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The slow starvation of Radio NZ – the final nail in the coffin of the Fourth Estate?

26 November 2015 4 comments
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The chilling of the mainstream media

Whether by machiavellian, subtle and covert political pressuring from on-high; bad management decision-making,  or an inevitable process of  dumbing-down brought on by the never-ending need for advertising revenue and rapacious returns to share-holders, news media in this country continues to suffer at the on-going impacts of “market forces”.

The demise of Campbell Live and the loss of Mihingarangi Forbes from Maori TV’s Native Affairs and Dita De Boni from the NZ Herald should give all thinking New Zealanders cause for concern. Those three were amongst the most talented and critical voices from the mainstream media, and their dumping no doubt had a chilling effect throughout the media in this country.

With few exceptions, journos have mortgages and  bills to pay; mouths to feed; and careers they are passionate about. The constant possibility  of sudden termination of their contract is a sword of damocles that probably weighs on their minds when considering how critical of the Establishment they really want to be.

The may be risking their jobs if they stick their heads too far above the parapets.

The only people whose jobs are apparently safe are Mike Hosking and Paul Henry (who seems to bounce from company to company without any deleterious effects to his credibility).

Interestingly,  each has been ’embedded’ with  the two major television networks, TVNZ and Mediaworks’ TV3. Neither are journalists and  both Hosking and Henry  are unashamedly  linked to National.

This is “independepent media freedom” in New Zealand, circa 2015AD.

Who watches the Watchmen?

The last bastion of an independent  freedom, free from commercial imperatives and political interference (hopefully) is, Radio NZ. Despite an incident three years ago, where blogger Martyn Bradbury was banned from Radio NZ for making comments highly critical of our esteemed Dear Leader, the broadcaster maintains a strong ability to project itself as a serious, credible news and current affairs medium.

It continues to carry out strong investigative reporting; interviewing government ministers; State sector leaders;  and other public figures; and offering political analysis from both the Left and the Right.

One of Radio NZ’s most insightful (and often under-valued) programmes is  Mediawatch, which scrutinises, analysis, and holds to account, New Zealand’s mainstream media in a way that is not matched anywhere else by any other MSM outlet. As the Radio NZ promo-blurb states;

“Mediawatch looks critically at the New Zealand media – television, radio, newspapers and magazines as well as the ‘new’ electronic media. It also examines the performance of the agencies, corporations and institutions that regulate them. It looks into the impact the media has on the nation, highlighting good practice as well as bad along the way – and it also enquires into overseas trends and technological developments which New Zealanders need to know about.

It aims to enlighten everyone with an interest in the media about how it all works, how quickly things are changing – and how certain significant stories and issues are being covered. It’s also intended to be essential listening for those who work in the industry itself – as well as those who simply enjoy well-produced and lively radio.”

A recent prime example was on 9 August, when TV3 reporter, Tova O’Brien was taken to task for attributing a quote to someone who never actually said what she claimed;

@ 2:50 –

Colin Peacock: In New York, Tova O’Brien also got a second opinion on Murray McCully’s lofty dream of reforming the veto powers of the so-called Big Five at the UN. And 3 News introduced that story like this;

TV3 News: Former Prime Minister Helen Clark thinks Murray Clark is dreaming if he thinks New Zealand can rid the UN Security Council veto. Russia used the veto yesterday during… [fade-out]

Colin Peacock: Though Helen Clark had actually applauded Murray McCully for his ambition. It was Tova O’Brien who used the word ‘dreaming’ in a question to Helen Clark.

Helen Clark: It [New Zealand] should go for it. It [New Zealand] should follow it’s [New Zealand’s] dream.

Tova O’Brien: But in this case he’s dreaming.

Helen Clark: It’s not a short-term objective.

That was downright dishonest reporting.  Only Radio NZ’s Mediawatch picked up on it.

Last year, on 7 July, Mediawatch was the only  mainstream media team that questioned and criticised the NZ Herald’s dubious stories surrounding unsubstantiated claims of large donations made by migrant businessman, Donghua Liu, to the Labour Party. (Those claims were later “clarified”  with a half-hearted  retraction by the Herald.)

No other mainstream media questioned any of the astounding and unsupported claims made by Donghua Liu, and reported uncritically by the Herald.

It is a sobering thought that aside from the toothless “watch dog” of the Press Council, and only marginally more effective Broadcasting Standards Authority,  there is no real scrutiny of  mistakes, omissions, and mis-reporting made by our media.

Self-criticism does not come easily to the Fourth Estate.

Gutting by slow starvation?

Funding for Radio NZ is channelled through New Zealand on Air – a body described on Wikipedia, as “…an independent New Zealand broadcast funding agency” and  “autonomous crown entity separate from central Government and governed by a Board of six appointed by the Minister of Broadcasting. NZ on Air is responsible for the funding of public-good broadcasting content across television, radio and new media platforms“.

The funding figure of $31.816 million is an easy one to remember – it has remained unchanged since 2009-10, when National assumed the reins of government. The figure has been maintained until next year.Using the Reserve Bank inflation calculator, Radio NZ’s funding should have risen to $35.26 million. In effect, by not keeping pace with inflation, Radio NZ’s funding has been cut by around 10%.

By contrast, Budget data showing increases to the Prime Minister’s Department makes for sobering reading.

  • Michael Cullen’s last budget,  2008/09, allocated $25,470,000 to Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet.
  • In the same 2008/2009 Budget, Radio NZ was allocated $31,718,000 through NZ on Air, an increase of $2,644,000 (approx 8%) from the previous year.
  • In National’s first Budget, 2009/10, Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet was allocated $33,021,000 – an increase of $7,551,000 – or just under 25%!
  • In the same 2009/2010 Budget, Radio NZ’s allocation went up by $98,000 to $31,816,000 – not even a 1% increase.

For the first time, the Prime Minister’s Departmental budget exceeded that of Radio NZ. Furthermore;

  • Since 2009/10, Radio NZ’s allocation has stayed the same; $31,816,000.
  • By contrast, the amounts allocated to the Prime Minister’s Department has increased, and in the 2015/16 Budget was allocated  $49,298,000 – an increase of $24,476,000 since 2008 and  a near-doubling of John Key’s department and Cabinet expenditure since Michael Cullen’s last budget, seven years ago.
  • In the 2015/16 Budget, Radio NZ was allocated  $31,816,000 – a nil increase.

Framed another way, a news media organisation – dedicated to informing the public about government activities – has had no increase in resourcing since John Key’s administration came to power in late 2008.

By contrast, the Prime Minister’s Department – dedicated to promoting the power of the Government and more specifically, pursuing National’s political agenda – has had a doubling of taxpayer funding.

Where to for funding Radio NZ?

On 17 August, I wrote to NZ on Air’s Chief Executive, Jane Wrightson and asked;

“In your Annual reports, NZ on Air’s income from  Crown revenue went from $109,813,000 (for the year ended 30 June 2008 ) to  $128,726,000 (for the year ended 30 June 2015) – an increase of nearly $19 million.

Can you explain why none of that increase, according to your Annual Reports,  was directed at Radio NZ?”

On 21 August, Ms Wrightson responded;

“NZ On Air does not set Radio New Zealand’s Crown funding. This is done by Ministers. I am not aware of any government-funded entity that has an automatic inflation provision to increase funding.”

