web analytics

Christmas presents from the Commission

Written By: - Date published: 1:39 pm, December 16th, 2011 - 9 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags:

In 2008 on 16 December, the previous Electoral Commission released its non-decision on the address I used on Chris Knox’s CD “it’s a better way with Labour”. They were embarrassed and buried it in the pre-Christmas dump. This December, I’m waiting for a much more important decision from the current Commission on the RadioLive “Prime Minister’s Hour.” There’s a lot at stake.

Our elections have always kept money out of the broadcast media. In contrast to the billions spent in the US and the millions in Austrlia, parties here can only spend the Commission’s allocation and only then in the period between writ day and election day. Candidates can buy time on radio and TV but have to keep spending within their overall limits.

The significance of the RadioLive offer to the Prime Minister of a free hour on radio is twofold. First it opens the floodgates for brand advertising, and secondly it allows media organisations to determine who gains access.

The issue of political influence in the broadcast media is a live one in the UK, the US, and Australia, what with phone hacking, Fos News and the Murdoch empire. We should not think it does not go on here. In today’s Herald, John Drinnan relates how Key’s electorate manage Stephen McElrea is involved in New Zealand on Air’s efforts to influence the media:

New Zealand On Air was running scared after bloggers criticised a TV3 child poverty documentary it funded, which screened just days before the election. The politically appointed funding agency is concerned the TV3 scheduling three days out from the election had called its neutrality into question.

The alternative view is that the board, which includes John Key’s electorate chairman Stephen McElrea, got the political jitters. When NZ On Air saw the TV3 promos last month it was aghast.

NZ On Air said that around that time there was criticism in blogs and questions over the funding body’s neutrality. Chief executive Jane Wrightson sent TV3 bosses “a stern and strict letter” before the doco screened complaining about the documentary highlighting an election issue so close to polling day.

“We jealously guard our political neutrality and we were distressed it was put under threat by the scheduling,” she said yesterday. “The whole board is concerned about this and so am I. “We had no trouble with the documentary itself which Bryan Bruce describes as a social issues documentary. “It attracted considerable comment from people such as bloggers.”

Comment from people such as bloggers? Did the Standard cause such a reaction? Hold on, it must be the other lot.

Drinnan goes on to raise real questions, about New Zealand on Air’s independence.

The timing of the child poverty doco raised eyebrows. TV3 has maintained solid, serious documentaries while the genre has been abandoned at TVNZ. Admittedly, you might expect such an important topic would run a few weeks out rather than just before polling day. And you could argue that the topic – about the distribution of income and its effect on the weak – would have a left-ish perspective. Bruce did not seem to be heavy-handed with any party political bias.

New Zealand On Air’s “stern and strict reaction” was more disturbing than the scheduling decision. It evokes some of the wider issues about bravery and independence at a time when media are under pressure and turning to the state for help, and particularly for New Zealand On Air being caught up in the Wellington milieu. NZ On Air can’t be taking an editorial line, but it should serve the public and not hide from controversy.

The New Zealand On Air board is made up of political appointees and could look closer to home when it concerns perceptions about its neutrality. It included Labour-friendly people and friends of Helen Clark. Under National the most recent appointee is Stephen McElrea, who has long experience in the broadcasting world, and who is also northern region deputy chairman of the National Party and was chairman of the electorate committee for Key’s Helensville electorate. He would have played an important role in National’s campaign.

The Prime Minister took an active role in his appointment to New Zealand On Air – opening up to scrutiny the funding body’s neutrality. Despite his party political background, McElrea was appointed to a special committee to select a series of three social issues documentaries to screen on TV3 next year.

One will be about education and charter schools, a notion that was unheard of before the election, and most certainly could have done with some exposure in the run-up to the election like child poverty did. The Government and NZ On Air needs to gets its own ship in order before it starts firing off “stern and strict” letters to organisations who rely on taxpayer funding for their survival.

