shows how far the media has sunk in the last twentyfive years. It raises questions not just about competancy and professionalism, but how far the MSM has become a “cog” in the Establishment.

Perhaps the most obscene thing about this matter is that our beloved Prime Minister, the ever-smiling; happily waving  John Key; saw fit to dismiss both Nickey Hager and Jon Stephenson’s investigations into the war in Afghanistan  with  single, derisory, comments,

“Nothing surprises me when it comes to Nicky Hager. So whether they’re true or not is a completely different issue, but he makes a lot of spurious claims and never generally backs it up.” Source

“I’ve got no reason for NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible.” Source

Two pieces of investigative journalism; well-researched; impeccably documented; and both able to withstand critical scrutiny – dismissed by the Prime Minister without any serious  explanation whatsoever.

Compare the response of the MSM and public to that of a certain stranded penguin and to the proposed “Wellywood” sign in the capital city, and one begins to suspect that, collectively, our priorities are definitely arse-about-face. Perhaps if the SAS had handed “Happy Feet” over to the American CIA, for “extraordinary rendition” to some misbegotten Third World state, for “interrogation”, we might have had an uproar from the good folk of New Zealand?

Well, thankfully “Happy Feet” is safe and sound somewhere in the Southern Ocean.

It’s a shame that  the same cannot be said of  our media in this country.

Read also:

Public Address: Other People’s Wars

Little kept from media eyes at base

NZ Politics Daily – 2 September

PM attacks journalist over SAS torture claims

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How To Beat Up a Story

3 September 2011 2 comments

Today’s  “Dominion Post”  contained an interesting editorial – interesting because the editorial related to what amounts to be a non-story;

No police record, no known next of kin, no mail, no benefit history. For 30 years 88-year-old Michael Clarke kept to himself in his Newtown bedsit. Some time last year he died the same way.

His remains were discovered in his bedsit at the grim Newtown Park Flats last week. Authorities believe he may have been dead for as long as 14 months.

The discovery has triggered an outpouring of dismay, but the discovery of a body in Wellington City Council accommodation is not an uncommon occurrence. As far back as 1997 former Wellington coroner Erika Kremic called upon the council to institute regular checks of its tenants. It is a call that has been echoed periodically by police who have to deal with the grisly remains when a death goes unnoticed.

But the council says there is a limit to what it can do. Council social portfolio leader Stephanie Cook said this week that staff tried to keep tabs on tenants and knocked on doors and visited them at least once a year. Yet many of the council’s tenants valued their privacy and did not like intrusions. The newspapers plastered over interior windows in the Newtown Park complex bear out her words.

However, it is no more acceptable for bodies to lie around for weeks or months than it is to shoehorn the vulnerable into cramped, dilapidated tower blocks that reek of urine.

Tenants in the council’s 40 housing complexes – a high proportion of whom are either elderly, immigrants, or suffer from physical and psychological disabilities – should be checked upon. Any who object should be informed that the checks are a condition of occupancy.

To its credit the council is taking steps to improve the quality of its accommodation, much of it built in the 1960s to accommodate single workers.

In conjunction with the Government, it commenced a $400million upgrade of its housing stock in 2008. Interior walls have been knocked down to make bigger flats suitable for families, communal landings and long corridors have been removed to get rid of gathering places for undesirables, and communal gardens have been established to encourage neighbourliness. Already the Central Park flats at the bottom of the Brooklyn hill have been transformed and work has commenced on the three tower blocks that are to remain at the Newtown Park Flats.

But the revamp will take time and will not entirely solve the problem. As a provider of last resort housing, the council will always have antisocial tenants who object to anything they regard as scrutiny. It will also always have vulnerable tenants who are fearful and suspicious of authority. They may prefer to keep to themselves, but regular checks are preferable to the alternative – dying alone and unnoticed as Mr Clarke did.

Source

I have two problems with this editorial.

1. The editorial claims that   “the discovery has triggered an outpouring of dismay“?

That claim is debateable at best – and a downright exxageration at worst.  Comments left on the “Dominion Post’s” own webpage were, by considerable majority, of the view that Mr Clarke’s passing was regrettable and that these things sometimes happen. In other words, it is a fact of life – however sad and unpleasant – that sometimes people will pass away in such circumstances.

I have read very, very, few comments of  “dismay“.

In fact, the only “dismay” seemed to be directed at the media that appeared to be “feasting” on this story and beating it up for all it’s worth. The media appeared  to be totally out-of-step with public thinking on this issue.

2.  The next issue that I raise is this part of the editorial;

“Tenants in the council’s 40 housing complexes – a high proportion of whom are either elderly, immigrants, or suffer from physical and psychological disabilities – should be checked upon. Any who object should be informed that the checks are a condition of occupancy.”

