Dom Post on TVNZ

February 19th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

State broadcasters are like Caesar’s wife: they have to be above sin and seen to be so. That is why had no choice but to resign as head of ’s Maori and Pacific Unit. He had used the broadcaster’s buildings for a Labour Party meeting, and its email to organise a Labour meeting held elsewhere.

He broke the rules that require taxpayer-funded broadcasters to be politically neutral. State broadcasters must not use their position to promote the interests of any political party of whatever kind. Mr Taurima sought the Labour candidacy at the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election last year, but the actual party brand is irrelevant. He would also have had to resign if he had held an ACT party meeting at his workplace.

It is not clear which other TVNZ staff members were involved in the meeting or in other party activities. The company’s internal inquiry will find out and then TVNZ managers will have to decide what to do. Mr Taurima knew he could not defend himself and did the honourable thing. 

The honourable thing would be to not have done it in the first place. According to TVNZ management Taurima told them when he was rehired that he would not stand again.

Mr Kenrick said TVNZ had sought commitments from Mr Taurima after his tilt for Labour at the Ikaroa-Rawhiti candidacy before restoring him to his role heading the department. “The key focus was to get him to make an explicit choice between journalism and politics, and to make commitments around that. We relied in good faith on those commitments.”

Did he lie, or just a few weeks later change his mind and not bother to tell them?

Whether other sackings are called for is a matter of judgment.

The staff in that unit are all basically taxpayer funded, as it is not a commercial unit.

State broadcasters have a special duty to be politically even-handed. This does not mean, as some believe, that the journalists should have no views of their own. Every sentient human being has certain political beliefs or attitudes, and journalists are no different. But state journalists must be professional and not push any party’s barrow.

Mr Taurima insists that he has never allowed his personal politics to influence his work as a journalist, and it is interesting that the prime minister has not claimed any political bias at TVNZ. In fact he thinks they are fair.

The PM has been very nice, when he could put the boot in. For my 2c I don’t think Taurima’s interviews showed political bias. He pushed David Shearer hard when he interviewed him. The issue is his breach of ethical standards, not his previous interviewing.

Mr Taurima was allowed to return to the company after he failed to win candidacy, and this is a defensible decision. Again, the expectation was that Mr Taurima, once he had taken off his Labour Party hat and put on his broadcaster’s one, would act in a professional and politically neutral way.

However, it is now reported that in January he facilitated a Labour meeting – held on a marae and not on TVNZ property – on how to win the Maori vote. This meeting was also attended by Labour leader David Cunliffe. Mr Cunliffe says he strongly supports a politically neutral state broadcaster. Did he ask himself, then, why Mr Taurima was running this highly political meeting?

I’m amazed warning bells did not go off.

Will Taurima still seek the Labour nomination for Tamaki Makaurau? Will they select him?

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19 Responses to “Dom Post on TVNZ”

  1. secondcumming (93 comments) says:

    My ol’ granma always used to say, “Never trust a Maori in a suit”

    Sadly, she’s no longer with us :(

    [DPF: 30 demerits. Racism not cool]

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  2. Nigel Kearney (1,013 comments) says:

    Anyone who thinks there should be special broadcasting based on race cannot be politically unbiased. Anyone who doesn’t think there should be special broadcasting based on race will not want to work there. So it’s just not possible to have the Maori and Pacific unit and also have 100% unbiased taxpayer funded broadcasting. Choose one or the other.

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  3. calendar girl (1,236 comments) says:

    Politically left sentiments are entrenched in NZ’s public broadcasting entities. They can point the finger at Taurima all they like, but he’s only the one individual who was unfortunate enough to be outed.

    Meanwhile, less-than-subtle socialist ideology continues to be pushed in too much of TVNZ and RNZ’s programming. It’s in their organisational DNA.

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  4. DJP6-25 (1,387 comments) says:

    What’s wrong with National? This is a golden opportunity to get rid of them. They’d gain more votes than they’d lose.

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  5. AceMcWicked (10 comments) says:

    You do realise you all sound exactly like the divs on Daily Blog with your unfounded accusations of political bias eh.

    Albeit, slightly more directly racist.

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  6. dirty harry (489 comments) says:

    Sell the bloody thing

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  7. Reid (16,471 comments) says:

    Meanwhile, less-than-subtle socialist ideology continues to be pushed in too much of TVNZ and RNZ’s programming. It’s in their organisational DNA.

    Yeah it is but it’s because lefties and media mix, full stop; not because there’s a link between state ownership and leftist bias.