When questioned whether “Radio NZ’s funding has been frozen (effectively reduced, after inflation is factored in) because it is considered to be politically “inconvenient” or “embarrassing”  to the government”, Ms Wrightson replied;

“NZ On Air is a funding agency independent of Government in terms of our content funding strategy and decisions. Radio New Zealand’s funding has been static in the same way that all publicly funded agencies in the cultural sector have been static, during a time of fiscal constraint.”

Fiscal constraint” does not appear to be a limiting factor when the Prime Minister’s Department is funded from the tax-payer’s purse/wallet.

Questions for the Broadcasting Minister

On 6 September, I asked the Minister of Broadcasting, Amy Adams;

It is my understanding that Radio New Zealand’s funding has not increased since 2009, when it’s budget was set at $31,816,000.

With it’s funding frozen, and no means of other revenue, it has effectively had a funding cut after inflation and salary increases are taken into account.

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has not, at the very least,  been inflation-indexed?

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has been frozen whilst at the same time, the Prime Ministers Department has had a budget increase since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16 – a near doubling in just seven years?

Are you committed to increasing Radio NZ’s budget next year? If not, why not?

How do you expect Radio NZ to deliver excellent service  when it has effectively had a cut in funding?

On 20 May this year, you were enthusiastic about Radio NZ’s growth in market-share;

“While there has been a decline in listenership across traditional platforms, over the last twelve months RNZ’s online audience has grown significantly as their multi-media strategy is implemented.”

For example:

  • In 2013/14, 3.5 million podcasts were downloaded.
  • In 2013/14, radionz.co.nz page views reached 21 million and over 2014 unique users of the website grew by over 50 per cent.
  • In 2013/14, regular user of the RNZ mobile app grew by almost 62 per cent.

Ref: https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/bill-update-radio-nz-charter-passes-second-reading

Whilst this is evidence that Radio NZ is a prudent manager of it’s funding, it is unreasonable to expect that this situation is  sustainable for the foreseeable future.

If the Prime Minister’s Department required a 100% increase from 2008, then why has Radio NZ not been accorded the same benefit?

There have been suggestions that Radio NZ’s frozen funding is a covert attack on the broadcaster and an attempt to reduce it’s effectiveness. What is your response to this assertion?

On 17 September 〈¹〉,Minister Adams replied to my questions;

“I have been pleased to see the steps RNZ is taking to ensure its success in the
changing media environment and the ways it has expanded to reach new audiences,
such as The Wireless, an online service for young people. Although operating
within a static funding environment, RNZ continues to meet it’s objectives and
has become an established multi-platform broadcaster with the annual funding of
$35 million it receives.

While I share your concern about the funding constraints RNZ has faced over
recent years, this is common across all public services. In a time of fiscal
constraint, it is especially important that the Government manages the public
finances in a prudent and responsible manner and makes sustainable choices about
the prioritisation of public funds. I welcome the approach RNZ has taken to
ensure the business is run as efficiently as possible and that public funds
are utilised as effectively as they can be to maximise the public value of content.”

Adams went on to state;

“While I recognise your concern about the funding constraints RNZ has faced over
recent years, this is common across all public services. In a time of fiscal
constraint, it is especially important that the Government manages the public
finances in a prudent and responsible manner and makes sustainable choices about
the prioritisation of public funds. I welcome the approach RNZ has taken to ensure
the businrss is run as efficiently as possible and that public funds are utilised
as effectively as they can be to maximise the public value of content.”

To put it mildly, her response was utterly unsatisfactory, and in no way offered any sensible answers. Her comments also did not appear to reflect realities surrounding Radio NZ and required clarification.

Awkward Questions and Questionable Answers

On the same day, I wrote back to the Minister, seeking new answers;

As I pointed out to you in my 6 September email,

It is my understanding that Radio New Zealand’s funding has not increased since 2009, when it’s budget was set at $31,816,000.

With it’s funding frozen, and no means of other revenue, it has effectively had a funding cut after inflation and salary increases are taken into account.

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has not, at the very least,  been inflation-indexed?

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has been frozen whilst at the same time, the Prime Ministers Department has had a budget increase since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16 – a near doubling in just seven years?

In your response to me, dated 17 September, you stated in-part;

“While I share your concern about the funding constraints RNZ has faced over
recent years, this is common across all public services. In a time of fiscal constraint, it is
especially important that the Government manages the public finances in a prudent and
responsible manner and makes sustainable choices about the prioritisation of public
funds. I welcome the approach RNZ has taken to ensure the business is run as
efficiently as possible and that public funds are utilised as effectively as they can be to
maximise the public value of content.”

This response does not address the questions and issues I raised in my email.

Namely; why has Radio NZ’s funding been frozen since 2009 – whilst funding for the Prime Minister’s Department has doubled  since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16.

 The next point I raised was;

Why has Radio NZ’s funding been frozen since 2009 – whilst funding for the Prime Minister’s Department has doubled  since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16.

You state that “In a time of fiscal constraint, it is especially important that the Government manages the public finances in a prudent and responsible manner and makes sustainable choices about the prioritisation of public funds” – yet this constraint does not seem to have been applied to the Prime Minister’s Department, with funding increases every year since 2008.

Can you shed light on  why Radio NZ’s funding has been frozen, but the Prime Minister’s Department has not?

And the last point I raised;

Secondly,  you write that “ it is especially important that the Government manages the public finances in a prudent and responsible manner and makes sustainable choices about the prioritisation of public funds“.

Can you explain the meaning of term, “sustainable choices” in the context of your letter? What, precisely, do you mean by “sustainable choices“?

Lastly, you refer to Radio NZ as a “business”. Considering that RNZ is non-commercial; has very little revenue; does not return a dividend; and has no profit-making capability – can you explain in what sense the broadcaster is a “business”?
This time, the Minister’s response was not so promptly forthcoming, and after sending a reminder on 1 October to her office, I was advised on 15 October;

The section of your email relating to the budget of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has been transferred to the Department, as it is better able to respond to your query.

Minister Adams will respond to your questions regarding the funding of RNZ.

It was now apparent that I was asking awkward questions that could not be fobbed off with a three-paragraph letter written in bland political jargon-speak.

Having transferred part of my OIA to the Prime Minister’s Department, I suspected it would be a long wait for a response.

On 13 November, Minister Adams responded to my request for clarification to her statement on 17 September. She first said;

“With regards to the first matter you raise, no government agency’s budget is inflation
linked. Ministers make decisions on an annual basis about potential funding increases
based on the requirements of the agencies. As you will be aware, these decisions involve
prioritisation across the entire public sector to ensure that any additional funding is
focused on the areas of most need.”

The Minister’s claim that “no government agency’s budget is inflation linked”appears to be at variance with the fact that the Prime Minister’s Department’s budget has doubled since 2008. This is an area which she obviously has no answer to, hence “transferring” my query to the PM’s Department.

However, Adams’ assertion that “ministers make decisions on an annual basis about potential funding increases” is actually at the nub of this problem. It is precisely the fact that Radio NZ’s budget has been frozen by a decision at a  ministerial level, that Minister Adams herself admits.

In effect, by deciding that Radio NZ’s budget is not to be increased, it is a form of political interference in an otherwise independent agency’s affairs.

National has long since abandoned Muldoonist-style direct interference in state sector departments and agencies. The more subtle – but just as destructive technique – is to quietly starve a recalcitrant independent body of funding.

When Minister Adams insists that “Ministers make decisions on an annual basis about potential funding increases based on the requirements of the agencies“, she is being duplicitous.