Pardon?!

Since when did New Zealand society take a sharp right-turn (or left-turn,depending on your political viewpoint), and abrogate peoples’ rights to privacy and keeping bureacrats out of their lives, as a “condition of occupancy”?!

Would the writer of this editorial insist that everyone living in a rental flat, regardless of socio-economic position, be “checked as a condition of occupancy”?

Or is he/she simply insisting on Council/HNZ tenants?

As  MilesLacey stated  on a “Dominion Post”  Forum;

As a former Wellington City Council tenant I think it’s worth pointing out that people move in and out of WCC flats all the time so it was probably assumed by everyone that Michael Clarke had simply moved on like so many others. Even if people do think that it’s odd that someone hasn’t been around for some time there is still the notion that it’s none of our business to meddle in the affairs of others unless they let us.

We can’t force people to care about others. We can’t force people to watch out for their neighbours. Once we start doing that we move into the murky world of the surveillance state where everything we do starts being monitored “for our own good”.

And I would also point out that not all people who die alone and aren’t discovered for weeks or months on end are elderly or living in city council flats. Why impose upon the privacy of council tenants, as proposed by the editorial [of Sept 3], but not anyone else? Seems less like looking out for our neighbours and more like snooping on the “undesirables” such as the poor.” – Miles Lacey,  Sep 03 2011

Considering that Council/HNZ tenants are at the bottom of the socio-economic pile (generally), the suggestion is that if you are,

A. Poor

B. An immigrant

C. Have a disability

… then you are less deserving of privacy that someone well-off; not an immigrant; and able-bodied/minded. This is not “Nanny Statism”. It’s not even National’s “Daddy Statism”. This is Big Brother, knocking on our doors, and demanding that we open up for inspection!

Today it will be Council/HNZ tenants.

Tomorrow, it may be superannuitants.

And next week – the rest of us. Big Brotherism – for our “own good”.

And it all began with the “Dominion Post”.

For our own good, of course. Are we feeling any safer now?

Curioser and curioser? More Dom Post BS?

16 July 2011 3 comments

Full Article

The Dominion Post (hereinafter referred to as Dip), seems to have taken an exception to recently-elected Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown, taking a trip to China and Japan.

Now, aside from the rightness or wrongness of our elected representatives going overseas (though in some cases, would it be unreasonable for some never to return?) – it seems curious that the DiP has made this a media story in terms of suggesting;

“…but what does Wellington and its ratepayers really have to gain?

Or,

“…But is it all worth it? It is costing ratepayers $19,000 for Ms Wade-Brown and economic portfolio leader Jo Coughlan to take part in a trip whose benefits to Wellington may not be immediately apparent.

Further down in the somewhat-lengthy article, it becomes quite apparent that the trip is far from a “pleasure junket”, along the lines of Rodney Hide taking his girlfriend to Britain, Canada and the United States (cost to taxpayer: $52,000); or Roger Douglas taking his wife to London to see their son and grandchildren (cost to taxpayer: $44,411).

Instead, this will involve visiting six cities in nine days (including Wellington’s sister cities Beijing, Xiamen and Sakai). Ms Prendergast described it as hard work,

“At these meetings in China the leader of the delegation is always expected to open and close the event with appropriate speeches. You are on duty all of the time . . . some days I would speak [up to] 10 times.”

Not exactly a laid-back junket, but the sounds of it.

Kerry Prendergast commented,

I was hosted by the mayor of Beijing to a dinner. Beijing has 22 million people and he hosted a private dinner for me and the senior members of our business delegation and matched them . . . with really senior people in the Chinese business community.

City property developer Ian Cassels stated that he,

“…probably had the same view as most uninformed people that this was a complete waste of time. You don’t get anything out of China unless you keep going back. If you see them once, they think you aren’t that interested. But once you’ve been there a few times, the respect and appreciation you get is enormous and there are big business opportunities for most of the people that go on the trade delegation.

And the cost to ratepayers: $19,000.

As a tax/ratepayer, I think I can tolerate $19,000 on what is essentially a business trip to “sell” (metaphorically) Wellington – as opposed to ACT MPs taking the mickey and spending nearly $100,000 on holidays, at our expense.

It is unfortunate that – whilst the article eventually presented an explanation as to why Ms Wade-Brown was going to China and Japan, that it started off with a suspicious view that she was somehow rorting the system.

For as long as I’ve known Ms Wade-Brown, I think it’s fairly safe to say that she’s one of the most honest politicians that we’ve had. Sad to say, we New Zealanders tend to elect some fairly dodgy characters to Parliament and Councils. Ms Wade-Brown is not one of them.

Would it be too much to ask the DiP to cut her some slack?

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