Life and Politics

Occasional comment on politics and the media in New Zealand

Category: Media

Would Paul Henry still have a job if he’d been at TV3?

by Jake Quinn

Paul Henry

One of New Zealand’s most talented performance broadcasters is now looking for a job because his infantile and racist comments led to a diplomatic crisis, which is something a host on a state-owned television network cannot, evidently, get away with.

How exciting for all rival media outlets and how very disappointing for Television NZ’s bottom line.

Paul Henry, when behaving like an adult, is one of New Zealand’s better performing long-form interviewers – having the mental rigor to be able to follow-up and change question line during interview. Something sadly lacking among a number of the prime time television interviewers in New Zealand. Read the rest of this entry »


Plunket and Frewen on the future of public service television in NZ

by Jake Quinn

A number of interesting discussion threads have evolved over the last few days on the Save Radio New Zealand Facebook site (which now has 20,800 fans).  The general theme of this new debate is the future of public service television in NZ, and chiefly, what role TV1 ought to play in this future.  For the benefit of those not on Facebook, I’m going to share some of the highlights here.

All this talk has come about as a result of the Broadcasting Minister floating the possibility of setting up TVNZ 7 as a public service broadcaster, leaving TV One and the other TVNZ channels to “focus on making money”.

On the Facebook page NBR media commentator Tom Frewen said:

Forget about saving Radio New Zealand. It’s safe. Nothing will happen to it, you’ve made sure of that. Instead work on saving TV One. The minister wants to confine non-commercial television to TVNZ 6 & 7 way off in the digital fringes. TVNZ belongs to taxpayers. Their channel must be TV One. It’s like the government got Whitcoulls to run the public library. Gradually all the free books disappeared. Now Whitcoulls wants to sell the library to Borders. This must not be allowed to happen. It would be theft.

To which long time Morning Report host Sean Plunket responded:

Read the rest of this entry »

Save Radio New Zealand more popular than John Key

by Jake Quinn

As at 9:30 am today Save Radio New Zealand, a group set up to oppose strangling budget freezes, cuts and the prospect of increased commercialisation of Radio New Zealand by the National government, has recorded more ‘fans’ on Facebook than that of Prime Minister John Key.

At the same time a rival group called “Don’t Save Radio new Zealand” has racked up an impressive 122 fans, for which they should be wholeheartedly commended (as the lack of support for their group simply hammers our message home even harder).

Frankly, I think the government will be forced to back down over suggestions of increased commercialisation or the introduction of sponsorship.  Public pressure wouldn’t allow it, and in any case, legislation rules it out without a law change.

Section 175 of the Radiocommunications Act (1989), which was intended to prevent state-owned networks competing with private stations for revenue, states that alternative sources of revenue are specifically prohibited for National Radio, and restricted so as to be commercially non-viable for Concert FM*.

What’s more, the recent Radio New Zealand Amendment Act (2010) specifically rules out commercialisation, stating that the network must be commercial free and provides a charter for Radio NZ which seeks to uphold the values of public radio.

So the real battle is now one of funding or, more specifically, the freezing of it.  As I said on the Facebook page a few days ago, a funding freeze is actually a funding cut unless its inflation adjusted.

Supporters must therefore demand that the National government, at the very least, provide Radio NZ with inflation adjustments on its annual budget for the foreseeable future, because if not we are literally carving off chunks of its funding each year.  This can only mean more journalists facing the sack, further shrinking newsrooms and with it a reduction in the quality of services.

Keeping in mind, of course, that Radio NZ is already more than 20% underfunded, according the the independant 2007 KPMG report.

I also find it odd that Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said on Radio NZ Mediawatch last weekend that he if went to Cabinet seeking extra money for broadcasting, that he’d be laughed out of the room.  Yet just days latter he announced additional broadcasting money for Rugby World Cup TV rights.

Do we really need to have used so much public money to provide the RWC games on 4 or 5 TV channels at the SAME TIME? Surely just having it on Sky Sport and on one free to air channel wouldnt have done the trick.

*Source: Last week’s Tom Frewen Mediawatch column in the NBR.