No one could sensibly suggest that a nationwide broadcaster could operate on a long-term basis without an increase to it’s funding.

Executives warn Parliamentary Select Committee of dire financial situation for RadioNZ

Radio NZ’s growing financial problems was raised during the 2012/13 financial review of Radio New Zealand,  by the Parliamentary Commerce Committee. The Committee referred to the issue at the beginning of their Report;

“Crown funding for Radio New Zealand has not increased in six years; we asked how this had affected staff and services.”

Labour’s Kris Faafoi was direct when he asked RadioNZ’s, Deputy Chief Executive, Ken Law;

“…you’ve been under a pretty difficult financial situation for 5 or 6 years now. I notice in the questions that you gave back to us that you’ve managed to make some savings of around $2 million in the last year, but how much longer can you cut your cloth until there is no more cloth to cut?”

Law, responded;

“I would suggest that that funding will have to be externally generated. But we have been very successful. We’ve made a number of
savings, particularly in production systems. We have some excellent expert staff in audio production. They’ve made some major savings in audio production systems and procedures. We’ve taken out some of the resilience or some of the duplication in transmission networks. That’s been a very calculated risk, but one that we think we’ve been able to manage and we can manage into the future. But really your question—how much longer? Not much longer.”

That was review was held around 8 May 2014. Despite putting on a brave face to the Parliamentary Committee and voicing up-beat comments, Radio NZ’s executives are clearly concerned that they are fast running out of cost-saving options.

Also noteworthy is that, in an attempt to cut costs, managerial decisions have been implemented to cut “some of the resilience or some of the duplication in transmission networks“.

Law described  cut-backs to “resilience” as “a very calculated risk”. This can be taken as to mean that Radio NZ’s technical infrastructure has been undermined and compromised for cost-saving purposes.

“Sustainability” and job losses looming

Minister Adams’ also explained what she meant by the term, “sustainable choices” and  in what sense was the broadcaster  a “business”, considering it is non-commercial, and has no revenue-income to speak of;

“With regards to the term ‘sustainable choices’ as used in my previous
correspondence, I meant choices about fiscal policy that keep government debt at
prudent levels and manage fiscal risks. As mentioned above, when Ministers make
decisions about agency funding they have to prioritise initiatives from across the
state sector to achieve this.

[…]

Although RNZ is not a commercial business, the Crown expects commercial disciplines
to be applied to the use of public funds and for RNZ to act in a professional and
business-like manner.”

Minister Adams’ candour was startling. She was admitting that her use of the phrase “sustainable choices” referred not to Radio NZ – but to National’s own attempts to balance it’s Budget and post a surplus.

Like other areas of the State sector – health, education, housing, police, etc – National has been cutting budgets to meet Budgetary demands. Those demands were exacerbated by National’s tax cuts of 2009 and 2010. Using the Minister’s phraseology, those tax cuts were ultimately “unsustainable choices“.

A year and a half  after  Ken Law’s fateful words to the Commerce Committee, Radio NZ’s chief executive, Paul Thompson, announced that the broadcaster would be shedding jobs;

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson confirmed staff had been sent memo outlining the proposed changes at the state-owned broadcaster on Tuesday.

Newsreaders and producers at Radio New Zealand are in the gun, with the national broadcaster planning to shed jobs in their push into digital.

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson confirmed staff had been sent memo outlining the proposed changes at the state-owned broadcaster on Tuesday.

This included cutting the overall headcount at RNZ from 283 to 270 by July next year, with 20 jobs disestablished and seven new digital roles created.

“We are having to find some savings which is no surprise.”

National’s on-going refusal to adequately  fund Radio NZ  has  predictably been  “un-sustainable“.

The Prime Minister’s Office confirms doubling of their Budget

Having heard nothing since 15 October, when the Broadcasting Minister’s office transferred part of my OIA request to the Prime Minister’s Department, follow-up enquiries were made on 23 October as to what progress they were making;

“It is my understanding that Radio New Zealand’s funding has not increased since 2009,
when it’s budget was set at $31,816,000.

With it’s funding frozen, and no means of other revenue, it has effectively had a funding
cut after inflation and salary increases are taken into account.

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has not, at the very least, been inflation-indexed?

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has been frozen whilst at the same time, the Prime
Ministers Department has had a budget increase since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000
in 2015/16 – a near doubling in just seven years?”

By 12 November, a month after Minister Adams’ office had transferred part of my OIA request to the Prime Minister, no reply had been forthcoming and I asked again whether I could expect a reply.

A little over twentyfour hours later, I received a two-page response from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. (The full text of the document is available for viewing here.)

In response to my questions;

“Why has Radio NZ’s funding been frozen since 2009 – whilst funding for the Prime Minister’s Department has doubled  since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16?”

“This [funding] constraint does not seem to have been applied to the Prime Minister’s Department, with funding increases every year since 2008. Can you shed light on  why Radio NZ’s funding has been frozen, but the Prime Minister’s Department has not?”

– the answers were “interesting” to say the least.

Anne Shaw, Director of the Office of the Chief Executive, confirmed that the budget for the DPMC had doubled  since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16.

She described the doubling of the Prime Minister’s Department as taking on “new responsibilities“;

“The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) serves the Executive (the
Governor-General, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet) through the provision of high
quality impartial advice and support services. DPMC is comprised of five business
units: Cabinet Office, Government House, Policy Advisory Group, Security & Intelligence
Group, and Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management. The functions of DPMC
have changed significantly over the period of time covered by your request with taking
on new responsibilities. The changes in funding largely reflect this.”

Interestingly, Shaw refered to political management  and the Civil Defence  bureacracy as “business units”. Are those “business units” run with the  expectation of  commercial disciplines  to be applied to the use of public funds and to act in a professional and business-like manner” – as Minister Adams demanded of Radio NZ?

Shaw then provided alleged examples which appeared to justify the doubling of funding for the Prime Minister’s office.

However, Budget documents are not always clear as to what “additional fundings” were made from the Prime Ministers Department (DPMC), as purported by Shaw. In several instances, there was no apparent reference to any increase for a given purpose;

(1) “Additional funding” for the  “conservation of Government House in Wellington” between 2009/10 and 2010/11:

Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet 2009/10 Budget: $20.1 million

Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet 2010/11 Budget: $17.4 million

Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet 2011/12 Budget: $1.1 million

Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet 2012/13 Budget: $1 million

(2) “Payments made as a result of the September 2010 and February 2011 Canterbury Earthquakes, including support for response and recovery as a result  of the 22 February 2011 Canterbury Earthquake“. There were no payments found  for “support for response and recovery activities”  relating to the earthquakes within the 2010/11, 2011/12, or 2012/13 Budgets.

(3)  “Relocating the intelligence and security functions to a new purpose-built facility for the New Zealand intelligence community” 2010/11.  There were no payments found  for any such “relocation” within the DPMC Budget.

However, the Budget for Vote Communications Security and Intelligence increased massively during the 2010/11 period which Shaw claimed as justification for the DPMC’s budget increase:

Vote Communications Security and Intelligence 2008/09:  $49.368 million

Vote Communications Security and Intelligence 2009/10:  $59.142 million

Vote Communications Security and Intelligence 2010/11:  $73.926 million

Any increase for “relocating the intelligence and security functions to a new purpose-built facility for the New Zealand intelligence community” appears to have come from Vote Communications Security and Intelligence, not Vote Prime Minister’s Department.

