Author: John Drinnan

Dog Whistles And Golriz Riding A High Horse It's not creepy to challenge politicians

CAPTION Green MP Golriz Grahraman.

 

I am ambivalent about the Green MP Golriz Grahraman and questions about her refugee background.

Simon Jeans – A high-profile Australian immigration lawyer – has questioned her take on freedom of speech, and her refugee status. It is not my intention to work out what is right or wrong. She should answer the claims.

Golriz and partner Guy claim high ground on moral issues.

But if you are going to ride a high horse, you have to be prepared to show you belong there. Some disagreed with Jeans’ claims. The co-editor of Newsroom – Tim Murphy – is one sceptic who is non-partisan.

“That thing by the Australian lawyer about MP Golriz Ghahraman: -tries to be all magisterial on a case built from a few news clippings makes assumptions about assumptions and argues with them to give a verdict no one sought. Odd.”

 

Auckland councillor Richard Hills.

In partisan country, Golriz’s colleagues on the Left see a spate of criticism as part of a Right Wing conspiracy. I can guess that in their mind the notorious “old white men” are responsible..

Yesterday, on twitter, the Auckland Councillor Richard Hills blasted Grahraman’s critics.

This unhealthy obsession of  Golriz Grahraman nfrom mostly men on the right is ugly. I don’t follow most of them so don’t see it much. Noticed a spike again at the moment. It’s creepy and quite disgusting. Grow up and stop the bizarre schoolyard bullying of an elected woman.

Hutu pop star and genocide accused Simon Bikindi

Hills is entitled to support Golriz. But surely people have the right to question an activist MP and immigration spokesman – especially one who rides a high horse morally. She is a list MP. so in my opinion, she is not directly elected. On paper she has an impressive CV, having studied at Oxford University and worked with the UN . Golriz has branded herself as the refugee MP. As a result. She has enjoyed fawning publicity from adoring journalists who believe that she is something  special.  As a result she may be the most promoted backbencher in New Zealand history. More activism and speeches from On High means she is going to be questioned more. Some humility might be useful. In November she was also criticised for her role at the UN when it transpired that she helped defend someone who had been accused of inciting genocide. Most people will acknowledge the role of lawyers in representing unpleasant people who have a right to a defence, But it takes the shine off her claims to be friend of the weak and defender of human rights. Comments by Cr Hills are worrying in the current zeitgeist. Criticism of Golriz was ”creepy” and “disgusting,” he said. Creepy is a dog whistle – like fascist and Nazi – that commenting about her is misogynist. Who is next in the elite group that is above questioning? Is it creepy or disgusting to question people with power and who lecture us on our obligations? Politicians are not above the hoi polloi.

 

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Update: Free Speech Coalition Withdraws Goff Complaint Claims victory

CAPTION: Coalition says Morning Report wanted Brash for a Punch and Judy show.

The Free Speech Coalition has studied Auckland Council’s defence to the application for judicial review of the Mayor’s claim to ban Molyneux/Southern from Council-owned venues. There is no attempt in the response papers to substantiate any politician’s right to decide who can and can’t be heard in Auckland’s ratepayer provided facilities.

“Free Speech has unequivocally won on the key issue,” says Dr David Cumin, a Free Speech Coalition member. “The arrogant claim of power to block what the Mayor calls ‘repugnant’ speech (speech that might offend a person’s religious prejudices) gets no defence from the Council lawyers.”

The Council Response concedes: Mayor Goff did not make the decision;

He had no right to intervene or make the decision;

Regional Facilities Auckland made the decision;

RFA would not have acted on the Mayor’s instructions if he had given them;

He did not influence the decision-makers;

RFA do not and will not discriminate among users on grounds of political preference or concern about causing offence;

The decision was instead based on security concerns;

Ultimately it was due to fear of what protesters could do;

RFA thought that safety was paramount so they did not believe they needed to do more to mitigate the threats or otherwise ensure the Thug’s Veto did not prevail.

“With the Council indicating so clearly that it can’t support the Mayor’s claims, the Free Speech Coalition has won,” says Dr Cumin. “New Zealanders have put together their $20s and $50s and $100s, and they’ve called the politician’s bluff. They’ve told him they get to decide who they can listen to – not a Mayor spouting slogans about people he’s never met.”

