Waiting for the hearse

January 10th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I could not believe One News the night before last, when during an (un-necessary) live cross, one of their reporters said how they were hoping to get live footage of the hearse going by (after the ballooning tragedy). I actually yelled at the television – which I do not do often. That was silly and tacky.

I’m not alone it seems. Throng blogged yesterday:

Sarah Batley’s live cross on One News tonight was utterly disgraceful and disrespectful to the 11 people who died tragically yesterday in the hot air balloon crash in Carterton, their families and their friends.

Desperately hoping to be live while a hearse drives past with bodies of the victims is incredibly distasteful, offensive and unnecessary.
It was offensive. To be fair to Ms Batley, she may not have been the one who decided to make mention of waiting for the hearse. It is one thing to include coverage of a hearse in a story. But the way they reported how they were “hoping” to get live coverage of it crossed a line – significantly.
Whale has blogged on this also. When Whale says it is distasteful, you know it definitely is :-)
I contrast that to the good example of the photographer who captured photos of the balloon tragedy. Rather than sell them to The Sun or whichever tabloid will pay the most for them, he gave a copy to the Police for official inquiries, and deleted the originals. Big ups to that man.
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Espiner to TV3

December 15th, 2011 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

TV3 has confirmed it has poached TVNZ’s political editor Guyon Espiner.

He will work as a journalist for current affairs show 60 Minutes, starting in February.

Espiner has been TVNZ’s political editor since 2006 and also hosted the Sunday morning programme Q+A for the state broadcaster.

I can remember Guyon starting in the press gallery in the 1990s, but that just makes me feel old!

Certainly a coup for TV3 to pick Guyon up, and good to see them beefing up 60 minutes. I suspect Guyon will appreciate a less hectic lifestyle as his two roles of press gallery in Wellington and Q+A every weekend must have been draining.

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When are the televised MMP debates?

October 25th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

TVNZ has announced that One News will host three election debates. They are:

  1. Mon 31 October – major party leaders
  2. Wed 16 November – minor party leaders
  3. Wed 23 November – major party leaders

Now it is great that we have three debates scheduled to help people make informed votes on who governs New Zealand for the next three years.

But where are the televised debates on the electoral system referendum, which will decide our electoral system for the next 50 years or so?

Surely if we have 270 minutes of prime time devoted to the election debates, we should have at least that much time on TV for debating the electoral system?

I hope TVNZ and TV3 announce a number of electoral referendum debates. It is only 32 days until we vote on whether or not we keep MMP or have another referendum in 2014. Radio NZ has led the way with a high level debate, I hope they will not be the only broadcaster to do so.

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The NZ on Air Platinum Fund

September 5th, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Readers may recall that TVNZ under Labour was given a “charter” and “charter funding” with the idea being that TVNZ would be both a commercial broadcaster and a public service broadcaster.

It was an experiment that failed. Former TVNZ CEO IAN Fraser, a huge public broadcasting advocate, said that you can’t ask the broadcaster to be both.

And certainly viewers couldn’t detect any change in TVNZ programming despite the charter money. In fact much of it got siphoned off into stuff that they would have done anyway, or stuff shown at times no one watches.

So National abolished the meaningless charter and took the charter funding of around $15m a year, and gave it to NZ on Air who uses it for contestable “public good” programmes through their platinum fund.

Now I’m not sure if others have been watching Sunday Theatre the last few weeks, but there have been some great shows on, funded through the Platinum Fund. There was Billy on the life of Billy T James, Rage last night on the Springbok Tour by Tom Scott, Bliss on Katherine Mansfield, and the iconic Tangiwai.

Now some may say they don’t think there should be any public broadcasting at all. That’s fine. But I think most would agree if we do have public broadcasting it should be high quality programmes that people actually watch,

These dramas have all had massive ratings, and in my opinion have all reflected events and people which are important parts of New Zealand’s history.

I think it is a great example of substance over form. The TVNZ charter made people feel think that it would be good for public broadcasting, but it wasn’t. The current approach of using the charter funding as a contestable fund has produced some superb New Zealand television.

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A non story

August 1st, 2011 at 9:04 pm by David Farrar

TVNZ reports:

Prime Minister John Key’s appearance on Late Show with David Letterman may have cost taxpayers up to $10,000.

Not really.