NZ Herald’s John Drinnan on Radio NZ

by Jake Quinn

Following on from last week’s column in the Business Herald, Media commentator John Drinnan today raises some interesting questions about the future of Radio New Zealand and some others about the Save RNZ campaign and its supporters.  Under the heading “Death Warmed Up” Drinnan suggests:

Public radio folk can be pleased by the high-profile “Save RNZ” campaign that led to protest marches in Wellington and Auckland.

I thought I’d take the opportunity to respond to some of John Drinnan’s questions (which follow), some of which I think are quite constructive, others perhaps less so.

Read the rest of this entry »

Auckland Save RNZ protest a success

by Jake Quinn

Jake Quinn at today's Save RNZ Protest

This afternoon’s protest for Save Radio NZ in Auckland went well.  It had a good feel about it.  The approach was to have fewer politicians and more locals giving speeches.

Chris Trotter showed up and spoke, as did Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury, Dr Martin Hirst from AUT, a few local politicians ( The Green’s Keith Locke and Labour’s Carol Beaumont) and me.

TV3 reporter, Chris Whitworth, notes on the TV3 website:   “Let’s not let the sharks bite Radio NZ!” was protest organiser and founder of the Facebook group ‘Save Radio New Zealand’ Jake Quinn’s closing statement to the crowd. He says the Government is testing the waters with “nibbles” at RNZ and if the nation doesn’t react they risk a major blow to democracy.

This is an important point, and the reason why the Save Radio New Zealand Facebook group exists.  If we make enough noise, Finance Minister Bill English’s scalpel will back off (or go elsewhere).  That’s what we are trying to achieve.

Extra funding would, of course, be great – the network, as the 2007 KPMG report noted, is already well underfunded to deliver on its job description set out in legislation.

More realistically, however, we just want to avoid the types of cuts and organisational changes which we oppose (things like sponsorship and advertising being the main culprits).

Christ Trotter claimed that he thinks the battle has been won.  He thinks there are too many Radio New Zealand listening National Party voters and supporters to let Coleman get away with seriously undermining the state funded public service broadcaster.  I hope he’s right, but I don’t think we are anywhere near there yet.

I do think that the Facebook site has a good bit of growth left in it yet.  Shortly, we will approach John Key’s number of fans, then we may exceed it.  If and when that happens, you’d think that might get the attention of the mainstream media – as it would be a story challenging Key’s epic popularity – but we won’t hold our breaths.

[Update: Check out the Don’t Save Radio New Zealand campaign on Facebook, it has, after a week or so, just 103 fans compared to our 17,500.  Heh.]

Save RNZ protests and Media7 coverage

by Jake Quinn

Today the protests to Save Radio New Zealand begin. Starting with Christchurch @ 12:15pm then Wellington @ 1:00pm. On Monday Auckland’s kicks off @ 12:30pm (follow the links for invites). Come along, bring your lunch and a portable radio tuned to Radio NZ National, and help Save Radio New Zealand from the unwanted political interference and undermining cuts being proposed by National Party Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman.

Yesterday, the Save RNZ group put out a press release explaining why we formed, how impressed we have been with the success of the group (14,000+ fans in just one week), and letting the media know about our Wellington protest today. Read the full release here. I’d like to thank the few people that were involved in putting it together and distributing it to media.

Tonight, representing the Save Radio New Zealand campaign, am appearing on Media7, Russell Brown’s television show on channel TVNZ7. We discuss the Save Radio NZ movement, Jonathan Coleman’s poor handling of the issue from a political point of view, and compare Radio NZ to Radio Live. The other guest is Radio Live’s program manager, Mitch Harris.  The Media 7 site promotes tonight’s show:

“On Media7 this week Russell Brown looks at the RNZ imbroglio… the battle between “pure” public service values and commercialism which has engulfed the NZ media landscape.  Mitch Harris, Programme Director of Radio Live reckons that RNZ is ripe for change and needs to embrace some hard realities. A Political and Media Studies tutor at Auckland University has been leading the charge for RNZ on Facebook and he reckons that we risk losing a valuable public discourse which is vital to our democracy.”

