When you can say fuck on air

October 5th, 2009 at 1:10 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogs on the F word, and how often it is used on TV now. I’m not that interested in that (I hardly even realise when the word is said), but on his quoting rules from various radio and TV networks.

Radio New Zealand’s programme rules state: ‘In general, senior managers will never approve the word “motherfucker”, and the word “fuck” will only be approved in rare circumstances where context justifies its use.’

But what if one is talking about a Tasmanian?

The Radio Network has an even stricter policy.  ’Fuck’ may not be used by its programme hosts or talk-back callers. Like all talk-back stations, the ZB network operates a 7-second delay, allowing hosts to delete unacceptable material before it is broadcast.

So Radio NZ is slightly more liberal. I’m on the Panel this afternoon so maybe I’ll see if I can slip it in – just kidding Noelle :-)

TV3 will allow limited use of obscene language after 8pm but takes a much more relaxed approach after 9.30. (Outrageous Fortune and Seven Days are both TV3 programmes broadcast after 9.30.)

Wasn’t the Ralston Group on after 9.30?

TVNZ takes a similar position. Though it will on occasion broadcast the f-word after 8.30pm, it prefers to restrict its use of the word until after 9.30. If the word is used more than twice, the programme will be preceded by a viewer warning.

I love how they have a quota. More than two fucks and you get a warning!

Most New Zealand newspapers will not print the word ‘fuck’ in full, preferring to use asterisks as in ‘f**k’. This always struck me as rather silly, since there are very few New Zealanders who would not be able to fill in the missing letters.

It is silly, but I sometimes do it myself. It is a way of conveying what was said, without perhaps repeating any offence.

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Key’s formula

September 12th, 2009 at 2:48 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins writes in the Dom Post:

If they could bottle what John Key’s got and sell it, National would make a killing.

It might be a seemingly innocuous brew of good humour and affability, rather than the traditionally more coveted mix of charisma and skilled oratory, but it clearly works.

I’m going to return back to what Tracy wrote, but want to cut over to another story that I think is a superb example of what Tracy is on about. It is this one about firefighters protesting outside the opening of a new fire station by the Prime Minister, over their pay claim.

Now this is the sort of issue that would normally prompt a discussion in the PMs Office and the PM. You will be worried about the negative message getting in the way of the positive message about funding a new fire station.

Now I can say with some certainty that the way previous National PMs would have handled the situation is to have the Minister of Internal Affairs do a press release and briefing the day before the briefing setting out how the Firefighters Union is misleading over their pay claims, and that with their various allowance they rake in $70,000 and spend so much of their time sleeping on standby, most can easily do a second job, and that their total pay per hour actually spent working is well over $50 an hour. This would then put the pressure on the union and protesters to respond, and take the heat off the PM.

Again with some confidence I can say former Labour PMs would handle it very similarly. The key difference would be that they wouldn’t have the Internal Affairs Minister release the information publicly, as they don’t like to be seen crapping on the unions that fund them. Instead a press secretary would give the relevant information to a journalist, and they would rely on the rest of the media picking up the story.

So what did John Key do:

The firefighters, in their yellow protective clothing, waved placards, chanted and pressed themselves against the station’s glass roller doors as Mr Key spoke.

After the opening, he went outside and addressed them through a megaphone.

He insisted he had not yet received a recommendation on wage rises from the Fire Service.

“All we’re saying to you guys is we’re living in a backdrop where a hell of a lot of people are losing their job, where the Government is running big deficits and where we’ve all got to be reasonable.”

Mr Key said that if insurance levies, which pay the Fire Service’s wages, went up then more pressure would be placed on taxpayers, already struggling with the recession.

“At the end of the day what we’re trying to do is make sure there isn’t huge pressure on a lot of people that are losing their jobs,” he said.

Union spokesman Boyd Raines said Mr Key’s response was “fairly predictable in terms of the Nats’ party line”.

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However, Mr Raines added: “It was good to see that he actually had the balls to come out and actually front up to the crowd.”

And quite a few of the protesters would have said the same thing. Don’t get me wrong – they are not going to suddenly convert to National because of what Key did. But they will say, “Hey at least he did us the decency of listening to us, and talking to us- rather than just attack us”.

And this is what is a strength of Key’s. He comes across as so reasonable. Apart from some of the authors of The Standard (and some of the commenters on this blog!), most people can see that and respond to that. They think he’s a nice talented guy, who tries to reasonably engage with everyone – even those who are there to protest against him.

So back to what Tracy said:

This is what has Labour strategists scratching their heads. As the party heads into its annual conference in Rotorua this weekend, it faces the same dilemma National once faced: when your opponent’s most potent weapon is its leader, is an old-fashioned contest of ideas going to be enough?