Given its advice to the broadcaster before the RadioLive programme was put to air, the Electoral Commission’s decision on Prime Minister’s hour will be an important test of its independence when it appears. It will certainly attract considerable comment on this blog.

9 comments on “Christmas presents from the Commission ”

  1. Craig Glen Eden 1

    So that report will be out on Christmas day or New years day then?

    • lprent 1.1

      No No….. People might take an interest then. Not everyone gets wasted on New Years Eve and on Xmas day people without little kids are usually quite alert in the morning and if they’re like me inclined to find a safe (from work) quiet position so they don’t get in the way of the happiness of the xmas day bustlers. Like where ever computer the newspapers, TV, and computers are

      Boxing day. Now there is a day that almost everyone is distracted by one thing or another. Hangovers, screaming kids in sugar withdrawal, boxing day sales for the terminally addicted, an insistence that everyone gets off their newly formed lard arses and do something…….

      Ummmmm

  2. newsense 2

    don’t forget the thing about taking 70,000 off the Nation!

  3. tc 3

    “The Government and NZ On Air needs to gets its own ship in order”

    It is by being filled with nat stooges to ensure the ‘message’ as required by the govt is passed off as if it’s a factually based balanced piece of doco making.

    The demise of the charter and issues like Heartland going behind sky’s paywall says all you need to know about what the nats atitude to any quality public funded TV is, the same as their atitude toward due process and democrcay.

    They don’t give a toss as long as it can be bent to their own ends.

  4. I don’t think that Carmel Sepuloni will like HER Christmas present from the Electoral Commission; a nine-vote defeat, and a job search to start on Monday.

  5. Spratwax 5

    How can we be sure of the neutrality of the Electoral Commission? Can we count on it, Carmel?

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      I’d have to say that its very disconcerting that these counts can change like this. Impartiality is not the question, systems and security are.

  6. randal 6

    go round the back of the building and look for a big large empty brown paper bag.

  7. Ianupnorth 7

    I was going to post this observation in Open Mike, just think it is timely that Mr. Smile and Wave keeps appearing at lots of popular charity type events – Special kids Christmas Party, ZM radio’s break and enter Christmas, etc…

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • What’s Labour achieved so far?
    Quite a bit! This Government was elected to take on the toughest issues facing Aotearoa – and that’s what we’re doing. Since the start of the pandemic, protecting lives and livelihoods has been a priority, but we’ve also made progress on long-term challenges, to deliver a future the next generation ...
    5 days ago
  • Tackling the big issues in 2022
    This year, keeping Kiwis safe from COVID will remain a key priority of the Government – but we’re also pushing ahead on some of New Zealand’s biggest long-term challenges. In 2022, we’re working to get more Kiwis into homes, reduce emissions, lift children out of poverty, and ensure people get ...
    7 days ago
  • Happy new year, Aotearoa!
    Welcome to 2022! As we look ahead to another year of progress on the big issues facing our country, we’re taking a look back at the year that’s been and everything the team of five million achieved together in 2021. ...
    3 weeks ago

