Radio NZ abandons comments

July 12th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Radio NZ reports:

Comments on news websites are a fraught topic. For a long time they seemed like the way forward, a way to bring the audience into the stories, and let’s face it, comments are still what media analysts like to call “content”. In the social media, mobile-driven world comments are the ultimate in “engagement”.

But for as long as there has been comments, “don’t read the comments” has been a common refrain. If you’ve spent any time in discussion forums, you’ll be familiar with the pedantry and bad behaviour often found there.

As far back as 2012, Gawker Media founder Nick Denton said the promise of thoughtful discussion hadn’t been fulfilled.

“I don’t like going into the comments … For every two comments that are interesting – even if they’re critical, you want to engage with them – there will be eight that are off-topic or just toxic.”

And so, news websites began turning off comments sections. Popular Science, CNN,, Reuters, Bloomberg and The Daily Beast have all turned off comments in the past couple of years.

“It is no longer a core service of news sites to provide forums for these conversations,” wrote The Week’s editor-in-chief Ben Frumin. “Instead, we provide the ideas, the fodder, the jumping off point, and readers take it to Facebook or Twitter or Reddit or any number of other places to continue the conversation.”

When RNZ switched on comments last year, it was an experiment to see whether we could create a space where thoughtful and insightful comments would thrive.

And while the comments have been, for the most part, exactly that, there haven’t been many people involved in that conversation.

More and more, the conversations around RNZ’s journalism are happening elsewhere. We want to focus on making those spaces reflect that journalism and our charter.

As part of our upcoming overall redesign of the website, we’ll be making it easier for you to find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, and you can always email us, text us, or even send us an actual letter.

Interesting things are happening around comments, like the Coral Project, and we will be watching those.

To use the parlance of the internet, this isn’t a flounce, it’s TTFN.

Radio NZ and Hager

July 8th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A reader has sent me this OIA response from Radio NZ regarding their collaboration with TVNZ and Nicky Hager. It outlines how taxpayer money was spent on paying for an exclusive that turned out to be a fizzer. Remember all this information was being released publicly anyway. They just spent taxpayers money on trying to get an exclusive.

I wouldn’t think they should hold out hope for more funding the next time they make a budget bid!

Key points of interest are:

  1. The idea to pay Hager seems to have come from Guyon Espiner
  2. Despite all the talk of how restricted their funding is, they had their chequebook ready to go from the beginning
  3. They appear to have both paid the ICIJ to become a “partner” and paid Hager as an “independent investigator”
  4. They appear to have offered setting up Gmail addresses for people
  5. They have with-held some info on the basis of it being a trade secret!

UPDATE: Just had a phone call from Guyon Espiner who has clarified that he did not propose paying Hager. His e-mail references are about Radio NZ joining the ICIJ, not hiring Hager. I accept this entirely. The e-mails I got sent are a partial set, and it was not clear what the references were in relation to.

Update2: A fuller set of e-mails has been released to me and can be viewed here.

Radio Nz OIA by David Farrar on Scribd

Guest Post: Willie Jackson on Radio NZ

April 1st, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Willie Jackson:

What to do about Radio New Zealand?

Last year RNZ cut its last Maori dedicated news in prime time Manu Korihi from its airwaves and not a word of criticism was directed their way in the Pakeha media world.  Politicians irresponsibly also said nothing and a station that gets 35 million in taxpayers funding now not only doesn’t  have one Maori presenter in prime time but it doesn’t have any Maori news.

It’s a story I have tried to get on mainstream media particularly in the main National newspapers but none were interested in doing anything, not the Herald, Dominion or any of the Sunday weekend papers.  Of course I knew the reluctance or resistance to support my request was probably based on the fact that all those outlets have virtually No Maori working for them.

So obviously they were not going to back my call for an examination of RNZ’s Maori policy when their situation is equally questionable.  Still my campaign which is in fact a campaign that we initiated on Radio Waatea which I head and is supported by our iwi radio network has been going well. People are asking the question “HOW DOES RNZ GET AWAY WITH IT?”

My view is that they get away with it because no one bothers to challenge them, mainstream media don’t care and politicians do nothing apart from greenlight the racist strategies that they come up with.  RNZ is one of the best examples of institutionalised racism in this country.  There is no other way to describe how this organisation is operating, they have had generations of tax payers’ dollars and they are meant to be the voice for all New Zealanders yet the Maori voice is silent and to many of our peoples stories are untold.

Recently my team at Waatea carried out an audit of RNZ’s Maori stories over a 12 week period.  The results were alarming but even more alarming was the way RNZ tried to defend themselves.  Our evaluators determined that in the 12 week period only 0.1 percent of stories were Maori focussed. RNZ rubbished our audit and said we missed some stories which was true but when they calculated what we had missed it worked out to a mere one percent.  That’s how stupid and sensitive the defenders of RNZ are they try to defend the indefensible. 