“The Free Speech Coalition’s main purpose for next Monday’s urgent application hearing has therefore gone. As such the request for urgent orders and a hearing, has been withdrawn. Focus will now be on the remaining question relating to the Council’s duty to stand up to the ‘Thugs’ Veto’.”

“The Coalition was never about supporting the particular speakers, it was about principle, which now the Council has conceded.”

“The second issue remains – will officials who want to gag unwelcome political speech now manufacture “safety concerns” to evade the NZ Bill of Rights Act, and the Human Rights Act?”

“All fair-minded New Zealanders will be upset by the apparent effectiveness of the Thugs’ Veto in this case. It may have been against a Council whose Mayor was happy to be threatened, but it has implications throughout New Zealand.”

“We think Free Speech Coalition supporters will want us to ensure that a court tells Councils to ensure the Thug’s Veto does not rule in their cities. But that is an issue for a later day, and will be the key issue in the substantive proceedings later in the year, if we decide to press on.”

“Auckland Council’s incompetence on this occasion would make it hard for the Court to order that the particular event go ahead, at least at the planned time and venue. We are advised that the compressed urgent timetable and rules about interim applications such as ours mean that it will not be possible to get sufficient evidence before the Court on security/safety issues, and test it.”

“Unless the Police volunteer that they can handle anything unlawful the protesters might threaten, a court would be wary of unmanageable interference with the event and its attendees.”

“The promoters are responsible people. They see the greater risk created by the Mayor’s incitement. Celebrities without any direct knowledge have been falling over each other to distance themselves from the manufactured bogeymen they were prompted to hate, by the Mayor.”

“While it may be fair to tar Auckland Councillors with cowardice in failing to reassert control of Mayor Goff, it is not fair to blame the RFA officers. They have stated their adherence to the non-partisan principles the Free Speech Coalition defends. We welcome this significant victory.”

“Both sides should now agree that the question is whether unexamined safety fears can trump fundamental values of free expression. We should agree that defining a duty to overcome the Thug’s Veto is vitally important. That should now be the main issue in the eventual substantive hearing.”

Melissa Derby, another spokesperson for the Free Speech Coalition, says “The Mayor was wrong in the decision he made and we’ve ensured no legal precedent was set that makes it okay for an elected official to decide what we can or can’t hear. That is precisely what we wanted to achieve.”

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Free Speech Coalition Challenges Morning Report Was Brash Choice RNZ Payback Time?

Don Brash – a politicised choice.

A Morning Report focus on Don Brash for the freedom of speech issue raises questions about its motivations. The public broadcaster went to extraordinary lengths to place Brash – a contentious but minor player at the Free Speech Coalition – front and centre of the debate. The Guyon Espiner interview ran on July 11.

According to the coalition, Brash told Morning Report he was not the best person to front. But Morning Report insisted and turned away six suggestions from the coalition, including academics and two official spokespeople. The coalition includes a dozen lawyers and academics and journalist Chris Trotter, Williams said. 

TVNZ’s Cori9n dean was objective on Goff issue

The coalition is legally challenging Auckland mayor Phil Goff, and his ban on Canadian right wing activists – Lauren Southern an Stefan Molyneux – from using Auckland Council venues Subsequently many agreed and disagreed with Goff’s stance. some of the anti criticism focused on Brash. The coalition has raised more than $100,000 for its legal challenge.

According to Williams, it was made apparent that if Brash did not front for the Coalition, no-one else could. Brash initially turned Morning Report down – but eventually demurred. On air Brash, maintained a reasoned stance, but Espiner focused on his personal background and conservatism, including his stance criticising Radio New Zealand for use of te reo in news.

Jordan Williams(right)

Jordan Williams said: “They insisted on having Don Brash to take an agenda-driven approach to an interview that did not serve the listener.

The approach deliberately chose to ignore a fundamental issue for the purpose of short-term gamesmanship. Williams said.Morning Report used to be authoritative and credible and yet more and more it plays these silly games,” he said.Morning Report wanted the actor to play the Punch and Judy role, and that does not suit the listener, Williams said. Then then they chose to mock him for being the spokesperson.

The upshot was that the public broadcaster portrays the freedom speech is issue as about a personality and politician.

To be fair, the coalition could have handled it better, calling Morning Report’s bluff.

The use of Brash created a political edge, and he should have stayed away, in my opinion.  Media must be free to take the angle and the people they like. That is freedom of the press. Media always likes fireworks. But we are taught RNZ is better than that.

