Du Fresne on Radio NZ

April 2nd, 2013 at 7:30 am by David Farrar

writes in the Manawatu Standard:

I have some advice – unsolicited – for whoever takes over from Peter Cavanagh, the chief executive of Radio New Zealand, who steps down toward the end of this year.

RNZ is a national treasure, but it’s a flawed treasure, and that makes it vulnerable. By correcting the most obvious of those flaws, whoever takes over from Mr Cavanagh could help protect the organisation against political interference.

So what is this flaw?

So what might the new RNZ chief executive do to enhance the organisation’s standing in a political climate that is less than favourable? One obvious step is to take a tougher line against the editorial bias that still permeates some RNZ programmes.

Public broadcasting organisations, by their very nature, tend to be Left-leaning. It’s not hard to understand how this comes about. Journalists distrustful of capitalism naturally gravitate toward state-owned media organisations, seeing them as untainted by the profit motive. This becomes self-perpetuating, since the more Left-leaning an organisation becomes, the more it attracts other people of the same persuasion. The result is often an ideological mindset that permeates the entire organisation.

I think that is a nice summary of the problems that inhabit most state funded broadcasters. There is no “master conspiracy” that a broadcaster such as tries to be politically left-leaning. It is just that they tend to attract left-leaning staff, and sometimes have a workplace culture that is hostile to non-conforming views.

To be fair to Radio NZ, they are nowhere near as bad as the BBC. And certainly some shows try very hard to have a diversity of views.

But publicly funded broadcasters have an obligation to make programmes that reflect the views and interests of the entire community – not just those the broadcasters happen to favour.

This is explicitly stated in RNZ’s charter, which commits the organisation to impartial and balanced coverage of news and current affairs.

It’s the duty of the chief executive, who also has the title of editor-in-chief, to ensure this happens. But in this respect, Mr Cavanagh, an Australian who was recruited from the ABC in 2003, has been missing in action.

The ABC is arguably a worse offender.

Overall, RNZ presents a more balanced range of perspectives than it used to. But on some programmes, a stubborn Left-wing bias persists.

Kim Hill is the worst offender. This is a problem for whoever runs RNZ, because she’s also its biggest name.

Chris Laidlaw lists to the Left too, as does Jeremy Rose, a journalist who frequently crops up on Laidlaw’s Sunday morning show. Rose appears to be on a lifelong mission to convince people that there are humane alternatives to nasty, heartless capitalism.

Heh I have to admit that Mediawatch seems to have at least one segment every week complaining about the evils of advertising. They even spent two weeks talking about that some food company sent some free samples to some journalists who tweeted about their launch. Shock, horror.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that RNZ should become a tame government puppet. That would be far worse than the status quo.

But we all have an interest in Radio New Zealand surviving, and a genuinely independent, non-partisan RNZ will be in a far stronger position to defend itself than one that consistently leaves itself exposed to allegations of bias.

It is a fair point.

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47 Responses to “Du Fresne on Radio NZ”

  1. Pete George (22,771 comments) says:

    And certainly some shows try very hard to have a diversity of views.

    I believe some shows do allow token righties to have a say.

    But didn’t they ban Bomber? That proves they hate the proper left.

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  2. Mobile Michael (411 comments) says:

    Du Frense is wrong. Ibdon’t listen to RNZ National, or RNZ Classic FM so don’t have any interest in it. There a multitude of broadcasters out there that are able to provide similar content, there is no market failure. If listeners really want an ad free general interest station it should either go to a PBS model where consumers donate, or a subscription model like Sky. Either way, I wouldn’t have to compulsorisly fund a broafcaster I’m not interested in listening to.

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  3. UglyTruth (3,956 comments) says:

    It’s not being biased to the the left that is the problem, it’s the statist bias. Both the left and right political positions have relevance for society. The statist-libertarian political axis is more relevant for a media organisation because of the state’s use of fictions to achieve its ends.

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  4. Manolo (13,336 comments) says:

    I’m not suggesting for a moment that RNZ should become a tame government puppet. That would be far worse than the status quo.

    RNZ should be the puppet of its private owners, not the government. It must be sold to the highest bidder.

