Matthew Hooton asks if a re-elected Clark Government will abolish the free press. Now of course they will not abolish it, but as we have seen with the EFA one can generate a “chilling effect. And the Government is already consulting on whether the press council’s functions should be tranferred over to the Government appointed Broadcasting Standards Authority. Hooton make the following points:
- Helen Clark, of course, viciously attacked the media in her speech to the Journalism Education Association last year.
- She accused the New Zealand Herald of running a “full-blooded attack” on her Government and lamented that complaining to the Press Council “just doesn’t get you anywhere”, suggesting she wants other remedies available to her.
- Earlier, in 2006, Clark attacked the Sunday Star-Times for daring to run my fortnightly column, and Radio New Zealand National for my half hour a week politics slot with Laila Harre.
- Frighteningly, as part of her attack, she used a Maoist-sounding description – “the peoples’ radio” – to describe Radio New Zealand National, suggesting what she thinks the role of the public broadcaster should be and that providing a range of contestable opinions for listeners to consider is not part of it.
- Finance Minister Michael Cullen has threatened the New Zealand Herald with changes to its tax status if it didn’t change its position on taxation, and accused press gallery journalists of self interest in asking him questions about tax relief.
- Former Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey broke the law in trying to influence Radio New Zealand’s editorial content but, when challenged, said he would do it again.
- If it hadn’t been for the “chilling” Electoral Finance Act, it would be possible to dismiss speculation about a secret Labour agenda to control the press. But they did it for paid media. Why wouldn’t they extend that principle to unpaid media?
As I said above, there is already a consultation document on replacing the industry self-regulating Press Council with the Government appointed Broadcasting Standards Authority which could be given legislative control over broadcasters, print media and Internet media. I attended one of the meetings held to discuss this (I volunteered to be on the body of this new media overlord!).
And as Matthew says, who would have thought in 2005 that Labour would pass a law making it illegal for the EMA to run newspaper advertisements against changes to KiwiSaver by Trevor Mallard!