Muddled Facts On Middle Earth

I asked the expatriate American journalist Ben Mack for comment about his controversial opinion piece about New Zealand politics the was published in the Washington Post.

“Thanks for your message. I’m not entirely sure what I’d be able to add to the conversation at this point. Seems a pretty firm verdict on the piece has been reached and continuing to argue would only dig a deeper hole. The fallout has been interesting to see, and I think a valuable – albeit painful – lesson has been learnt.”


We knew we were in for problems when Mack said near the start that up till the elections NZ First had been an afterthought in New Zealand politics.


Ben Mack’s opinions about New Zealand politics may not be the most flaky thing ever said in a top-notch American newspaper. But the lack lack of fact checks raises questions about how much the paper that broke Watergate cares about its reputation.

Ben Mack

 Earlier this week the Washington Post published an article by Mack that claimed that Winston Peters was leading a right-wing poisoning in New Zealand. It was opinion – which is fair enough. But the item was also riddled with misconceptions about New Zealand politics and the role of Winston Peters inside of it. Mack works as associate editor of the Lizzie Marvelly website The Villainesse and writes lifestyle articles. So what was he doing giving very personal view one the state of ideological politics in sovereign country?

 “Like American white supremacists in the age of Trump, bigots in New Zealand have also been emboldened by New Zealand First’s success into taking action beyond ranting on Internet message boards and social media. In late October, clashes when white supremacists rallied in front of Parliament. Threatening fliers in public, calling on white people to “unify” in order to “preserve identity.”What’s happened in New Zealand isn’t just horrifying because of the long-term implications of hate-mongers controlling the country, but also because it represents a blueprint that the far right can follow to seize power elsewhere.”

The comments about Jacinda Ardern are somewhat embarrassing for Marvelly, She is great pals with Ardern. who Mack says should break with New Zealand first, a move that would bring down the hallowed new government. Not unexpectedly Marvelly says the story would not have been published in Villainesse.

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Labour Stumbles Back Into The Unhappy Shire

Maniapoto Leader Tipped For Maori Television. Changes Ahead.

CAPTION: Maori businessman Keith Ikin is tipped to lead Maori TV

The Maori TV board is expected appoint Maniapoto Maori Trust deputy chairman Keith Ikin as its new chief executive. He replaces Paora Maxwell who resigned on May 8 ending his contentious term on August 31. Ikin has a background in management. He is currently general manager of Landcare Research, and deputy chief executive of the Waiariki Institute of Technology.

Challenges at new Maori TV studio

On May 8, wrote:

Paora Maxwell has resigned as chief executive of Maori TV just as the channel moves to a new base in East Tamaki. Maxwell’s resignation comes part way through his contract and is attributed to unspecified “changes in his personal and business circumstances.”  Maxwell had previously been head of the Maori unit at Television New Zealand and the process for his appointment – championed by Maori TV chairwoman Georgina te Heuheu  – was at the centre the centre of controversy.  Maori TV sources linked his resignation to tensions in the relationship between management and Maori TV board over the selection of long-term commitment to a new leasehold building in East Tamaki. a source said. The building (which has an out-of-the-way location) has required substantial spending on a fit out and has limited studio space.

Continue reading “Maniapoto Leader Tipped For Maori Television. Changes Ahead.”

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Labour Stumbles Back Into The Unhappy Shire

Labour Stumbles Back Into The Unhappy Shire

It is very early days. But the new government looks headed for a fall in its relationship with mainstream media. They talk to the whole country, not just the true believers.

That includes the 44 per cent of the country that did not vote for Labour, the Greens or New Zealand First.

She needs to listen to the sceptics.

As it stands, Labour seems to be entranced by the euphoria of MPs and activists who are enjoying a new taste of power.

But the Government has to represent the whole country and it needs to stop ignoring sceptics.

Two incidents have highlighted  the problem in the early since the coalition was unveiled.

The Government appears to be ignoring political and media management over contentious policies

The first was the announcement of the Auckland petrol tax and the second is the implementing a reversal of the Hobbit Law,.

In both cases  Labour has charged ahead to implement policies without selling them.

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Media Get in Behind With Dog Whistlers, PR and Lobbyists

Choice Show On Netflix

CAPTION: Hamish Dodd and his wife Anita.

Millions of TV viewers worldwide are watching a new TV series Kiwi bach, under a deal with Netflix.

The 100 Day Bach’ features TV designer Hamish Dodd and his wife Anita, building their dream bach in Kuratau, on the western side of Lake Taupo.

The series was created and produced by Auckland-based media company Stripe Media. Managing Director Alex Breingan has successfully negotiated the screening rights with Netflix in the UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, Africa and India.Since the series began airing on Netflix, its Facebook page has received messages and comments from all corners of the globe.