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  5. Yoza (1,525 comments) says:

    “To be fair to Radio NZ, they are nowhere near as bad as the BBC. “

    The BBC was a cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq and regularly parrots commentary of the worst crimes of state committed by the UK, US and Israel that fits comfortably with those establishment’s PR programs. Du Fresne, like Farrar, occupy a position that is so far to the right of the political spectrum that just about anything run by the state is viewed as ‘left-leaning’.

    I can’t help noticing the ‘left-leaning’ Radio New Zealand only ban left-wing commentators from their panels – when will Bomber Bradbury be making a reappearance on Jim Mora’s afternoon panel?

    [DPF: The majority of commentators on The Panel are left-leaning]

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  6. calendar girl (1,172 comments) says:

    There’s no reason today for the Government to own radio stations or TV channels.

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  7. Andrew M (43 comments) says:

    Bomber is banned from RNZ in much the same way that I am banned from RNZ, they just announced he wasn’t going to be invited back because he added nothing to the discussions.

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  8. All_on_Red (1,336 comments) says:

    Du Fresne is absolutely correct. The leftist bias is palpable. There is little if not nil representation or presentation of any views which arent left or hard left. Yet 50% of voters in NZ have other views. RNZ fails its charter obligations this way every day. I understand that some NZ Ministers now refuse to appear on their programs. And good on them. Its pointless being put in a position where you get attacked and frankly they wont win any of the audience over anyway.
    Its worse in OZ. The ABC receives $1.5 billion in funding yet has no Conservative/liberal presenters what so ever.
    Here also Liberal ministers refuse to appear.
    A great website which continually fisks the ABC bias and group think is http://www.thesydneyinstitute.com.au/media-watch-dog/
    Have a look.You might not recognise the actors but you certainly will recognise the type…
    DPF and Whale do a bit of this but we probably could do with something like this here. Karl? How about you?

    No one would buy RNZ unless they could clean out the presenters. Look at what is happenng to Fairfax. They are just going down hill bigtime and eventually they will be gone.Sure print is dying but many advertisers refuse to give them money because of the views espoused. RNZ just wouldnt make any money. I note that Murdoch does better simply because they are more impartial and factual(cue howls of outrage from the usual cocksuckers).
    Fox is another successful example.

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  9. tvb (4,199 comments) says:

    Kim Hill is a dreadful old yes old harridan who likes the sound of her own voice. I never listen the saturday morning because I cannot stand her nasaly sneering voice. Awful creature. Her views should be balanced by right wing opinion, that is all. Maybe the sunday slot should be filled by someone on the intellectual right. There are plenty around. At least Q & A does balance opinion. Unfortunately Susan Wood is dreadful, as well, though she is more neutral in her opinion. But I saw her continue to interrupt John Howard. Does that woman seriously think we want to hear her all the time??

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  10. Manolo (13,336 comments) says:

    Once again: why doesn’t Labour lite privatise RNZ? It should a campaign promise for 2014?
    Oh, wait… they lack balls.

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  11. dime (9,388 comments) says:

    Im just glad we have RNZ. Imagine a world without them? no privately owned radio stations can survive..

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  12. KiwiGreg (3,170 comments) says:

    “RNZ is a national treasure,”

    Seriously? It’s a radio station unable to attract listeners without the rest of us being forced to pay for it.

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  13. nasska (10,622 comments) says:

    As ‘All_on_red’ has well stated Red Radio is basically worthless with its current commie presenters. It does however, own valuable radio frequencies.

    Perhaps the best solution would be to simply close it down & sell the assets to the highest bidder.

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  14. Pete George (22,771 comments) says:

    I think it’s important to retain a public radio broadcaster.

    Whatever part of the political spectrum they may appear to favour surely private broadcasters will fill other gaps due to market demand – if the public want it.

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  15. kowtow (7,588 comments) says:

    Bradbury not welcome at RNZ?

    Excellent.Maybe they do listen to their owners ,who are the taxpayers ,not the gummint.

    One day after listening to some meaningless tirade of shite from Bradbury on Afternoons I emailed them to let them know what I thought of him. If I did perhaps others did too.

    We still live in a democracy,flawed,but guys don’t let shit pass ,complain ,let your voice be heard.Democracy is more than casting a ballot once every 3 years.

