The National Organ Donor Service needs sorting out

October 1st, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Andy Tookey is an effective campaigner for increasing organ donation rates in New Zealand. He has highlighted the barriers to increasing the rates such as the current practice where the National Organ Donor Service allow the wishes of family members to over-ride the explicit wishes of the deceased.

Radio NZ did a 28 minute special on Sunday into organ donation.

Fast forward to 18 minutes and 25 seconds where Radio NZ reveals that the National Organ Donor Service refused to be interviewed by Radio NZ if Andy Tookey was also interviewed. They went even further and demanded editorial control, saying that if Radio NZ even mentioned Andy Tookey or his group, then they would also refuse to be interviewed.

Radio NZ to their credit declined to submit to such outrageous demands, and hence the NODS were not part of the programme.

I am appalled that what is effectively a Government funded organisation will try and tell Radio NZ that they are not allowed to even mention Any Tookey or his group, because he is critical of our low donation rates.

This would be a very good story for Mediawatch!

But I think it is also an issue for the Government. While the NODS is not directly accountable to the Government (it is managed through the Auckland DHB), it is funded by taxpayers. The Minister should make it very clear to them that their behaviour is wrong, and should not be repeated.

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Radio NZ getting off lightly

June 13th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Radio NZ, like most crown agencies, has been on a funding freeze for several years. They of course have been far better off than their commercial competitors who have had significant revenue drops.

This story from Greece shows how bad it could get, if the Government doesn’t balance it books:

Under pressure from its creditors to cut public employment, the Greek government said Tuesday that it was closing down its state-run television and radio broadcaster, idling 2,900 people — less than 1 percent of the public work force — and outraging the country’s powerful labor unions.

Describing the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, known as ERT, as a “haven of waste,” a government spokesman said ERT, which went off the air at 11 p.m. local time, would reopen soon as a “modern state organization” with a fraction of the current staff.

Now that is what you call a cut!

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Du Fresne on Radio NZ

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

Karl du Fresne 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 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.

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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Questions Radio NZ did not ask

June 28th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Radio NZ did an interview with a Dave Wooley on ACC this morning. I suspect they are going to interview a disgruntled person a day. Now I think it is fine to interview disgruntled people with ACC, but media should be balanced, and actually ask questions, not just allow one side of the story – especially as ACC can not talk about individual cases in the media generally.

Mr Wooley had a work related accident in 2006 and has just gone off ACC compensation. Radio NZ said his family of six now live off his wife’s salary of $26,000. For a start this is clearly false. They would get WFF of $363 a week (net) on top of that, plus possible accommodation allowance.

They also reported he gets $23 a week benefit and claims that half of that is $11.50 a week to live on. Radio NZ reported this as fact, and never asked him about WFF.

Not only did Radio NZ fail to ask about WFF, and allowed the repeated assertion of a family of six surviving on $26,000 a year, they did not ask a single question about why he was no longer getting ACC. No question about what the medical assessor determined.  No question on what the independent review by Disputes Resolution Service found. No question about anything – just allowed him to say whatever he likes unchallenged.

I have said that some parts of the ACC culture do need changing, and they do. But this does not mean you accept without challenge every claim by every individual who thinks they should receive ACC support. That is not journalism. Next time I hope Radio NZ at least attempt to ask pertinent questions.

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Charging or blocking by location

February 19th, 2012 at 10:42 am by David Farrar

We all get frustrated when various sites are blocked because your IP address says you are from the wrong country. Well one NZ MP wants Radio NZ to do the same. Select Committee News reported:

Mojo Mathers (Green) asked RNZ whether people from all over the world are now listening to RNZ through the internet. Griffin responded that about 75% of internet customers are from New Zealand and the rest are from around the world. Cavanagh added that online broadcasting was hugely beneficial to RNZ as it enabled them to supply on-demand content and reach New Zealander’s anywhere in the World. Mathers suggested charging international internet users of RNZ and Cavanagh not sure about the idea.

This is a very bad idea. The Internet is global and any attempts to charge people based on their location is flawed. It means New Zealanders who are travelling overseas would not be able to access Radio NZ for free. It means expats would be locked off from it. It also would encourage spoofing of IP addresses.

UPDATE: SCN had the identity of the MP wrong – it was Todd McClay, not Mojo Mathers. See this post for details.

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Thoughts with Radio NZ

December 12th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Wellington Police investigating a serious assault in Boulcott Street early yesterday morning have upgraded it to a homicide investigation.