(4) There is no reference to expenditure for “Cabnet”  or establishment of the National Cyber Policy Office within the 2012/13 Budget for Vote Prime Minister’s Department. If it exists, it was “buried” under one or another classication.

(5)  Shaw also referred to costs incurred for “depreciation funding for the refurbished Government House“. These entries do exist in each DPMC Budget.

“Funded depreciation” is described as “… a fixed asset management method that helps a company set aside funds to renew machinery and equipment that it uses in operating activities“.

It is highly unlikely that any government will be building a new Government House any time soon.

(6) Shaw gave another explanation to the ballooning Prime Minister’s Department’s budget; “In April 2014, the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM) became part of the DPMC. This meant an additional funding increase in 2013/14 with the transfer of civil defence and emergency management functions from Vote Internal Affairs and an additional 39 staff“.

Ms Shaw is correct, and the cost of transitioning – according the the 2013/14 Budget – $1.354 million.

Even with three related costings included, the sum reaches only $3.6 million. This hardly explains why the PM’s Department’s budget has doubled since 2008.

(7)  Ms Shaw’s final explanation for the budgetary increases for the DPMC was perhaps the most galling, citing “an increase in 2015/16 reflecting the expected costs of supporting the process to consider changing the New Zealand Flag“.

However, Shaw’s explanation is not convincing. The 2015/16 Budget reveals a figure of $4.4 million for the DPMC’s “Supporting Flag Consideration Process” – not the full estimated costing of $26 million.

Even so, considering that Ministers have consistantly fetishsised  the “need for fiscal restraint”, it is hard to see that funding the flag referendum is a necessity that excuses the need for on-going “fiscal restraint”.

Especially when agencies such as Radio NZ have not had funding increases for seven years.

It appears that money can be readily found when John Key needs it.

Solutions?

On 17 September, broadcasting spokespeople for Labour, the Greens, and NZ First were approached for comment on Radio NZ’s funding.

The Greens and NZ First did not provide any response.

Labour’s Clare Curran responded and said;

In October I released a private member’s bill to put to an end Radio New Zealand’s punishing
six­year funding freeze that matches funding to inflation and population growth and assists
the broadcaster’s transition to a multimedia public service network

The Radio NZ (Catch­Up Funding) Amendment Bill, which has been placed in the private
member’s bill ballot, provides for an 11 per cent increase based on total inflation and an
overall population increase of 6.7 per cent from June 2009 to June 2015.

Current NZ on Air funding for Radio New Zealand for the 2015/16 year is $31,816,000. The
one­off ‘catch up’ for the 2015/16 year would be an increase of around $6.5 million.

The Bill provides for the catch­up funding to be sustained and for inflation and population
adjustments to occur annually. It is the first step in a broad strategy by Labour to improve the
quantity and quality of New Zealand voices in broadcasting.

Public service broadcasting is gradually being eroded in New Zealand. Despite the population
of New Zealand growing ever larger and more diverse, the range of voices in broadcasting is
narrowing.

This bill is a stake in the ground on the importance of public interest media.

Ms Curran also replied to several specific questions I put to her,  if Labour was to be part of the next government, post­-2017;

Frank Macskasy: Will you make an immediate capital-injection into Radio NZ, to take into account inflation since 2008?

Clare Curran: Labour’s broadcasting policy for 2017 is yet to be announced. However I draw your attention
to the private member’s bill in my name which provides for an immediate funding increase
for RNZ based on inflation since 2008 and population increase.

FM: Will you inflation-index any subsequent funding for Radio NZ?

CC: Bearing in mind we haven’t announced formal policy I think you take that as a yes.

FM: What strategy do you have, if any, to entrench regular funding increases for Radio NZ to take such funding  decisions away from ministers and eliminate/reduce potential covert political interference by chronic under-funding?

CC:  This is an excellent question and one that Labour takes very seriously. We are undertaking
community engagement as we speak about these very matters. As Broadcasting
spokesperson, and as a former journalist, I believe editorial independence from ministerial
interference is a fundamental tenet of democracy. Recent events inside Maori TV have raised
serious questions about the ability of a Minister to influence programming decisions which he
doesn’t like. Political party That’s deeply concerning no matter which political party is
involved.

I don’t believe our publicly ­funded media is arms­-length enough from government. What’s
happening in Australia with the ABC and even in the UK with the BBC is testament to that.

In order for true democracy to flourish, commercial –free public interest media is an essential
pillar. Just as we have established and entrenched the watchdogs of government in the
Ombudsman, Auditor General, Human Rights Commission, Privacy Commissioner etc.. so
must we ensure that our public media entities are given a public mandate to operate
independently from state influence, overtly or surreptitiously. As you rightly point out,
removing funding decisions from ministers may be an important mechanism to do that.

However, I make the point that it must be a political policy decision to move in that direction.
I signal that Labour will move in that direction.

FM: Would an independent decision-making body, such as the Remuneration Authority which rules over MP’s salaries, be a practical solution to this problem?

CC: This is a matter for further discussion which I welcome and will participate in, in any forum.

Clare Curran’s response was appreciated.

It also gives hope that a future progressive government will not only restore Radio NZ’s funding – but will implement a policy that will entrench and safeguard this taonga from covert under-mining by unsympathetic governments.

The job of media is not to serve up infantilised ‘pap’ for an increasingly disconnected audience. The job of media is to hold truth to power, full-stop.

A democracy simply cannot function without a flourishing, well-resourced, critical media.

Governments without a watchful media is authority without brakes. It is political power without independent over-sight. It is dangerous.

At a time when print media is “down-sizing” (ie, sacking) skilled, experienced staff, and electronic media serves up a daily evening diet of superficial “current affairs” and even more vacuous “news”; gormless formulaic “reality shows”; and a never-ending stream of stomach-churning crime “drama” – Radio NZ is the last bastion of serious, professional media.

It is the last institution left standing. It is holding the line.

But only barely.

Note1 – Minister Adams responded to my OIA in one and a half weeks. This is an outstanding achievement for any National Minister’s office. Most National Ministers take weeks, if not months, to respond.

NZ Treasury: Budget 2015 – Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet

Additional References

NZ on Air: The Board

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2008

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2009

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2010

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2012

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2013

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2014

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2015

Additional

The Daily Blog: CBB supports Private Members Bill to increase funding to Radio NZ

Labour: Labour bill to stop stealth cuts to Radio NZ

The Standard:  David Cunliffe on the state of the media in New Zealand

Parliament: Radio New Zealand (Catch-up Funding) Amendment Bill

Previous related blogposts

TVNZ7, Radio New Zealand, and distracting trinkets.

State Media Bans Dissident!

Karl Du Fresne has a public baby waa-waa cry-session

Karl Du Fresne has a public baby waa-waa cry-session – part rua

Talkback Radio, Public Radio, and related matters

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

Campbell Live, No More

The Donghua Liu Affair: One Year On

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charlie hebdo

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 November 2015.

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Message to TV3 execs – Is this really acceptable?

25 July 2014 5 comments

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everyday-sexism-book

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If there is one thing that Tania Billingsley has raised in this country, it is focusing the glare of public scrutiny  on New Zealand’s casually sexist and demeaning attitude toward women. Some refer to it as a “rape culture”, where men (and generally speaking, they are men) hold the most repulsive attitudes imaginable toward  women.

I’m not even referring to rapists, molesters, and men who beat (and often kill) their partners senseless.

I’m referring to the casual acceptance of views toward women that are more suited to less enlightened societies, than a supposedly advanced, well-educated nation like ours. It is views of some men who – whilst not abusers and rapists themselves – are enablers of attitudes that empower the abusers and rapists by creating an ingrained belief that they are entitled to abuse and rape. Somewhere in the back of what passes for the minds of abusers and rapists are the comments they’ve read and heard elsewhere in society; that it is ok to mistreat and violate women. (Though they have to be over 16 to be abused and violated. Anyone under that, and the abuser/rapist is labelled a paedophile – which is evidently still ‘not ok” for misogynists. Yet. But working on it.)

The vileness of such attitudes is not just found on rabid social media pages where  poorly-educated,  and often insecure males (predominantly),  click “Like” to show their solidarity  with several hundred (a minority) other poorly-educated and often insecure males.

The mainstream media also has a culture of sexism, ranging from crass innuendo and exploitation of women,  to outright violence.

Case in point is the media personality-cum-village-idiot, Paul Henry.

Henry has a track record in boorish behaviour, more befitting an immature, adolescent male, rather than a mature man who should know better.

As Mike Kilpatrick wrote for Fairfax media on 16 July, Henry’s obnoxiousness reached a nadir when he interviewed Dr Michelle Dickinson, a scientist working at Auckland University;

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Auckland University - Michelle Dickinson - Paul Henry - TV3

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To quote the Auckland university directory, Dr Dickinson’s  areas of expertise are;

Nanotechnology, Nanomechanical testing, Fracture Mechanics, Materials Engineering, Biomimetics, Calcified Biological Structures.

And,

Dr Michelle Dickinson obtained her PhD from Rutgers University (USA) and her MEng from Manchester University (UK) in Biomedical Materials Engineering. She has previously held positions in industry which brings an applied focus to her academic research.

Her research is involved in measuring the mechanical properties of materials from the nanoscale through to the macro scale, specifically using indentation techniques.

She has a special interest in biological material behaviour and adapting traditional engineering measurement techniques and models to suit realistic biological testing conditions.

Dr Dickinson is a scientist with serious credentials*.

Which makes what followed next all the more jaw-droppingly unbelievable.

After a cursory interview with Dr Dickinson, Henry then asked a  question of mind-blowing, crass sexism, as Kilpatrick  explained in his Fairfax piece,

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Just when you thought Paul Henry couldn't sink lower

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Henry then shows a photograph of Branson hugging Dickinson and then asks the question “Did you have sex with Richard Branson?”.

Note the question; “Did you have sex with Richard Branson?”.

For those with kevlar-lined stomachs, they can see the interview here. The offensive remarks are 5:21 into the interview.

To illustrate the sadly-all-too-predictable consequences of Henry’s  comment, read the public comments – 425 as at this blogpost – which followed Kilpatrick’s story. Note the attitude of  those who think that Henry’s comments are acceptable. Note the casualness of acceptance of a remark that, in other circumstance, would be utterly unacceptable in normal social circles, and result in oppobrium.

Is this to  be the new benchmark standard for female guests for TV3?

What do female staff and management think of Henry’s remarks? Would they be comfortable if comments like that were directed at them? Or their daughters?

What does Sussan Turner, Group CEO of MediaWorks think of being asked – in public – who she’s recently had sex with?

Perhaps Clare Bradley, Legal Counsel/Company Secretary; Siobhan McKenna, Chief Executive Officer (Interactive); Wendy Palmer, Chief Executive Officer (Radio); Liz Fraser, Director of Sales & Marketing; Katie Mills,  Group Marketing Director (Radio); and Jana Rangooni, General Manager  (Talk Brands), et al, might like to offer answers  to Paul Henry’s questioning of their own sex lives?

If not, why do TV3 executives think that such comments directed at Dr Dickinson were remotely acceptable?

Allow me to remind TV3 executives, producers, staff, and presenters;

  • It is not ok to treat women like that.
  • It is not ok to have it beamed into our homes.
  • It is not ok to give voice to a culture of sexist denigration.
  • And it is not ok to dismiss it as just “humour”. There is nothing remotely funny about sexist denigration.

After all, this is precisely why 99% of New Zealanders were so horrified at the degrading  behaviour of a group of young men calling themselves “Roastbusters”.

At least the “Roastbusters” had the excuse of youthful stupidity (a crime I was guilty of, in my own youth).

Paul Henry has no such excuse.  He is a supposedly mature, responsible, 54 year old man.

I agree with Mike Kilpatrick. Henry’s comment was beyond the pale. He must resign, or be sacked. Unless New Zealanders are comfortable with more and more abhorrent, gutter-level attitudes being expressed by “media personalities” and broadcast into our homes, this kind of behaviour cannot be allowed to become a new norm.

Changing channels is not a practical option. Not if this kind of behaviour is to be normalised throughout the electronic media.

No wonder Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris were able to inflict their decades-long reign of predatory-terror on hundreds of children and women. It had become acceptable and normalised. No one thought to speak out. And if they did, the new normality meant their cries for help fell on deaf ears.

Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris were also funny men.

Their behaviour was anything but.

Well, Mike Kilpatrick has spoken out. And I add my voice to his. I refuse to give assent by silence. I refuse to turn my back on behaviour that, to fair-minded people, is just plain unacceptable.

TV3 – Paul Henry has no place in broadcasting.

He must go.

 

* Though all women, regardless of education achievements, professional status,  etc, should be treated with respect and not with degrading sexist attitudes that are demeaning and promote a culture of casual misogyny.

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Addendum 1

Email sent to TV3;

from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Producers <paulhenryshow@mediaworks.co.nz>
cc: Mark Jennings <mjennings@mediaworks.co.nz>
date: Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 12:10 AM
subject: Paul Henry Show – Asking a female guest if she’s had sex with a businessman – is this OK?

Kia ora,

Please refer below to a draft of a story which I intend to publish regarding remarks made by Paul Henry on his show, on 15 July and directed at his guest, Dr Michelle Dickinson.

I would appreciate your response to the issues I have raised and what remedies, if any, Mediaworks intends to make before I proceed further.

Your comment s would be appreciated.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

[Draft copy of this blogpost included as in-text]

I received a response the same day;

from: Paul Henry Show <PaulHenryShow@mediaworks.co.nz>
to: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
date: Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 5:26 PM
subject: RE: Paul Henry Show – Asking a female guest if she’s had sex with a businessman – is this OK?

Dear Mr Macskasy

TV3’s company culture is one that highly values equality and equal opportunity. Our news and current affairs division has often led the debate on how women are treated in New Zealand culture, including two of the instances you mention – a 3 News investigation uncovered the Roast Busters group and led the subsequent coverage, and Tania Billingsley recently told her story on 3rd Degree.

The question line taken by Paul in Tuesday night’s interview with Dr Michelle Dickinson was checked with her before the interview, and Dr Dickinson has confirmed she was not offended at the time, and is not offended now. The question was not asked without Dr Dickinson’s okay. She is an intelligent and articulate person who has appeared on the show many times and can hold her own with Paul (and anyone else). Dr Dickinson has since made her views on the interview clear and it is worth paying her the respect of reading her blog at http://sciblogs.co.nz/nanogirl/2014/07/17/science-sexism-and-the-media/

For the record we completely reject the comparisons your email makes between Paul Henry, and the actions of the Roast Busters group and of renowned paedophiles Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris. Such comparisons are irresponsible, lacking in fairness and balance, and verging on defamatory.

