I am not sure what is happening at Radio New Zealand. It may be that the proposed merger with Television New Zealand is playing on staff morale. These sorts of king mergers tend to shake jobs loose and can understandably cause stress to staff.
But it still has a job of impartially reporting the news and call me biased but I sense a considerable amount of anti Government commentary.
Two recent incidents back this feeling up.
The first involves a Bryce Edwards column faithfully reprinted by RNZ. The article incorrectly stated that Labour went into the 2020 election promising to break up the supermarket duopoly and bring down the cost of food and that the policy was essentially dead. A simple google would have shown that his claim about the policy was not correct. What the policy promised was as follows:
Labour will initiate two new market studies to ensure New Zealanders are paying a fair price for groceries and building supplies as the economy recovers from Covid-19.
The policy was to initiate a study and then work out the regulatory and policy solutions something that the Government has done. Breaking up the duopoly was not even mentioned in the policy as a possible option.
For some time I have had major issues with Edwards’ analysis. It is always consistently anti Labour. This particular example shows that he is capable of making a pretty egregious mistake about the details.
A complaint which was lodged with the Media Council about the article was upheld and the Council ruled that the article was inaccurate. The Media Council also criticised Radio New Zealand for taking far too long to correct the error.
“the Media Council does not believe [RNZ] acted quickly enough to fix obvious and significant errors of fact. Its [RNZ’s] explanation that it was in the hands of Dr Edwards, and that it did not hear back from him until 4 April, was less than convincing.
“Publishers are responsible [sic] for material they publish, and that responsibility cannot be shrugged off by saying it was in the hands of the writer of the article.
“It took four weeks to correct the column. That is far from prompt, beyond the time when the story had any real currency, and few of the people who read it would have seen the corrected introduction or the annotation explaining how the article was corrected.”
RNZ was in breach of the Media Council’s Principle relating to columns, blogs and opinions, which requires opinions to have a foundation of fact. It was also in breach of its principle relating to corrections which says significant errors should be promptly corrected with fair prominence.
The second incident involved RNZ’s shock horror suggestion in April of this year that last November the Government had been advised that Ashley Bloomfield and Caroline McElnay advised the Government to loosen up the MIQ system but the Government had inappropriately delayed this decision.
As I said at the time:
RNZ’s take on this issue is severely deficient. The framing is one sided. The full context has not been clearly expressed, that the advice to wind back MIQ was accepted and publicly announced at the time but the emergence of Omicron caused the Government to reconsider its position.
Russell Brown has raised the matter with RNZ and blogged about his experience.
He said this:
You might recall that on April 19 and 20 this year, RNZ published and broadcast a series of reports – beginning with this one – that claimed the government had not followed Ministry of Health advice to end the MIQ system in November 2021.
The coverage was based on a misleading interpretation of an internal memo, which assuredly did not call for MIQ to be ended in November, and it repeatedly omitted key events and details in pursuing its case.
I was critical of this reporting on social media and was eventually approached by RNZ to submit a complaint via its formal complaints process.
He reviews numerous incidents where the figure of 40,000 people who could have avoided MIQ if the advice had been followed. This was not a one off case. It was a continuing policy, one that even Chris Bishop was embarrassed to use.
His concluding comment about the complaint is brutal:
This is not a failure by one reporter, it is an editorial failure on the part of RNZ. The reporting of this memo misstated its meaning, did not include key lines from the memo which would have made its meaning clear and omitted key events in the public timeline. It was inaccurate and misleading.
I understand that there are complaints in relation to these articles and it will be interesting to see how they are dealt with. But I do expect better from a public broadcasting entity.