The 43 year old male victim, believed to be Phillip Alexander Cottrell from Radio New Zealand, died in Wellington Hospital a short time ago.

Detective Senior Sergeant Scott Miller of the Wellington CIB says the victim suffered the fatal injuries between 5:30am and 6:15am yesterday morning, as he walked home from work on The Terrace.

“As the victim got halfway down Boulcott Street outside the Baptist Church it appears an altercation has taken place and as a result the victim received fatal injuries.”

I used to work on Boulcott Street, and it is not an area I would have ever thought would have a homicide occur.

My thoughts go out to his colleagues at Radio NZ, and family and friends.

From the sound of it this was not pre-meditated, but a situational killing. Those sort of killings strike fear in many of us – it could happen to anyone. I hope the Police find his killer.

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Radio NZ debate on MMP

October 25th, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Radio NZ is hosting a debate on MMP and the electoral system referendum. The debate will be moderated by Julian Robbins and Philippa Tolley.

The debate will be held on Wednesday 26 October starting at 6 pm and you can be part of the audience at Te Papa’s Soundings Theatre. It will be broadcast on National Radio after the 8 am news on Sunday 30 October, and also available online at radionz.co.nz/Insight.

The panel for the debate is

  • Rt Hon Jim Bolger, former Prime Minister
  • Hon Michael Cullen, former Deputy Prime Minister
  • Hon Ruth Richardson, former Finance Minister
  • Jeanette Fitzsimons, former Green co-leader
  • Sandra Grey, Campaign for MMP
  • Jordan Williams, Vote for Change
  • Professor Nigel Roberts

I think it will be fascinating to listen to, and find out who supports which system, and why. Fitzsimons will be MMP of course. I understand both Bolger and Richardson may actually agree on their preferred option! And not sure where Cullen sits.

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Diversity at Radio NZ

October 12th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

For those interested, Radio NZ Afternoons has Facebooked on how Bradbury is not banned from anything – they have just decided not to invite him on The Panel anymore. This is no more a ban than saying I was banned from NBR when they dropped my column. They say:

Mr Bradbury has not been banned from Radio New Zealand. He was told that his invitation to appear as a future panellist on Afternoons had been withdrawn but there was no suggestion that it applied to other programmes.

Radio New Zealand received many complaints from listeners regarding Mr. Bradbury’s comments on The Panel during Afternoons with Jim Mora last Thursday.

The decision to withdraw Mr. Bradbury’s invitation to take part in future editions of The Panel was made by the programme’s Executive Producer immediately after the programme. That decision was supported by the senior manager responsible for the programme and subsequently by the Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief.

Mr. Bradbury’s invitation to participate on The Panel was withdrawn because his personal comments about the Prime Minister were deemed to be in breach of Radio New Zealand’s editorial requirements for fairness and balance. One of his comments was regarded as being potentially defamatory. The segment in question was removed from the Radio New Zealand website for that reason. Radio New Zealand has a duty to protect the organization against defamation proceedings.

In other words don’t defame people on air, when the broadcaster is liable for what you say.

What I have found interesting is the comments by some that Bradbury is the only left wing voice on The Panel or that it is somehow dominated by voices from the right. I decided to check out the panelists from the last month or so, and have categorised them on their leanings based on my knowledge of them.

Lean Right

  1. Me
  2. Neil Miller
  3. John Bishop
  4. Michelle Boag
  5. Sam Johnson
  6. Stephen Franks
  7. Deborah Hill-Cone

Lean Left

  1. Michelle A’Court
  2. Matt Nippert
  3. Martyn Bradbury
  4. Jeremy Elwood
  5. Simon Pound
  6. Duncan Webb
  7. Anna Chinn
  8. Brian Edwards
  9. Mike Williams
  10. Gary McCormick
  11. Tim Watkin
  12. David Slack
  13. Islay McLeod
  14. Chris Trotter
  15. Don Donovan
  16. Liz Bowen-Clewley
  17. Finlay MacDonald
  18. Gary Moore
  19. Scott Yorke

Not Known

  1. Irene Gardiner
  2. Rosemary McLeod
  3. Tony Doe
  4. Graham Bell
  5. Jane Clifton
  6. Ali Jones
  7. David McPhail
  8. John Dunne
  9. Chris Wikaira
  10. Richard Langston
  11. Joanne Black

This reinforces what I suspect is the real issue for many of those complaining. They regard Radio NZ as an institution of the left. For many years there was no diversity of opinion on Radio NZ. The only voices you would hear are the left. And to some degree this is still true in some parts of Radio NZ. Take Nine to Noon. While Kathryn Ryan is absolutely impartial, her regular guests are 10:1 from the left. And the same at weekends with Hill and Laidlaw.