Paul Thompson the RNZ CEO then decided to release their new Maori policy after reluctantly acknowledging that I might have had a point over their lack of Maori content.  Instead of coming up with a plan that would see more Maori stories on RNZ, his main priority for the next few years will be to train his Pakeha journalists to speak Maori.  It is the most stupid and insulting Maori strategy that I have ever seen.  The strategy is born out of ignorance and the belief that anything is probably better than what they have now which is nothing.

RNZ seem to think simply hiring the odd Maori journalist and getting their Pakeha journalists to pronounce Te Reo properly is all they have to do to live up to their public broadcasting obligations under the treaty but they need to come up with a Proper Maori strategy that will see Maori news and programmes go from 2 percent to at least 15 percent and they need to throw away the silly strategy that CEO Thompson has come out with.  They must go back to having Maori specific news, after all they have Pacific Island news, media news, political news and farming news.  In fact it seems sometimes that even native birds might have a better chance of getting a news show before Maori, given how many bird sounds we hear daily.  

Once upon a time they even had Maori language segments on National Radio, but that was cut five years ago, they probably thought their Pakeha announcers who try their best but sadly can’t speak Maori to save themselves were more than capable in the reo to honour their Maori language obligations.  So getting te reo Maori back on air should be mandatory.  And wouldn’t it be great to hear a Maori presenter on one of their frontline shows.  It seems incredible that in the whole 91 year history that we have not had one person deemed good enough to present a daily National Radio show.

Think about all the top Maori radio and TV presenters you’ve heard and seen over the years.  Here’s just a few of them – Henare Te Ua, Derek Fox, Selwyn Muru, Julian Wilcox, Wena Harawira, Scotty and Stacey Morrison, Shane Taurima , Miriama Kamo,  Mihi Forbes  who is now a reporter with RNZ and of course let’s not forget RNZ head of news Carol Hirschfeld has also been a TV presenter and producer.

Yet not one of those people have ever been given an opportunity to front a regular national daily show.  RNZ has a colonialist BBC mind-set which discriminates against Maori presenters. Surely as we debate the merits of removing our colonial relics from the flag it’s time to do the same with RNZ.  All people should be outraged by this shutout of Maori on our National network. I implore politicians to act, Maori are 15 percent of this country’s population and we currently get 2 percent of the action on our National station that purports to be the national voice that is not how the treaty partner should be treated.

If it’s not a breach of Radio New Zealand’s charter then it should be and if we get a zero response which is highly likely then Maori seriously need to consider a Waitangi Tribunal claim against RNZ and the government similar to the Te Reo Maori claim of 1986. I have spoken to Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell about this issue and he has asked the right questions.  However Te Ururoa needs help and asking questions isn’t going to do it, this lot need to be given clear directions in terms of their Maori strategy or they will continue with the current nonsense.

The Minister of Broadcasting Amy Adams has to act, she must recognise the discrepancies here, talk with the RNZ board and demand that RNZ change their Maori strategy to one that will see Maori properly reflected in their programming, the aim has to be 15 percent.  Anything less will mean that Maori stories and Maori announcers will remain tokenistic and an afterthought.  Go to the RNZ National radio website right now if you don’t believe me and count how many Maori presenters they have.  It is a disgrace but what will be even more shameful will be if our politicians and the RNZ Board do nothing, let’s see what happens.

Radio NZ pinged by OMSA

March 24th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

Businesses’ responsibility to moderate comments on their social media pages has again come into sharp view, with an Online Media Standards Authority (OMSA) ruling against Radio New Zealand (RNZ).

Offensive statements about Prime Minister John Key and his late mother were posted on a video on RNZ’s Checkpoint with John Campbell Facebook page, attracting several OMSA complaints.

One complainant, M Lubbock, said the comments went “far beyond any legitimate criticism of John Key and into territory inciting his murder and comments about wishing his mother had died in the gas chamber.”

The comments were incredibly vile. And they were up for several days.

Multiple complainants expressed concern about their “seriously offensive” nature, as well as the time it took for them to be deleted. They provided links to WhaleOil and KiwiBlog posts outlining the threatening comments, which OMSA accepted as evidence.

The value of screenshots!

They were posted between Friday, February 19 and Sunday, February 21, with the bulk being made over the weekend. RNZ’s community engagement editor removed all offensive posts on Sunday afternoon and raised the page’s profanity filter to block out any further comments containing expletives.

