Media Bias & Democracy I: truth to power

Written By: - Date published: 11:49 am, December 20th, 2012 - 37 comments
Categories: accountability, blogs, david cunliffe, david shearer, democratic participation, labour, news, telecommunications, tv - Tags: , ,

Currently in New Zealand, democracy is increasingly under threat.  The mainstream news media and professional journalists have an extremely important role to play in revitalising democratic processes.  However, with democratic decline and the neoliberal capture of the dominant voices in the MSM, disempowered voters are becoming increasingly disengaged from parliamentary politics. Today, journalists covering politics tend to serve power more often than the hold it accountable. Political bloggers, especially if connected to offline activist networks, also have an important role to play in political re-engagement and democratisation.

Due to the complexity of the factors involved, this is the first of a series of posts I will be making on this topic over the next couple of months.

In order to thrive, democratic society needs independent and diverse news media where those with power are scrutinised from diverse positions.   As Nicky Hager clearly explained, politicians and governments need to be questioned and held to account in a way that serves the public interest.  This includes,

the public service of investigating truthfulness in politics and of seeking facts when the truth is disputed, twisted or hidden. It can also involve a different kind of truth: trying to discover and illuminate what is right and wrong. In essence, it is about investigating and challenging the activities of the powerful …

For this to happen, the news media needs to be free of influence from the state and powerful commercial interests.

Currently our government is dangerously undermining democracy, making it harder than ever for the public to have their say on important decisions.  John Key presents a soothing and false face of calm and reassurance that the government is In control and is doing what is best for the country (as in his TV3 interview earlier this week).

john key drunken sailor seaman

Meanwhile his government have dismantled democratic processes in local government and abused the use of urgency at an unprecedented level, in order to ram through legislation without allowing full public and democratic scrutiny (monitoring of this systematic abuse was flagged by NRT in 2011).  This is has been particularly evident in the removal of local democracy:

gerry brownlee as henry VIII

  • in Christchurch with ECAN, (which favours giving water access for corporate farmers over public rights – see NRT on this) and CERA giving the government unchallengeable control over the Christchurch rebuild (see Eddie’s post last year; and NRT last month);
  • and Auckland (creating unaccountable Corporate Controlled entities to manage transport, water and the Ports, with the Ports of Auckland moving to dis-empower the port workers union and undermine their job conditions, pay and security – although as Eddie posted recently, MUNZ shows the unions still have some grunt).

contracting out munz

The media, the government, parliamentary systems and political processes all have a part to play in democratic engagement with the public (Miller, 2004*). When these combine in such a way that people feel powerless to influence change, increasing numbers of people stop voting and/or paying attention to parliamentary policies.  Many continue to be political engaged in areas where they feel they can have influence, such us through consumer boycotts, or community-based action.  This has been a general pattern across the English-speaking world, with New Zealand seeing a steady decline in the proportion of eligible people voting since 1950s (See Colin Hay’s much cited Why We Hate Politics, 2007: p.15) .

People stop voting when they feel their vote will have no influence: when there is too much focus on political game-playing (Comrie, 2012) and not enough focus on the detail of policies and issues, when pseudo-authority of name journalists over-ride the public interest, and when the neoliberal ethos of individualism leads them to believe that collective action will have no impact (Batin, 2008*; Hay, 2007). The decline in voting has been strongest in the age group with least power, the young.  Among the young (Edwards, 2009*), the people least likely to vote are the least influence: those from low income backgrounds, and those with least formal education (Henn et al 2005 *).

The dominant ownership of news media by powerful corporations and the rise of the Internet, have resulted in a skewed and inadequate “fourth estate”.  With the democratisation of news, back when newspapers became affordable and accessible to the working and low income classes, conventions developed to ensure news was written in an “objective” and impartial way.  This was because a democracy required that the public were well-informed before voting (McNair, 2009: p.33).   While total objectivity was never possible, it did provide some checks on the propagandisation and distortion of politics.

However, with the fragmentation of news and the increasing tendency for media ownership to be controlled by a few multinational corporates, the systems now used to ensure impartiality in news production have become counter-productive (UK OfCom Report cited in McNair, 2009: p.37).  Journalists follow some basic rules of impartiality and standards, but have lost the drive to serve democracy by speaking truth to power.