But in my opinion this item looked like a stitch up – and a payback to politician who had publicly challenged RNZ, and Morning Report in particular. Radio New Zealand was invited on Tuesday to respond the the criticism.

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Freedom From Offendarati Rule

Image Pinterest.

Debates about freedom of speech often lead to academic and legalistic arguments. Important people try to define what mere mortals may listen to, who needs to be protected, and from whom.

It is important and abstract. So it is handed to right-minded activists, lawyers and journalists – and to politicians like Phil Goff. He imposed his view on what political view is acceptable – in public venues at least.  The thing is, freedom of speech is an antidote to authority. And so it is annoying for some.  At heart many of us don’t want to be bossed around by people who are sometimes-irrational, sometimes self- indulgent, virtue-signallers, and zealots. We are capable of making up our own minds without their censoring us.

Phil Goff on Q&A. He decided what you can hear.

I’m weary of being lectured that freedom of speech is not an absolute. We all know that. There are valid restrictions on incitements to violence and personal hatred. Defamation laws are a rich person’s tool, but they also constrain freedom. But in the current weird world, protection from abuse and the threat of violence has morphed into stopping views that offend – halting language that is deemed “unsafe.” We are being protected by people who hate being offended. The Offendarati. 

It’s a white hat- black hat mentality. The Goodies and Baddies, Some groups are involved in white hat groups have special status. Some are beyond the pale and are irrelevant or to be silenced. This is understandable given the viciousness of social media and the partisan wars on twitter.

Some folk on the Left – once advocates for free speech – now insist that “hurtful” opinions must be stopped in the future for the good of Society all and the protection of the vulnerable. White knight social justice warriors have assigned themselves to protect specified minorities from people who are defined – somewhat fanatically – as fascists, Nazis and racists. One new term of acceptable abuse, is to deride Terfs, people who will not accept official institutions proclamations on gender politics. The Goodies and the Baddies, 

It is bizarre that some journalists – who have complained about the restrictions of libel laws an authority – should now actively seek the extend restrictions into the discussion of ideas, religion and politics.

Goff says Southern and Molyneux are beyond the pale.’

We have seen examples of over-eager outrages recently like the attacks on Israel Folau – and Phil Goff’s “captain’s call” intervention into the Lauren Southern Stefan Molyneux event. I find Southern too much of a careerist and Molyneux tedious, but they are not so frightening they should be banned from Council venues. “Who is next,” Corin Dann asked Goff on Q&A,” Donald Trump”? 

We see the same intervention by authority in the gay community with attempts by media and politicians to shut down individuals – people who disagree with the new orthodoxy,  transexuals self identifying as women – many of them penises. They argue that biology is irrelevant to gender. It has become mainstream thought, but quite mad/ These are vexed issues. There is no doubt about that.

Minister. “Terfs” must treat transexuals with penises as women.

But in the current environment, activists and media followers believe discordant options are to be shut down. People who disagree with authority from so called “Terfs” can be shut down.

Last week on Q&A Woman Affairs Minister Julie Ann Genter chided feminists who did not accept transsexuals with penises were women.Should the state be policing these matters?

It is part of the continued breakdown into cultural niches under identity politics, where authorities will define what is and what is not acceptable.

The Human Rights Commission should be a haven of fairness and rationality in these debates. Alas, the publicly funded body has taken sides and become a home for state sponsored activism. 

The Commission has brushed off its’ scandal over an executive harassment of an intern and privately it is working to expand a push for more restrictions on free speech.

During nine years of a National governments there have been growing signs of ideological biases were ignored and promoted in media.

Radical feminist Renee Gerlijh has been attacked by trans-activists – but that is allowed by authorities

Now with a Labour government – and despite the Human Rights Commission dysfunction –  pressing ahead with controls on what it calls “disharmonious speech”  for likely new hate speech rules at the end of the current Labour term. 

 

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RNZ Folding Liberal Wireless Into Main Website Is RNZ changing for the better?

Radio New Zealand is folding its struggling youth website “The Wireless” into RNZ.co.nz.

Partly this is because “The Wireless” has been superseded by commercial media like “The Spinoff” and Vice.

Three’s 7pm show “The Project” is also aimed at the young urban liberal audience. It is a well trodden path, and that is fine for private media companies.

That new competition was inevitable. it makes you wonder why the state broadcaster continued travelling down this path.

It was first cab off the rank.

Now it is pushed out by commercial competitors who see an attraction for advertisers.