    RNZ is a nest of leftist,indigenous touting vipers ,du Fresne is bang on the button.I hate the idea that my taxes are funding their promotion of a leftist world view.

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  16. ChardonnayGuy (1,131 comments) says:

    Personally, I’m tired of duFresne’s continual whining against abortion rights. For an allegedly “ex” Catholic, methinks the gentleman in question is far too prone to pontificating about issues that don’t directly affect him, like women’s reproductive freedom. It was good to hear Deborah Coddington on the centre-right defending women’s reproductive choice on Q+A this weekend.

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  17. lazza (358 comments) says:

    You said : “But we all have an interest in Radio New Zealand surviving, and a genuinely independent, non-partisan RNZ will be in a far stronger position to defend itself than one that consistently leaves itself exposed to allegations of bias.

    It is a fair point”.

    For me. The treasured quality, breadth and depth of the RNZ offering is sufficient to my ears of itself without putting left/middle or right tags to it. The RNZ gem must be protected sure … from Government financial and editorial finagling, not from any doctrinely imagined political bias.

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  18. All_on_Red (1,336 comments) says:

    “not from any doctrinely imagined political bias”

    He says singing “la la la la ” with his hands over his ears.

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  19. Harriet (4,502 comments) says:

    Yoza #

    “….The BBC was a cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq and regularly parrots commentary of the worst crimes of state committed by….”

    And then they became traitors – straight after having set them up! :cool:

    “…..Leave aside, for the moment, the particulars of the Gilligan story. The BBC’s Iraq coverage was so obsessively anti-war that the crew of the Ark Royal stopped watching it in disgust during the hostilities.

    Thus, questions addressed to the Tories typically start from the premise that their only rational way back to power is to become more like the Labour party. On Europe, the premise is that the sceptics are outlandish and extreme. On Ireland, it is that the ‘peace process’ is sacrosanct.

    On the Middle East, it is that Israel is the cause of the impasse, with virtually no reference to the fundamental Palestinian breaches of the ‘road map’. And on Iraq, it has been that the initiative was doomed to disaster at every turn, with each setback or negative report given disproportionate attention….” – Melanie Phillips.

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  20. KiwiGreg (3,170 comments) says:

    @ iazza – you like it so much YOU pay for it.

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  21. spector (180 comments) says:

    Most people understand why governments build roads, schools and hospitals but would be unhappy with governments spending money on roads that go nowhere or schools that no one goes to. I’m not an RNZ listener, so maybe i’m wrong, but is RNZ really even a necessary piece of infrastructure for the country? Can anyone on here give me one example of how RNZ has made a tangible difference to NZ in anyway over the last 20 years? Because I get the feeling the only reason it exists is because it always has.

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  22. Matthew Hooton (124 comments) says:

    Martyn Bradbury was “banned” from RNZ after he spent a few hours at the pub with me, and then went onto Jim Mora’s Show and read out – I should say, ranted out – a blog post from Tumeke when asked a fairly innocent question. Now sometimes I have been a bit OTT on RNZ but Martyn kept at his rant it when specifically told to stop by the host, which I don’t think I have ever done. So it wasn’t really a “ban” – just a “thanks but no thanks”.

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  23. Harriet (4,502 comments) says:

    As if one bloated government department would ever dare to bring down any of the other bloated government departments.

    The staff at RNZ are the Platorian Guard to the rest of the public service, shielding departments from their waste and mismanagement.

    They also create fear and doubt about capitalism to maintain the mirage that big government is needed.

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  24. kiwi in america (2,432 comments) says:

    Matthew – first your BBQ smooths Shearer’s eventual elevation to LOO now you are behind Bomber’s ban – can we call you the Karl Rove of NZ politics?

    Radio NZ tilts reliably left through almost all its shows. Matthew gets equal time with Pagani or Williams on NTN’s Monday morning political rundown and Jim Mora makes an attempt at times on The Panel but that’s about it. A short glance at Kim Hill and Chris Laidlaw’s guest lists and topics under discussion tell you all you need to know about their bias. Hill seems only interested in pleasing the effette Wellington progressive elite crowd. Even guests she has on to talk about ‘business’ are normally tree huggers who hate capitalism. Her interview of Tony Blair was very aggressive as was the one with John Howard with her positions being unashamedly from the left. There is no changing her stripes but how about RNZ allows Bob Jones to have a 3 hour show where he invites right tilting guests. Never would happen under Cavanagh.