Finally, I understand that the Green Party will be asking an oral question of the government (that’s if there is a question time today, the government has been pretty keen on avoiding them lately) on this topic, which is wonderful to see.

Update: Tonight’s media7  TV show can be viewed online here.

Radio NZ staff robbed of chance at Radio Award

by Jake Quinn

On the Save Radio New Zealand Facebook page I asked: “Any Radio NZ staff please correct me if I’m wrong, but did you guys lose the right to submit your work to the Radio Awards last year because of budget cut backs, thus being robbed of an opportunity to be acknowledged for your work and progress your careers?”

Some helpful little broadcasting beaver sent through the info:

Radio New Zealand announced last year that it would withdraw from the New Zealand Radio Awards.  Radio New Zealand will not be making an entry in any categories of the awards in 2010, nor will it be paying a contribution towards the administration or sponsorship of the awards.

This decision was announced as one of several measures to reduce costs in a year when funding constraints will put severe pressure on Radio New Zealand’s operating budget. Money saved as a result of our withdrawal from the awards will be used to support core Charter requirements.

Radio New Zealand staff may choose to submit an independent entry to the awards, however, anyone considering an entry on their own behalf should first discuss those intentions with their manager.

So the answer was yes.  And this decision was made last year.  Professional development is clearly OK for Minister’s office staff, those working in core government departments, but sheesh, if you work at Radio NZ, not only do you have to settle for about two-thirds the salary of the average advisor level public servant, but you have to put on bloody sausage sizzles to raise enough money to submit your work (that’s if your manager allows it) to the annual awards ceremony.

The Radio Awards are there to recognize that work publicly – remember, not everyone that works at Radio NZ is a prime-time broadcaster with name recognition like Sean Plunket or Jim Mora.  There are many workers behind the scenes who miss out even more from the lack of funding to take part in their industry’s annual awards; the production engineers, writers and producers whose names you’ve never heard.

Save Radio New Zealand

by Jake Quinn

The Save Radio NZ Trucker

Incredible.  Last night I read the news that the National government had put the screws on Radio New Zealand, hard.  I really like Radio New Zealand National, Radio NZ’s flagship program, which I listen to every day.  I also really appreciate the service both Radio New Zealand International and Concert FM provide both local and international communities.

So I blogged on it and I started a simple Facebook group.  Fast forward a day and half and the fan page has nearly 4,000 supporters and is rapidly growing and is now being reported on, Radio NZ, and on a number of high profile blogs.  I’ve received requests to front media interviews, but for now at least I think I’ll leave that to the politicians.

I’m astounded by the out-poring of support the page has been getting.  All day folks have been commenting, posting links and generally sharing their love and support for all things Radio NZ, their disdain for the actions of the Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman and his Cabinet colleagues in the National Party.

I think the National Party wildly underestimates the support Radio NZ has across the country.  From farmers to pensioners to urban liberal students, Radio New Zealand National is the news of record.  It’s where you know the story is straight.  They don’t have to shock for ratings or appease advertisers.  They just give us hard-working decent honest journalism.  Long may it continue.

Radio NZ on the scrap heap

by Jake Quinn

The news that the National government is putting the very existence of Radio New Zealand at risk makes for sobering reading (I’m not exaggerating, one suggestion is – quite seriously – to ditch the FM frequency outside of Auckland).  Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman says he will sack the board and appoint his cronies if they don’t tow the line and radically cut costs.

Radio New Zealand costs the country about $38 million per year, according to the TVNZ report (correct figure, however, is $34 million).  Lets, just for shits and giggles, grab some perspective.  The government has just launched a $26 million charm offensive to try to convince the nations’ parents that national standards are *like* totally awesome.  That’s a PR campaign costing about two-thirds of RNZ’s annual budget.  Seriously.

Radio New Zealand National are the only public service broadcaster left in New Zealand.  TVNZ was doing a pretty poor job even with the charter, now that that’s been scrapped any notion of public service broadcasting, that is news rather than profit values, will surely to be lost.