Wireless alumni Megan Whelan has been made RNZ head of digital

Merger of “The Wireless” into the growing rnz.co.nz main website is a prelude to the government’s creating a new funding set-up for RNZ.

As part of the change, New Zealand On Air has said that as of November, it will no longer provide a $200,000 annual subsidy for Wireless content, 40 per cent of its claimed $500,000 budget.

So the Wireless was becoming unsustainable, and RNZ have had to dig in to its other taxpayer funding.

The transition is already underway for “The Wireless” into the vastly more popular mainstream site is already underway.

In a memo to RNZ staff on May 31, the head of news and digital, Glen Scanlon, who recently replaced Carol Hirschfeld as head of news, said that “The Wireless” content will remain accessible,

The technical transition is expected to happen in the background over the next three months. “The Wireless” team will be the foundation of the new long form investigative unit,” said the RNZ head of news.

“The Wireless” was launched in October 2013.

Support for the website was good in the first years. But a source familiar with the situation said it’s numbers have diminished substantially over the past two years.

Glen Scanlon

Nielsen figures for May 2018 show The Wireless had 44,534 unique browsers compared to 584,483 for its” commercial competitor “The Spinoff” and 1.7 million for the mainstream rnz.co.nz website.

So the change makes sense.

RNZ played down the May results from Nielsen, saying that unique results varied month by month. RNZ declined to provide requested details for specific dates.

On dates selected by RNZ “The Wireless” delivered 66,000 unique browsers, 82500 and 101,400. There was no need to announce anything publically, because the change was not yet apparent to the public.

There is no shame in trying and failing to reach a young demographic, All media are looking ways to tap into millennials and their media habits.

Former RNZ digital boss Glen Scanlon has replaced Carol Hirschfeld.

The question is why a cash-strapped public broadcaster targeted a specific social demographic, ignoring the mainstream youth audience. It appears to have misjudged its role as a public broadcaster.

Internally, some RNZ staff have neen antsy about the resources RNZ has pumped into The Wireless – and its video venture – while cutting costs on primary services such as news. and sound radio.

RNZ bosses insist that “The Wireless” met the same journalist standards as its main operations.

But three RNZ journalists who have worked in system said that was not the case. There was less scrutiny for content on The Wireless and lower expectations of a younger audience, they said.

Certainly, “The Wireless” appeared to have a greater concerns of identity politics, immigration, and human rights.  more than the challenges for Palmerston North twenty somethings getting a job

Which is not to say that these were relevant to a young urban liberal audience.

Maybe the hoi-polloi the non-politically correct audience does not consume online media, so there is no point in focusing on them.

There has been an overblown cliché about RNZ promoted by Right Wing – that it is Red Radio, divorced

Glen Scanlon

One event during the election campaign illustrated how The Wireless saw its role.

The Wireless commissioned a Green Party Young Greens co-convenor Meg Williams to interview Chloe Swarbrick.

The Spinoff had a similar schmooze fest. But it is a private company that had promoted Labour and the Greens in the run up to the election, Don’t we expect better from public radio? 

The Wireless perception was that the younger demographic was urban and liberal, like its staff.

Glen Scanlon – now the overall head of news – would not rule out similar items where activists get to interview allied politicians. Beyond that RNZ is in the midst of major changes that saw the departure of Carol Hirschfeld and a new push to develop more Maori content and closer ties with Maori TV

RNZ spokesman John Barr said “The Wireless” has broken new ground when it was launched and contributed some “strong journalism.”

The Wireless was feeding into and contributing the big growth in viewership for the main website, rnz.co.nz website.

He agreed the new competition had been a factor in the challenges,

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Dysfunctional HRC Targets Hate And Disharmony Streamed session A Fig Leaf For Commission Push

Green MP Golriz Grahraman is a high profile advocate for controlled speech,

A ministerial report from retired Employment Court judge Coral Shaw was a damning indictment of the Human Rights Commission, which was described as “dysfunctional” and “toxic”. Justice Minister Andrew Little is working with the State Services Commission to resolve problems which he said had been apparent to him, before media reports about its errant handling of a sexual harassment complaint. “Problems at the Commission came to me previously from a number of sources,” Little says. ”I made the judgment that the failure with the sexual harassment complaint was a product of a dysfunction at the Commission,” he says.

RNZ community engagement editor is in the media – but is expected to support restrictions on speech.