“I’ve been informed that Tourism New Zealand have a PR company. They’re on a retainer. They pay them every month, irrelevant of what I do.”

“Apparently, when the Letterman show was on, that was one of the projects they worked on. They would have made the payment whether I was there or not.”

So in fact no extra money was spent. Not that I would have had a problem if there had been – as a tourism promotion, $10,000 would have been ridiculously cheap.

In fact one 25th the cost of the $250,000 spent in 2002 on a Discovery documentary about NZ, starring Helen Clark. And that was in an election year.

I have no problem with either expenditure if they are genuinely deemed a worthwhile tourism investment.

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Plagiarism

July 19th, 2011 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald’s Sideswipe put together a few days ago this video comparing a Close Up story to a story on ABC News in the US.

It is quite common to base stories on overseas stories. But I’ve never heard of a story using basically the same script and words. Close Up have now apologised after an initial “No problems” response. Good to see they have backed down, and kudos to Sideswipe for the story.

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Twas Jadis

July 4th, 2011 at 11:27 pm by David Farrar

TVNZ reports:

Many people have also commented on the book’s timing, including prominent blogger David Farrar who said it was “appalling in itself” and that “Wishart has chosen to market the book during the coronial inquest into the death of the twins”.

In a statement to ONE News, Wishart also said the book’s timing was “appalling”.

However, he added it was not intentional and that “the only positive is that it has created a strong national debate on child abuse”. The story broke after ONE News contacted Wishart following a tip-off.

Wishart said it was not true that the publicity for the book, which is being published by his Howling at the Moon company and is due for release at the end of the month, was deliberately timed to coincide with the inquest.

My guest bloggers do not post often, so it is an easy mistake to make. But those quotes in questions come from Jadis, not me. If you scroll down the main page, you’ll see her listed as the author for the posting on 29 June at 10.26 am.

The site doesn’t list authors on individual archive pages, only the main page. I have on my to do list to get that changed.

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TVNZ v Throng

May 17th, 2011 at 11:40 am by David Farrar

TVNZ has black-listed Throng from receiving media releases from them, because of a dispute over whether a press releases from TVNZ misled people by using “reach” instead of “average viewers”. I’ll come to the details of the issue shortly, but first want to focus on the big picture.

TVNZ is a state owned broadcaster, and has a news division which itself often reports news that others feel is unwelcome or unfair. It is vastly overkill to refuse to have an outlet on their media release list, just because you didn’t like one of their stories.

I would hope that TVNZ reporters and journalists will ask their colleagues in marketing and pr, whether they think it helps TVNZ’s brand to act in such a way, relaying on bullying and threats instead of reason.

First of all Throng, for those who don’t know it, is a website dedicated to New Zealand Television. It’s the work of a husband and wife team, who make their living from the Internet. They provide summaries, and feedback on all the major TV shows, plus general commentary on television issues. It’s the sort of site that a broadcaster should want to have a great relationship with. Sure it takes two to tango, but I know Regan and Rachel and I doubt you could find two more decent and honest people. Also as it happens Rachel got an A+ for Statistics at Auckland Uni, has lectured in Statistics and ironically helped write the materials for Stats 150 – “Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics”.

On the 2nd of May they blogged about a press release from TVNZ which was putting the boot into 60 minutes ratings on TV3. Throng pointed out the stats were wrong. TVNZ agreed they made a mistake and said so. So this is not the post which caused the dispute, but I suspect is part of the reason why TVNZ is being hyper-sensitive.

A few days later Throng blogged:

Just a few days after TVNZ’s press release full of ratings blunders about TV3′s show 60 Minutes where they quote figures way lower than in reality, they’ve sent out another ratings press release which a number of people ended up being misled by.  

Using a statistical term such as “average” in that press release was ambiguous.  Many would take it to mean the most-quoted statistic of average audience, rather than what TVNZ had used and intended for people to understand: average reach. 

The two measures are very different and can lead one to very different conclusions about the popularity of a show.   

As a result, TVNZ has requested their publicity department ensure that in future all viewership figures are attributed to Nielsens and identified by their appropriate categories.

They went on to explain:

Cumulative Audience, also known as reach: 

Relates to the total number of different people within the selected demographic who tuned into the selected time period for 8 minutes or more (i.e. reached at least once by a specific schedule or advertisement). It is usually represented in thousands, but can be transferred into a percentage of the potential audience.

Average audience: 

The average number of people who tuned into the given time selected.

Now at the heart of the dispute is TVNZ is offended that Throng said their use of the “reach” was misleading. They say it is not misleading and a valid figure.

The comparison might be between a website which talks of the number of “hits” as oppossed to “page views” or even “visits”. They are all valid terms, but if you don’t label them precisely. What TVNZ said was:

In total, more than 2 million New Zealanders (all 5+) have tuned in to Go Girls this series, and on average 708,200 tune in each week (all 5+).

Now I think it is a fair criticism that people reading that could think it refers to average audience rather than average reach. It might not be deliberately misleading, but why have a lack of clarity? I think TVNZ itself has acknowledged this point by putting in place a policy where future releases will use precise descriptions such as reach or average audience.

Now it is because of that dispute, that TVNZ have decided to blacklist Throng and refuses to have them on the media release list. This is taking thin-skinned to new heights. And I think TVNZ are doing it because Throng are small and they think they can bully them. The NZ Herald often reports items very critical of TVNZ, but you don’t see TVNZ refusing to send press releases to the Herald do you?

Throng have talked to other media about the issue they face. They have been told they must remove the offending post or they will not be given co-operation again, or put on the media release list. They have approached other media about this, which resulted in a further e-mail from TVNZ which said:

I’ve had a call from the Dominion Post Regan, who have told me that you emailed them regarding our ratings figures.  You are certainly going the wrong way about getting any further cooperation from us.  I suggest you pull back from this exceptionally foolish position.

So now it is threats.

I’m amazed TVNZ is being so petty, rather than just doing the “we agree to disagree”. What really galls me is that they would not act so high handed with a more powerful organisation.

I could understand their position if Throng refused them to have their say on the site. to the contrary they run unedited all their press releases. Surely the solution is TVNZ issue a formal “right of reply” to Throng, which Throng would publish.

But really this is beating up a mountain from a molehill. The “sin” was saying that using reach instead of audience average was misleading. For this, they have instituted a boycott.

I hope that those in the news and editorial sections of TVNZ will defend freedom of the press, and ask their corporate colleagues to reconsider the damage they do to TVNZ’s brand by instituting a boycott against a site because of one critical blog post.

Throng are not asking to be given special access to anything – they just want to be put back on the press release list. The ball is in TVNZ’s court.

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TVNZ’s dodgy stats

May 4th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Throng blogs:

TVNZ claims that 60 Minutes had an average audience of 130,060 in April, quoting Nielsen TAM (5+).  We publish these same ratings each day on Throng, and based on the figures we have been sent, the average audience was approximately 257,000.  TVNZ’s figure is roughly half that!

The press release gets even more dramatic by saying 60 Minutes has lost “almost 300,000 viewers per week since February”.  Hold on a minute: that’s an awful lot of viewers to be losing.  With over 8 weeks in March and April, that would have given 60 Minutes over 2.4 million viewers in February – more than the total number of Kiwis watching the Royal Wedding!

“[60 Minutes] had an average of 422,120 viewers watching each week in February” is misleading as there was only one episode of show screened in February!  It was a special 30 minute Christchurch earthquake special on the day after the quake, so not surprising that it rated so highly.  

So TVNZ was comparing a one off special the day after the earthquake, with normal ratings for 60 minutes, and using it to try and con people that 60 Minutes had a plummeting audience.

Someone in One News should explain to TVNZ Marketing that dodgy press releases from the broadcaster undermine their trustworthiness as a new source.

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TVNZ7

April 7th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins at the Dom Post reports:

Public broadcasting channel TVNZ 7 is to be wound up after just three years.

The commercial-free channel has cultivated a niche audience since its inception but Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman confirmed yesterday its funding would not be extended beyond next year after it failed to live up to expectations that it would support itself over time.

This is not some spin made up by National. Here is what then Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey said in 2006:

The government will support TVNZ’s proposal to move into the digital era with funding of $79 million over the next six years, Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey announced today.

“The government is backing TVNZ’s plans to strengthen its public broadcast offering as it makes the transition to free-to-air digital,” Steve Maharey said. …

Funding for TVNZ’s digital content proposal will be released to TVNZ over the next six years, with the intention that the services become self-sustaining over time.

So Labour never promised to sustain taxpayer funding of TVNZ7. The funding was for a transitional period, and the sad reality is that the viewing numbers for TVNZ7 were miniscule.

I’m personally a big fan of some of the shows on TVNZ7. I think Media 7 and Court Report are important shows, as they are about scrutinising the actions of powerful institutions. Likewise Backbenchers plays an important role in having MPs actually debate issues of the week with each other. I think NZ will be the poorer, if these shows disappear.

However that doesn’t mean that a dedicated TVNZ7 channel was the best way to have shows like that on TV. I believe that the value associated with channels is rapidly declining in a Tivo and My Sky world. I record programmes I want to watch – I don’t view channels anymore. I record content from One, Two, TV3, C4, Comedy Central, TVNZ7, Stratos, History Channel etc. Half the time I don’t even have any idea what channel something has played on. And the future will be more and more people like me – choosing content not channels.

So for me, the challenge is how to keeps non-commercial shows like Court Report, Media 7 etc on the airwaves, without TVNZ7. In my mind, there are two ways forward:

  1. As previously advocated, set up a unified public broadcaster like the BBC or ABC. Sell of TVNZ to generate the capital for the “NZBC” and use the current operational funding for Radio NZ, Maori TV and NZ on Air for ongoing costs.
  2. Have TVNZ apply to NZ on Air to fund the shows from their contestable fund. I would hope that the shows would have a reasonable chance of success. In an ideal world it would be nice to be able to increase funding for NZ on Air, but that is unrealistic in the next few years. We just have to get back into surplus first.
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Avalon

April 6th, 2011 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Hipkins blogs:

I was sad to see TVNZ announce today that the Good Morning TV show will be relocated to Auckland at the end of the year. It’s the only show of any substance to be produced at Avalon at the moment and probably marks the end of an era for New Zealand TV.

Avalon is an iconic landmark in my electorate, towering over the neighboring suburbs since the late 1970s. It used to be the home of TVNZ, and heaps of legendary kiwi TV was made there (at one stage almost all Kiwi drama was made in the Hutt). Then TVNZ abandoned any pretense of public service TV, moved to Auckland chasing the almighty dollar, and Avalon has been on a downward slide ever since.

Like Chris, I am sad to see Avalon go. It’s been the traditional home for leader’s debates and many other shows. And in the deep past, it was the centre of TVNZ news.

Or perhaps it’s time to start afresh? Let TVNZ go off and be a commercial broadcaster and setup a new public service channel? Avalon wouldn’t be a bad place to start…

I broadly agree with Chris. Trying to have TVNZ as a commercial and a public service broadcaster is an impossible task. Just ask Ian Fraser, who tried.

I’d sell off TVNZ (the state doesn’t need to own commercial broadcasters) and use the capital from the sale to set up a unified public service broadcaster which does television, radio and web.

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Who will be the next Breakfast Host?

October 22nd, 2010 at 7:59 am by David Farrar

iPredict have launched a range of stocks on who will be the next Breakfast host. As of this morning the favourites are:

  1. Tm Wilson 35%
  2. Oliver Driver 17%
  3. Tamati Coffey 11%
  4. Sean Plunket 10%
  5. Greg Boyed 9%
  6. Mike Hosking 8%
  7. Paul Holmes 7%
  8. Jack Tame 6%
  9. Jeremy Wells 6%
  10. Dominic Harvey 5%
  11. Matty McLean 2%
  12. Peter Williams 1%
  13. Mark Sainsbury 1%

If you think anyone is over or under priced, then make some money if you are right and buy or sell some stock!

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The new Breakfast hosts

October 18th, 2010 at 1:15 pm by David Farrar

Rachel Glucina lists the possibilities:

Riddle me this, amigos: If Oliver Driver killed his own television breakfast show why would TVNZ bosses hire him for theirs?

Replacing the right leaning politically incorrect Paul Henry with left leaning Oliver Driver would be a sure fire way to piss off viewers. Driver was okay on TV3 as he fitted that channel’s liberal brand. But the brand for TVNZ Breakfast is way different.

The new Pippa

Bernadine Oliver-Kerby
Heather Du Plessis-Allan

Joanna Hunkin

Kate Hawkesby

Rachel Smalley

Stacy Daniels

Renee Wright

April Ieremia

Charlotte Ryan

Shavaughn Ruakere

Kate Rodger

If Paul Henry was still hosting Breakfast, then I think Heather DPA would be a great match for him. She wouldn’t take any of his shit, but wouldn’t be offended by what he says. Even without Paul, I think she’d be good in the role.