I’m afraid it’s just not possible to take your blog or questions about TV3 seriously when they are written from a position of such ignorance.

Regards

Rachel Lorimer
Group Head of Corporate Communications

Fiona MacMillan
Executive Producer, Paul Henry Show

For the record, I did read Ms Dickinson’s sciblog post, and have several points to make;

  1. My criticism of TV3 and Paul Henry in no way reflects on Ms Dickinson or her professional career. Dr Dickinson can in no way be held responsible or associated with things that Paul Henry said.
  2. This issue is wider than Dr Dickinson herself, and if muppets like Henry can get away with asking obnoxious questions from a highly respected; well-educated; professional woman – then no one else is safe from his prurient “humour”. It was not too long ago that Willie Jackson and John Tamihere were suspended as radio-hosts from RadioLive, after  comments were directed to a woman about her sex life, after she disclosed on-air that  she had been raped as a 14-year-old.
  3. I sympathise with Ms Dickinson’s remark in her blogpost; “I feel passionately about providing our daughters with a positive role model for an educated female who is successful in a very male dominated field“. The question is – how does being questioned about one’s sex-life help our daughters to be successful in male dominated fields?
  4. Dr Dickinson further writes; “Yes, I’m not naive to the reputation that Paul has and I go on to his show prepared for a question that may be slightly off topic or controversial, but I’m an intelligent female who works in a very male dominated field, and I’m used to inappropriate and sexist comments and questions, it goes with the territory of being a female engineer!  Perhaps my past experience of being the only woman in a meeting (and asked to make the tea), or being told that if I want to be taken seriously I need to wear shoes with less of a heel as they could distract the men in the room has made me a little immune to sexism and a little more tolerant of comments that I should be offended by.” Should we not be offended by such remarks? And should we not do more than just being offended?
  5. Should boofheads like Paul Henry not be challenged when they make disparaging sexist comments to women they would never dream of making to male guests? Just as scientists once challenged authority on much-cherished beliefs that the world was flat and the sun orbited the Earth or that disease was caused by  ‘humors’ of the body?
  6. Ms Lorimer and Ms MacMillan seem more keen to label me as “ignorant” rather than addressing the issues I raised in my blogpost. Does this mean they have no answers to the criticisms I have levelled? They certainly have studiously avoided the questions I put to them;
  • Is this to  be the new benchmark standard for female guests for TV3?
  • What do female staff and management think of Henry’s remarks? Would they be comfortable if comments like that were directed at them? Or their daughters?
  • What does Sussan Turner, Group CEO of MediaWorks think of being asked – in public – who she’s recently had sex with?
  • Perhaps Clare Bradley, Legal Counsel/Company Secretary; Siobhan McKenna, Chief Executive Officer (Interactive); Wendy Palmer, Chief Executive Officer (Radio); Liz Fraser, Director of Sales & Marketing; Katie Mills,  Group Marketing Director (Radio); and Jana Rangooni, General Manager  (Talk Brands), et al, might like to offer answers  to Paul Henry’s questioning of their own sex lives?
  • If not, why do TV3 executives think that such comments directed at Dr Dickinson were remotely acceptable?

Fairly simple, straight-forward questions I would have thought?

Or perhaps they would prefer to discuss their sex-lives, if it’s easier?

Addendum 2

A list of  companies advertising during the Paul Henry Show on 16 July;

Ford (Kia)

Subway

ANZ

Heineken

Placemakers

NIB Health Cover

Harvey Norman

Caredirect (caredirect.co.nz)

Whiskas (catfood)

Southern Cross Health

Masterfoods

Early Settlers (furniture)

Centrum (vitamins)

Future Finance (futurefinance.co.nz)

Skysport

KFC

Bridgestone Tyres

 

Dependent on TV3’s actions to follow, this blogger will be contacting the above advertisers next and posing three very simple questions; do they want to be associated with a TV show that promotes sexist denigration of women? Do they want to risk having their reputations tarnished when this story goes ‘viral’ in the blogosphere and social media? And is this what they are paying their expensive ad-slot times for?

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References

NZ Herald: Bryce Edwards – Does New Zealand have a ‘rape culture’?

Fairfax media: Just when you thought Paul Henry couldn’t sink lower…

Auckland University:  Dr Michelle Emma Dickinson

TV3:  Organic foods study finds significant benefits

Fairfax media:  Just when you thought Paul Henry couldn’t sink lower

NZ Herald: Roast Busters: RadioLive hosts taken off air

Additional

Sciblogs: Science, sexism and the media

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david cunliffe stood up on the issue of domestic violence

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 July 2014.

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What a gutless wanker you are, Paul Henry…!

27 February 2014 7 comments

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paul henry matt mccarten tv3 26 february 2014

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Our household watched the Paul Henry Show on Thursday night (26 February). Henry’s guest was Matt McCarten – freshly appointed as David Cunliffe’s Chief of Staff.

McCarten’s reputation was such that there was intense media interest in the appointment, and quite rightly so. Matt McCarten is a shrewd, experienced, clever political activist, tactician, and (when necessary) butt-kicker.

Henry put questions to Matt McCarten. Matt McCarten answered each and every one very well. Watch the interview here.

What followed the conclusion of the interview absolutely astounded and disgusted us. After Henry had thanked McCarten for appearing on his show, and the link to the  Wellington studio was closed, Henry turned to another camera and read out this statement,

“Matt McCarten who once said “I can’t escape the feeling that he” – meaning David Cunliffe – “has the same phoniness as the Republican  US presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. His every nuance and action seems calculated.” You be the judge. We’ll watch and see him change.”

What a vile, cowardly thing to do; to read out an editorial statement  after closing the interview, and not saying it straight to McCarten’s face. It was a shocking, shabby,  way to treat a guest on his show.

Gutless.

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References

TV3: The Paul Henry Show – 26 Feb 2014?

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Get ya boots on and vote

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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The Paul Henry Show – A Review

4 February 2014 8 comments

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paul henry show TV3 website page (2)

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Far from being “television history”, TV3’s new “Paul Henry Show” on 27 January was a bit of the old chat show; the usual weather graphics; a mix of interviews and on-the-scene reporting; plus a curiously dated style of reading the news.

I must admit, I was sceptical. Henry’s track record in the electronic media left a lot to be desired, with episodes of racism and juvenile behaviour. He appealed to a certain sector of our society – mainly the racists and juvenile-minded adults. For the rest of us, he was a major *facepalm* in our lives and people were happy to switch off.

On 16 January, as TV3 began to promo Henry’s up-coming show, I blogged,

Henry can do outrageous, tasteless, shocking. It’s not that hard to cater for society’s lowest common denominator. Ignorance, juvenile “humour”, and  tastelessness require no thought whatsoever. Just check out Courtney Place in Wellington or Queen St in Auckland, in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings, for evidence of that kind of behaviour.

But I’ve also seen Henry’s better, more serious  side, where he has hosted intelligent current affairs programmes with maturity, dignity,  and professionalism. That side of Paul Henry is one that treats viewers, and his own profession, with respect.

I’m not expecting a sombre, sullen, Henry – fresh from a funeral or roadside crash.

But is it too much to expect maturity and  dignity from a man who is quite capable of delivering a professional performance?

Paul Henry has talent. I would love to see that in his new show. I would love to see TV3 encouraging that talent. And I would love to be part of an audience to appreciate it.

So Paul, I look forward to a solid, professional, engaging, performance from you.

Just leave the clown nose at home this time. Ok?