In multiple responses to the complaints, RNZ repeatedly told OMSA it took down the comments as soon as it saw them appear. However, OMSA ruled RNZ should have instructed staff to actively monitor the page from Friday, when it first became aware of any offensive comments.

If they were aware of them on Friday, that is when they should have taken them down.

I don’t think publishers should be liable for comments that they have not seen. But an organisation with $35 million in taxpayer funding should be more pro-active in checking than Radio NZ was.

The OMSA ruling is here. Some extracts:

The Publisher removed several offensive comments on Friday, 19 February. However, further comments were made on Saturday and Sunday. RNZ said once they were made aware of the new comments they were removed, several people were banned from the Facebook page and some comments were reported to Facebook. RNZ also confirmed that as a result of comments made on Saturday, 20 February and Sunday, 21 February, it raised the Facebook “profanity filter” to help in automatically moderating the user generated content.

Some of the worst comments were made on Friday or even Thursday. They were obviously not removed.  And you would thin that if they had seen where it was heading on Friday, they would have kept an eye on it.

This was not one or two inappropriate comments. Over 100 comments (out of 400) had to be removed. It was basically an antire page dominated by vile threats and hatred.

However, taking into account the extreme nature of the user generated content, the Committee found the steps taken by RNZ were not sufficiently timely. It held that RNZ must have been alerted by the tenor of comments posted on Friday, 19 February and, therefore, should have alerted staff to actively monitor the page from that time.


Further on Radio NZ Facebook page

February 22nd, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A few extra thoughts on the hate speech which was on the Radio NZ Checkpoint page.

Unless you vet comments in advance, no publisher can prevent inappropriate comments from appearing. I don’t think anyone blames Radio NZ for the fact they appeared. But what one can judge on is how quickly they were removed. RNZ staff acted once there was publicity about it, but for an organisation with $35 million a year of taxpayer funding, the comments should have never lasted as long as they did.

Some salient points:

  1. Some of the comments had been up for three days or longer – conclusion no regular checking of the page.
  2. The comments were incredibly vile – massive use of the c word to describe the PM and one person saying his mother should have been gassed in the holocaust – how could people feel you can say such a thing on a Radio NZ page?
  3. Over 100 comments had to be deleted by RNZ staff, which was close to a quarter of the comments on the page. So this was not one or two comments that slipped through, but a mountain of vile abuse which dominated the page.
  4. No-one alerted RNZ to the comments before they got publicity. If someone used such language about a politician on KB, I’d have several e-mails within minutes from readers alerting me to it. But somehow no one reading the Radio NZ Checkpoint Facebook page thought the comments needed drawing to the attention of Radio NZ. This suggests that the only people on the page were those of a similar view on John Key.
  5. Has Radio NZ done anything beyond delete the comments? Have they reported those who made the most vile comments? Have they blocked them from the Radio NZ FB pages? Or are they free to do the same next time?

Hate speech on the Radio NZ Checkpoint Facebook page

February 21st, 2016 at 6:36 pm by David Farrar

Whale Oil has blogged comments made on the Radio NZ John Campbell Checkpoint page about John Key. They have been up there for days, so I can only presume Radio NZ either has allowed them to stay up deliberately or don’t spend any of their $32 million a year of taxpayer funding on moderating or reading the comments on their social media pages.

The comments include multiple death threats and use of the c word to one commenter saying “They should have gassed his mother” and others liking and laughing at that.

I’d have sympathy for Radio NZ if the comments were only up for a few minutes or even hours as you can’t pre-vet them. But some have been up for days.

If Helen Clark was still Prime Minister and a taxpayer funded media site had comments like this up about her for several days, I’d imagine there would be mass sackings at the highest level.


Jackson calls for inquiry into Radio NZ

February 17th, 2016 at 6:50 am by David Farrar

Willie Jackson has written:

The Chairman of the Maori Radio Network Te Whakaruruhau, Willie Jackson, called for an inquiry into the embarrassing level of Maori content on Radio NZ.

Radio Waatea, the National Maori language current affairs and news provider conducted a 12 week audit of National Radio which revealed that out of 1440 hours of content Monday to Friday, RNZ played a mere 99 minutes of Maori content (0.1%) between November 2015 and January 2016.

The audit came about after Jackson challenged the Head of Content for Radio NZ Carol Hirschfeld over the cancellation of their Maori dedicated news Manu Korihi in October of 2015. Ms Hirschfield said there would be even more Maori news after the cancellation of the news show, but the 12 week audit of daily news posted on their very own website reveals something that is substantially different to what she promised.

Willie Jackson says that Carol Hirschfeld’s response was to predictably rubbish the audit. She said Maori are also mentioned on their national, political and regional web pages.

