In Defense of the Media.
Quality issues exist, but bribery allegations are cooked.
Yesterday the Ministers in the next government were sworn in by our Governor General. A day of tradition and ceremony, of decorum and respect. Usually.
But yesterday Winston Peters, the incoming Deputy Prime Minister, and Foreign Minister, of our nation used it, as he did with the signing of the coalition agreement on Friday, as an opportunity to air his personal grievances against the fourth estate.
After various pot shots at the use of Te Reo, one of our official languages, by our state broadcasters TVNZ and RNZ he moved to his main accusation.
"You cannot defend $55 million of bribery. You cannot defend $55 million of bribery. Get it very clear." Understandably some in the media were not particularly impressed by this.
Now, I’ve been critical of Jenna Lynch in the past. Some of her coverage can be very sensationalised, although given that was also the case with her predecessors in the role that might be a company directive rather than her personal choice.
I’ve also criticised the fact that her relationship with ACT Chief of Staff, Andrew Ketels, is not disclosed as would be expected of a politician with such a conflict of interest. But Jenna is 100% right here.
Despite the quibbles above I found Jenna’s news report last night very good. She had the following to say:
But this is now the second major ceremonial moment of Christopher Luxon's prime ministership that Winston Peters - his first chosen deputy - has overshadowed with his anti-media antics.
Ministers in the past have faced weeks of pressure for appearing to exert influence over the editorial independence of our state broadcasters and their editorial independence should never be interfered with. It is sacred.
It is also unbecoming of a Deputy Prime Minister to falsely accuse the media of accepting bribes.
You can bet your bottom dollar that this particular Deputy Prime Minister, and serial litigant, would at least threaten to haul someone through the courts if they levelled the same baseless accusation at him.
You can see the full report here:
Winston has had a troubled relationship with the media over the years. Many’s the time when he has butted heads with them, particularly over political polls showing his party won’t get into parliament. To be fair, sometimes he has had a point.
While I’m less skeptical of polling than many others they can become self fulfilling prophecies as people vote in accordance with them, not wanting to waste their votes. With the margin of error often exceeding the gap between what NZF need and what the poll says, it’s a long bow to draw conclusions over whether a party will make the threshold, or not. But that doesn’t stop the media from trumpeting it to the public.
Similarly you could understand that Winston might harbour a grudge over the use of his private superannuation information, leaked by the then governing National Party and picked up and run with by media who used it to try and drive NZF out of parliament in 2017.
If I was Winston I’d be pretty reluctant to have anything to do with the reporters who smeared him in a way inconsistent with decent journalism. There was no public interest in publicising an overpayment error, at best it was sensationalist, at worst it was a deliberate attempt to destroy the man’s career.
So Winston does have reason to hold a grudge or two, and we know he has a long memory. But this stuff about the previous government “bribing” the media is utter nonsense, and Winston is far too intelligent to believe otherwise.
That particular theory is one much beloved by the worst conspiracy theorists and anti government nutters. A genuine belief that the media was bought using the Covid bailout money the industry received to help it through the pandemic.
I’m sure you’ll remember the impact on the media as Covid restrictions hit. Much loved publications closed down, heck we weren’t even allowed to touch a magazine in a supermarket, lest we spread the virus. News organisations were forced to lay off their left wing writers, although fortunately they managed to keep the right wing ones. I remember posting this at the time:
But there’s a difference between taking a particular political position and being corrupt. The problem being with New Zealand’s size there are only so many options available, which can make it appear that way.
For example the NZ Herald is largely a right aligned publication. It’s editorial position, and those of the majority of its opinion writers, are pro business and pro National. Having a newspaper take such a position while not ideal, isn’t the end of the world, provided there are alternatives.
But that’s the problem, there aren’t. There is only one major newspaper in New Zealand and people don’t have the option of choosing a different one more consistent with their views. Some might say the same was true of our television newsrooms, that the stance of the two networks are near identical, and both are pretty negative about the left.
I’ve always found Newshub an odd one. I don’t actually think they are biased, as some suggest. What I do think they’re guilty of is sensationalist tabloid reporting. It’s all about the headlines, the eyeballs, and the clicks.