So, how was Henry’s first performance?

Firstly, it’s worthwhile pointing out that Henry had a co-presenter (or straight-person), in the form of Janika ter  Ellen. She was the “news” reader and weather presenter (off screen to weather graphics).

She read her news from paper (as well as an off-screen tele-prompter) – something of a ‘retro’ feeling – reminding me very much of news-readers from, literally, the last century;

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phillip sherry

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The ‘newsyness’ of the material ranged from a once-over-lightly of serious issues to the superficial; Lorde’s Grammy achievement; David Cunliffe’s State of the Nation speech; an explosion in Invercargill; Mt Etna erupting; inter-family rivalry, North Korean style; the Syrian civil war; ongoing unrest in the Ukraine; and a strange item on two pidgeons released by the Pope, and prompty attacked by a crow and seagull… (Slow news night, perhaps?)

As Ter Ellen finished reading the news and weather, Henry jumped in and made light of the pidgeon-vs-crow-and-seagull story, and referred to “If you were Jesus…”

At this point, it appeared that  the old, obnoxious, Henry was about to stage a sudden re-appearance and launch into a bad-taste comedy-routine… It came close. I nearly switched off… But persevered. Henry reigned himself in.

Just as well – a few thousand other hands were poised with TV Remotes, ready to switch channels or switch right off. Janika ter  Ellen looked decidedly uncomfortable, squirming ever-so-slightly in her chair. I could see her thinking, hoping, praying, “Please, please, please, Paul; don’t say something dumb. Don’t do it; don’t do it; don’t do it!”

The moment passed. Henry pulled back from the Chasm of Bad Taste. Viewers thumbs moved away from the channel switch. Janika ter  Ellen breathed relief. The show’s producer popped another med for angina.

As well as the superficiality of the news, a Paul Henry coffee cup was plonked in front of ter Ellen, distracting the viewers attention. If that was some kind of “product placement”, it was a dumb move. If it was an accident – watch that kind of stuff next time, please.

The “news” was followed in quick succession with an interview with David Cunliffe. There was discussion of his State of the Nation speech; oil drilling safety; royalties; Norway; and coalition partners.

Not a bad interview. Cunliffe responded well; confidently; and was well advised. But again, once-over-lightly, with easy questions, and no follow-ups.

Then on to World “News”; an Australian base-jumper killed; UK’s feral cats; and a pregnant brain-dead woman in the US having her life-support switched off. The stories were off-beat and more what you’d expect from Youtube than a serious media organisation.

Then into an interview with John Key, with a permanent – and oh-so-obviously fake – smile cemented onto his face. The Prime Minister must be a very worried man. I haven’t seen such a fake smile since the last door-to-door sales-girl came to my door suggesting I switch power-cos.

Henry quizzed Key on playing golf with Obama; what did they chat about (with a non-committal and vague response from Key); potential coalition partners; the Maori Party; would he trust Peter Dunne (yes); would he trust Winston Peters (evasive response);  would he trust Kim Dotcom (firm, decisive “NO!”); and would he trust Len Brown (a very diplomatic answer – but then Key isn’t an attractive woman).

That was followed by a bizarre contest; first prize a very shiny new car. Key had to name ten native birds in ten seconds. He got four or five.

It was a jarring moment, incongruent with a supposedly news/current affairs programme. Had we entered into a light entertainment segment. If so, it was a seamless switch.

Then we got given a “story” on Labour MP Jacinda Ardern. Evidently she “moonlights as a D.J? Vaguely interesting. The suggestion was that it was a means by which a politician could connect with young people in a social setting? If so, that wasn’t original at all. The Alliance did something similar in 1996, with young cadres visiting night-clubs with “Alliance” badges and other election paraphernalia.

Overall, it was a restrained, almost mature performance from Paul Henry (except for the pidgeon thing. As infotainment it was watchable.

As serious news/current affairs, it is a step backwards. Whether it was a miscalculation to deliver “lighter stories” at that time slot or someone at TV3 not doing their job properly, it was hardly in the class of John Campbell or Paul Holmes.

It’s major failing is that the Show tries to be all things; serious; newsworthy; informative; light-hearted; chatty; irreverant. It doesn’t work. And there were enough moments that ‘jarred’ as to make the viewing experience less than coherent.

Would I watch it in preference to TV1 News? Probably not. Not unless there was a particularly topical interview.

Can it do better? Without doubt.

Can it do worse? With Paul Henry, what do you think?

On a Frankly Speaking Rating, where 1 is Godawful-never-to-be-seen-again-by-Human-eyes to 10, This-is-unmissable-Walter-Cronkite-BBC stuff, I’d rate this a 6.

Unless the Show confirms which path it wants to be  on – serious news/current affairs – or  – light infotainment/chat show – it will not appeal to either audience demographic who demands one or the other.

However on a new Frankly Speaking Rating for Paul Henry’s self-discipline and attempt at professionalism; 8/10.

Indeed, perhaps that was the real news story of the night..

Postscript

Having watched the Paul Henry Show again (28 January), I can confirm that he has not failed to live down to expectations. His inanities came through with usual juvenile predictability. He has obviously “loosened up” from the previous night, and returned to true form. I found it tedious.

It may work on 7 Days – but with him, on his show,  it falls flat and stinks. Much like an Arctic cod.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 January 2014.

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Additional

Paul Henry Show: David Cunliffe talks State of the Nation with Paul Henry

Previous related blogpost

The Paul Henry Show – Insulting or Insightful?

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No retreat, No surrender, Vote!

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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Categories: Media, Social Issues Tags: ,

The Paul Henry Show – Insulting or Insightful?

16 January 2014 8 comments

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toilets-watching-bare-ass-on-tv

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TV3 have been running ads promoting the new “Paul Henry Show”.  The ad shows Henry walking down a darkened alley, with a disembodied voice-over – hype over-flowing like the Waikato in heavy flood – and just as murky. Tantalisingly, or nervously perhaps,  TV3 gives little idea what the programme’s content will be.

TV3’s website offers this, somewhat less-than-illuminating, “information”,

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paul henry show TV3 website page

Source

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The text refers to  “covering everything from the erudite to the outrageous” – and that, frankly speaking, does not reassure me one iota.

We know that Henry can be “outrageous”. He has form. Whether it be reference to a woman’s appearance or giggling like a ten year old at someone’s unusual-sounding name – Henry’s behaviour can certainly qualify as “outrageous”.

If outrageous is what TV3 want, I suspect Henry can deliver that by the monster-truck full. As much as TV3’s executives; the show’s producer(s); and the public can stomach before Henry  once again over-steps the mark and the audience vomit back any tasteless performance he rams down our throats.

Which is not to say that there is a percentage of the viewing public that will always rush to Henry’s defense after one of his spectacularly tasteless performances.

Then again, some people defended Tony Veitch after his vicious assault on his girlfriend. Not that I’m comparing Henry with Veitch. No,  I’m comparing their audiences whose moral compasses were so skewed that they would defend the repugnantly indefensible.

Henry can do outrageous, tasteless, shocking. It’s not that hard to cater for society’s lowest common denominator. Ignorance, juvenile “humour”, and  tastelessness require no thought whatsoever. Just check out Courtney Place in Wellington or Queen St in Auckland, in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings, for evidence of that kind of behaviour.

But I’ve also seen Henry’s better, more serious  side, where he has hosted intelligent current affairs programmes with maturity, dignity,  and professionalism. That side of Paul Henry is one that treats viewers, and his own profession, with respect.