The show is not being shown on Netflix in New Zealand because Choice has the rights through till the end of the year.

Breignan said the Netflix screenings had been a boost for the company and he was currently in talks with a broadcasters in. Australia and the UK and has suited two proposals for Netflix original content

He said that Stripe Media had approached Netflix about making content, and it skedaddles what else it had made.

“They liked what they saw and next thing we were updating it and removing the ad breaks.”

The 8-part series first aired on Choice TV in September 2015. A second series is now in development.

Alex Breingan is also Executive Producer of Three’s morning show The Café, and Co-Founder of Choice TV. The series was directed by Marcus Clayton.

Hamish Dodd is a Designer and TV presenter, and previously worked on eight seasons of the ‘My House My Castle’ series.



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Labour Stumbles Back Into The Unhappy Shire

Is It Wrong To Want Neutral Reporters?

After the Three political debate, Newshub brought in analysis from right wingers and lobbyists Jenna Raeburn and Matthew Hooton. There was Left wing pundt  Morgan Godfrey, and one journalist, Fairfax political editor Tracey Watkins.


I’ve been thinking about media coverage of the election – the good the bad and the ugly.

Media have made impressive attempts to focus on policies and sensible analysis, and in my opinion, we have been pretty well served. There has been plenty happening and media coverage of the 2017 campaign was not hi-jacked the way it was in 2014 with “Dirty Politics.”

For two or three weeks. media were fawning over Jacinda Ardern and it seems that the personal enthusiasm of some reporters managed to slip past the eyes of TV sub-editors. Meanwhile, TV coverage focused on the views of partisan pundits.

The worst example was in the MediaWorks coverage of the second leaders’ debate where two of the three “commentators” were lobbyists and Right-wing pundits. One – Jenna Raeburn – was later seen on Facebook dancing the National Party campaign bus with deputy PM Paula Bennett. One was from a union Morgan and only one was a journalist, Fairfax political editor Tracey Watkins. Elsewhere as a participant in Three’s “The Project” Ardern had been soft interviewed by the team including her pal, Jesse Mulligan. The Project is clearly aimed at a liberal audience. It’s relationship with Ardern is too cosy, in my opinion,

For two or three weeks. media were fawning over Jacinda Ardern and it seems that the personal enthusiasm of some reporters managed to slip past the eyes of TV su-editors.. Meanwhile, TV coverage increasingly focused on the views of partisan pundits. The worst example was in the MediaWorks coverage of the second leaders’ debate where two of the three “commentators” were lobbyists and right-wing pundits. One – Jenna Raeburn – was later seen on Facebook dancing the National Party campaign bus with deputy PM Paula Bennett. One was from a union (Morgan), and only one was a journalist- Fairfax political editor Tracey Watkins. Elsewhere as a participant on Three’s “The Project” Ardern has been soft interviewed by her pal, Jesse Mulligan. The Project is clearly aimed at a liberal audience and its relationship with Labour is a bit too cosy.

Who we trust with political coverage? It’s a personal thing. People will see media bias at both ends of the political spectrum with journalists accused of all sorts of malfeasance.

Who can we rely on? My starting point is far from exhaustive, and it reflects my age – and my centrist personal politics. It also reflects a view objectivity and neutrality are valuable traits in journalism. Here are my reckons on some of the mainstream commentators who try hardest to remain neutral.

Corin Dann, political editor TVNZ

Corin Dann, TVNZ

Dann has always impressed as unrelentingly and palpably neutral in his coverage of politics. This was particularly the case when his “Three” counterpart Paddy Gower became infused with his tabloid styl, campaigned against Labour. But he also avoids tabloid tricks – placing voters and not voters at the centre of his interviews. TVNZ Q & A interviewer Jessica Mutch has also established a strong reputation remaining straight in her coverage of politics.



NZME head of business, Fran O’Sullivan.

Fran O’Sullivan. The NZ Herald.

O’Sullivan is clearly focused on the business world, so, naturally gets lumped in as a commentator from the right.  She comes with a clear perspective on how politics affects the sector. But she has been around long enough to know that there are nuances in issues like overseas trade, Her political and economic columns in the NZ Herald have taken a non-partisan perspective and reflect on issues like trade. She has been fair at handing out brickbats and bouquets, Other business writers mentioned in despatches include NBR political writer, Rob Hosking.



Duncan Garner, Mediaworks The Dominion Post.