It doesn’t matter which party is in power, they love the scandal and the sleaze, the anonymous accusations that can’t be defended, or verified. They smell blood in the water, even if it isn’t there, and the feeding frenzy begins. The resignation of someone high profile seemingly the ultimate goal, rather than informing the public. It can make for low quality reporting, but it’s not bribery and corruption.
TVNZ, on the other hand, seems to be out of control. People like Jessica Mutch McKay and Benedict Collins didn’t even attempt to hide their disdain for the last government, and both look much happier now. As the state broadcaster that isn’t really good enough or acceptable, but it isn’t corruption either.
There are others at TVNZ who manage to maintain a level of professionalism. When he turns up Jack Tame can be an outstanding interviewer. They don’t necessarily need a clean out, but less Jessica Mutch McKay might be a good move towards restoring public confidence.
For goodness sake did you see the debates? The goo goo eyes at Luxon, the look as if she’d just thrown up in her mouth when addressing Chippy, and aside from that she wasn’t particularly good at running a debate, spending far too much time talking. But that lack of balance was not about bribery and corruption, so far as I’m aware.
So back to Winston. Why is he repeating these absurd claims of bribery that belong on Plunket’s Platform or Reality Raincheck Radio, or whatever they’re called?
Those are the claims of the tinfoil brigade. I appreciate a big part of Winston’s return to parliament was the Cooker vote. That despite decades in government he was chosen as the champion of the people, to take it to the man on behalf of the disillusioned and dis-informed.
That’s all good Winston, but you do realise those people will turn on you quick smart now you’re the deputy PM, don’t you? Or is that what you’re scared of? It’s pretty hard to remain the head of the anti-everything brigade, when you’re the second most powerful person in the government.
But the problem is Winston, oh for goodness sake put down that stupid card with the word “NO” on it. The issue is, that those people are anti literally everything. They’re going to think the government is out to get them, and working in cahoots with the devil, or at least the United Nations, whichever side is in power.
As soon as something happens that they don’t like you, Mr Peters, will go from being Chief of the Cooked, to the enemy of the self researchers.
So why bother with this garbage, it makes you look like a nut job when you should’ve been making massive mileage over saving Aotearoa from the worst excesses of ACT and National. You did pretty well for your party in the negotiations, so why peddle these claims that you know aren’t true?
You must remember being a key figure, the deputy PM no less, in the government that made support payments to industries badly impacted by Covid. Those industries needed assistance, whether it was bungee jumping or keeping the country informed.
This is from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage on the assistance to the media:
“The fund was announced by the government in 2020, to support news media through the COVID-19 downturn for a limited period up until 30 June 2023. It was designed to provide targeted, short to medium-term support for roles, projects and industry development across the media sector. And over its seven rounds of funding, it supported 73 projects, 219 roles and 22 industry development projects in total, supporting journalism across the length of the motu.”
You can find a full report on the fund here, the diagram below, from page four, shows a breakdown of how the fund was used over the three years, until it ended six months ago:
Despite how we might feel about certain media personalities, and the way they express views different from our own, it’s ridiculous to suggest that the media has been bribed by the government.
Some of it might be bought and paid for, but not by the government. Quite frankly if it had been, given the coverage of the previous government over the last couple of years, they should ask for their money back!
The vast majority of people in the media are decent, hardworking, professional people, doing their jobs, the same as in any other industry. Their sector, like many others, needed support during Covid to sustain it.
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We don’t accuse any other sectors of being bribed, where they have received government support. That would be ridiculous, as it is here.
For better or worse Winston Peters is now the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand. I think it’s about time he put these vendettas aside, put on his big boy pants, and start actually showing some leadership. Rather than hiding behind the idiotic claims of the “world is out to get me” brigade.
We have some excellent media in this county, much mediocrity, and some very low quality swill. We do have organisations that take a clear political stance rather than remaining neutral. No one in their right mind is going to argue that Newstalk ZB isn’t rabidly pro National and ACT. But whatever you think of that, it certainly has nothing to do with the government.
I’m sure the money was used to keep the media going and ensure more jobs remained than would otherwise have been the case. Just like in any other industry. Shame on Winston Peters peddling these scurrilous accusations.
Still, I’m sure he has caught the media’s attention.