He says “sadly, Carol has fallen into the trap that others have in the past, who think that just because Maori are mentioned that this constitutes a Maori story, a little bit like the time when it was said that when Maori were on Police Ten 7 that constituted a Maori story. Maori being mentioned as part of other stories cannot be used in RNZ’s calculations of Maori stories.”

“We looked at Maori-specific news over the 12 weeks and used the facts that they provided on their website Monday to Friday, but even if we were to include the stories that Carol’s talking about, the percentage would still be less than 2%.”

0.1% seems extraordinarily low. Radio NZ gets $35 million a year specifically to be non-commercial and reflect New Zealand. I’d say Willie Jackson has a point.

Smalley vs Radio NZ

August 8th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Radio New Zealand head of content Carol Hirschfeld says Rachel Smalley’s column about John Campbell’s appointment at RNZ is “muddled” and “self-promoting”.

Smalley, a Newstalk ZB host, said in a column Campbell’s new job meant “introducing yet another white male broadcaster to prime time, at the expense of a strong, capable, experienced female interviewer”.

Smalley said that the appointment leaves Susie Ferguson as the only woman left on prime time radio news.

Hirschfeld, who worked for many years with Campbell at TV3, said Wilson’s new role was more senior, and one she had wanted to take up previously.

“[Smalley] seems to be suggesting somehow that it would be better if Mary Wilson stayed on air to satisfy some kind of false gender balance, rather than taking on a role where she is shaping a day to day news operation that is one of the biggest and most powerful in New Zealand.

The new role may be more senior, and in theory more powerful, but a behind the scenes editorial role is very different to an on air role. Would anyone regard the producer of Campbell Live as having been more powerful than John Campbell?

Words to avoid by Radio NZ

March 30th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

An interesting feature on the Radio NZ website:

There are a couple of words people often use, not fully appreciating how they might be interpreted. Our staff are advised to avoid them altogether.


This word is frequently used by those who think it means full, or absolute, not realising that it can actually mean insincere or exaggerated. So a fulsome apology can be interpreted as a totally insincere one!

The same sort of thing applies to enormity

Our advice to staff is also to avoid enormity. It is often said by those who use it to mean big, and do not appreciate that it can actually mean evil or wicked.

If you mean the large size of something, we would suggest saying largeness, enormousness, or hugeness, rather than enormity when you may risk being misinterpreted.

The following groups of words are easily and often confused. While they may sound similar, they have different meanings:

Floundering and foundering

To flounder is to struggle or have difficulty; to founder is to sink or fail.

Alternate and alternative

Alternate and alternative are also often confused. Alternate means happening or following in turns, as in alternate days; alternative means available in place of something else.

Appraise and apprise:

When you estimate the value of something, you appraise it; when you inform people of something, you apprise them of it.

Reticent and reluctant

We regard reticent as meaning unwilling to speak, or being silent. Staff are advised not to use reticent when reluctant, meaning disinclined to do something, is more appropriate.


Staff are instructed that a person who owns or runs a restaurant is a restaurateur. There is no “n” in the word and it is pronounced rest-(uh)-ruh-TER [IPA: ˌrestərəˈtɜː]

The years

For the years gone by, for example, 2008, 2009, it is our policy to say two-thousand-and-eight, two-thousand-and-nine etc… From 2010 and beyond, we say twenty-ten, twenty-eleven, twenty-fifteen, twenty-twenty etc.

I was unaware of the double meaning of fulsome. Very interesting.

Would National Radio do better with more sports coverage?

February 16th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader writes in:

National Radio doesn’t run enough sports bulletins with their news. Most other stations have a short news and sports broadcast on the hour and half-hour during the prime morning and drivetime periods. National Radio has sports (I think, in the morning when I listen) at 7am, 8am and then not until 12 noon.

 A large number of musicians are big fans of sport, especially the English Premier League. Many of the musos in Auckland play football both 11 a side and indoors. Apparently Anika Moa nearly ended up playing for the Black Ferns, something I have never heard in any newspaper article on her.

So my theory is that National Radio would hold and increase its audience if it brought in regular sports segments with all of their news broadcasts. They could do a particular angle in features that would suit their audience on the intersection of music and sport. Or politicians and sport. Or environmentalists and sport.

It’s an interesting point. New Zealand does love its sports, and National Radio could increase its coverage of sports in a way that would complement its brand. I wonder what research Radio NZ has done around this – both of current listeners and former listeners?

Should we ditch Concert FM?

January 24th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

John Drinnan reports:

According to Howson, Nielsen statistics show Concert reaches 5 per cent of New Zealand listeners.

Concert costs about $5 million, so those listeners are in a privileged position.