There have been other examples of mission creep at the Commission – with a focus on development of its own profile and what AUT history professor Paul Moon sees as evidence of an “ideology” developing at the Commission. In my opinion the Commission human sometimes act like a state-sanctioned activist, a role that is even more problematical with Labour and the Greens in power. The activist tendency is playing out in a nascent debate over “hate speech” – or “disharmonious language” as the Commission calls it. Two meetings on the topic held in Wellington, tomorrow, Tuesday May 22. One – led by Internet NZ – is being streamed and includes Golriz Grahraman amongst speakers. None of the speakers are promoters for free speech. It is chaired by Dr Paul Spoonley, an academic tipped for the role of Race Relations Conciliator. 

 

HERE IS THE FULL LIST OF SPEAKERS: https://internetnz.nz/event/hate-and-internet

 

The Internet NZ session is attached  to a closed and private meeting of NGOs organised by the Human Rights Commission.  a source familiar with the planning said that the streamed speakers was a public shop front while in the private meeting led by the Commission.

“ This is a fig leaf for what is going on at the HRC closed meeting,” the source says,

Internet NZ has acknowledged tomorrow’s session was linked to the controversial comments by Israel Folau, who responded to queries and said that under his religious views, homosexual people would “ burn in hell” if they did not repent.

Andrew Little sees problems at the Human Right Commission but sees a review hate speech rules in the future,

Attempts to pin down expectations for the HRC- organised meeting were fraught. The Commission insisted it was not working toward new hate speech legislation. Internet New Zealand initially wouldn’t discuss the allied meeting,

The upshot is that renewed debate about hate speech – at a time when the world is  obsessed with the notion of fake News – appears to be  being led by a Commission that is organisationally dysfunction. In my opinion the is taking too little stock of the importance for freedom of speech.

Labour may be wary of the HRC currently. But Little indicated he is prepared to limit freedom of speech.

Paul Moon has long questioned the lack of transparency at the Commission and an unwillingness to discuss its position on hate speech.

A July 2017 Commisssion report referred to concern about a more nebulous concept, “disharmonious” speech.

Moon says the Commission refuses to spell out what that means. Disharmony is not necessarily a bad thing.

Moon detects a mood at the Commission to introduce more controls over speech. akin to greater state oversight like those in Canada and in the UK.

Israel Folau and his comments that homosexuals would “ Burn in hell. The notion of hell – let alone that of a fiery tempest – seems olde world. How many people take his views so seriously they should be banned,

Yet numerous celebrities -including All Black TJ Perenara – and Newshub political editor Tova O’Brien – exercised their outrage and said Folau’ comments were beyond the pair. There is no room in my world for people who think gay people are going to hell” O’Brien said.

Many people did not like what Israel and Maria Folau said – but should they be silenced?

Freedom of speech does not exempt Folau is exempt from consequences and he got a sound whacking on mainstream and social media.

Views were expressed. People had an idea of the competing freedoms,

The HRC has been active in this space for a long time and regularly holds forth on perceived racism sexism, and transphobia 

We have now come to expect interventions from the state agency with chiding of people who break unstated moral rules, 

Dr Paul Spoonley is chairman of the Internet NZ speaker series and is tipped to be the next Race Relations Conciliator/

The Commissioners wax lyrical about Christchurch everything from utterances or the N word – which it had pre-arranged, a Chinese restaurant which used crass phrases on its menu and tweeting transexual former male who competed as a woman. Itmis not so much these views are advances, but that alternative opinions ar being shut out.

There is now an expectation that the Commission will make statement on any perceived example of what it calls disharmonious speech. What we know nowise that the state agency now comments on all incidents that involve race, gender or even tenancy problems.

 Little defends its media activities, but suggests problems may be due to a lack interest by National over the past nine years.

Andrew Little points out that the Commisssion has a role to promote understanding of human rights.

He said that in two or three years there may be a review so that New Zealand Human Rights laws are consistent with those overseas.

“It may well be that is the time to consider whether there has to be a beefing up over the coverage of hate speech,” he said.

“I am acutely aware that is an area that has the potential to seriously infringe on freedom of speech.”We need to find a line that is beyond obnoxious butclearly harmful and damaging” the minister said. 

The Internet NZ event is a shop front window with the real activity behind the scenes involving the Commission and lobby group. The most disturbing aspect is that the discussions are taking place in the name of diversity, where some opinions – on the importance of freedom of speech – does not have a champion.