    The bias filters down and wide at almost every level you can imagine. I used to think Katherine Ryan was a straight shooter who kept her political leanings well hidden until her disgracefully biased recent interview with Chester Burrows and a slimy lawyer who represents welfare cheats over the government’s proposal to ping partners of those claiming fraudulent benefits. Her business commentator Rod Orem can be relied upon to spout Labour Party economic spokesmen’s talking points on any number of business issues of the day. Even when RNZ try to balance they can’t seem to bring themselves to get a proper conservative or centre right spokesperson. Summer Noelle’s “Two Views” series was a ‘balance’ between the soft and hard left or the left and the quishy centre – it was laughable. Listening to Brent Edwards softball interviews of the Greens and Labour is painful …not to mention the constant ‘government in crisis’ meme that “Focus on Politics” peddles. It’s always lovely to hear the RNZ political staff report on National and Key’s stubborn poll ratings after all they’ve tried to do to dent them!

    The ideological echo chamber is so reliably liberal that even centrist views would be seen as right of centre to them and would be in their minds be an adequate discharge of their fairness duties. If the ratings were high maybe there would be more of an outcry. If a wealthy socialist owned RNZ then they can broadcast Kim Hill’s trendy arty capitalism hating talking heads all they want but taxpayers cover the entire bill here and a charter says they have to be impartial and unbiased. Its no wonder a National led government is reluctant to give them more money – to pay their staff to disproportionately poke them in the eye more than compared to the parties on the left.

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  25. Reid (15,917 comments) says:

    So it wasn’t really a “ban” – just a “thanks but no thanks”.

    One assumes it was the immense lefty outrage at some imaginary injustice that got him going? How ironic if so. Hoisted by one’s petard. Oh the humanity!

    I was surprised Du Fresne didn’t single out Mary Wilson as well. I mean if she understood the position properly she’d be very good but she often doesn’t, apparently and probably because she’s a raging lefty inside of her head and she can’t think straight. But once she’s got this wrong-headed conclusion, she proceeds to hammer the [false] point and doesn’t listen to a thing the interviewee has to say about it. People like Joyce and Brownlee just talk over her now, they don’t even listen to her questions. Which usually makes them some of the better interviews in the show.

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  26. lazza (358 comments) says:

    @ iazza – you like it so much YOU pay for it.

    Willingly … just as WE pay RNZ and for the NZSO, The World Cup, The America Cup and all. Its called democracy Buddie. If you don’t like the spends then change the gummint.

    Funny that! as its “The Nats” (not NOTE the LEFT!) who have kept these public expenditures in place.

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  27. All_on_Red (1,336 comments) says:

    “WE pay RNZ and for the NZSO, The World Cup, The America Cup and all’

    Close the Orchestra too.Let the elite progressive/liberals who enjoy it pay for it. I dont see any benefit for anyone else. As for World Cup and Americas Cup, those events have had cost benefit analysis completed on them. They provided a huge amount of income for the Country.
    I really dont think RNZ would pass any cost benefit analysis- as many of the above comments prove.

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  28. John Barr (3 comments) says:

    A couple of posts have alluded to Radio New Zealand listenership so just to ensure we are all talking with the correct information – publication of Nielsen Media audience data and listenership figures shows that Radio New Zealand National was New Zealand’s top rating radio station in 2012 – the second year running that Radio New Zealand National has finished the year as the country’s No.1 station. Radio New Zealand National had a nationwide station share of 10.5% for calendar year 2012 – well ahead of its nearest commercial rival on 8.9%. Not bad in a country with more radio stations per head of population than anywhere else in the world – and those figures exclude all international, audio on demand, and podcast listening.

    John Barr
    Communications Manager
    Radio New Zealand

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  29. Reid (15,917 comments) says:

    John what say you on the allegations of editorial bias?