Some people believe that as a public station Concert does a brilliant job on a remarkably small budget.

I don’t see in today’s age there is a need for taxpayers to fund a station such as Concert FM.

I do accept the case for National Radio, as that is about making sure we have in depth coverage of New Zealand news and current affairs.

But Concert FM plays basically German classical music. Now I happen to quite like my Mozart, but you don’t need a $5 million station for New Zealanders to be able to listen to it. Almost every piece of classical music in history is available for free and can be streamed, made into playlists and the like.

This is the playlist for Friday:

  • Wagner
  • Mozart
  • Schubert
  • Beethoven
  • Mendelssohn
  • Marais
  • Bach
  • Hayden
  • Verdi
  • Gershwin

etc etc. Why not get rid of Concert FM and put the money saved into beefing up National Radio?

Radio NZ well off compared to the ABC

May 20th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Coalition for Better Broadcasting (aka the Coalition for higher taxation) has said:

The Coalition for Better Broadcasting is disappointed at the lack of recognition for Radio NZ in the 2014 Budget. In fact the Budget represents a drop in funding for the public broadcasting sector in general, delivering gains to Sky TV in the process.

Radio NZ must survive another year on 2008 budget levels.

Sure budget restraint is tough. But look at what has happened in Australia with the ABC losing $120 million of funding. Now’s that worth whining about. And there is a link – if you don’t get spending under control, then you eventually do have to do major spending cuts to balance the budget.

Who does this favour? Commercial radio networks such as Mediaworks, the company partly established by Cabinet Minister Steven Joyce. 

This shows the leanings of the CBB, which recently defended the right of TVNZ staff to be Labour Party activists. First of all, so what if Steven Joyce founded Mediaworks. He sold it years ago in a hostile takeover. But the CBB shows their total lack of understanding how hard it is for broadcasters who do not get funded by the taxpayer.

Mediaworks made a loss of $318 million two years ago and $90 million last year. And the CBB has the audacity to complain commercial broadcasters are being favoured.

Mediaworks would love a sugar daddy that can guarantee them the same income as 2008.

The Snowdon costs

May 20th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Lynne Snowdon’s husband has spoken of the heavy psychological toll of her 11-year battle against former employer Radio New Zealand, which cost the couple about $3.5 million.

“Litigation destroys people – there are no winners in litigation,” said John Hickling, a lawyer who spent years working on his wife’s long-running case.

So why did you pursue it? Radio NZ did not sue you. You sued them?

His comments come as figures released under the Official Information Act show the publicly funded state broadcaster spent more than $2m fighting the employment case after it sacked Snowdon as managing news editor in 2005, including nearly $1.3m in legal expenses.

By the time Snowdon was dismissed, she had already been on sick leave for more than two years.

That’s all taxpayer money wasted.

He said a relatively straightforward employment dispute seemed to have spiralled out of control, involving 23 preliminary hearings, and 70 formal minutes, orders and rulings even before the 47-day full hearing began last year.

It is understood RNZ is now seeking costs of about $1.1m from Snowdon.

Good. Not to be vindictive, but because we need to discourage this from happening again.

Radio NZ gets the Hukas mixed up

April 26th, 2014 at 1:08 pm by David Farrar

Radio NZ reported (now removed):

The Huka Falls Resort is for sale, just months after New Zealand First leader Winston Peters claimed it was being sold to foreign buyers.

In February in an address to Greypower in Auckland, Mr Peters claimed that Prime Minister John Key had promised the buyers a smooth ride through the Overseas Investment Office process.

At the time, Huka Lodge said Mr Peters was not correct.

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson also said the claims were not true.

The property is advertised for sale in The Dominion Post, with tenders due to close on 15 May. It was last sold in 2003.

The sale includes 3.8 hectares, buildings and the Huka Falls Resort conference centre and a cafe business. The advertisement says 27 of the 34 villas are leased to the business.

A big fail for Radio New Zealand. Huka Falls Resort is a different property to Huka Lodge.

The Huka Falls Resort is at 56 Huka Falls Road. The iconic Huka Falls Lodge is 271 Huka Falls Road. They’re not even that close to each other.

Rooms at HFR start at $135 a night.

Rooms at Huka Lodge starts at $1,386 per night.

Finally an end

April 2nd, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former Radio NZ news manager Lynne Snowdon has lost her marathon employment dispute with the state broadcaster.

In a decision issued today the Employment Court has scored the legal battle – believed to be the longest running employment dispute – at 3-0 to Radio NZ.

Judge Tony Ford said it was a rare case where Radio NZ had been able to establish on “entirely convincing facts” that Snowdon was substantially responsible for the irreconcilable breakdown in the employment relationship.