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Activist Dumped From Oz Media Watchdog,

 

https://mumbrella.com.au/getups-carla-mcgrath-disputes-request-to-resign-from-press-council-517137

Activist Carla McGrath has vowed to resist her removal from the Australian Press Council. A year ago the appointment of McGrath to the Council set off a major row. She is deputy chairman of the Left wing activist organisation Get Up. The Murdoch media organisation had repeatedly complained about her bias, and said it wouldn’t abide by APC decisions she was involved with.

Who guards the guards of media standards? Should political campaigners have a role overseeing the Press that is greater than the general public.

Carla McGrath is deputy chair or the activist organisation Get Up

I’d argue that strongly held views must be considered by regulators considering complaints. But opinion must be free, and the opinions of a political activists do not reflect independence. Continue reading “Activist Dumped From Oz Media Watchdog,”

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The Top Cop Statement Was A Step Too Far

There has been a about the false Clarke Gayford rumours. But there has been limited debate about the decision that led the media to investigate and reject the rumours.In an unprecedented step last week, Police Commissioner Mike Bush stepped into the fray, telling the public that the rumours his staff were investigating Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s partner were not true.

“While in general we do not respond to enquiries which seek to confirm if individuals are under police investigation, on this occasion we can say that Mr Gayford is not and has not been the subject of any police inquiry, nor has he been charged in relation to any matter.”

Soon afterwards, Linda Clark, from the law firm engaged by Gayford, Kensington Swan, issued a statement saying that the allegations against him were “untrue and defamatory” and warning the media off publishing them. Clark is a former political editor of TVNZ and host of RNZ National’s Nine to Noon programme. She is also an occasional media commentator on politics. I can see that false rumours would have been very annoying and distracting for the government.

I am not sure whether the gossip at the water coolers and smoko rooms of the nation, as some in the media have suggestedsay?]]]

Commissioner Mike Bush

But media people love to gossip and it might have been sensible to address the rumours directly. Commissioner Bush’s statement indicated the rumours were false, but did not actually indicate what they were about. This in effect invited people to guess. In my opinion the statement from such a high placed public servant was risky.Has there been any transparency about how Bush came to take this extraordinary step? Maybe I have missed it.

If there had been a complaint, Would it have been impossible for police track down the gossipers. The police were obviously mentioned in the gossip so they might have deemed it appropriate for them to make a statement.

But by involving the commissioner – someone with a direct relationship with our political leaders – we seem to have taken a step too far.Maybe it was an extraordinary situation, but the statement from Bush makes it even more extraordinary.

Surely it would have been better to use one of the numerous assistant commissioners to make a statement.

Or maybe, to keep things even more simple, underlings from the public relations department/. Using the Police Commissioner to say “there is no story” looks like two bodies of state are acting in tandem.

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Will Jim Mather Hasten A More Maori RNZ?

CAPTION: Jim Mather with the his partner Annabel Lee, the executive producer of The Hui.

Jim Mather has been appointed chairman of Radio New Zealand. The new appointment comes at the end of an extended term for Richard Griffin  He held the post for two-three year terms and agreed to stay on for an extra year. The chairmanship of Radio NZ in the 2000-teens was difficult. The National Party starved Radio NZ of money and it had to sell assets. Finally the Nats relented.

Problems were resolved last year with extra funding in the Budget. When Labour got elected to lead the Government, the problem became too much political attention from Government, rather than too little.

Richard Griffin I

Griffin had been associated with National through his past role as press secretary to Jim Bolger. He had enjoyed good relationship withe Labour in the past. But he had never gotten on with Clare Curran, the new and pro-active minister of broadcasting. Curran formed an ambitious policy pf a new TV channel without talking Radio NZ/ Griffin and Radio NZ chief executive Paul Thompson resisted Labour plans to create the new TV channel. The Government and Radio NZ were looking in different directions. Then came the sudden departure of Carol Hirschfeld. The senior executive left after she was found her bosses about a meeting with Curran. It was a bizarre incident and we still do not know what happened

Clare Curran and Carol Hirschfeld

But it has left stain on the relationship between Radio NZ and the minister.