Since the rise of the “neoliberal consensus”, the MSM has come to more strongly represent the interests of the most powerful.  Sure they do stories on the poor and down-trodden from time-to-time, but such voices remain marginal within the whole fabric of the NZ news media-scape.  A similar process is seen in Australia, as argued by Tim Batin (2008*) in his critique of the 2007 federal election:

Australia’s political journalists, another elite group, have shown a reluctance to see much that is deliberate or rational in voters’ behaviour pertaining to disengagement, and are therefore not well equipped to recognise a change in the prevailing circumstances. Indeed, the vast majority seem to accept uncritically the broad direction of neoliberal policy.

This is more to do with the overall structure and priorities of powerful media corporations.  As argued in Brian McNair’s, News and Journalism in the UK: A Textbook 5th edit, news,

… is produced by an industry, shaped by the bureaucratic and economic structure of that industry, by the relations between the media and other industries and, most importantly by the relations with government and other political organisations.

– McNair, 2009

Th examination of media bias will continue in subsequent posts, but, for now, consider how little depth and critique of democratic process is in this Stuff article today on the government’s decisions to go ahead with selling 3 power companies next year:

Fresh from its court victory on asset sales, the Government is considering selling all three state-owned electricity companies next year.

Finance Minister Bill English linked the possibility of three sales to buoyant financial markets and the plan would also mean the most controversial sales were over before election year.

[* Full text of the journal articles were accessed via Auckland Libraries, Digital Library, Academic databases.]

37 comments on “Media Bias & Democracy I: truth to power”

  1. King Kong 1

    Of course the MSM (main stream media ) is not going to champion the opinions (and that is all they are ) of many who comment here. The clue is in the name.

    What you need is the FBM (fucking bonkers media) to tilt at windmills for you.

    • Karen 1.1

      He who pays the piper calls the tune… but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other, better and more truthful tunes that the rest of us would rather listen to.

      • Tom Gould 1.1.1

        So, the MSM run around with cameras rolling to track down Carter for going on an authorised overseas trip, yet Key can flit around radio stations and golf courses completely undisturbed, and Parata can take a ‘holiday’, while a significant issue of accountability is running hot? If it looks like bias, and smells like bias, it’s bias.

    • karol 1.2

      I think those windmills aren’t as stable and confident as you assume.

      I started researching the issue of media bias with the intention of responding to a blog post by MSM journo Tim Watkin.

      http://www.pundit.co.nz/content/bloggers-v-journalists-why-cant-we-all-get-along
      (WYSIWYG option has disappeared from my reply boxes)

      The research took longer than expected, and was quite enlightening. But, as the issue is complex it requires several posts.

      Watkin’s post is a continuing of a debate between some journalists and bloggers – contrary to your view, lately some MSM journalists have been concerned about bloggers. I think Watkin is asking the wrong question when he asked if bloggers are journalists – most of us don’t consider ourselves to be journalists, nor do we want to be.

      I though the crux of Watkin’s argument was that journalists are impartial unlike bloggers. But I think the way the MSM is biased is part of the concern of many political bloggers.

      I see blogs as doing well in re-engaging with some of the people who feel powerless to influence politicians or the MSM – it’s an extension of public meetings, political campaigning, water-cooler, pub, sports clubs and other conversations. Commenters get a space to to engage with others in criticising and commenting on public events, politics, media coverage of it.

      And the fact that Watkin’s felt motivated to question if bloggers were journalists hints at an insecurity – and that is reinforced by comments he makes like:

      The media world this past decade feels like a new territory, with diminishing resources, more pressure to win audiences, the rise of ‘free’ content on the internet, and more voices competing for attention.

      My post is really responding to comments like this from Watkin:

      As one of the few folk in this country who are paid full-time as a journalist but have also invested my own time and money into blogging, I’m tired of those on both sides of the debate seem to shoot first and ask questions later. I’m tired of how little bloggers know about journalism and vice versa. And I’m tired of the silly commentary that’s produced as a result….

      But let’s be honest, it’s most often bloggers complaining about the ‘MSM’, usually with little insight or understanding. So given what following we do have online, why don’t we do a little less demonising and a little more thinking.

  2. Sosoo 2

    I agree with hardly any of this. We continue to have neoliberal policies because enough people keep voting for them, and politicians tailor their policies accordingly. Of course, the policies don’t work very well, but that’s beside the point. The media continue with cretinism because it sells, etc.

