David Farrar with Nicky Hager
State media is being attacked for spending money on news stories that the government doesn’t like. Pro-National Kiwblog today criticised RNZ coverage of the Panama Papers. RNZ joined TVNZ and Nicky Hager of the ICIJ to pore over the leaked papers exposing tax avoidance – focused on references to New Zealand. Kiwiblog’s David Farrar rightly points out joint project was a bit of a fizzer. He is entitled to his opinion but the attack on the state broadcaster is both personal and political, in my opinion.
I expect RNZ, TVNZ and Hager would have expected better stories given. But Media need take risks for important editorial projects and inevitably some will not deliver. That applies to the private sector as well as state media. RNZ’s only failing was self-regard depicting the venture a romantic mission to uncover the truth and participants as rather special. But the broadcaster is not alone in that.
(As day to day journalism comes under pressure and standards slide there is mutual backslapping and media proclaiming what a great job investigative reporters do.) Besides that gilding of the daisy, it was worth taking part. The government had given misleading advice and dismissed concerns. It has have been proven wrong by the Shewan Report. That shows it was worth a punt.
“A reader has sent me this OIA response from Radio NZ regarding their collaboration with TVNZ and Nicky Hager. It outlines how taxpayer money was spent on paying for an exclusive that turned out to be a fizzer. Remember all this information was being released publicly anyway. They just spent taxpayers money on trying to get an exclusive. Key points of interest are:
Despite all the talk of how restricted their funding is, they had their chequebook ready to go from the beginning.
They appear to have both paid the ICIJ to become a “partner” and paid Hager as an “independent investigator”
They appear to have offered setting up Gmail addresses for people
They have with-held some info on the basis of it being a trade secret.
I wouldn’t think they should hold out hope for more funding the next time they make a budget bid!”
I have a lot of time for Farrar, who is unapologetically partisan. This post spells out who state media can and cannot work with. The post reflects long running antagonism from the Right toward RNZ and government embarrassment about its handling of the foreign trusts scandal. The blog post seems to relish the idea RNZ will have trouble ending its long running funding freeze. Farrar will say his criticism relates to what he sees as waste of money.
But that is nonsense. RNZ was unpopular with the government working with Hager on this project. The RNZ chairman Richard Griffin is said to have been “disappointed” by the what is seen as the focus on Hager in the RNZ reports. The Prime Minister has frequently attacked Hager – to an almost irrational degree. Now Kiwiblog advises RNZ should not expect funding relief.