Snowdon went on sick leave in January 2003. She was dismissed in April 2005.

It’s insane that this case has dragged on for ten years. Hopefully this brings it to an end. I’ve followed the case for many years and had little doubt it would end this way.

Judge Tony Ford dismissed grounds claiming Snowdon had a disadvantage grievance, was unjustifiably dismissed, and that Radio NZ had falsely represented the financial situation at the heart of Snowdon’s complaints.

He said it had been a relatively straightforward employment dispute that had spiralled out of control.

Snowdon’s husband, John Hickling, told the court last year that it had cost Snowdon and her family more than $3.5 million to fight at that stage.

Snowdon let her grievance become an obsession. Off memory it all began as a dispute with then CEO Sharon Crosbie over the budget for the news division. If you don’t like the budget your boss gives you, then go find a new job – don’t turn it into a ten year dispute. If they really have spent $3.5 million on the fight, then that is even sadder, No one forced them to do so.

Since then the case has consumed another 47-day hearing.

Again, insane.

The judge said Radio NZ was entitled to costs and if the parties could not agree between themselves they would be decided by the court.

As a taxpayer, I want them to recover as many of their costs as possible.

Espiner to co-host Morning Report

December 30th, 2013 at 1:42 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Political journalist Guyon Espiner has been announced as Geoff Robinson’s replacement on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report.

Robinson announced his retirement on-air in November, after more than 30 years in journalism.

Espiner has a 20 year career in journalism, working in both print and broadcast media.

He has previously held roles as the political editor for Television New Zealand and, earlier, the Sunday Star Times.

More recently he has worked as an anchor and journalist on TV3’s 3rd Degree and The Vote.

Espiner will begin presenting Morning Report in April.

I think this is an excellent appointment. Espiner is a formidable interviewer, and has a good breadth of knowledge on politics and current affairs.

What is unknown is how he will gel with Simon Mercep, but I don’t see any major difficulties there.

BSA upholds complaints against Radio NZ over three strikes coverage

November 25th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

David Garrett complained to Radio New Zealand and then the Broadcasting Standards Authority about a Nine to Noon item on 29 May 2013 regarding the three strikes law. The BSA has ruled that the item was both unbalanced and inaccurate. Their ruling is here.

David has provided Kiwiblog with a guest post about the ruling:

“Three Strikes”, Radio New Zealand and the Broadcasting Standards Authority

 On 29 May Radio New Zealand’s “Nine to Noon” featured what was supposedly a panel discussion about how the “three strikes” (3S) law  was working, almost three years after its passing.  The only problem – or at least the  most obvious one – was that the panel consisted only of Professor John  Pratt,  who had voiced his strident views against the law from well before it was passed, and the lawyer for one Elijah Whaanga,  a man with 20 odd convictions as an adult, two of them  “strikes” for aggravated robbery.

 And of course there was the supposedly neutral  presenter, one Lyn Freeman, filling in for Kathryn Ryan, who in all fairness would probably  have done a much better job. As the recently released Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) determination on my complaint about the programme makes clear, while nominally presenting the programme – and supposedly acting as devil’s advocate :

“…the presenter appeared to largely adopt the position of the interviewees without any real challenge….[her questions] were insufficient to provide balance on the topic under discussion, especially considering the broadcast involved two people strongly opposed to  the law” (at para. [25])

The programme began with a major  inaccuracy: that persons on their third strike “had no possibility of parole”, when in  fact  the “no parole at strike three” provision  will  not apply if the Judge finds it to be “manifestly unjust” in the circumstances of a particular case. The insertion of this proviso occurred after Judith Collins took over negotiation of the contents of the 3S  law from then Justice Minister Simon Power, and the Nats stopped playing games.

It is an important qualification – and gives the lie to the oft repeated claim that the law removes judicial discretion.  ACT readily agreed to this provisio being included. Radio New Zealand simply ignored its existence in Freeman’s introduction. Things got much worse from that point on.

Throughout the discussion, Elijah Whaanga, the second strike aggravated robber whose lawyer was a panelist, was referred to constantly  as “Elijah” and “a playground bully ”, presumably because his second strike aggravated robbery was of a skateboard and a hat. What wasn’t  mentioned was that the robbery occurred  in the street not a playground; that the victim was “only” robbed of a skateboard and a hat because he had no money; and that in Whaanga’s first strike – also an aggravated robbery in the street – the victim had all his money taken, and his head  kicked in.

As the BSA puts it in its decision:

“The offender on his second strike…was referred to throughout the discussion and  used as an example of the type of people  targeted by the law , without balancing comment to challenge this…Given the participants strongly held views that the law operated in a way that was unjust and unfair, and out of proportion to the crime committed, there was a clear requirement of the broadcaster to ensure the discussion was balanced” [paras. 19 -20]

The BSA concluded that the programme was one to which the “balance” standard applied,  that  RNZ “…did not include sufficient balance on the issue”, and therefore upheld the  first limb of  my complaint.


My second complaint was about the many inaccuracies the programme contained, none of them corrected or challenged by the presenter.  I identified a lengthy list of statements – mostly by Professor Pratt  – (see para. [37] of the determination)  which were inaccurate or misleading.

The BSA found that the programme was misleading in two crucial respects: firstly by its  many completely inaccurate comparisions with California’s “three strikes” law; the second  was the way “playground bully” Elijah Whaanga was “portrayed and used as an example of the type of criminals (sic.)  targeted by the law “ (See para. [43] of the BSA decision).

The first  point  is of course indeed  crucial. From the outset, opponents of 3S have attempted to use the indisputable   excesses of the law in California as it was originally enacted   as a reason not to enact  a law with the same name here.

In 2007, Garth McVicar and I went to California specifically to find out whether the “life for stealing a chocolate bar” stories were true (we never verified  that one, although there were others which were clearly unacceptable and unjust) and if so, to work out how to draft our  3S law so  injustices like them  couldn’t happen here.

California recently modified its law to make it much more like ours: no more “technical felonies”, and much more prosecutorial and  judicial discretion. Rather than make those points, Freeman talked about California “backing away” from 3S, and rhetorically asked “What does that tell you? ” Professor Pratt obliging leapt on his soapbox and gave his version of what the changes in California meant, untroubled by any dissenting voice.

The BSA was perhaps  harshest on this point, saying:

“…comparing the legislation in this manner, without any countering views, and in particular the presenter’s unequivocal statement that California had started to ‘back away’  from the legislation, would have misled listeners as to the nature of New Zealand’s ‘three strikes’ law  and any comparison with California.” (see para. [42] )

The BSA concluded its decision on the balance and accuracy complaints thus:

“The programme omitted any alternative voice to counteract the one sided statements  made by the panelists, and the presenter failed to adequately challenge those statements. Compounding this, the panelists also made statements which created a misleading impression in the absence of any balancing comment.” (See para. [49] )

As I did on the morning  I heard this travesty of journalism unfolding, I have offered to  appear as “balance” for any future programme on 3S. Somehow I don’t think I’ll be getting a call, but at least after receiving  a spanking from the BSA like this one, they might be a bit more careful next time.

Well done to David for getting a successful ruling, and hopefully Radio NZ will be more balanced in future on this topic.

Who might get Radio NZ Sundays

November 17th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Broadcaster Mark Sainsbury is eyeing Radio New Zealand’s Sunday Morning slot following presenter Chris Laidlaw’s resignation.

The former Close Up presenter said he had yet to lodge a formal application, but was certainly interested in the Sunday Morning job.

“It’s a great gig that Sunday morning one, and there’s a huge amount of potential to do something with it. But I also know there are a lot of very well qualified people interested in it as well.

Sainsbury would be a very strong contender.

Broadcaster Bill Ralston said if it were his choice, it would be between Mark Sainsbury and Noelle McCarthy.

“Mark is not bad at the human interest interviews. He’s got a great strength in those, but Noelle is very bright as well.”

Someone under 40 would be novel!

Long-time broadcaster Bill Ralston speculated on a good pick for the show. Applications close on December 2.

Fill-in radio host Noelle McCarthy: Definitely, I would think a very serious contender.

Media3 host and blogger Russell Brown: Possible. He would be a contender, but I would certainly put people inside the shop ahead of people outside the shop.

Mark Sainsbury: A really good choice.

Anna Guy: Yeah, nah.

Radio hosts John Tamihere and Willie Jackson: Non-starters.

Jim Mora: Yeah, if he wants to retire back to one day a week, and he might do, in which case that would open up his shift to someone like Mark Sainsbury or Noelle McCarthy. He would be ideal in some respects.

3rd Degree host Guyon Espiner: I somehow doubt it. Don’t see him as a serious contender, although he could do it well.

Blogger Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury: He’s too Left even for National Radio.

Broadcaster Susan Wood: Definitely. They need more women on air, to be honest . . . I would see her as a better than adequate person to do it.

Ex-TV reporter Richard Langston: Has a lot of ability, but I don’t see him necessarily as a primary contender.

Back Benches host Wallace Chapman: If they wanted someone younger, hipper, cooler, groovier, he’d be a guy to look for.

I can’t see it being Anna Guy!

Which former Labour MP will replace Laidlaw?

November 13th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The competition is already heating up to replace Chris Laidlaw as host of National Radio’s Sunday morning show. He will present his last show on December 22, it was confirmed yesterday.

