Watching mediawatch

August 26th, 2008 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne has a look at National Radio’s Mediawatch:

There was never much room for doubt about the politics of Russell Brown, who originally hosted it. Peacock, who took over, seems an affable and intelligent sort of bloke and I couldn’t claim to know what his politics are, other than to repeat the observation that his programme has a tendency to assume ulterior motives for just about everything the privately owned media do. But the recent recruitment of two other contributors to Mediawatch raises some questions.

Jeremy Rose, like Peacock, is a likeable fellow (well, he’d have to be – he’s a mountain biker), but I’m sure he’d be the first to acknowledge that his politics are more pink than blue. He was closely associated with City Voice, a markedly left-leaning free paper founded by Simon Collins (now of the New Zealand Herald) which struggled heroically but unsuccessfully to find a niche in Wellington during the 1990s.

I remember City Voice fondly. It was indeed markedly left-wing, but was a good read all the same as a newspaper focused on Wellington City. And while talking matters media, I should praise the work Simon Collins does on the Herald. Simon is I am sure, still left wing. However the reporting he does for the Herald I have found to be very balance, and if one didn’t know Simon from his City Voice days, you might struggle to guess his leanings – which is how it should be

More recently, Mediawatch has started carrying contributions from Adelia Hallett. Hallett has a respectable background in journalism but also happens to be a former media officer for the EPMU, the union that covers journalists (or at least those journalists who have chosen to remain unionised). It strikes me as slightly odd that of all the people who might work for Mediawatch, Radio New Zealand happens to have chosen two with leftist associations.

Others might say it is not odd at all!

Today’s programme featured an item in which Hallett editorialised disapprovingly on an arrangement whereby a reporter for The Radio Network sits in on the daily editorial conferences of the Northern Advocate, which is owned by the same media conglomerate (APN) – the implication being that by sharing news, the two arms of APN are reducing competition (and ultimately threatening jobs). The item included critical comment from Tony Wilton, whom Hallett described as an “industry veteran”, but who is far better known these days as a long-standing official of … why, the EPMU.

In the “interests of full disclosure”, Mediawatch revealed at the end of the item that Hallett was a former deputy chief reporter of the Northern Advocate. But it evidently thought it not worth mentioning that she was also a former employee of the EPMU, a fact some listeners might have found just as interesting.

This is not to say that the arrangement between The Radio Network and the Northern Advocate was not a legitimate issue for Mediawatch to investigate. But when a programme consistently plays up stories that reflect badly on privately owned media while appearing to treat its host broadcaster as immune from criticism, when it appoints reporters with leftist political connections and doesn’t make all relevant disclosures, you have to suspect there is an unbalanced agenda at work.

A programme that sets itself up as a media watchdog – and a taxpayer-funded one at that – has to be squeaky clean. It has to ensure that it meets all the standards it demands of other media outlets in terms of fairness, balance, consistency and integrity, and then some. Can this be said of Mediawatch? Sadly, I don’t think so.

I think it is a fair call, that Mediawatch, of all programmes, has to be cleaner than clean.

12 Responses to “Watching mediawatch”

  1. Adolf Fiinkensein (3,677 comments) says:

    Very simple answer, David. I don’t listen to Mediawatch anymore.

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  2. IkbenBen (1 comment) says:

    I dunno, I listen to Mediawatch (as a podcast) here in the Netherlands (its nice to keep up with some NZ voices while away) and they do quite often make just as much fun/comment on the silliness of Radio New Zealand as any other broadcaster they cover. They are certainly not quiet on criticising TVNZ either.

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  3. the deity formerly known as nigel6888 (777 comments) says:

    imagine, radio nz hiring left wing commentators who don’t reveal their affiliations. I’m shocked, shocked I tell you. Next you will be telling me that Kim Hill, Chris Laidlaw, the 9-noon person, the person who fronts worldwatch, Brian Crump and Noelle McCarthy have left-wing views too?

    outrageous…..imagine that a taxpayer funded media organisation would have such a monolithic world view on all its prime-time programming?

    I got sick of RNZ nagging me to be a more “socially responsible” loyal citizen a very, very long time ago. Shame really, I used to enjoy saturday mornings, even with the reliably kurmudgeonly leftist brian edwards, at least he was entertaining. but alas, no more, my saturday morning is now reliably radio free.