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  30. lazza (358 comments) says:

    Thanks John Barr for THE FACTS! about RNZ’s popularity. I quote:

    Nielsen Media audience data and listenership figures shows that Radio New Zealand National was New Zealand’s top rating radio station in 2012 – the second year running that Radio New Zealand National has finished the year as the country’s No.1 station. Radio New Zealand National had a nationwide station share of 10.5% for calendar year 2012 – well ahead of its nearest commercial rival on 8.9%.

    Soooo go boil your heads all you bitchers and moaners (see above).

    You may choose to set your own standards of perceived “bias” … Yeah … go ahead!

    But in the real world, where performance matters (Nielsen figures quoted!) SUCK on that!

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  31. kiwi in america (2,432 comments) says:

    John Barr
    All the more reason for RNZ to do something about its institutional left leaning bias and balance things up. After all National and ACT voters pay your salary and yet our views get a minuscule airing and our politicians must face supposedly neutral hard news reporters who routinely give them a far rougher time than their fellow travelers in the Greens, Labour and Mana.

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  32. Bob R (1,335 comments) says:

    Heh, I’m a conservative Lawrence Auster (RIP the great man) fan who enjoys Kim Hill.

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  33. Tom Jackson (2,458 comments) says:

    Oh for God’s sake. The only reasonable suggestion in the thread is for Bob Jones to be given a show. He’s about the only rightie in NZ with brains, taste and wit. People on the left would happily listen to Jones because he’s not a moron like Leighton Smith.

    Yes, we know that non commercial broadcasting has non commercial values. Commercial broadcasting is largely sustained by privately funded ads, and he who pays the piper calls the tune. Complaining about it is pointless.

    The real problem with RNZ is that it’s a bit lowbrow for a public station, and Concert FM has also been dumbed down in some respects and their CD player seems to play works out of order too often.

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  34. backster (2,076 comments) says:

    I like the Farming Show on Saturday Mornings, the rest is left wing crap. Shut it down.

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  35. spector (180 comments) says:

    10.2 percent is a big enough share of the listening population to suggest that RNZ is delivering what a large amount of people want. It’s also a large enough percentage to argue it doesn’t need subsidisation at all and could stand on its own two feet without help from anyone if it allowed advertising. RNZ could always pick and choose who they are willing to take money off so they wouldn’t have to advertise the local car yard if they don’t want to. The extra income stream would allow everyone who works there to be paid better and they would have their own resources to do whatever they wanted without having to go cap in hand to the government.

    I don’t buy into the argument of “advertisers control the content” simply because I’ve never seen a case of it actually happening. Bad PR stories about Coke or McDonalds end up in the media all the time and their wallets can’t seem to stop that happening.

    The true test of transparency would be for RNZ to have a discussion on RNZ about whether RNZ was to biased one way or another. :)

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  36. Tom Jackson (2,458 comments) says:

    Bill Maher. There’s one example.

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  37. spector (180 comments) says:

    “Bill Maher. There’s one example.”

    An example of what? What did he do? Was he an advertiser that controlled the content of programming? Did he stop free speech through use of money etc..?

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  38. Yoza (1,525 comments) says:

    I always find it funny that objective critical analysis is generally fobbed off as left-wing by far right extremists, the most obvious recent example being the attempt by the far-right/corporate apologists/neolibs to fob off global warming as a vast left-wing conspiracy cooked up by the vast majority of the planets scientific community.

    Radio New Zealand commentary only on rare occasions rises to the level of objective critical analysis, most of the time it meekly parrots an establishment line with the most comical example being ‘From the Left and From the Right’ on Ryan’s Nine to Noon: Matthew Hooton is definitely from the ‘right’, but trying to pass off Mike Williams or Josie Pagani as left-wing is just plain insulting, these two would quite happily slot right in to the National party.

    The big problem with the right-wing agenda is the more successful they are at implementing their policies the more disastrous the consequences for society generally. The right are self destructing, once again, and Radio New Zealand is the most convenient scapegoat.

    “Hey, look! Here comes a messenger, quick prepare the firing squad!

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  39. OneTrack (2,579 comments) says:

    John Barr @12:40 – Thats great. So you wont have any problem with the government selling RNZ off since you obviously don’t need the support of the taxpayer any more.

    Sounds good, when will you be starting?

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  40. OneTrack (2,579 comments) says:

    Lazza @11:15 – “Funny that! as its “The Nats” (not NOTE the LEFT!) who have kept these public expenditures in place.”

    No, it just shows that “The Nats” ARE the left. Maybe not your tribe though which is why you were confused.

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  41. duggledog (1,337 comments) says:

    If Maori TV were found to be returning a higher audience share than TV1, TV2 or TV3 or Prime or anyone for that matter, would their (similar sized to RNZ’s) budget be decreased? What would happen there? Hmmm?

    RNZ is diametrically opposed to any form of advertising or sponsorship for no valid reason I have heard of or can think of. Like it’s some last bastion of decency. Actually it’s never even been discussed. This Government must be scared of Maoris and intellectuals. Me – I’d say run some advertising on RNZ at least. Even one ad a year. Oh the humanity! I can almost guarantee nobody would die as a result.

    Yoza, you clearly do not listen to RNZ or if you do your ears are shut tight. Just as an example, let’s think of an opposite to the artists formerly known as Martyn Bradbury or that current loathsome shrieking girl from Dunedin, Anna Chin. They are allowed on to Jim Mora’s The Panel, but someone equally as vociferous as say… Michael Laws would NEVER be a guest. Ever. Name a contender currently on the roster that is as venomous in their opinions. You can’t. So, there is no consistency. There is a back room political agenda. If you can’t see it I can’t help you but tell you what, everyone else can.

    Case in point just today – in the ‘light news’ spot at 4.56 pm, they gave poor old Rintoul (from the Farmer’s Party or whatever) four minutes to give his agenda. Four minutes! Yes I counted. Poor guy doesn’t even have an advisor to tell him he was going to be shafted!

    I’d hate to see RNZ closed sold or downsized. They should just use their allegedly awesome numbers to help out the increasingly stretched taxpayer and maybe be a little less obviously left wing. What’s the worst that could happen?

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  42. Yoza (1,525 comments) says:

    Anna Chinn, left-wing? The mind wobbles!

    “Name a contender currently on the roster that is as venomous in their opinions.”

    Well today’s offering, Graham Bell, always strikes me as a venomous reactionary right-wing nut.

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  43. Reid (15,917 comments) says:

    “Hey, look! Here comes a messenger, quick prepare the firing squad!

    That’s certainly how it used to be in the olden days Yoza. Suddenly, after the conservative firing squads had rolled through, there were no more complaints, so by definition, all was well.

    That’s why we call them “the good old days.”

    Don’t you know anything?

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  44. kiwi in america (2,432 comments) says:

    Yozza
    RNZ will remain irredeemably right wing in the eyes of the hard Marxist left like you. You’d only be happy if John Minto replaced Kim Hill and Annette Sykes took over from Jim Mora.

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  45. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    Duggledog, heard that int. The sniping woman petulantly stating she thought he was bonkers but made no analysis to support her view. It was a joke

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  46. KiwiGreg (3,170 comments) says:

    “Willingly … just as WE pay RNZ and for the NZSO, The World Cup, The America Cup and all. Its called democracy Buddie.”

    No you dont, you’re full of shit. You rely on the government forceably expropriating other people’s money. If you “willingly” pay for RNZ send some extra voluntary bucks their way. All of your examples are things I oppose my money being spent on forceably.

    3 wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for lunch might be democracy but it doesn’t make for good policy or governance.

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  47. Francis_X (149 comments) says:

    There is no “master conspiracy” that a broadcaster such as Radio NZ tries to be politically left-leaning. It is just that they tend to attract left-leaning staff, and sometimes have a workplace culture that is hostile to non-conforming views.

    It would probably help clear up the imptression that RNZ is “left wing” if National ministers actually bothered to take up invitations to be interviewed. Ducking their responsibility to front and promote governdent policy is not only self-defeating, but gives the impression that National is in fear of media scrutiny.

    As for the supposed “culture” that supposedly attracts left-leaning staff – have you guys forgotten Maggie Barry? She’s now a National MP for flip’s sake!

    And David, really – you’re a regular guest on Jim Mora’s show. Are you suggesting that you’re “attracted by left-leaning staff”?

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