I’m not expecting a sombre, sullen, Henry – fresh from a funeral or roadside crash.

But is it too much to expect maturity and  dignity from a man who is quite capable of delivering a professional performance?

Paul Henry has talent. I would love to see that in his new show. I would love to see TV3 encouraging that talent. And I would love to be part of an audience to appreciate it.

So Paul, I look forward to a solid, professional, engaging, performance from you.

Just leave the clown nose at home this time. Ok?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 January 2014.

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Categories: Media, Social Issues Tags: ,

How deep is Key in this mess?

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Key's office ordered records released

Source: Fairfax Media – Key’s office ordered records released

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It now appears that the Prime Minister’s office was involved  in obtaining Andrea Vance’s phone records.

If it can be shown that Key was directly involved – this government will fall.

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Did this catch Dear Leader Key by surprise as well?

15 November 2012 8 comments

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Full story

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The sale of Hillside Workshops will affect it’s workers badly,

KiwiRail is making 80 to 90 workers at the Hillside railway workshop in Dunedin redundant after making only a partial sale of the site.”

See: Dozens of railway workshop jobs to go

I wonder – was John Key as surprised with this announcement today as he was a week ago,  when the HLFS   figures were recently  released, revealing that  unemployment was now at 7.3%?

I’m very surprised with the numbers I’ve seen this morning, goodness knows what the next one will look like.” – John Key, 8 November 2012

Perhaps he was. Perhaps, as Bryan Gould pointed out in the NZ Herald today,

In the wake of the grim news about factory closures and lay-offs over recent months, the figures were only to be expected. Indeed, the warnings about a crisis in manufacturing have been coming thick and fast, and from all quarters.

There was, though, one person, it seems, who was blindsided by the bad news. The Prime Minister, we were told by the television news, was “taken by surprise”. The only explanation for this is that John Key has paid little attention to the unemployment issue over the past four years, despite its destructive impact both on individuals and their families, and on society as a whole.”

See: Bryan Gould: Plight of jobless makes us all poorer

After four years of  Key’s “leadership”, what do we have?

  • High unemployment
  • A shortage of housing, and rising house prices
  • Exporters suffering under a high dollar
  • National policy designed to drive down wages (see: John Key’s track record on raising wages)
  • A stagnating economy

Adding to the above,  this report out today,

Continuing bad economic news is prompting forecasters to speculate the economy may have gone backwards for the first time in two years.

Retail figures for the September quarter showing a big fall in spending follow weak inflation and job numbers for the same period have been released in recent weeks.

Westpac economist Michael Gordon says there is a reasonable likelihood the economy contracted in the most recent quarter.

Deutsche Bank senior economist Darren Gibbs believes that at best, the economy failed to grow at all and possibly went backwards during the period.

He said a manufacturing survey for October due in the next fortnight will give the first indication of whether or not the economy’s loss of momentum is continuing in the current quarter.

Finance Minister Bill English told Morning Report that the numbers bounce from quarter to quarter and the latest figures are not of concern.

He said the economy is as uncertain as it has been for years, and the Government will continue to focus on straight forward objectives, like getting back to surplus and rebuilding Christchurch.”

See: Economy may be going backwards

No wonder New Zealanders are escaping to Australia faster than East Germans climbing The Wall, during the Soviet era,

A net loss of 39,500 people to Australia contributed to New Zealand’s net loss of migrants in
the September 2012 year. This is down from the record net loss of 40,000 in the August 2012
year. The September figure resulted from 53,700 departures to Australia, offset by 14,200
arrivals from Australia. In both directions, most migrants were New Zealand citizens.”

See: International Travel and Migration: September 2012

It’s not just the low pay (which is being driven lower by National policies); nor the cost of housing rising higher and higher as a minority speculate on  property for tax-free gains; nor rising unemployment; nor the growing wealth-divide.

What is driving New Zealanders to escape – and I use that word with precise deliberation – is that our society has a strong impulse for self-flagellation that manifests as constantly making wrong economic decisions. Instead of looking at the long term – sufficient numbers of New Zealand voters opt for short term benefits. The result is that few of our economic problems are actually  addressed in a meaningful way.

The joke is that so many New Zealanders still hold a quasi-religious faith in the National Party as “prudent managers” of the economy.

Which is sad, really.

National is the last political body to earn the reputation of “prudent manager”.

Any Prime Minister who reveals surprise at a worsening economic situation – despite data  screaming “Red Alert! Red Alert!” on every indicator, is one who is asleep at the wheel and hasn’t a clue what is going on around him.

How can a Prime Minister with an entire government department at his disposal, which spends $17,547,000 a year,  be oblivious to 13,000 people losing their jobs in the last three months?

See: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter

Does he not read a newspaper?

Or, as with the GCSB briefing in February, was Key simply not paying attention?

Or perhaps, as with the John Banks police file, did he wilfully choose not to look at the information?

Precisely why are we paying this man $411,510 each year?!

One other reason why so many New Zealand voters are so deluded into voting for National; the old ‘aspirational middle class‘ thing.

We all want to be affluent, succesful, and secure. The National Party is filled to the brim with millionaires, rich lawyers, businessmen and women, etc. Even Paula Bennett knew how to rort the welfare system when she was on the DPB, and bought a nice house with WINZ assistance.

Mowst of us want that. So by electing National,  some of that success will rub of onto us, right?

Right?

So f*****g wrong.

Who benefitted from National’s 2009 and 2010 tax cuts? Check out the data,

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2009 taxcuts

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2010 taxcuts

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As the numbers above show, the higher your earnings, the greater your tax cut. Conversely,  the lower your earnings, the less you got.

If you earned $40,000 p.a. your tax-cuts in 2009 and 2010 was – $9.94.

At the same time, GST went up. That meant you were now paying 15% on food, electricity, fuel (more actually), rates, etc.

High income earners have done very nicely out of the tax cuts.

By contrast, the Australian governments treated their low-middle income earners somewhat differently,

As part of the Government’s policy to spread the benefits of the mining boom, one million people will be freed from paying tax when the tax-free threshold is trebled from A$6000 to A$18,200.

More than seven million earning less than A$80,000 ($102,000) will receive tax cuts and parents with children at school will be paid A$410 a year for each primary school pupil and A$820 for each secondary student.”

See: Fed-up Kiwis head to Oz en masse

That is called re-distribution of wealth to those who need it.

As compared to National’s re-distribution of wealth to those who do not need it.

It takes a while for the Aspirationists to wake up and realise that they’ve been conned. In the meantime, Key smiles and waves and bats away serious economic problems; Paula Bennett targets and blames the unemployed for daring to be unemployed; Hekia Parata is busy undermining our education system; John Banks is throwing taxpayers money at private Charter schools; and the rest of the National Party are further dismantling our once egalitarian society, and doing dubious back-room deals with casinos, big business, foreign governments, and god-knows-who-else.

The only thing that would really, really, really piss me off is that National voters became disenchanted with their own “government” – a mess of their own making –  and headed off to Australia. To hell with that!

It’s a shame that Aussie Customs can’t made a small addition to their Immigration Declaration Form,

Have you ever,

[] been convicted of a drugs offence?

[] been a part of a terrorist group?

[] voted National?

Ticking the last box should be grounds for immediate repatriation to New Zealand.

The Aussies may already have started: I understand that Paul Henry is being sent back to New Zealand?

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= fs =