    It’s obvious. Lefties live for propaganda and their lifeblood is changing attitudes. That’s why they call themselves pwogwessive – because the galloping mentals really truly think they are “advanced thinkers” and just as conservatives lay rubber on the road by re-designing the commercial environment, lefties lay rubber on their road by re-designing social mores.

    So therefore, ipso facto, cogito ergo sum, lefties infest two occupations like roaches infest a dirty student flat: education and media.

    THAT’S the problem. Not, repeat not, state ownership.

    If you really want to change media bias, which is what this issue is about, then strike at the root, not at the branches.

    And as I suggested yesterday, the strike at the root solution is to implement some kind of complaint authority who can turf out a biased lefty by preventing them from practising their profession and/or fining their organisation, everytime they exhibit it, which they do, as we know, all the time.

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  8. JeffW (326 comments) says:

    “Mr Cunliffe says he strongly supports a politically neutral state broadcaster. Did he ask himself, then, why Mr Taurima was running this highly political meeting?”

    Because in realspeak politically neutral means supporting the left.

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  9. iMP (2,385 comments) says:

    After the on air comments by a celebrated lesbian newsreader intimating physical harm against another party leader over sexuality politics, and her obvious professional demise the same day as the humiliating onair retraction forced by the Broadcasting Standards Authority, we have got to nip this stuff in the bud.

    The media in NZ have some serious work to re-establish professional credibility. Their reputation is in question here.

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  10. Pete George (23,567 comments) says:

    in realspeak politically neutral means supporting the left.

    No, it really means supporting the other lot. AceMcWicked is right, there’s as much moaning about media bias from both sides (The Standard is worst than The Daily Blog).

    If everyone was happy with the media all the time the media wouldn’t be doing their jobs properly.

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  11. the deity formerly known as nigel6888 (852 comments) says:

    sadly quite right Jeff

    Many of these leftists firmly believe they are reasonable centrist decent righthinking people, so are all their friends, and this must mean by definition that anyone who agrees with their perspectives is clearly politically neutral.

    Anyone to the right of them is by definition an evil capitalist who must be rooted out for his/her bias.

    Yet another example of the march through the institutions. Corrupt the language, and you can control the discourse, this is how Stalinist reactionaries can call themselves “progressive”. Its also why gay no longer means happy, and national socialist means right wing (OK i’ve invoked Godwin, thread over).

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  12. David Garrett (7,289 comments) says:

    Until my recent Broadcasting Standards Authority complaint was upheld in spades, I was reluctant to conclude that the state broadcaster was biased, and favoured the left…now I’m afraid there is no doubt of it, both with regard to RNZ and TVNZ. In the case of my complaint – that a programme on 3S on Nine to Noon was unbalanced and misleading – RNZ maintained staunchly that it was all a case of “freedom speech”..they just didn’t seem to get that that well used phrase does NOT mean “the freedom to broadcast a hugely misleading, unbalanced and deceptive programme from a left wing perspective”. RNZ maintained that position even after the BSA had roundly spanked them….it will be interesting to see what TVNZ does in the coming days.

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  13. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    Political media bias has stopped us hearing any more about a young boy who was plied with booze, then sexually assaulted, at a Labour Party function (when in Government), along with senior members and the ex-PM, also smoking dope and behaving like the losers we have come to expect. It would be good for an update on this disgusting behaviour, if I am right, even the failed aspirant for New Plymouth was there, and he will be ordering his union mates in media to bin everything, as has been done with other distasteful Labour behaviour.

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  14. tom hunter (4,852 comments) says:

    DPF, I’d like to imagine – and I’m sure the comrades at The Standardnista will be trolling these lines sooner or later – that your demands for a substantial inquiry are simply a Rovian tactic that will keep TVNZ completely on the back foot throughout a crucial and close election year.

    But the truth is that You Believe. In any other context it would be touching.

    You believe that the vast majority of people at TVNZ, and their counterparts at Radio NZ, are not totally and completely opposed to your right-wing ideology and will do everything in their power as “journalists” to make sure your ideas are strangled at birth, and by any means necessary? That they actually have journalistic “ethics” pushing them to produce balanced stories? That they won’t use every opportunity to sneer and snark even on the small things when they can’t create a bigger story – the former techniques being at least as important a political weapon as the latter.

    Furthermore you believe that a substantial part of the population still give credence to the stories produced by these farcical jackals – that’s when the stories actually have some depth to them, rather than the reality-TV style crap that forms most of the 6pm news and the shows that follow it – and as such is worth saving.

    You also believe – and this is expressed so well by your demands for an inquiry – that such will result in changes at TVNZ, real changes not just in its reporting practices but in something far more important, the primordial sea in which all this evolved – its culture.

    It won’t, for precisely the reason you articulate here:

    For my 2c I don’t think Taurima’s interviews showed political bias. He pushed David Shearer hard when he interviewed him.

    The issue is not a culture that shows political bias but an ideological bias. The political bias is merely the most obvious symptom, and hence the most easily dealt with (and the most easily hidden).

    He pushed David Shearer hard? In what way? Were you not skimming the left-wing blogs during Shearer’s reign? Shearer was viewed as bordering on being a class traitor, grudgingly accepted in the beginning only for the entirely pragmatic reason of being “electable”, and gleefully dumped as soon as that proved wrong. I have no doubt that Taurima was right there in the cheering section as the axe fell.

    Here is what will actually happen. There will be an inquiry. There will be long faces and deep sighs. Regret will be expressed. People will be reprimanded, even fired, or moved sideways. At some point one of the Public Address folks will write some chin-pulling bit about how mistakes have been made and that this is “not encouraging for the state of journalism in NZ”.

    But behind the scenes, once the noise has died down, people involved will pat each other on the back, wink, and chuckle ruefully as if they were naughty schoolboys caught out – and then get right back to pushing their agenda. When the values of the media culture itself are so corrupted by the desire for activism there is simply nothing that can be done in terms of management or policies to enforce neutrality, balance or fairness. The whole place will continue to decline in terms of viewers, revenue, and value.

    As others have pointed out, even selling this crowd will not change these things, they might even decide to out-flank TV3 on the left like MSNBC. But it will at least have the effect of raising some cash that can be spent on better purposes and avoid my tax dollars supporting people like this. We won’t garner the $1 billion that likely would have been achieved in 1999, but it will be better than what can be obtained in another ten years.

    The PM has been very nice, when he could put the boot in.

    Indeed. He knows he’s got them by the balls for the election. But what about the following elections and future National-led governments?

    From a non-pragmatic standpoint I’d like to speculate that John Key and National would simply go full Obama on TVNZ. Will Key order the tumbrels into motion, rolling up Victoria street towards the newly erected scaffolds?

    I’d like to think he’d burn the buildings down and salt the ground afterwards. It’s the Romantic in me.

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  15. calendar girl (1,236 comments) says:

    “And as I suggested yesterday, the strike at the root solution is to implement some kind of complaint authority …”

    Accepted that that’s well-intentioned, Reid, but I don’t find appealing the prospect of more bureaucracy playing at regulating the already all-pervasive bureaucracy encompassing our state-owned broadcasters.

    My preference remains: Sell all state-owned broadcasters, and let the market sort them out. If a broadcaster becomes known for overstepping its own (optional and declared) “politically-neutral” mark, or if it is openly pushing a political barrow not favoured by much of its audience, its private-sector owner will soon feel the heat and will make changes internally (and at his/her cost, not ours).

    For example, I get pretty annoyed personally every time TV1 News introduces Katie Bradford as its “political reporter”. (Incidentally, I would have no objection to her appearing on-screen in any non-political aspect of TV1’s reporting. But for TV1 to choose Sue Bradford’s daughter as its politically-neutral “political reporter” is, in my view, challenging its viewers to a point of disdain.)

    If enough of us felt that way about TV1 in private ownership, we could make enough noise to cause commercial concern to its private-sector owner. Such basic rules and sanctions don’t apply to State Broadcasters. They can largely ignore our views, with confidence and impunity.

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  16. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    Being like many others, our company no longer uses Mazdas, owing to the fact they give Weasel Campbell one to drive, and we carefully watch any major purchases, if they are advertised in any of the usual left-wing orchestrated outlets, unless absolutely necessary, we make alternative arrangements.

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  17. GPT1 (2,122 comments) says:

    Whether bias or not his interviews sucked – too many interruptions and over-talking with “surely Prime Minister” etc. Ask the questions, press hard but at least let the interviewees answer.

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  18. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    What’s the guts on “Tojo” Cunliffe’s cousin being his press secretary, at the same time holding a executive position with Fairfax editorial? This stinks, for more than one obvious reason, including leeching from the taxpayers’ trough as a highly paid secondary position.

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  19. OneTrack (3,107 comments) says:

    Pete – “No, it really means supporting the other lot. AceMcWicked is right, there’s as much moaning about media bias from both sides (The Standard is worst than The Daily Blog).”

    Nope. The Standard would criticise Stalin for being too far right. How about a test – how many obviously left wing jornolists can you think of? Quite a few. Now how many right wing? One? Then you have a bunch of puerile idiots in the middle. The result is you are left with a fairly left biased media.

    I must admit the NZ Herald has been coming up with the occasional well-balanced editorial recently – and this is a very recent occurrence. Maybe they have got a temp in.

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