Maybe it’s that “what you see is what you get” quality to Mr Key’s leadership that strikes a chord with voters. It is hard to find artifice in a man who makes verbal gaffes, has a nice line in self-deprecating humour, talks about his kids a lot and has never worried too much about looking statesmanlike.

Again, one could imagine it easy to have someone advising the PM that whatever you do don’t pick up a megaphone and talk to the protesters. The arguments would be that it is undignified, it puts you on their level, it might look bad on the news etc etc. But he doesn’t worry about that very much.

Politicians have never underestimated the power of a friendly smile and an open and engaging face. Helen Clark crawled out from under the ignominy of dismal poll ratings as Opposition leader by smiling more and softening her voice under the tutelage of Brian Edwards and Judy Callingham. The remarkable thing is that she even had to be taught; in a more relaxed setting, Miss Clark loves nothing more than a good laugh, and does so boisterously and often. But she almost had to unlearn years of political training to unlock the person within and even then never managed to drop the shield completely.

Of course, spin doctoring can only go so far and, in the wrong hands, a politician’s smile can be an unmitigated disaster. Take British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He cemented his unpopularity only after an attempt to connect with voters by smiling scarily and at random through an infamous YouTube clip.

Simon Hoggart, in The Guardian, likened it to “the smile a 50-year-old man might use on the parents of the 23-year-old woman he is dating, in a doomed attempt to reassure them”. Even Mr Brown’s own colleagues could not hold back from poking fun at him.

Ha that is a great analogy.

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Edwards on Key

August 21st, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogs on John Key:

Recently I bumped into Paul Henry having coffee with his daughter in trendy Herne Bay. He’s really very nice when you meet him in person off the box. Or maybe it was the civilising presence of his very nice daughter.

Anyway, we got to talking politics, as you do. He was enthusing about John Key whom he’d interviewed that morning. ‘The thing about him,’ he said, ‘is that he just answers the question. You ask him a question and he just answers it. ‘

I’d formed precisely the same impression watching Key on television. He seems natural, unaffected, nice. There’s no sense of the wheels going round in his head as he searches for a clever, stay-out-of-trouble answer. Nothing obviously  Machiavellian. No evident side. ‘He just answers the question.’

I’m tempted to joke that his comms staff have tried their best to train John up to not answer the question, but they’ve failed :-)

Sometimes I get a bit frustrated that John does answer pretty much anything media ask him. Hence we had the PMs views on the schoolboy rugby fight. I don’t really blame John for answering the questions, but do wish media would ask him more about policy issues and less about his view on schoolboy rugby fights.

I’m inclined to think that this is the real John Key, just as the niceness is the real John Key. I’m a Labour man from way back and I’m saying this – Key might just exemplify the core advice we give to all our clients: In your dealings with the media, be straightforward, tell the truth, admit your mistakes.

The John you see is the real John. Many media have commented to me that he hasn’t changed at all since becoming Prime Minister.

Trouble is, Key isn’t the government. If any one person is the government, it’s Bill English who doesn’t ‘just answer the question’. Ideologues never just answer the question. Ideologues always have a hidden agenda.

Edwards is correct that Bill doesn’t tend to just answer the question. Bill thinks carefully about his answers. He considers whether his answer is consistent with the past, and could it have ramifications for the future. Bill worries about consistency, precedents, ramifications etc. He sees pretty much every issue as complex (and they usually are)

Bill is not an ideologue. When he was Leader he pursued a very moderate agenda and when he was rolled by Don, the “ideologues” in Caucus were all very much in Don’s corner. And his record as a Minister was pretty much someone focused on what is practical, than the need for philosophical consistency.

This is why the Key-English partnership works pretty well. Neither of them are strongly ideological and Key’s spontaneity works well in the leadership role and Bill’s caution is well suited for a Finance Minister.

Key’s role isn’t unlike what David Lange’s role was – to be the palatable face of the government’s free-market agenda. His role is to be nice, just as Lange’s role was to be the lovable raconteur, the engaging comic, the avuncular Methodist defender of the welfare state. Nice, warm, not scary.

Key is and Lange was the frontman. Whether Lange knew it when he was first chosen as leader is open to question. I doubt that Key is so naïve.

I can see the picture that Brian is trying to draw, but I think the comparison fails. Yes John Key is the warm face of National. He is far more popular than National itself is. But he is not just a smiling frontman who leaves everything to his Ministers.

In fact his style has been more like Helen Clark’s. He intervens often in portfolios, sorting out issues when they begin to threaten the Government. He sorted out the S92A fisaco after no Minister wanted to touch it. He has over-riden his Defence Minister a couple of times. He got his cycleway of course. He also was intimately involved in big packages such as the Youth Opportunities.