Duncan Garner, Mediaworks

Duncan Garner’s positioning as a journalist and commentator appears to be as a swing voter sat between the Left and the Right. That means he has detractors from both extremes can both bay for blood. I like the fact that he attacks political coverage from the perspective of ordinary people and in my opinion has a handle on what is important to New Zealanders. He is vigilant and like all good journalists, an equal opportunity stirrer. Also mentioned in despatches is The Nation presenter Lisa Owen, who may be our best political interviewer overall.


Guyon Espiner, RNZ Morning Report co-host.

Guyon Espiner

Espiner has not really got the best voice for radio, but he has shined this year covering the election. A close friend of Garner he has a reputation for remaining politically neutral, and not backing one side or the other. RNZ Caucus podcast series paints him and fellow political broadcaster, Tim Watkin and Lisa Owen as insiders. But he is persistent and supremely confident up against politicians. Espiner’s recent interview with Winston Peters will go down as one of the best altercations ever between a politician and a journalist. John Campbell clearly has a great talent, but I have trouble separating him from the political views he espouses.




Finally a postscript for what for me was the most disappointing aspect of the campaign coverage so far. A tendency for media companies to allow journalists to editorialise . The political reporter came close to PR puffery, in my opinion.

Stacey Kirk hosted a cosy chat between Greens founder Jeannette Fitzsimmons and candidate Chloe Swarbrick. This might be okay six months out. But it was a poor show eight days before an election.


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Labour Stumbles Back Into The Unhappy Shire

Media Get in Behind With Dog Whistlers, PR and Lobbyists

Awhile back. the National Party election campaign co-ordinator, Clark Hennessy, spent 12 months working at the right-wing website “The Daily Caller,” reporting directly to its owner, the conservative commentator Tucker Carlson. Nowadays, Carlson is on Fox News offering full frontal support Donald Trump. He is a front man for the Right. So far we have not seen a brazen, populist campaign. Far from it. The Nats have been a damp squib so far against a media obsessed by Jacinda-mania.

Clark Hennessy has been press secretary to Deputy PM Paula Bennett, who was this weekend involved in the campaign kerfuffle over the Nats crime policy, where Bennett said P distributors had fewer human rights than others. To me it seemed like populist media tactics were in play,

Bennett’s comments were a dog whistle to National’s core base and to New Zealand First voters who are not fussed on ensuring human rights to criminal gangs. The main dog whistle was to lthe good people on social media and social media, They wanted THE PARTY that they supported human rights to everyone including drug pushers and criminal gangs. Bill English talked it back the next day, and Bennett backed down. But in my opinion it was a success electorally. Nat voters were reminded that in the mind of their followers the Left was the Party of Gangs and trouble makers.


Act gets generous coverage from the TV networks despite its tiny support, . Meanwhile, The Opportunities Party – which has more support in polls is not allowed to take part in TVNZ election debates, because it has no MPs. In theory the TVNZ policy makes sense, But the reality is that it can accused of bias in supporting National – adding fuel to the fire over the Mike Hosking furore,


The late arrival of Jacinda Arden has given hope to Labour activists and zeal for Left activists, Some media seem to have followed suit,  drifting into bizarre identity politics traps with PC hand-wringing like the Lipstick On a Pig Dispute, Zealotry can be fun in an election campaign. But Lord help us if Labour and the Greens get in and we end up with political correctness gone mad.


Broadcasters need to jack up their ideas using about lobbyists and PR people in coverage of the election campaign. Michelle Boag was a shocker on Q and A last week and did not even try to deliver a semblance non-partisan analysis. Lobbying firm Exceltium is represented on numerous media. It is all part of this notion that we must depict the world as the Left versus the Right.

Michelle Boag

Meanwhile, the lobbyist sometime political commentator for The Nation Jenna Raeburn appeared in Facebook item with National Party singalong on Paul Bennetts campaign bus. Is any other country this loose with its TV coverage of elections?





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Labour Stumbles Back Into The Unhappy Shire

Aussie Scribbler Rod Emmerson Previously published in Mediaweek Australia

Rod Emmerson did his homework before he took up his job as cartoonist with the New Zealand Heraldin 2003.

Kiwis and Australians can be like blood brothers, but he says the New Zealand population is more diverse and that means he has to keep a watch on his own preconceptions. He learned that early on with a controversial cartoon about Maoris and violence against children, during a legislative push against smacking.

It caused an uproar, to the point where it became a problem for the paper. But as it turned out the furore was resolved in his favour. An influential Maori elder stepped in and said Emmerson’s work may have prevented a child being assaulted and that it opened up a valuable debate.

Journos and media execs have been crisscrossing the Tasman for years. Kiwi cartoonists including The Sydney Morning Herald’s Alan Moir are household names. But Emmerson is a rare beast – an Aussie cartoonist who has moved here.