Radio New Zealand networks manager John Howson said Laidlaw had signalled before last month’s elections that he would retire if elected to both the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Capital & Coast District Health Board, as he subsequently was.

At least two high-profile journalists with radio experience had expressed interest, he said, and it was hoped that a replacement would be named by the time the show resumed after the summer break, on January 26.

Former TVNZ head of news Bill Ralston said he expected a lot of hands would be high in the air from both inside and outside RNZ. “It’s an opportunity to inject some life into the show . . .”

Laidlaw had been labelled a “leftie”, and his departure was a chance for the network to shift toward the centre of the political spectrum.

Mr Howson said any suggestion that the show was “left-leaning” was only public perception.

Only public perception? You must be kidding!!

The Wireless

November 2nd, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Toby Manhire at The Listener reports:

On Labour Day morning, Ben Uffindell, the wunderkind behind the Civilian satire website,tweeted that he was about to appear on Radio New Zealand.

Which, he added, “I find is always sort of like visiting your grandparents”.

And that somehow encapsulates a strength and weakness of RNZ: a cosy familiarity, something reliable, but also undeniably, how to put it, mature.

For some some the challenge for the national broadcaster has been how to attract younger listeners. The proportion of the audience under 30 is said to be puny.

The idea of a “youth” station has long been mooted, with some arguing it should replace Concert FM.

But years of discussion have at last borne fruit.

The Wireless is the boldest innovation from the cash-strapped grandparent for a long time, probably since the RNZ website added news and audio in 2005.

Crucially, however, this is not an online radio station: more a digital magazine, with features, blogs and plenty of video, aimed chiefly at 18-30 year olds.

And it looks very promising indeed. Each month will be themed, the first of which is “Free”, starting with a feature by Megan Whelan about personal finance, majoring on, unsurprisingly, debt.

The site looks really well designed and the articles well aimed for their target audience of under 30s. Radio NZ has a fixed budget so this initiative is not costing us any extra money, and it is good to see a focus on people who don’t just listen to Concert FM!

Down the List

June 24th, 2013 at 12:48 pm by David Farrar

I only discovered Down the List today as I do not normally listen to Radio NZ on weekends.

If this week’s episode is typical, it is well worth listening to. Involves two Labour List MPs talking about what is going wrong.

The new Radio New Zealand CEO

June 13th, 2013 at 4:11 pm by David Farrar

I understand that the new CEO of Radio New Zealand is Paul Thompson. This has not yet been announced publicly.

Paul is currently the Group Executive Editor of Fairfax New Zealand. He has been a journalist basically all his adult life, starting as a cadet reporter at age 17. He has been Editor of both the Nelson Mail and The Press.

I predict the appointment of someone with such a strong media background will go down well with Radio New Zealand staff. My congratulations to him on the appointment.

The Panel

November 14th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I enjoy being a regular guest on Radio NZ’s Panel with Jim Mora and initially was surprised at how many people would mention they hear me on it. Some taxi drivers even recognise me just from my voice. So I’ve always figured it must rate fairly well.

Just been told that The Panel is not only the number one rated talk hour in New Zealand (and has been for some time), it is the number one rated show on all radio for the 4 pm to 5 pm slot. It now ranks ahead of all the music stations.

I understand the latest survey has it with 162,000 listeners on an average weekday. That is pretty massive.

Gillard in danger

May 28th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar reports:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard will have her hands full when parliament resumes this week, fending off fresh leadership speculation, facing a potentially heated caucus meeting and bracing for a new opinion poll.

Newspapers said Joel Fitzgibbon, the government’s chief whip, was openly canvassing caucus for votes to return Kevin Rudd to the top job.

When the Chief Whip starts lobbying for change you have real problems. The challenge for Labor is deciding between the leader the public hates and the leader the caucus hates.

Incidentally I was staggered to be listening to Morning Report this morning, and hear an interview between I presume one of the hosts and the RNZ Australian correspondent. The host said something like:

“So Kevin Rudd will just be getting on with the job of Foreign Minister” and the correspondent said “That’s right”.

Rudd resigning as Foreign Minister and challenging Gillard for the leadership earlier this year was a rather major news story.

Collins taking defamation action against Mallard, Little and Radio NZ

March 29th, 2012 at 10:05 am by David Farrar

John Hartevelt at Stuff reports:

ACC Minister Judith Collins is taking defamation action against two labour MPs and a news organisation, her spokeswoman says.

I understand the MPs are Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little, and the media organisation is Radio New Zealand.

It will be fascinating if it proceeds, to see the proof Trevor and Andrew have to back up their assertions.