I’d even venture an opinion that he may be even more hands on than Helen Clark. Clark would use Michael Cullen a lot to sort out the real thorny issues. So far Key has been doing most of it himself. He is also probably more engaged with coalition management than his predecessors.

So, as the Government slowly but surely rips the heart out of the welfare state, rewarding the rich and punishing the poor, Key’s job as frontman is to be the ultimate populist PM. His numerous U-turns on policy are a reflection of that. If he had an embroidered sampler above the desk in his Beehive office, it would read IF THEY DON’T LIKE IT, CHANGE IT.

Heh that is not entirely off the mark. John will do unpopular things, but sparingly and on his terms. And as I have said before he does not see a compromise as a sign of weakness. He comes from a commercial background where a compromise is normal. It is how deals happen.

The nonsense about ripping the heart out of the welfare state is Brian getting tribal. The Government is spending more money than ever on the welfare state. I wish it would take an axe to parts of WFF, but it won’t.

Despite all his protestations, I’m willing to lay odds that that will be the fate of the misnamed Anti-Smacking legislation. They really hate that.

People should read very carefully what he has and has not said. The reaction to the outcome will be very interesting.

The comments on the blog post are p very interesting, including one from David Lange’s widow – Margaret Pope who makes the case that Lange wasn’t just the smiling frontman that people now describe him as.

It is one of the things I love about blogs is that it allows people with direct relevance to a discussion, such as Margaret Pope on Lange, to easily add their contribution.

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Labour’s campaign for Mt Albert

April 27th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

firstbillboard

Thanks to Auckland Trains for the photo of Labour’s campaign billboard.

I’m stll amused by Labour launching their campaign before they have a candidate. Do they not realise that there is no party vote in a by-election – only a candidate vote?

Also not sure stealing Winston’s campaign slogan is a smart idea. People may ask then why they stopped the MP who lives in Mt Albert from standing, and instead are parachuting in a UN guy?

Now that Shearer is guaranteed to win. Head Office is highly dominant with 3/7 votes, but the local electorate committee will not necessarily roll over and play dead for Goff’s old school friend. The Herald has a photo of all the candidates here.

Brian Edwards blogs:

Meanwhile the media, and seemingly the party hierarchy, appear to have anointed UN diplomat David Shearer as Labour’s candidate for the seat. It’s a strategy that may well backfire. Shearer’s abilities are not in question; he might well make a first class MP. But local electorate organisations don’t like being presented with a fait accompli where candidate selection is concerned and may well rebel.

Edwards continues:

Seven votes will decide who wins the Labour nomination for Mount Albert – four from the electorate and three from Head Office. If I were one of those four, I might well be starting to feel somewhat disgruntled around now. Whether it is reality or not, the perception is that that the old boy network is at play here. A close friend and former advisor to Phil Goff, who has been out of the country for three years and does not in any real sense live in the electorate, has jetted home to be dubbed ‘frontrunner’ in the race before even getting off the plane. There are veiled suggestions of carpetbagging. None of this may actually be the case, but it is certainly how it looks. And in politics how things look is everything.

Perception trumps reality in politics.

At another level, what Labour now needs more than anything is rejuvenation. Shearer will be new to Parliament certainly, but his age and close association with the Labour establishment do not really suggest an infusion of fresh ideas. And with the announcement that Russel Norman will stand for the Greens, rejuvenation and new ideas have become an urgent priority.

I should declare that Judy and I have both offered 24-year-old Meg Bates our support in her attempt to win the nomination. Meg has been one of Judy’s tutors in Political Studies at Auckland and we have got to know her very well.  If she doesn’t win the nomination, we’ll be delighted to support whoever does.

Dame Cath Tizard has also endorsed the young Bates.

This is not Shearer’s first attempt at Parliament. In 1999 he was a list only candidate for Labour – was ranked No 62. In 2002 he was ranked No 45, and stood in Whangarei where he did not do so well. Labour beat National in the party vote by almost 4,000 votes but Phil Heatley won the electorate vote by over 3,000 votes.

Looking at the vote splitting, Shearer got only 74% of the Labour vote, and 1% of National voters, Heatley got 92% of the National vote and 14% of the Labour vote.

I understand Shearer also stood for the Waitakere nomination at one stage, but lost it to Lynne Pillay.

Shearer may also struggle with how well he fits the rejuvenation that Labour claims it is about, as he is in his 50s.

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Edwards on Easter

April 10th, 2009 at 11:08 am by David Farrar

As I had my rant about Easter Trading on Wednesday, today I’ll merely quote from well known left voice – Brian Edwards:

If I were a retailer, I’d be pretty hacked off that in the middle of a recession, with punters keeping their hands firmly in their pockets, I was about to lose two days earnings. And all because a couple of thousand years ago a Jewish preacher and revolutionary was executed in Judea and, according to his supporters, rose from the dead two days later.