Radio New Zealand National is the country’s most popular radio station.  It is the highest ranking Station out in the regions (rural NZ), it’s the highest rating in Wellington, and I believe the second or third highest rating in Auckland (RNZ don’t enter the commercial surveys, which they would dominate).  Jim Mora’s Afternoons is the highest rating afternoons show for god’s sake.  This is with pretty much no promotional budget and, refreshingly, with no twenty-something offensive smack-talking shock-jocks.

The problem is that death by a thousand cuts doesn’t get noticed much by the public.  The government can get away with systematically undermining a state funded service like RNZ and no one notices until it’s too late.  That is why we people need to take action.

Radio New Zealand National and its sister channel Concert FM are bloody national treasures.  If you agree, please show your support by writing to your local National MPs explaining how much you appreciate Radio NZ’s service and how disappointed you’d be if their service suffered under this government’s watch.  And while your at it join these Facebook groups.

Maurice Gee’s Going West

by Jeremy Greenbrook-Held

I’m posting this far and wide mainly because I think it’s really cool.

Hattip: India at clusterflock

It’s just a shame that the actual train trip from West Auckland to the city isn’t nearly as exciting as Gee makes out 🙂

I have to admit that the only Maurice Gee books I’ve read are Under the Mountain and The Champion (which was made into a movie and filmed in Helensville) when I was a kid. I’ll have to pick up a copy of Going West this weekend, I think.

James Coe’s Editing the Herald

by Jake Quinn

I think James Coe pens the best blog in New Zealand. Just in case any Life and Politics readers have missed it, I thought i’d remind them where it lay. It’s this one: Editing the Herald.

His posts in the last few weeks have been particularly great. Today he writes on the Herald’s coverage of the Hone stuff. Last week’s best was this little gem on the BNZ’s “closed for good” PR sideshow and the paper’s lackluster coverage of the big-banks fraud cases in general.

He also has a Sunday radio slot on BFM but i haven’t heard it.

Technorati research on blogging

by Jake Quinn

Five key points from some recently available research by Technorati on blogging, care of the Online Journalism Blog:

  • The blogosphere continues to be dominated by male, affluent and educated bloggers
  • Bloggers use Twitter far more than the average person and microblogging is changing blogging habits
  • Blogging is becoming more mainstream and influential, but not replacing traditional media
  • More bloggers are making money, but most don’t make any
  • Most bloggers are “hobbyists” and are driven by personal fulfilment rather than financial gain.

The findings I found most interesting are highlighted below:

While blogging is gaining in popularity and credibility, the blogging demographic doesn’t appear to be widening. The average blogger continues to be male (two-thirds), affluent (a majority have household incomes of an average of $75,000) and educated.

This is a problem, although a predictable one.  The internet has been held up by many over the years as the ‘great democratiser’.  What we see here is that the blogosphere, in particular, is less diverse and more elite than even the mainstream media.

Of course, that is what happens in an anarchic environment; existing power structures are mirrored then exacerbated.  (It is also worth noting that something in the high 90 percent of all internet traffic is controlled through just two companies, Google and Microsoft. Oh can you taste the freedom).

The survey found that contrary to popular belief, many bloggers have had professional media experience, with 35% of all respondents having worked in traditional media as a writer, reporter, producer, or on-air personality, and 27% continue to do so.

Also an interesting finding which again contributes to the view that blogging is a realm for elites and not the unwashed masses.

The journalistic value of blogs

by Jake Quinn

I’ve been approached by a number of researchers in the last few weeks who are conducting studies about blogging or political blogging.  One journalism student in particular wanted to know what bloggers think about the journalistic value of blogs.

This one, in short, thinks very little – about the journalistic value that is.

They can however play other important roles within the political process, such as lobbyists – most of the political blogs in New Zealand are, after all, clearly partisan and act more as message massagers and kite flyers than balanced analysts.

The Britannica Concise Encyclopaedia definition of journalism includes that it is sometimes “used to refer to writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation.”

Here political blogs generally fall short. Interpretation is pretty much the modus operandi.

Most rely very heavily on the traditional news media for their content, to which they apply their analysis, interpretation or spin.

Others simply aggregate news, posting stories that catch their interest adding “good point”, “indeed”, “outrageous” or whatever truism springs from their keyboards.