The upshot is that Jim Mather and the chief executive Paul Thompson will need to establish good relations with Labour before it can even try to maintain them. Mather may have the right manner for that approach. As chief executive of Maori Television for nine years. he maintained an efficient and mostly happy media workplace that spun out after he left. He went on to run the Maori educational body Te Waning o Aotearoa. He will not be as media savvy as Richard Griffin. But he knows people who know their way around. Mather is the partner of the Maori broadcaster Annabel Lee. who was executive producer for the Maori TV current affairs show Native Affairs. Currently she makes The Hui for TV3.

A key question now will be whether the appointment of Mather – a Maori – will hasten Radio NZ moves to increase its Maori content. That cause was promoted by Willie Jackson, a former leader of Maori broadcaster with past ties to Mather. Jackson is also a leader in the Maori Labour caucus and has close inks to Maori broadcasters.

Willie Jackson.

Radio NZ needs to better reflect Maori in its programming. But the Radio NZ networks are finely tuned to its listener.he question be whether Radio NZ can make changes and take existing listeners along with it. That was not the case last year when RNZ introduced of basic Maori language content . It was done without consultation with specific staff but little consultation with listeners. Some inside Radio NZ are wary that the top – management of RNZ – combined with the reforming zeal of Labour – lack the nuance and skills to create the transition to a more Maori Radio NZ.

 

 

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Can Radio New Zealand Trust Labour?

CAPTION: Clare Curran and Carol Hirschfeld.

Labour Party plans for big changes at Radio New Zealand are in a deep hole, after the Broadcasting Minister’s errant breakfast meeting with RNZ news boss Carol Hirschfeld.
Revelations about the encounter sparked a political storm, but Clare Curran has kept digging, and said this week that “this is a democracy” and she can meet with whomever she likes.
Th upshot is that Labour should consider abandoning its broadcasting policy, or the minister. There has been a breach of trust.

Can Labour implement its transformation of RNZ + ?

Curran’s breakfast with Hirschfeld, at the Astoria cafe on Wellington’s Lambton Quay, came two days before the minister was due to meet RNZ chairman Richard Griffin and chief executive Paul Thompson. Both men are known to be sceptical about Labour’s plans.

We don’t know the topics the two women discussed. It beggars belief, though, that either of them thought the breakfast date was acceptable.
The issue of most concern, however, is not that Hirschfeld attended an inappropriate meeting with a Cabinet minister. (There are strict rules against ministers trying to influence state-owned media.) It is that she repeatedly misled Thompson, her boss, by insisting that she had merely bumped into Curran at the Astoria. He, in turn, assured a parliamentary committee that the encounter had not been not pre-arranged.

Remember, this breakfast was back in December. Hirschfeld was then RNZ’s head of news and New Zealand was in the full flushes of Jacinda euphoria. The Labour Party, in its broadcasting policy, was dangling a $38 million funding carrot in front of RNZ.

But staff say that apart from Hirschfeld, RNZ’s top management was treating the policy – for a full-scale TV channel, RNZ Plus – with caution.

RNZ was right to accept Hirschfeld’s resignation. The incident has damaged the state broadcaster, which has long tried to overcome the overblown claims that it was biased in favour of the Left.

But RNZ staff I spoke to said Curran was getting off scot-free. Given the tensions between Curran and RNZ, should the PM step in to ensure Labour’s policy can be implemented?

eGriffin and Thompson have been wary of Labour’s plans for an RNZ TV channel. But in light of the Government’s belligerence on the issue, they couldn’t ignore the policy, and Hirschfeld was appointed to a new job overseeing the development of video, with a particular focus on Morning Report and Checkpoint.

Hirschfeld – who has a background in television – is said to have been a big supporter of the Labour proposal.
Staff I spoke to shared the concerns of Griffin and Thompson. They viewed the policy as unsustainable and feared it would take resources away from RNZ’s core skill base – radio.

The number of people watching video is so tiny that the cost cannot be justified. As one staffer said: “Ever since she [Hirschfeld] got here, it has been about putting in TV everywhere.”
More video content is seen as inevitable, but television is expensive and the proposed $38 million is a drop in the ocean.

Richard Griffin Inadvertantly lied to a select committee.

Now seems a strange time to be moving into the challenging TV business.
Labour’s policy rightly addresses a need for public broadcasting that is ignored under the present commercial-focused broadcast system.
But turning RNZ into a TV channel while ignoring Television New Zealand seems irrational.
Maybe with a minister cooperating with the RNZ board, such a move could be made to work.
But Curran’s action has severely threatened the trust relationship with RNZ. It is hard to see how RNZ Plus can proceed, under this minister at least.

 

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