I liked Kate Hawkesby when she did it with Mike Hosking. Also Bernadine Oliver-Kirby displays a good sense of humour.

The new Paul

Paul Holmes
Jeremy Corbett
Dominic Harvey
Duncan Garner
Jack Tame
Mikey Havoc
Greg Boyed
John Tamihere
Jeremy Wells
Jay Reeve
Rod Cheeseman

If Paul Holmes can handle the early starts, I think he’s be an obvious choice. Paul’s style would be a very good fit for Breakfast, and he is well versed at being entertaining and amusing.

Jeremy Wells would be hilarious but I imagine he would get sacked for saying something outraegous soon or later.

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Well done TVNZ

October 16th, 2010 at 9:59 am by David Farrar

TVNZ reports:

A ONE News investigation into a study that claims alcohol is cheaper than water has found that’s not always the case.

The report by the University of Otago, based on Department of Statistics figures, found a glass of water costs 67c, while a standard drink of beer costs 64c and a standard drink of cask wine costs 62c.

At the supermarket, the cheapest water ONE News could find came in a three litre container, which cost $2.57.

The cheapest wines in the same quantity on the other hand were priced at $22 and the cheapest beer, in a 12 pack and about five litres in quantity, was $18.40.

Applying the same calculations used in the Otago study, the glass of water cost less at only 21c, while the beer pack cost $1.10 for a glass and the cask of wine cost 71c for a standard drink.

The Otago study author, Associate Professor Nick Wilson, blamed price fluctuations for the difference.

“When you look at some specials, [alcohol] is actually cheaper than bottled water in some cases and at other times it may not be.”

Wilson is also sticking to his call for increased taxes to push the price of alcohol up.

I’m really pleased that TVNZ, unlike most media, didn’t just report the so called study as gospel and repeat it unthinkingly. They went out and tested the results and found they are bunkum.

The study seems to have cherry picked data so it could compare the most expensive bottled water to the cheapest ever alcohol, and come up with a conclusion that alcohol is now cheaper than water.

TVNZ have shown this is crap – that bottled water is under a third the price of the cheapest wine. Will other media report this as they reported the original study?

Also they are not comparing apples and apples. Water is in fact almost free as a product. when people buy bottled water they are buying it for the convenience. The correct comparison to bottled water would be the cost of alcohol in an on license – where you are also not paying so much for the alcohol, but for the convenience also.

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Analysing the Henry decision

October 11th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Why did he go and what does it mean for TVNZ and Henry?

Why did he go?

What changed, so that it went from a suspension offence to resignation. I think there were four factors.

  1. The Dikshit name mockery by itself would have been no big thing. Other NZ broadcasters have done exactly the same thing as Paul Henry did, and it was reported that in India her name has been made fun of for many years by some. But the problem for Henry was it occuring just before his awful comments on Sir Anand not being a real NZers. This made it look like Henry was prejudiced against Indians, rather than just making fun of her name.
  2. The official complaint from the Indian Government. While it is preposterous that they turned it official, the reality is they did. Suddenly this makes the comments a major liability.
  3. A growing realisation that Henry’s brand has been so damaged by this, that he would never be able to restore his reputation with many NZers.
  4. Perhaps most importantly the “scandal” effectively destroyed his chances of ever grabbing the coveted Close Up hosting spot. It is no secret he had wanted this for many years. With that now ruled out, he had no future in TVNZ except to stay where he is.

So what does it mean for TVNZ:

  1. In the short term they get out of the political bonfire that was threatening to burn them
  2. But also in the short term they face a backlash from the many Paul Henry supporters (up to 70,000 now on Facebook). And do not under estimate how many people watched Breakfast only because of him. I was certainly one of them. Don’t get me wrong – other presenters do a competent job, but Paul makes you laugh and is so entertaining that you really enjoyed tuning in.
  3. As I understand it Breakfast has never been highly profitable. It is possible Breakfast could become a loss leader, and in these tight times may be an expense TVNZ can not afford.

And where now for Paul Henry:

  1. If I was TV3 I’d be picking up the phone to Paul. However I wouldn’t necessarily stick him on at Breakfast – that time slot is never highly profitable. Maybe give him the 5.30 pm slot that TVNZ were looking to develop for him.
  2. A return to radio is possible. That was where he started. However I have to say that I think seeing Paul’s antics is a big part of his appeal, and radio may lessen that.
  3. Paul could always become a blogger :-)
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A reluctant complaint

October 11th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Dear Commissioner Broad,

This is a complaint alleging that Television New Zealand Ltd broke S140 of the Criminal Justice Act 1985 with their 6 pm One News bulletin on Tuesday 5 October 2010.

A video of the particular item can be found at http://tvnz.co.nz/local-elections-2010/court-appearances-over-alleged-voting-scam-3818752/video

The item showed the arrest of a man in relation to alleged enrolment fraud in Papatoetoe.

At around 50 seconds into the item, the reporter speaks to the camera with a Labour Party billboard in the background, showing photos and names of three candidates for the local elections. Slowly the shot zoomed in until the only two things visible were the reporter and the photo of the candidate on the right. At this stage his billboard photo is almost as large as the reporter. It is not an obscure background image.

The candidate prominently focused on was Daljit Singh, who was one of the two men arrested. At the time of the broadcast his name and identity was subject to an interim suppression order from the Auckland District Court.

The inclusion of the billboard featuring Mr Singh, and the extended close up zoom onto his image was obviously a deliberate decision by TVNZ to indicate or hint that Mr Singh was the person arrested. They did also show some images of other candidates and billboards but they were extremely rapid fire.

In the recent case of Police v Slater, the judgement of Judge Harvey made it clear that it is not necessary to actually name the person with name suppression, to be in breach of an order. Judge Harvey states:

The information can be decoded in the same way that an aggregation of information may lead to the identification of a person by way of a process of elimination – another form of interpreting a particular code or solving a puzzle.

The focusing on his name and photo allowed people to “solve the puzzle” of who had appeared in court. Presumably, this must have been the intention of TVNZ, otherwise they had no need to film their item in front on Mr Singh’s billboard.

I should note that personally I strongly disapproved of the situation where Mr Singh was able to get interim name suppression. I would even go so far as to say that I thought TVNZ provided a public service by implicitly identifying him before the deadline for posting in votes.

But I do not believe one can expect other “publishers” to obey the laws around name suppression, if they are not applied equally.

Therefore I reluctantly file this complaint.

Faithfully,

David Farrar

(complaint was sent by e-mail on Saturday 9 October 20110)

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Paul Henry resigns

October 10th, 2010 at 7:15 pm by David Farrar

Paul Henry has offered his resignation from TVNZ and the CEO has accepted it.

Will he move to 3? Or radio? And who will replace him?

UPDATE: 75 comments in the hour from when I blogged this (which was while waiting for my luggage at the airport) and making it into my hotel room. I think that must be a record.

UPDATE2: You can vote in my blog poll in the left hand sidebar as to whether or not you think TVNZ did the right thing by accepting Paul Henry’s resignation

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Will TVNZ be prosecuted for One News tonight?

October 5th, 2010 at 9:02 pm by David Farrar

I thought TVNZ’s One News tonight was just as blatant a breach of a name suppression order, as anything Cameron Slater did.

It was calculated and deliberate to identify one of those given name suppression.

Now I have to be honest and part of me was wildly cheering on TVNZ for their defiance of the court order.

But the other part of me wonders if the Police and Crown Law will treat TVNZ to the same standard as it did a blogger?

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The appropriate response

October 5th, 2010 at 9:04 am by David Farrar

UPDATE 1225: TVNZ have taken my advice and suspended Paul Henry without pay until 18 October. Okay, may not be on my advice, but I do note that most people were calling for either just a better apology or outright sacking. As far as I know few people advocated suspension as the appropriate response.

A sacking would make Paul a martyr. The suspension both is humiliating for him, but also sets a very clear boundary. If he does similar in the future, then clearly the response needed from TVNZ will be stronger than suspension.

ORIGINAL: I’ve been thinking about what would be the appropriate response from TVNZ in relation to Paul Henry’s comments yesterdays. A “sorry if you were offended” apology does not come close. However I’m not in the camp demanding he must be sacked, and never work in broadcasting again. I do respect greatly the decision of Ben Gracewood to quit his beloved spot on Breakfast reviewing gadgets – a very principled gutsy call which will have far more impact on TVNZ than the few hundred people who have joined the anti Paul Henry facebook group (his pro one has 35,000).

What TVNZ should do, is the same as radio stations do when a “shock jock” steps over the line. They should suspend Paul Henry from on air duties. That sends out a very clear message about what is acceptable, without being commercially reckless. It may also serve as a learning exercise about boundaries.

I enjoy Paul Henry’s humour greatly, and think he is remarkably talented broadcaster. However what he did yesterday was not humouous. It was simply ugly. And I don’t think TVNZ (or Paul) have realised how different this is to other incidents.

If humour is sincere, you can get away with a lot. For example when friends ring me up and tell me awful Jewish jokes, I don’t mind a bit – because I know it is 100% humour and they don’t really have an anti-semitic bone in their body. If however some neo-nazi skin-head was telling the joke, it would be creepy as genuine dislike or contempt or even hatred is what motivates them.

And that is the challenge with watching Paul Henry in future. He no longer will be that funny offensive guy Paul Henry. He will be that guy who looks down on people with a different skin colour, and you will wonder if what motivates his humour is racism?

There’s a fair bit I don’t agree with Joris de Bres on, but his quotes in the Herald are spot on:

Mr de Bres said Henry often said things to challenge or shock people “but this one was off the planet”.

“What he was saying was that if you were an Indian New Zealander and you were born here, you went to school here, you went to university here, you practised law here, you became a judge, you became an ombudsman and you became a Governor-General, that a key presenter on national television still thinks you don’t look like or sound like a New Zealander.”

Mr de Bres said Sir Anand probably knew Henry well enough to ignore his comment, “but I know that it does have an impact on other Indians and other New Zealanders”.

This is the truly sad thing. We should celebrate Sir Anand’s achievements. He was born in New Zealand to immigrants from Fiji. He succeeded at school, at university, was a successful lawyer, became a Judge and then a hugely respected Ombudsman. Finally he is appointed Governor-General. But despite all of that, some people think he is still not a real New Zealander. Now think about the awful message that gives to young New Zealanders who have immigrant parents. It is that no matter how well you achieve, there are some New Zealanders that will think you are not a real Kiwi because of your skin colour.

This is not about offending a singer from the UK. This is about a statement that really will affect  lot of Kiwis. This is not an issue of freedom of speech – because that is not the same as freedom from consequences.

TVNZ issued a separate statement defending Henry – a release that Mr de Bres said was more “discouraging” than Henry’s original one.

Issued by spokeswoman Andi Brotherston, it said: “The audience tell us over and over again that one of the things they love about Paul Henry is that he’s prepared to say the things we quietly think but are scared to say out loud.”

I agree that the statement in defence was disgraceful. TVNZ badly miscalculated. This is very different to Paul’s other complaints.

A stronger response is needed than an apology. I think an on-air suspension would be the appropriate response. Anything less, and TVNZ looks like it condones racism. Because this is not just about Paul Henry, but also about TVNZ’s initial response defending him as saying he is prepared to say out loud what we think quietly.

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Cringeworthy

October 4th, 2010 at 3:25 pm by David Farrar

I cringed when Paul Henry asked the PM this morning whether in appointing a Governor-General would “choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time?”.

I have a lot of time for Paul’s humour, even his offensive humour, because humour is often offensive.

But this was not a joke, this was not even comparable to Paul Homes with his “cheeky darkie” comment, which was meant to be a parody.

This was a blatant statement that NZ born Sir Anand does not look and sound like a New Zealander because his parents are Fijian Indians.

What Paul really meant is that he does not sound like a white or British New Zealander.

If TVNZ don’t take firm action on this one, they will find themselves in a very umcomfortable position. They should also arrange for an apology to the Governor-General. He was born in New Zealander, and is every but as much a New Zealander as Paul Henry.

UPDATE: Paul Henry has apologised:

I sincerely apologise to the Governor General, Sir Anand Satyanand for any offence I may have caused.

I am aware that Sir Anand has made an outstanding contribution to New Zealand.

Anyone who knows anything about me will know I am a royalist, a constant defender of the monarchy and the role the Governor General plays in our society.

If my comments have personally offended Sir Anand, I regret it deeply.

I am sure it will still be the lead item on the news tonight, and in newspapers tomorrow.

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400 TVNZ credit cards to go

September 3rd, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

More than 470 of its 900 or so staff have had cards, and in the six months to January this year – a time of cost cutting – they spent $3.18 million. Almost 100 of the cards had a monthly cap of at least $10,000.

Mr Ellis racked up more than $140,000 on his own company plastic in two years – including $32,000 entertaining.

He and senior executives will be among those losing their cards, and soon there will be as few as 50 left at TVNZ.

Staff will now have to apply to get work-related expenses reimbursed, though some field staff will retain their cards.

Having half the staff with credit cards was excessive.  Most companies have very few credit cards issued, and other staff are on a reimbursement system.

I’ve never had a company credit card in my life, yet in certain roles have had tens of thousands of dollars of expenses – I just file expense claims.

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Mold quits TVNZ

August 30th, 2010 at 11:18 am by David Farrar

Fran Mold has today quit as Deputy Political Editor for TVNZ, according to well placed sources.

The reason is an agreement in principle that she will replace Kris Faafoi as Chief Press Secretary to Phil Goff.

However the timing of this is very is interesting. You see Labour have yet to have their “democratic” selection process. Yet the outcome seems certain enough that Fran has quit prior to the 18th of September when the selection is made. I guess, the head office delegates are not going to be listening to who makes the best speeches on the night.

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TVNZ gets Australia’s electoral system and ballot paper wrong

August 21st, 2010 at 10:08 am by David Farrar

My God. One News had a segment yesterday in the 6 pm bulletin on the Australian election, and they decided to explain how the system worked. What a pity they got it so wrong. Simon Dallow, who fronted it, should send an angry-gram to whomever produced that item.

They correctly described the House of Representatives as having 150 seats, and you need 76 to form a Government.

But then Simon went on to say Australia uses the Single Transferable Vote, or STV, electoral system. No, they don’t – well not for the House of Representatives which the item was on.

They use the preferential voting (often called Alternative Vote) system.

Even worse Simon went on to say they get two votes, and showed a mock ballot paper.

That has no resemblance to an Australian ballot paper.

This sample ballot, taken from Wikipedia, shows that you rank the candidates in order. You do not tick them, there is no second column.

This is basic stuff. Someone at TVNZ should have checked the story.

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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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$140,000 on TVNZ CEO credit card as redundancies pile up

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

Jonathan Marshall at the SST reports:

TVNZ boss Rick Ellis has racked up more than $140,000 on his company plastic – including $32,000 entertaining – during a time of major redundancies at the broadcaster, a Sunday Star-Times survey of more than 100 public-sector chief executives has revealed.

I’ve not been jumping on the bandwagon for most of these disclosures, as they seem reasonable. But hell $140,000 is a lot of money – even over two years.

Ellis’ liberal spending over the 24 months to June this year coincided with a period of plunging profits and savage job cuts at the state-owned enterprise, which has been hit hard by the global financial crisis.

TVNZ’s 2009 annual profit was 89 percent down on the previous year. Some 215 TVNZ staffers have lost their jobs since 2007. Between June 2008 and June 2010, Ellis, who earns between $710,000 and $840,000 yearly, spent $140,768.19 on his TVNZ-issued credit card.

The expenditure may be legit, but that does not mean it was prudent. I am glad to see the Minister asking the Chairman for a please explain.

But assessing just how Ellis spent $140,000 of TVNZ’s money was difficult. Citing commercial sensitivity, the broadcaster refused to hand over anything more than a grand total, broken down into broad categories. This included $11,765.52 on “miscellaneous” items. The broadcaster last night refused to say what they were. The ombudsman is investigating.

TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards said TVNZ would release only limited details of Ellis’s expenditure because “we are a commercial operation in a highly competitive, not to say cut-throat global industry. The kind of detail government departments may care to release is damaging to our competitive position.”

Richards said it was unfair for TVNZ to release its data when bosses of private companies Fairfax, APN, MediaWorks and Sky were not forced to.

But Maori TV CEO Jim Mather, also a state-owned enterprise boss, happily provided his credit card statements and receipts. Mather spent $19,632.53 in the same 24-month period.

I may be wrong, but I suspect the privately owned MediaWorks will have a massively smaller bill on their CEO’s credit card.

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