Caption: RNZ’s Right versus left political commentary has been key in defining Hooton’s profile. (Photo credit RNZ)
Matthew Hooton is attacking RNZ’s joint investigation with TVNZ and Nicky Hager into whether New Zealand is a tax haven. Last week in the NZ Herald, I reported that the government was not pleased that two state media were involved in the contract with the International Consortium of International Journalists. RNZ chairman Richard Griffin is said to be unhappy about what he saw as a focus on Nicky Hager.
Hooton ran a series of tweets yesterday alluding to vague allegations suggesting RNZ had allowed its integrity to be forsaken and pressing for RNZ to reveal the terms for the deal with the ICIJ. More is likely on his Nine to Noon commentary this morning.
In my opinion, Hooton’s campaign is valid, but a distraction from the main story whether Government is complicity in encouraging tax avoidance foreign trusts. Hooton attacks have been given energy by the lack of a slam dunk story spelling out Government complicity assisting the industry. Some will argue the joint investigation is a healthy sign that State media are not scared to annoy the government. Not all investigations bear fruit, and media have to delve. It shows particular independence for RNZ which is seeking an end to its 8 year funding freeze. Hager told me last week that there were no obligations for him to be given a profile and in any case he only appeared in one item. I asked RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson last week if he was comfortable with Hager’s involvement. He said; “You will be aware the ICIJ brought the three partners – RNZ, TVNZ and Nicky Hager – together. It is a collaboration that has worked really well. To single out just one thing, Nicky’s expertise in delving into databases has been a huge help as we were up against tight deadlines,” he said. “Our audiences have relished the coverage and I’m not aware of any adverse feedback from them about Nicky’s involvement. RNZ has full editorial control of our coverage and the team’s work has been of high quality. This type of collaboration is an exciting and positive development for journalism at a time when the news media need are under intense pressure. the RNZ ceo said. Separately. the RNZ digital news editor Alex van Wel last week wrote a first person article about the investigation suggesting excitement about the initiative at RNZ. The item was published on the RNZ website.