I’m not sure it really warranted being front-page news (Gaza? MH17? Anyone?) but the announcement of Mike Hosking as the anointed moderator for TVNZ’s political leaders’ debates was always going to lead to a bit of head-scratching.
Hosking’s political leanings are pretty clear, and very public. Last year he MCed Key’s state of the nation speech, saying “We have bright prospects for the future, so long as you keep them in Government.” When the Listener questioned him about that “ringing endorsement”, he said, “Yeah, absolutely. Why not? I’m allowed to.”
This isn’t the same as other political pundits (who I’m sure you can name in the comments) who get regularly accused of bias by one side, or the other, or both at the same time. Mike Hosking is on the record saying our “bright” future depends on having a National-led government. He simply can’t look unbiased and moderate in that context – and that’s kind of the point of moderating.
(And this isn’t just a leftwing concern: what if the producers are so anxious to prove Hosking’s impartiality that it makes him unduly harsh on Key?)
We’ve had a lot of fun on Twitter this morning coming up with #BetterDebateModerators, but I have a serious suggestion: Rachel Smalley.
I’m no fan of her thoughts about the size of Kiwi women’s butts, but she’s an obvious choice for TVNZ: a talented, respected interviewer who’s already on your payroll, who makes for engaging, intelligent television, who doesn’t have all the biased baggage of Hosking …
And yep, I’ll say it as a feminist: by having a head-to-head leader’s debate, we’re already guaranteed a TV screen full of white dudeliness. It wouldn’t kill us to break that old-boys’-network vibe, would it?
(I’d also accept Mihi Forbes but unfortunately she’s signed to another team.)