On Afternoons, there is a slightly better balance. They actually have half a dozen panelists who lean to the right. And some on the left hate that. They hate that there is no a voice on Radio New Zealand that says things they can’t just quietly nod along to, safe in their unchallenged view of the world.

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Radio NZ and Bradbury

October 10th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Clare Curran blogs:

Martyn Bomber Bradbury has been banned from Radio NZ  for criticising John Key.

That’s not quite the case, even though it is how Labour wants it reported.

First of all I should make my position clear. I think Bradbury’s bombastic style is extremely good at motivating partisans and activists of the left, but I don’t think it exactly appeals to so called swinging voters. In fact I suspect such rhetoric actually turns such voters in the opposite direction to the left.

So I’m actually all in favour of Bradbury being on the air as much as possible. Hell give him Labour’s 20 minute opening address. In fact I’d give him his own radio show, even his own entire frequency.

So did Radio NZ really biff him just for criticising the PM? I suggest people listen to the the Media Watch item (start at 26 minutes).

They cite several issues, namely:

  1. Bradbury spoke over the host and wouldn’t let him get a word in
  2. His rant against the Prime Minister was word for word taken from his blog post
  3. Previous contributions to the show were recitals from his blog posts
  4. His rant was against RNZ’s broadcasting standards

As I said, I’ll be delighted if Bradbury is on air as much as possible so I’m not defending Radio NZ’s decision, I’m just pointing out that Mediawatch did not say Bradbury was kicked off for criticising the PM – they cited all those issues above. Also there is a difference between criticising the Prime Minister and accusing him of corruption.

I’m also a regular guest on RNZ Afternoons Panel. As far as I can tell there are 40 – 50 panelists and you tend to end up on around once a month. The format is that Jim and the producers set most of the topics, and you nominate two items. At just after 4 pm you talk about what you have been up to lately and around 4.30 pm you talk about an issue that you nominate. You are meant to indicate these to the producers in advance of the show.

Different guests approach the show in different ways. For what it is worth, here is my approach:

  1. The show is a discussion, not a rant. Listeners are expecting a three way or four way (when we interview someone) discussion on topics.
  2. I never prepare notes in advance. I will think about topics in my head but always just speak unscripted
  3. I try to be relatively balanced. I’ve often been critical of the Government on a specific issue on the show. Of course as someone with centre-right views, this reflects what I say.
  4. I try not to be too political. Many of the items I choose to talk about are not political. I talk about travel a lot!
  5. Even though you get to set the topic for “your issue” I still see it as starting a topic for the whole panel to discuss. You have your initial say, but hopefully it leads to a discussion between you, Jim and the other panelist on the issue.
  6. In keeping with the discussion theme, I will sometimes jump in and offer my 2c on issues put up by the other panelists, or even with guests Jim is interviewing. Being in a different studio can make this sometime difficult to pull off, so you only do it if you think your question or comment is relevant, or at least funny.
  7. Disagreements are fine, but are best done in a respectful manner. I try to identify the aspects I agree with someone on, and then point out the parts where I disagree.
  8. Radio New Zealand is not the same as a blog podcast. I use different styles for different mediums.
  9. I enjoy going on with people with different world views such as (recently) Brian Edwards, and discovering how much we may agree on, and the areas we don’t.
  10. Occasionally the other panelist has been someone who makes me look like a bleeding heart pinko liberal. This frightens me and amuses me in around equal proportions :-)

Since going on The Panel, I’m amazed at the number of people who tell me they have heard me on it. Several taxi drivers have recognised me purely from my voice alone, as I give them directions. Radio NZ don’t publish ratings, but as far as I can tell it must rate pretty well.

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Radio NZ easy embedding

August 24th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Radio NZ now has an embed link next to all of its audio content.

This is the politics segment on Monday morning. Well done to Radio NZ for making its content more easily available.

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It was the Radio NZ Mossad branch

August 1st, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

An office containing thousands of sensitive documents was burgled days after a Serious Fraud Office claim against Radio New Zealand was filed, with a copy of the claim among items taken, the occupant says.

John Hickling, husband of former RNZ news boss Lynne Snowdon, who has been locked in an almost decade-long dispute with her former employer, said he was reeling after the break-in at the office in Johnston St, Wellington. “Quite frankly, I’m scared shitless.”

As one should be. It was obviously the work of the Mossad branch of Radio New Zealand.

Most people only know Radio New Zealand for its, well, radio. But they also have an entire section that does break-ins, false passports, counterfeiting, and of course a wet squad.

I understand that Kathryn Ryan is the head of the Mossad branch of Radio NZ. She signs off on all the activities. But day to day operations are done by Jim Mora. By working afternoons only, Mora is free during the evenings to break into buildings, steal documents on behalf of Radio NZ and of course dispose of anyone who gets in the way.

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An unhealthy obsession

July 31st, 2011 at 10:30 am by David Farrar

Susan Pepperell at HoS reports:

A former Radio New Zealand news boss who has been fighting her sacking for more than six years has placed a new dossier in front of the Serious Fraud Office, alleging money went missing from the state broadcaster between 1999 and 2003.

But the toll on Lynne Snowdon has been severe.

She was due to appear in court in Wellington tomorrow for the next stage in what has become a costly and protracted employment dispute, but her husband and lawyer John Hickling has sought an adjournment because Snowdon’s health is too bad. She could not stand up to the rigour of courtroom questioning.

I am not surprised her health is bad. She has fought a jihad for eight years against Radio NZ, since she lost her job there. Now I’m all for fighting for your rights, but Snowdon has taken this beyond rational levels. I imagine she has turned herself unemployable.

“It has been extremely expensive and has taken a terrible toll. It’s unrelenting and you can’t get on with your life,” Hickling said.

Hickling tries to make it sound like Radio NZ is responsible for it dragging on six years, when of course it is his wife. No one has forced her to run to the SFO, to appeal multiple times on multiple issues.

She managed to get two years sick leave at $120/000 year before she was let go. As far as I can tell, she believes she should have remained on sick leave for life. Most employees have a maximum of 5 – 10 days a year – she got 500 days.

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Embedded Radio NZ content

July 11th, 2011 at 3:37 pm by David Farrar

Radio NZ is trialling allowing their content to be embedded elsewhere, so it is more easily available.

The player above should play the politics segment from Nine to Noon this morning.

Seems to be working well. Big ups to Radio NZ for this initiative.

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Plunket signs off

September 8th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

NZPA reports:

Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report co-host Sean Plunket, who has been with the show from September 1996, signed off this morning.

He is reported to be considering joining Newstalk ZB, replacing Justin du Fresne as the new Wellington region talkback host.

He also has a new job presenting TV3’s weekend political show The Nation as well as writing a column for monthly Metro magazine.

“It has been an amazing 13 years and lasted longer than I expected it would,” her said on air this morning.

“I would hope that notwithstanding some massive development in the field of genetics, I will be the longest ever serving co-host with you on Morning Report,” he told long-serving colleague Geoff Robinson.

Heh.

Who is the interim host, starting tomorrow? And anyone know when RNZ plans to announce the permanent replacement?

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A combined public service broadcaster?

August 17th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

John Drinnan writes:

Radio New Zealand faces a big makeover next year with the Government expected to merge the public radio operation with non-commercial TVNZ 7.

The plan is to create a new public broadcasting institution. Labour is understood to be broadly behind the merger.

Such a move is being challenged by TVNZ, which wants to keep government funding within its otherwise commercial focus. But surprisingly the biggest sceptics are within RNZ management.

A merger would mean a revamp of RNZ which has been caught in the cross-fire with Government demands that it works within existing budgets.

It would require the transfer of some TVNZ staff, and possible pay rises for some at RNZ, sources say. The new body would provide both radio and TV, though it is understood the Government is not yet convinced TVNZ should not be allowed to continue to provide some TVNZ 7 content.

A combined radio and TV operation makes sense, removing public service from the increasingly commercial focus of TVNZ while injecting fresh energy into RNZ.

I have been advocating this for well over a year. It is good to see both the Government, and Labour, looking favourably on doing this.

We spend a fairly large amount of money on public broadcasting – RNZ, NZ on Air, Maori TV, TVNZ 7. If you combine it all together you have the ability to have a pretty good budget for a combined public broadcaster. I recognize Maori TV won’t merge in at this stage, but no reason they can’t become a semi-autonomous channel within say the NZ Broadcasting Service?

Once the public broadcaster is established, I’d look favourably at floating some or all of TVNZ. It is effectively a fully commercial company and is not a public broadcaster. Radio NZ is. TVNZ 7 is. TVNZ as a whole is not.

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The end is in sight

June 29th, 2010 at 9:45 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former Radio New Zealand news boss Lynne Snowdon has lost the latest appeal in her nearly six-year legal tussle with the state broadcaster, and the Court of Appeal is insisting “the procedural music must stop”.

About time.

Ms Snowdon was sacked in April 2005 after almost two years on sick leave – and full pay of about $120,000 a year. She had fallen out with Sharon Crosbie, the then chief executive, over allegations of financial mismanagement.

After Ms Snowdon was fired, she lodged a personal grievance case in the Employment Court against RNZ for unjustified dismissal.

She began separate proceedings in March last year to have three previous Employment Court judgments set aside. They concerned discovery – the court rules relating to access to documents held by an opposing party.

Ms Snowdon claimed fraudulent discovery, arguing that RNZ had provided altered or false documents in its case against her, and that some documents had been deleted or destroyed. RNZ denied the allegations. …

In its ruling released yesterday, the Court of Appeal dismissed Ms Snowdon’s appeal and ordered her to pay costs.

Justice William Young said the allegations of fraudulent discovery were “a subset of the broader complaints” against the broadcaster.

The grievance case had been before the courts “for many years” and Ms Snowdon’s appeal would have further delayed the proceedings.

“We are of the view that the time has come for the procedural music to stop,” Justice Young said.

Two years of full pay, and six years of legal expenses. Incredible.

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Editorials 24 June 2010

June 24th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald focuses on the topical Afghanistan:

Tensions between generals in the field and their civilian masters are a fact of life. Armed forces chiefs are able to focus solely on battlefield strategy and having the necessary manpower and resources.

The purview of politicians must be wider, not least in considering the popular appetite for war.

Not surprisingly, generals often become impatient at what they consider interference in the prosecution of a war. In moments of candour, they might convey their annoyance to well-trusted aides. Otherwise, they keep their counsel.

They know that if such sentiments become public knowledge, their position becomes untenable. Such is now the case with General Stanley McChrystal, the United States commander in Afghanistan.

And he has paid the price.

General McChrystal’s blunder is the more unfortunate in that his strategy is the best chance of achieving a stability in Afghanistan that will pave the way for an orderly exit.

His approach has eschewed lofty goals, such as embedding a model democracy, and concentrated on “Afghanising” the conflict through the rapid training and arming of Kabul’s forces.

He also understands the importance of gaining a settlement with more pragmatic elements of the Taleban, thereby creating a political consensus. The present “surge”, which has achieved mixed results, is an attempt to accelerate that outcome.

The eminent sense in General McChrystal’s strategy means he has not been without his defenders. One of the more interesting was the much-maligned Afghan President.

A spokesman for Hamid Karzai said he believes General McChrystal is “the best commander the United States has sent to Afghanistan over the last nine years”.

A sad end to a fine career.

The Press looks at the breath testing of spectators for a school by rugby match:

The scene outside the front gate of Christ’s College on Tuesday was extraordinary.

Eight police officers were lined up administering breath tests to spectators arriving to watch the annual Christ’s College-Christchurch Boys’ High School rugby match. The police were required to enforce a zero alcohol policy imposed by Christ’s College for the match in an attempt to stop the drunken yahoo off-field brawling that has, over the last decade or so, become a feature of the encounter.

The policy seems to have been a success. For the first time in years, the game passed off without an outbreak of violence or indeed any untoward incidents at all. No-one was arrested or ejected from the ground, in a striking contrast with last year’s event which was, as Inspector Derek Erasmus observed, notable for “baton charges and multiple arrests”.

Something we have seen recently is that a huge amount can be done within the current Sale of Liquor Act.

The Dom Post opines on the departure of Sean Plunket from Radio NZ:

Broadcaster Sean Plunket has finally made good on his threats to quit Radio New Zealand National to seek fresh fields. Though his willingness to ask hard questions will be missed, his decision – a long time coming, given his testy relationship with his masters – will be good for him and might even be good for the company. …

Plunket’s departure, alongside suggestions that Robinson will retire within two years, gifts RNZ’s chief executive, Peter Cavanagh, and the board a rare opportunity. Does today’s three-hour mix of hard news and the odd joker work as well now, in a multi-media environment, as when the hour-long programme launched 35 years ago?

And the ODT finally comments on the China protest:

According to the police, a number of witnesses were spoken to after Green Party co-leader Russel Norman complained of assault by Chinese security agents attending the visit to Parliament by China’s Vice-president, Xi Jiping, last week.

Presumably, these included members of the force stationed at Parliament Buildings.

Police also studied film footage and photographs of the incident, and had sought, to no avail, to speak to the Chinese alleged to be involved.

It was concluded – quite swiftly in the circumstances – there was insufficient evidence to substantiate a prosecution.

This should be no surprise.

The prospect of the police mounting a sufficiently strong case was weakened as soon as it became clear that Dr Norman had apparently moved from his initial location at the foot of the steps to Parliament’s main building to the entrance of the Beehive to be very much closer to the point at which the vice-president passed, thus himself contributing to a degree to the predictable response by Chinese security guards charged with protecting their leader. …

The fact remains that he was allowed to have his protest – his “free speech” action was not suppressed and could be heard loud and clear, although it must be considered a certainty the Chinese security guards had not the faintest notion who he was.

Successive New Zealand governments have in the past decade or more routinely expressed concern – on behalf of Dr Norman and other protesters – to Chinese visitors about the infringements of human rights in China, while successfully maintaining a relationship that has resulted in China becoming our second largest trading partner.

That relationship is hardly to be jeopardised on the strength of one MP’s needless behaviour.

Working out rules for MPs (or others) protesting should not be difficult.

Should they be allowed in an area where they can be seen? Yes.

Should they be allowed in an area where the target of their protest can hear them? Yes.

Should they be allowed close enough to a VIP that they could seriously humiliate them by grabbing them, spitting on them, throwing or squiriting something at them – no.

So the question is merely how wide should the corridor be, which they can’t cross into. I’d say around 10 – 12 metres. You can protest very effectively still at that range.

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Plunket resigns

June 15th, 2010 at 9:24 am by David Farrar

A little birdie tells me that Sean Plunket resigned from Radio New Zealand this morning, or more correctly took up CEO Peter Cavanagh’s long standing offer to resign.

This comes ironically just after he finally got permission from Radio NZ to do the long contested column for Metro.

I guess Sean’s departure from Radio NZ means he will be a full time columnist. I am sure he will cope going from 60 hours of live broadcasting a month to one column :-)

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So why all the taxpayer dollars spent in court?

June 13th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

Radio NZ will allow its well-known and sometimes fractious star Sean Plunket to write a magazine column, despite having battled through the Employment Relations Authority to stop him.

The cash-strapped state broadcaster had won a ruling from the authority, allowing it to ban Plunket from writing the political column while he was on the public payroll.

I’m glad Radio NZ have decided to allow Sean, but at mystified about why they didn’t just say yes in the first place, and avoid all these court battles.

I could understand any reluctance if Sean wanted to spend his weekends hosting talkback on Radio Live. But this was a monthly column in a magazine!

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Cutting off the nose to spite the face

April 28th, 2010 at 10:53 am by David Farrar

On the 1st of May, the Shanghai World Expo opens. NZ T&E describes it as:

The World Expo to be held in Shanghai, China in 2010 will be the biggest in world history. During the six months the Expo will be open – 1 May to 31 October 2010 – it is expected to draw 70 million visitors.

This is a major economic and business opportunity, hence the large New Zealand pavilion that will be there.

No Radio NZ has a freeze on international travel, so can’t send someone to cover it. However I understand that one of their staff – Chris Laidlaw – was so keen to cover it (due to his interest and links in this area) that he persuaded NZ T&E that it made sense for them to fund his attendance. They even agreed to guarantee in writing his editorial independence – he won’t be forced to only broadcast good stuff.

Sounds like a sensible win-win. However Radio NZ management have vetoed it. They say it compromises their commercial neutrality to accept funding from NZ T&E.

Now I ask myself – who funds Radio NZ? The taxpayer! Who funds NZ T&E? Also the taxpayer! So how exactly is this being compromised?

So let us be very clear about this. The policy of Radio NZ is that it is wrong for Radio NZ staff to fly to Shanghai, funded by the NZ taxpayer through NZ T&E.

However it is fine for Radio NZ staff to fly to Iran, funded by the Iranian Government.

Madness I say.

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Radio NZ getting off lightly

February 25th, 2010 at 10:38 am by David Farrar

Radio NZ is facing some tough challenges as it has been told it will not be getting an increase in funding. Now, as costs do rise, that does put some pressure on, and there may be job losses which are always regretable.

But as I have said before, when a recession knocks $50 billion out of the economy, that has real world effects. Most companies would love to have a guarantee of stable funding.

Take Television New Zealand – also a state owned broadcaster, but one without the benefit of direct state funding. The Herald reports:

All Television NZ programmes will be up for constant review as the state broadcaster faces tighter budgets and falling advertising revenue.

Figures released yesterday show TVNZ’s profit halved to $8.9 million in the six months to December, compared with the $18.3 million of the previous year. Total operating revenue fell 16.6 per cent to $186.9 million.

Now I don’t mean to be insensitive to staff at Radio NZ, who are facing pressures. But hell I’d much rather be in the state owned broadcaster with guaranteed stable funding than the state owned broadcaster which has had its revenue drop by a massive 17%.

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More on Radio NZ and Iran

February 24th, 2010 at 4:35 pm by David Farrar

I blogged twice previously on the Radio NZ staff going to radio workshops in Iran. My position was that the Iranian Government was effectively paying for the staff to take part in an event hosted by their in house propoganda arm.

Apart from the issue of accepting the money from the Iranian Government, there was the issue of having a “good” public broadcaster like Radio NZ having its reputation associated with a state controlled broadcaster that doesn’t speak truth to power but instead speaks lies on behalf of those in power.

In the comments section I said:

The way I read it the conference organisers are the IRIB, and they are the ones paying all the costs. I welcome clarification if that is not the case, but regardless think there is an issue about having a state sponsored enemy of the free press, paying for even part of the costs of RNZ staff

Russell Brown replied:

It’s not true, and you’ve rushed in with an endorsement of a “scoop” written by someone who didn’t even bother to check her “facts”.

The two RNZ staff members were sponsored by the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union. The sentence in the newsletter was hilariously wrong. End of story.

And you wonder why people say bad things about blogs.

We also had RNZ Comms say:

Two Radio New Zealand staff members have been invited to take part in an international radio festival and conference in Iran, but the invitation came not from the IRIB organisers but the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, the umbrella agency for public broadcasting in our region. Our staff are not representing Radio New Zealand, but are attending on behalf of ABU, and if that organisation had not issued the invitation, they would not be attending.

All the costs of the trip will be reimbursed. No programme-making or gathering of content for air on Radio New Zealand will be done during the attendance at the event.

But nowhere in that statement did they back up the assertion by Russell on who actually is paying. I it APBU or Iran?

Well I have a copy of a statement from Radio NZ, which I believe has or will be supplied to media. In it they say:

Under a separate arrangement between the ABU and IRIB (Iran), the costs of all ABU representatives attending the event are covered by the host broadcaster.

In other words we are right – Iran is paying for two Radio NZ staff to travel to the workshop. Who ever told Russell it is not true, led him wrong.

We also have the issue where Radio NZ keeps insisting the are not representing Radio NZ, but instead the ABU. However their statement again says:

They will not be taking leave to attend

So they are being paid their normal salaries by Radio NZ while they are there, and Iran picks up the travel costs. And I have no doubt their affiliation with Radio NZ will be referenced at the workshops.

Now I have nothing against the two staffers in question. I am sure they do an excellent job. And if the ABU was holding the workshops elsewhere, there would not be an issue – even if a country with a semi-free press such as Singapore.

But Iran has pretty much no free press at all. The host broadcaster is beyond doubt an enemy of free media – their chairman accused the BBC and CNN of manfacturing tapes of the Iranian girl being killed. This is not a regime you want to accept money from, and lend credibility to.

Their global press freedom ranking is 181st= out of 195. Only 13 countries or territories rate lower.

The Chief Executive of Radio NZ has to approve the attendance under the conflicts of interest policy. Why does he not think associating with a regime which is an enemy of public broadcasters like Radio NZ, is a conflict? Just because the ABU has agreed to do workshops there does not mean Radio NZ has to agree to have its staff participate.

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Editorials 23 February 2010

February 23rd, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald says RNZ savings are not worth it:

Radio NZ’s budget last year was just $38.2 million, of which $34.2 million was public money. That points to the swingeing nature of the Government’s programme. While it is reasonable that all state-funded bodies should tighten their belts, it seems excessive to be waving a big stick at organisations where the potential savings are trifling.

The same penchant was, however, evident in last year’s Budget. Most controversially, cuts were made to adult night school programmes.

Again, the savings seemed hardly worth the trouble. Community education takes just 0.6 per cent of the tertiary education allocation, and the canned programmes provided value for money, if only because they gave hands-on instruction at schools that would, otherwise, not have been in use.

