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.
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 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.