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  4. kiwipolemicist (393 comments) says:

    I’m a regular listener to Mediawatch and I’ve noticed their lack of criticism of the many faults of Radio NZ reporting, eg leading questions or simply putting words into the mouth of the interviewee. It’s no surprise that RNZ is full of lefties, because journalists are traditionally left. When even the so-called Blue Party has a Red heart it is very hard for a right wing journalist to get ahead, because the government and all its agencies will shun him. Just try and imagine Ian Wishart getting an interview from Herr Helen for the NZ Herald; he’d have more success if he tried to buy a pork sandwich in a synagogue.

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  5. Redbaiter (12,022 comments) says:

    I find Mr. Du Fresne’s analysis kind of mild and naive and confusing in a way, as he seems to begin from the premise that the program has somewhat more worth than a pinch of salt. Who the hell these days thinks that?? Insufferably arrogant and pompous and completely committed to the propagation of left wing bigotry, the program has been bereft of any real credibility for yonks. Slavered over by the same kind of politically blinkered academic poseurs that present the show, but regarded by most as merely one more collection of boring leftist goons pushing left wing propaganda with public money.

    The irony of course is that these bigots with their insufferably self important and naturally hypocritical name (Mediawatch.. for chrissake how arrogant) are typical of the loons who feverishly rant on about the partisanship of FOX news. Tired old left wing drivel, and of course on tired old soviet radio. Dinosaur media at its worst.

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  6. Tauhei Notts (2,399 comments) says:

    It was Perigo who initially called them
    National Socialist Radio.
    Nobody can convince me that Perigo was wrong.

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  7. Berliner (16 comments) says:

    Adelia is also down as Carbon News Editor

    Adelia Hallett is Carbon News’ Editor. She brings more than 25 years of newspaper reporting and communications experience to the role, including work for major daily newspapers, magazines, and in public relations and managing her own businsses. You can contact Adelia by telephoning +64 (9) 431 6991, or e-mailing

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  8. PhilBest (5,004 comments) says:

    Yep, when the Left becomes “the establishment” there are no limits to their hypocrisy. Even a “Media Watch” ostensibly set up to address the issue of “balance”, will be stacked.

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  9. artemisia (550 comments) says:

    I’m also a regular listener to Mediawatch. I have noticed that it is increasingly targeting itself to an audience of journalists, rather than the interested public. No specifics, sorry, just a sense that they are losing touch with (at least) me.

    I did wonder what the problem was with APN staff sharing stories. Seemed to me like an excellent idea.

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  10. Russell Brown (383 comments) says:

    The irony of course is that these bigots with their insufferably self important and naturally hypocritical name (Mediawatch.. for chrissake how arrogant)

    Quite. I eagerly await your denunciation of the National Business Review’s ‘Media Watch’ column on the same basis.

    But seriously: Karl makes a valid but relatively minor point: if a prominent EPMU official was to be quoted, Mediawatch should have noted Hallett’s other former job. But it was a very interesting story nonetheless. The fate of provincial media ought to be of interest to everyone. If you’re going to imply that the business and editorial decisions of “private media” are somehow off-limits, you’re going to have a bloody boring media programme.

    Karl is also right in saying that my personal views weren’t a secret: hardly surprising given that I’d been writing a proto-blog for a decade before I hosted Mediawatch. But does that really mean that a journalist (say, Karl, whose political views are quite public) should be denied a job for which they are well qualified? That’s a bit scary.

    And I would note that when Deborah Coddington published her daft report on left-wing bias at RNZ, she wasn’t able to identify actual example of bias in the programme on my part. I got the same sort of flack before Media7. But you know which media organisation has provided more of our panelists than any other? The National Business Review.

    Criticising your own organisation will always be tricky for a show like Mediawatch — it was when I was there (although I must say we never had a problem with the news head John Howson, who we switched to answering to a few months into the programme). But it does happen, and in the case of TVNZ, Mediawatch has been hard on that organisation many times over the years. It’s not like Tom Frewen was ever flavour of the month up on Hobson St.

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  11. expat (4,097 comments) says:

    Quite Russell.

    It is a valid point that the participants union affiliations weren’t mentioned, not minor however given the issues that our freedom loving unions such as the EPMU have at present.

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  12. Redbaiter (12,022 comments) says:

    Mr Brown, leftism is a state of mind. There is no way that a bunch of leftists could ever really provide anything other than a left wing perspective even if they wanted to. They just do not have the required nouse. Its why the only way to balance is to have a real right winger on the show. (rather than a token one)

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