I thought it was three days later?

So somehow or other we have come to the position that stuffing your face with hamburgers, pizza or KFC, eating and drinking up large in a restaurant,  going to see No Country for Old Men (R16 Graphic Violence) at the flicks, or watching a rented porno, all constitute serving God, while buying plants or tools to tend your garden on Good Friday constitutes serving Mammon.  Though it’s no longer sinful on Easter Sunday.

Praise be to such a liberal God.

In the first place, religious belief  has no legitimate role to play in lawmaking. When and whether shops stay open must be solely a matter of industrial law and not of religious observance. Holy days and holidays must not be regarded as synonymous.

And Easter Sunday is not a public holiday. It is purely a religious day.

But if we are to have undemocratic and retrograde legislation, let it at least be consistent. Let’s not make absolute fools of ourselves by saying that it’s OK to make money renting videos, selling duty free watches and flogging pulp fiction at airports, but not OK to make money by selling someone a lemon tree or a spade to plant it with.

Either ban the lot and make us all wear sackcloth and ashes for two days, or give every trader and every potential customer the right to make up their own mind on what they’ll do at Easter. I’m for the latter. Let’s open the doors. Let’s breathe the fresh air of freedom. Let’s, for heaven’s sake, grow up!

I am sure there are many areas where I disagree with Dr Edwards, but this is not one of them.

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Edwards on Henry

April 9th, 2009 at 4:16 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards joins the blogosphere and asks what to do with Paul Henry. He looks at how Paul is loved and loathed, and I really like his conclusion:

Who’s right – his critics or his defenders? Both. Henry is an obnoxious prat.  His ego is out of control and, as a broadcaster, so is he. He has done  more than enough to deserve the boot.

BUT he is also one of the most intelligent, most incisive, most accomplished, most polished, and most entertaining broadcasters this country has ever seen.

Can’t live with him, can’t live without him.

Edwards is right. Paul Henry is offensive and at time obnoxious with an ego that could fuel a fleet. But he is also a genius broadcaster.

You have to accept both sides of Henry, to reconcile how you react to him.

On the issue of Stephanie Mills, there can be no doubt Henry behaved appallingly towards an invited guest. If you knew Mills personally, you would especially be outraged by what Henry did (interestingly Mills herself very sensibly did not lash out, but said it is about her issues, not her or Henry).

But while intellectually I know Henry was a brattish prat twoards Mills, I also had tears of laughter as I watched the clip of the show. When you don’t know the target personally, offensive humour can still be very very funny. And for me it wasn’t so much about Mills, but about the train wreck it caused as Henry ignored Ali and his producer, and them seems bemused by the hate mail, and even then his “Oh go from a group” reotort. It was like an episode of Borat.

I’d been having trouble reconciling my intellectual dislike of what Henry did, with my instictive hilarity at the situation. You feel guilty for laughing so loud.

But Edwards get it right, as I said. Henry is both an obnoxous prat and a great broadcaster. Don’t pretend he can be one without the other.

So what does Brian Edwards propose be done:

So what should be done with Paul? Well firstly he should be fronting Close Up. Mark Sainsbury may be a nicer person, but he isn’t a patch on Henry as a broadcaster. He stumbles his way through the programme, is often barely articulate and his interviews are a shambles. But he’s responsible and safe and Henry isn’t.

So here’s my solution.  Mark goes back to his previous job as a political editor. He was extremely good at that. Paul takes over Close Up where he is likely to beat the pants off the much nicer John Campbell. But there’s a proviso. Henry’s contract includes a ‘penny in the jar’ clause. Every time he breaches the Broadcasting Act’s standards of balance, fairness, decency or good taste, $10,000 is deducted from his salaryand donated to the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards. Should work.

Heh, I quite like that idea.

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A new way to end an interview

November 10th, 2008 at 4:32 pm by David Farrar

Was on the phone to Radio NZ being as part of The Panel discussion with Jim Mora and Brian Edwards. We were discussing John Key’s options with Maori Party and ACT, then suddenly I heard some bells in the background, and it seems the fire alarm went off at Radio New Zealand.

As they said they had to go, I told them I hoped it was a false alarm!

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Actually there are three people who believe Winston

September 5th, 2008 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Whale Oil has found a third person who beleives Winston. They are:

  1. A toothless crone in Africa
  2. The Prime Minister
  3. A Dr Brian Edwards of Herne Bay

Can they make five? Some people have suggested Peter Williams believes Winston. But as Matthew Hooton has pointed out, Williams is a very sucessful criminal defence lawyer. He may have got many criminals out of jail, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t think or know they were guilty.

I think all the NZ First MPs have worked out they can’t believe Winston. They just can’t say so. I can’t rule out Peter Brown still believes him though.

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