  • New Zealand prepared to send support to Tonga
    New Zealand is ready to assist Tonga in its recovery from Saturday night’s undersea eruption and tsunami, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Defence Minister Peeni Henare said today. “Following the successful surveillance and reconnaissance flight of a New Zealand P-3K2 Orion on Monday, imagery and details have been sent ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    22 hours ago
  • Aotearoa New Zealand stands ready to assist people of Tonga
    The thoughts of New Zealanders are with the people of Tonga following yesterday’s undersea volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami waves, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta says. “Damage assessments are under way and New Zealand has formally offered to provide assistance to Tonga,” said Nanaia Mahuta. New Zealand has made an ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Record high of new homes consented continues
    In the year ended November 2021, 48,522 new homes were consented, up 26 per cent from the November 2020 year. In November 2021, 4,688 new dwellings were consented. Auckland’s new homes consented numbers rose 25 per cent in the last year. Annual figures for the last nine months show more ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Report trumpets scope for ice cream exports
    Latest research into our premium ice cream industry suggests exporters could find new buyers in valuable overseas markets as consumers increasingly look for tip top quality in food. Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash has released a new report for the Food and Beverage Information Project. The project is run by ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Honouring the legacy of legendary kaumātua Muriwai Ihakara
    Associate Minister for Arts, Culture, and Heritage Kiri Allan expressed her great sadness and deepest condolences at the passing of esteemed kaumātua, Muriwai Ihakara. “Muriwai’s passing is not only a loss for the wider creative sector but for all of Aotearoa New Zealand. The country has lost a much beloved ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Have your say on proposed changes to make drinking water safer
    Associate Minister for the Environment Kiri Allan is urging all New Zealanders to give feedback on proposed changes aimed at making drinking water safer. “The current regulations are not fit for purpose and don’t offer enough protection, particularly for those whose water comes from smaller supplies,” Kiri Allan said. “This ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Planting the seeds for rewarding careers
    A boost in funding for a number of Jobs for Nature initiatives across Canterbury will provide sustainable employment opportunities for more than 70 people, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says. “The six projects are diverse, ranging from establishing coastline trapping in Kaikōura, to setting up a native plant nursery, restoration planting ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand congratulates Tonga's new Prime Minister on appointment
    Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta today congratulated Hon Hu'akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni on being appointed Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Tonga. “Aotearoa New Zealand and Tonga have an enduring bond and the Kingdom is one of our closest neighbours in the Pacific. We look forward to working with Prime ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • High-tech investment extends drought forecasting for farmers and growers
    The Government is investing in the development of a new forecasting tool that makes full use of innovative climate modelling to help farmers and growers prepare for dry conditions, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said.  The new approach, which will cost $200,000 and is being jointly funded through the Ministry for ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Support for fire-hit Waiharara community
    The government will contribute $20,000 towards a Mayoral Relief Fund to support those most affected by the fires in Waiharara in the Far North, Minister for Emergency Management Kiri Allan says. “I have spoken to Far North Mayor John Carter about the effect the fires continue to have, on residents ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Manawatū’s ‘oases of nature’ receive conservation boost
    The Government is throwing its support behind projects aimed at restoring a cluster of eco-islands and habitats in the Manawatū which were once home to kiwi and whio. “The projects, which stretch from the Ruahine Ranges to the Horowhenua coastline, will build on conservation efforts already underway and contribute ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand to continue Solomon Islands support
    A New Zealand Defence Force and Police deployment to help restore peace and stability to Solomon Islands is being scaled down and extended. The initial deployment followed a request for support from Solomon Islands Government after riots and looting in capital Honiara late last month. They joined personnel from Australia, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Our Pacific community shares in New Year’s Honours
    Prominent Pacific health champion Faumuina Professor Fa’afetai Sopoaga has been made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year’s Honours list. Professor Sopoaga has been a champion for Pacific Health at Otago University, said Minister of Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio. “She’s overseen changes in ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Congratulations to Māori New Year’s Honours stars of 2022
    Kei aku rangatira kua whakawhiwhia koutou ki ngā tohu ā tō tātou kuīni hei whakanui nui i ā koutou mahi rangatira i hāpai i te manotini puta noa i a Aotearoa. Ko koutou ngā tino tauira. I whanake i ngā hapori, iwi, hapū, whānau me te motu anō hoki. Mauri ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Top honours for women in sport
    Minister of Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson has congratulated Olympian Lisa Carrington and Paralympian Sophie Pascoe on being made Dames Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DNZM) in the 2022 New Year Honours. Lisa Carrington is New Zealand’s most successful Olympian, having won five gold and one bronze ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • PM congratulates 2022 New Year Honours recipients
    The New Zealanders recognised in the New Year 2022 Honours List represent the determination and service exemplified by so many New Zealanders during what has been another tough year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. “I never fail to be amazed by the outstanding things ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago