Herald’s anti-EFA campaign in tatters

Written By: - Date published: 10:25 am, April 18th, 2008 - 14 comments
Categories: election funding, Media - Tags: ,

heraldred.jpgAs predicted by The Standard earlier this week, the Press Council has upheld the Coalition for Open Government’s complaint against the NZ Herald’s Electoral Finance Bill campaign.

The Press Council found that the Herald’s front-page editorial last year contained a “mis-statement of fact”, which the paper should have promptly corrected.

At heart was the paper’s assertion that democracy was under attack because anyone spending any money on electioneering would need to register as a third party to do so, when in fact only the very few who wish to spend more than $12,000 need to register.

And as COG points out today the purpose of the bill was not, as the Herald claimed, to silence free speech, but to make sure those spending large amounts of money electioneering inform voters who is behind the ads and ensuring the ability to participate in political debate doesn’t turn on the size of your bank account.

COG’s Steven Price says the ruling shows the public were not well served by the Herald’s campaign:

We strongly support the Herald’s right to comment on this important law. But it’s vital that the media doesn’t mislead the public about the basic acts. We think the Herald was exaggerating the problems with the bill in order to bolster the paper’s campaign against it.

Basically this confirms what the Left has said all along – the Herald’s partisan attacks on the Electoral Finance Bill (and now Act) have been grossly misleading and more closely resemble propaganda than news.

Our democracy relies on fair and accurate coverage from our media, and we deserve better than this from our largest daily newspaper. Unfortunately we can no longer take anything the Herald says about this legislation seriously.

Well done to COG for holding them to account.

14 comments on “Herald’s anti-EFA campaign in tatters”

  1. Steve Pierson 1

    Do you think their apology will be in bright red in the centre of the front page?

    captcha: excellent visitors – youse sure are

  2. higherstandard 2

    Go the COG

    http://cog.org.nz/principles/

    Now if they could only get the rest of those principles implemented.

  3. Tane 3

    Can’t disagree with you there HS.

  4. r0b 4

    Why not go further than COG? I’d be interested to see a debate here some time on the pros and cons of state funding of political parties. Every cent up front and accounted for.

    And as for The Herald, shame on them. I wish I had a subscription so I could cancel it.

  5. Renee van de Weert 5

    r0b, I agree.
    What are the arguments for and against state funded political parties? It seems the fairest way overall though I believe people must be able to contribute to the debate and to support the parties and/or policies of their choice – perhaps with time rather than with money? I imagine it’s a very complicated issue – I’d like to see it worked through here.

  6. Steve Pierson 6

    When state funding was mentioned last year the media shot it down, not surprisingly. The Government could at least have talked of public funding, rather than state funding – so often the authors of their own misfortune.

    The COG’s plan was a lot more ambitious than the EFA bill Labour eventually put up – i think it had a ban on anonymous donations over a very low level, matching government funding of donations, tax deductability of donations and some really clever stuff that I forget. Maybe Graeme can enlighten us if he pops by.

  7. higherstandard 7

    The critical issue is whether state funding is more or less open to the corruption of the electoral process than the status quo or the pre EFA situation.

    I tend to think that state funding will always disadvantage everyone in relation to an incumbent government.

  8. Steve Pierson 8

    HS. certainly an issue. of course, no state funding disadvantages everyone in relation to the rich. It’s all about balances.

  9. Monty 9

    Oh well – Damage is already done – Auckland has been lost as well as all the provinces. The EFA is and walways was a dispicable peice of legislation. Labour are being hung on a daily basis is all the needed to show it is back-firing. I love the fact that any publicity keeps the EFA at the front of thought.

    Lucky most peopel still do the Herald quite serously – I do not think this will shut up Fran or Audrey – as much as Clark would like them shut down.

  10. Steve Pierson 10

    Monty. The press council is not a government body. It is a voluntary organisation funded by the press themselves. It is notoriously weak, nothing like as tough as the BSA. And even it has given the Herald a slapping over the Herald’s biggest story of last year.

  11. Tane 11

    nothing like as tough as the BSA.

    True, and even that’s pretty weak. Which makes the Press Council’s ruling even more damning for the Herald.

  12. Scribe 12

    The BSA is a “government” body and Tane is right that it is pretty weak, though I’d go further and say it’s an organisation that is almost always far too lenient on things.

    And I’m a journo, so certainly not someone opposed to freedom of expression.

  13. Pascal's bookie 13

    On public funding, the problem is politicians trying to grab the biggest share for themselves. Take it out of their hands.

    As we already have compulsory registration for the electoral rolls, make that registration renewable, ie you have to register or re-confirm your details for each election. At the same time as a voter registers s/he gets to allocate their share of the public funding to a party. This can be done in a seperate envelope or whatever for privacy reasons if need be, and gives voters the chance to give their bit to whoever they want. It may or not be the party they end up voting for.

  14. Hillary 14

    Perhaps more important to democracy than state fnding is more balanced and informed reporting in the mainstream media. The Herald’s ‘anti-EFA’ campaign is probably only slightly ripped rather than in tatters following the Press Council’s decision.

    Higher Standard, it is interesting that you fear that the advantage an incumbent government might gain from state funding outweighs the advantage a political party can gain from the financial support of vested interests.

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