There is nothing wrong with operating a site in this manner – it’s just that it’s not journalism.

Confounding the view that blogging is not a source of competition for serious journalism, recent Technorati research has found that bloggers do not consider other blogs a substitute for other news sources and the majority do not consider online media more important than traditional media.

Blogging and other forms of citizen journalism do not, as of yet, fulfil a journalistic role .  The technorati research, which I will blog on in a moment, seems to support this view.

[For further reading on this topic check out this post on Werner63’s Weblog]

In the [Grammar] Zone

by Jeremy Greenbrook-Held

There’s a billboard on the side of a building facing the north-bound lane on the Southern Motorway at the Newmarket viaduct – this billboard here. It currently has an advertisement for McDonald’s Angus burgers, stating that “It’s a little bit fancy – like living in the Grammar zone.” The reputation of Auckland Grammar is such that parents will literally buy houses in Grammar zone to ensure that their offspring get the opportunity to attend the esteemed school. I only know a few Grammar alumni and they’re great guys (in fact, I’m going to be the best man for a Grammar old-boy at his wedding in February) – I have no reason to believe it’s not a great school.

Over the past few months there has been a bit of negative publicity surrounding Auckland Grammar.  Back in August, the AGS First XV got into a fight with Kelston Boys, which was compounded by the fact that the AGS players appeared to get off lighter than Kelston – cue the baying masses crying racism and old-boy interference from Grammar.

And then over the weekend, a group of Grammar boys uploaded pictures of themselves doing Nazi salutes and kissing a swastika. Cue same baying masses calling for heads to roll / expulsions / students held back a year / corporal punishment to be reintroduced etc etc.

OK, so it was a pretty stupid thing to do. In fact, it was a very stupid thing to do – let alone the disrespect and insult it would have caused. There is no excuse for this, they really should have known better. And then to upload them to Facebook. Were they arrogant or just plain ignorant ? Needless to say, the students concerned should be punished, and the punishment that was dished out (to teach visitors to Auckland Museum about The Holocaust) in my opinion, fits the ‘crime’.

But do these kids (yes, they’re children) really deserve the media circus that has erupted around them? I would suggest that they probably don’t.  To their credit, the usually-terrible NZ Herald has been quite measured in it’s response – well, at least when compared to Stuff – I especially liked their choice of photo:

Nazi-worshipping schoolboys arrived at Aucklands War Memorial Museum to apologise.

The blurred image of ‘perpetrators’ trying to hide their faces from the waiting gauntlet of media as they face their execution punishment – this must be the sort of thing normally reserved for the wet dreams of news editors up and down the country.

Is this a reaction to what these kids did, or a reaction to the fact that these kids attend one of the top schools in New Zealand? It’s hard to separate the two – because they attend Auckland Grammar, a much higher standard is expected of them. But I’m not entirely sure this warrants the media coverage that it seems to have generated.

A friend of mine who attended Kings College once told me that because students at exclusive schools (such as Kings and Grammar – in contrast to Kaipara College, where I went to school) get treated like ‘gentlemen’ at school, as soon as some of them step outside the school gates, they act like mongrels. Maybe the behaviour of the Grammar boys is – at least in part – a reaction to the way they are treated at school?

BTW: James (an AGS old boy) has posted about a ‘live cross’ to the Museum on TVNZ last night. Oh how I love the live cross. Really adds to a news story.

EDIT: Got my Grammar’s mixed up. Sorry ’bout that.

Images of the Decade

by Jeremy Greenbrook-Held

The Standard have posted a link to the Guardian’s Ten Images of the Noughties. It’s an interesting, yet very UK-focused collection of photos (for example, Jade Goody hardly defined my decade – I had to Google her to see who she was).

Personally, the past decade have been rather special for me – it’s pretty safe to say that this decade is the first that I actively remember – for example, I clearly remember seeing the year 2000 in (I was on top of the downtown parking building in Auckland, drinking Lindauer out of the bottle in the driving rain) – in contrast, I don’t remember a huge amount about 1990.

What are the images you most remember about the past 10 years? A few of mine a below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »