Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, March 10th, 2014 - 32 comments
Categories: accountability, business, child welfare, class war, david cunliffe, Hekia parata, labour, news, poverty, same old national, tv, workers' rights - Tags: TV One, tv3
Truth to Power: serving the public interest
A 4th Estate media should be, in Hagar’s terms, serving the public interest, informing the public on crucial issues. This often means speaking truth to power on behalf of the less powerful section of the public. There are many pressing issues for New Zealanders that should be front and centre of most political coverage: the inequality gap, low wages, high power prices, child poverty and abuse, unaffordable housing, the possibility that NZ’s rockstar economy is actually built on sand…..
As geoff posted yesterday, too much of the media coverage of politics is in a B-Hive-Media Loop (otherwise known by the more US-relevant term, the “the beltway”). Too often, they cheerlead John Key, failing to challenge him or mention that he is very polarising; more often than not they endlessly repeat the NAct spin on the economy and other issues.
The mainstream media has had a horror start to the year. These days, too much political coverage by the mainstream media (MSM) is focused, US-style, on politics as a game, a chessboard of strategic maneuvers, and a personality contest of its leaders.
Once one Hive-Media journalist starts a headline grabbing attack, the rest seem to follow like a pack of baying hounds. So it has been over the last month or two, with opposition leaders being subjected to more distorted attacks and beat-ups than government ministers. Often Patrick Gower has lead the running with his vindictive, distorted persecution of David Cunliffe. The focus has been on over-exaggerating relatively trivial issues, such as an omission in one version of the Best Start policy for young children, Metiria Turei’s clothes, and Winston Peters’ and Russel Norman’s perfectly understandable visits to the Dotcom Mansion.
B-Hive-Media Loop: From The Nation to Qu & A
Having become fed up with Patrick Gower’s attention-getting, “gotcha” reporting, I am now focusing more on TV One‘s news and current affairs coverage. That said, Gower has gone some way to providing balance by doing his gotcha interview of Key on The Nation. He continued to take that line in reporting on it on 3 news later on Saturday, saying that Key, like Cunliffe, is also being “tricky”. However, for me to return to watching 3 News, Gower and TV3 need to do much better, be more informative on a range of significant issues, continually hold the government and Key to account, not just the opposition, and move away from the sensationalist focus on personalities and game playing.
This weekend, it turned out that, while One News and Qu & A aim to be a bit less one-dimensional than 3 News, they also follow similar lines within the Hive-Media Loop, with a strong focus on the perceptions of “Business” and the comfortable middle classes.
It was hard to keep watching this weekend’s Qu & A after the first few minutes: it was a B-grade-Hive-Media recycling of pro-John Key spin – of his (allegedly) uncontested “popularity”, Nationals’ (allegedly) great handling of the economy and David Cunliffe’s media- manufactured “problems”.
There was an attempt at balanced debate, but it still oozed comfortable middle class condescension, not helped by Susan Woods’ smug charmlessness. Then we had Hekia Parata given much leeway to spin her education policies, with Dann being far more lenient on her than he later was on Cunliffe. This was followed by the panel: Fran O’Sullivan, followed by Raymond Miller and Nick Leggett unashamedly cheerleading for Parata. TV One needs some fresh blood from outside the Hive-Media Loop – some of the young, the marginalised and the precariously discontented.
The Cunliffe Interview: speaking through the Hive Media for the less powerful
Then came Woods’ negative introduction to the David Cunliffe interview. Corin Dann’s opening questions focused on Cunliffe’s alleged “horror” last week.
DANN: Going back and researching this interview, all the interviews seemed to be about this conundrum of David Cunliffe. Where is, where does he sit on the political spectrum? He comes from a business background, and he’s got wealth and yet he’s championing the working class? Can you understand that the working class voters, perhaps a lot of the affiliates who put you in this job, are looking at you going, why does he have all these trusts?
So, Dann shows he has only looked at previous media interviews, or maybe media representations of these interviews. He seems to have done little research on issues important to the less well of and less powerful sections of the “public”. The question he asks about Cunliffe’s politics, has already been answered many times by the Labour leader.
There seems to be a stubborn Hive-Media spin: that it is incomprehensible that someone with money can’t campaign against poverty and inequality; can want to do public service to help other people; and work to provide more opportunities for all New Zealanders, especially for “working and underprivileged New Zealanders”. Why is that such a mystery to the Hive-Media mind?
Cunliffe did well to patiently repeat his statements about his politics, while also outlining his values and referring to various Labour policy areas.
Dann went on to ask why “people” are confused about where he stands politically, then emphasised it by saying,
Why is Business confused?
He quoted Doug Heffernan, chief executive of Might River Power, reportedly saying that, “he wasn’t getting enough information” from Cunliffe on Labour’s Power policy. Dann doesn’t seem to have looked for the views of “working and underprivileged New Zealanders”.
Dann continued in an increasingly combative mode, while Cunliffe continued giving clear and non-confusing answers, showing how he is approaching making New Zealand a fairer place. Dann continued to contest Cunliffe using points of view expressed from those in powerful positions in the Business world. Cunliffe, unfazed, answered with reference to some of his plans to provide digital access to New Zealanders and protect them from invasive surveillance. He mentioned using services like those of the People’s WiFi networks and public libraries.
Corin Dann’s report of it on One News last night was a bit of an improvement on Gower’s one-dimensional sensationalism. Dann’s report followed another report on rising power prices – definitely an issue in the public interest. The anchor’s introduced Dann’s report by saying that Cunliffe talked about Labour’s ICT policy and providing internet access for all Kiwis. Dann then said the start to Cunliffe’s year had been a “horror” one.
No, Mr Dann, it has been the MSM that has had a horror start in their political coverage. However, Dann gave a fairly full report of the content of the interview, including mention of Cunliffe foregrounding his move to front big policies, such as Labour’s ICT policy. Nevertheless, Dann still framed this in terms of B-Hive-Media issues, focusing on Cunliffe’s current position within the game of politics.
Out of the Hive Media Loop, towards the (working class and underprivileged) public interest
We need a strong (new?)media stream that steps outside the B-Hive-Media loop, and reports by, from, and for the public interest, – and especially in the interests of working class and underprivileged Kiwis. The comfortable middle and Business classes have far too much say within political discourses.