The Herald may be right that politically it might not be smart to take a lot of political heat, for relatively small fiscal savings. However I think it is more complex than that. If the Govt goes soft on one or two state agencies, then it is harder to keep fiscal discipline with the rest of them. State sector CEOs will find ways to live within means if they think everyone is doing so. But if you start giving into media campaigns for more funding, it incentivises other agencies to do the same. And then you end up having to borrow even more than $240 million a week.

The Press talks protecting police:

In response to the weekend violence the Government is considering introducing extra penalties for offenders who assault police officers, as is the case in Western Australia. Such a move might not deter drugged or drunken offenders from attacking officers, however.

Yet, it is still worth considering, as it would reinforce the special position the police have in our society to uphold the rule of law. It would also acknowledge the real, every-day risks faced by officers as they perform their duties.

If the Government did move to strengthen penalties it would have to be determined whether the new law would apply to off-duty officers who intervened in an incident. But because the public expects off-duty officers to respond to crimes they come across, and they would not be wearing anti-stab vests, they too should have the protection of such a law.

I favour increased penalties for assaults on Police. The Police get assaulted, basically on our behalf. They deal with the criminals and risk their lives often doing so.

The Dom Post flicks at Wellington parking wardens:

Of all the low-down, mean, sneaky tricks … While football fans were cheering the Wellington Phoenix to a nail-biting victory at Westpac Stadium on Sunday evening, parking wardens were ticketing the vehicles of 61 fans who had exceeded the maximum parking time outside the ground – because the match went into extra time, then a penalty shootout.

To its credit, Wellington City Council has waived the tickets, which threatened to turn the Phoenix’s triumph into a public relations disaster. But coming on top of other recent instances of over-zealous ticketing, the incident suggests something is amiss with parking operations. Proposals to install Big Brother-style parking surveillance cameras in Courtenay Place add weight to the theory.

The purpose of parking restrictions should be to ensure that as many people as possible can park in city and suburban streets, do their business and be on their way. It should not be to fatten the coffers of Tenix, the private company which manages Wellington parking, Parkwise, the Armourguard subsidiary to which Tenix contracts ticketing, or the council itself.

Hear hear. The incentives are all about revenue maximization, not giving parkers a fair go.

And the ODT looks at water woes in Canterbury:

Seldom has a local authority received such a slating as that just given to Canterbury’s regional council, Environment Canterbury (ECan), by a Government review panel.

The panel says the gap between what ECan does and what it should do is enormous and unprecedented. …

Yet some argue no change is needed.

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Two sorts of public broadcasters

February 22nd, 2010 at 5:33 pm by David Farrar

I’m still not clear whether or not Iran is paying for the Radio NZ staff to attend, or the Asia-Pacific Broadcasters Union is. But the issue of paying, is for me, the lesser issue.

Radio NZ is a public broadcaster. While at times I may have issues over the diversity of views on Radio NZ, they are one of the “good guys” in that their role is to speak truth to power, as the old saying goes. They act as a critic and check on Government.

The Iran state broadcaster is almost the polar opposite of Radio NZ. It does not speak truth to power. It speaks lies on behalf of the power. Rather than be a critic and check on the Government, they are a propaganda arm of the regime.

Having Radio NZ staff at a broadcasting conference hosted by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Alliance, lends legitimacy to the IRIBA.

I’d like to see Radio NZ staff attend conferences dedicated to media freedom, and the need for a free press. Not give legitimacy to a broadcaster which stands opposed to everything good about Radio NZ.

The Chief Executive of Radio NZ must have approved the attendance of the staff, under RNZ’s conflict of interests policy. Does he not think supporting a broadcaster whose practices reflect everything Radio NZ professes to be against, is a conflict?

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Iran sponsoring Radio NZ staff

February 22nd, 2010 at 12:15 pm by David Farrar

Busted Blonde has a great scoop. She has found out two Radio NZ staff members are being sponsored by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting agency to attend some sort of broadcasting event in Iran.

So taking money from evil capitalist businesses in New Zealand is wrong, but from the Iranian Government (a known bastion of free speech) is fine.

The head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting agency is the man who told the world press last July that videos of Neda Agha-Soltan’s death were fakes manufactured by the BBC and CNN.

UPDATE: In a comment below, Radio NZ says the staff are not representing Radio NZ, and that they would not attend if the IRIBA had invited them directly but somehow it is okay because it is through the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union. What is not yet clear is who is paying for the travel – IRIBA or the APBU, and also whether the staff are being paid to attend, or taking unpaid or annual leave]

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