He had worked out of provincial Rockhampton drawing for APN daily papers in Queensland while selling images to non-competing titles in Australia, the US and Europe. He was poached by APN’s New Zealand Herald.

Read the full article at Mediaweek

Mediaweek NZ: Cartoonist’s journey from Rockhampton to New Zealand


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Labour Stumbles Back Into The Unhappy Shire

Red Faces Over Blackface at Maori TV

The Maori TV board of directors has intervened to kill the satirical comedy show Jonah of Tonga, which was due to start this week. It’s not clear whether viewers would have hated or loved the show. Amidst complaints from community leaders and politicians, the board is not letting viewers decide.

Black facing on white actors has been controversial a long time.

The title character Jonah of Tonga is a troublesome potty-mouthed Tongan student. played by the white Australian actor Chris Lilley. He wears blackface, and his depiction has raised heckles in the past with some viewing him as a stereotypical Pacific
Island youth. The fact he is white, adds insult to injury for some.

The character has appeared on TV One with little uproar, but there has been criticism of the Jonah of Tonga character overseas. Was it a smart decision the decision of management to run the show when the use of white people in blackface was always going to upset someone. Were Maori TV staff looking for trouble? Or is the board timid current fear of offending?

Alfred Ngaro was critical of Jonah of Tonga

Secondly, how can the politically appointed board in reversing the staff decision when it is expressly prevented from doing so. In the past, the Maori TV board has been criticised for lack of support for the staff of the current affairs show Native Affairs, kowtowing to Maori Establishment figures. Has it happened again?

Mihi Forbes


Radio New Zealand’s Mihi Forbes reported:

“An email document obtained by RNZ has revealed high-level board concerns about the show, where a white Australian comedian dresses up as a Tongan student.

The draft document, which has been shared between Māori Television’s current board members, says they “regret not being made aware in time to prevent the first programme from going to air”.

It said Māori would “feel insulted if non-Māori painted their face and proceeded to belittle our people”.

“We unequivocally apologise to our Tongan whanau,” said the document, which added that the broadcaster would never play the show again.”

The email also discussed concern over politicians questioning “our processes and judgement”, and suggested moving quickly.

Pacific Island politicians have expressed their concern over the screening of the show, with Minister for Pacific Peoples Alfred Ngaro saying it perpetuated negative stereotypes of Pacific people.”  the RNZ report said.


It may be significant that the controversy has coincided departure of controverss=sial CEO part way through his contract.He resigned on May 8. Maxwell had been set to stay on until August. It is understood he has now left the Maori TV studios.




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Labour Stumbles Back Into The Unhappy Shire

TVNZ’s Ed Kindred: The Aussie Gent Behind Duke

CAPTION: Ed Kindred used to programme UKTV and BBC World channels for New Zealand.


Ed Kindred arrived in New Zealand last May with a nuanced understanding of the local TV market. Plenty of Australian media folk jump across the ditch, but Kindred was better prepared than most.The young Sydneysider is programming manager for Duke, a free-to-air channel that has a solid start in a slowed ad market.

How many times can you watch Seinfeld reruns? A few more times on TVNZ’s Duke.

As Sydney-based BBC Worldwide programmer for New Zealand, he was drawn to the idea of having his own free-to-air channel and being able to commission content. Duke has had a good start. One year after its March 20, 2016 launch Duke is distinguished as the only channel on Freeview with a majority male audience. Its audience is 64% male compared to the average 42%.

When it startedDuke was positioned somewhere between male-skewed 7mate in Australia and the similar Dave channel in the UK.


For full story:


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Labour Stumbles Back Into The Unhappy Shire

Ryan Rathbone: Leaning Over The Edge

CAPTION: Ryan Rathbone is National Content Director for the top rating music station, The Edge FM.

Ryan Rathbone was headed for Canadian radio, but detoured to New Zealand instead to take up an offer overseeing youth stations at MediaWorks. Rathbone later took over as national content director the Edge, a jewel in the crown for MediaWorks, the top-rating radio network nationwide.

The Edge FM breakfast teams a ratings winner,

Rathbone had given it a big makeover and the quarter three survey from GfK saw a big boost.“When you make change to a heritage brand you usually go down, not up, so it was a massive relief,” he said. The gods were on his side. The new GfK ratings system incorporated smaller provincial centres, which had been ignored in the past, and The Edge had an unrecognised big following. MediaWorks has been on the ascendancy lately in Auckland, taking audience away from NZME, which controls the other half of New Zealand’s commercial radio duopoly.

Three years after leaving his job programming 2Day FM in Sydney, Rathbone sees subtle differences in the two markets.

For the rest of the story. read Mediaweek:

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Labour Stumbles Back Into The Unhappy Shire