    A majority of voters do not understand the issues very well, and at the same time are highly resistant to being told this (as everyone now knows since the popularizing of the Internet – the amount of mindless authoritarianism still amazes me). Hence, we get silly politics. Expecting it to change is an exercise in futility. People now have access to more information than at any time in history. The result has been a tsunami of derp.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      We continue to have neoliberal policies because enough people keep voting for them, and politicians tailor their policies accordingly.

      We went neo-liberal fully against the wishes of the people. Changing the vote in 1990 resulted in more neo-liberalism and so did voting in 1999, 2002, 2005, 08, and 11. It’s not that we’re votong for neo-liberalism but that we have no one else to vote for which is, unsurprisingly, resulting in more and more people not actually voting.

    • ANDRE 2.2

      A tv broadcaster free from commercial influence . Like nz 7 is an answer to redress balance .We have to put our hand in our pockets . democracy depends on a conversation…….It is the elephant in the room metaphor…..

    • Fortran 2.3

      Soso

      It’s all about money – the media only exists if people pay money to read say a newspaper.
      Like the Sunday Star Times got so bad with subs dropping rapidly as crap did not sell.
      Sacked the editors and replaced them with crappy ones again.
      Don’t spend money so you cannot get annoyed with the crap they produce.

  3. karol 4

    I see a post from a (probably) new poster is in moderation linking to this article:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8104365/John-Key-we-ve-got-some-questions

    If you want to comment here, you need to add a comment, not just post a link. I assume the point could be that it’s an example of the media speaking truth to power. Indeed it is. I am not saying it never happens.

    Note in my post I talk about “dominant voices”. This is why the issue is so complex, and I will be dealing with more of this in future posts. However, as a kind of pre-view: there comes times when public opinions shift on some issues, and or when the current government falls out of favour with a significant section of the (usually middle-class) public. The corporate media then shifts to the most likely neoliberal contender in opposition (as with Obama and Tony Blair).

    • rosy viper 4.1

      That’s quite interesting. There’s nothing like ignoring the media to fall from favour. The media doesn’t like to do it’s own investigation (costs too much) so it requires feeding.

      The MSM has also shown this year that it feels it now has another option. Dunnokeyo’s political radar is definitely in need of repair.

  4. alwyn 5

    Having listened to Morning Report this morning, which I guess one would call MSM, I would have to agree with the view that there is political bias.
    About every fifteen minutes we were told that there was increasing pressure on Hekia Parata to quit or better still be sacked.
    Who was calling for this? They turned out to be the secretary of the NZEI, the secretary of the PSA, Grant Robertson of the Labour Party and someone from the Green party.
    In Mandy Rice-Davies immortal words from 1963. “Well they would say that wouldn’t they?”
    The reporter kept trying to get the same statement from the President of the Post-Primary Headmasters group but he wasn’t having any of it. He thought that the Minister had some good ideas but was being obstructed by a disfunctional Education Department. This interviewee was the only one who seemed to be giving any non-biased opinions on the matter and I was left thinking the reporter was frustrated that he wouldn’t go along with the reporter’s view that the Minister had to be sacked.
    So yes, there is bias in the MSM.

    • karol 5.1

      Bias needs to be considered in context, especially when there are more than one reports on the same issue. There were several interviews on Morning Report this morning about the Parata/Longstone issue:

      http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/20121220

      And there was another one on nine-to-Noon.
      http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/20121220

      The Prime Minister also had his say, so it’s good they also got opposition opinions.

      So you need to take a look at the bigger picture, and how most news outlets cover the story. There are times when the media turn against a particular politician but it does not mean they shift from a predominantly neoliberal position.

      However, I also get annoyed when interviewers are unable to stop interviewees from being closely interrogated or to let someone have their say, who ever they are.

      RNZ is on the edges of the MSM and does make more of an attempt to interrogate issues than the evening TV News, or the newspaper front pages. It is our last remnant of public service broadcasting. We do get more diverse op ed pieces buried within the papers, which a limited amount of people really look at.

      • King Kong 5.1.1

        Surely State broadcasters have exactly the same issue as you cry about with privately owned media. What is to stop the Government of the day telling its “employee” what it can and can’t say. Been a feature of state owned media in other countries.

        • karol 5.1.1.1

          Peter Thompson (Vic uni lecturer who has made an intensive study of Public Service Broadcasting) indicates ways of setting them up so that there is no government interference It needs to be done well. The system needs to be transparent and open to public scrutiny. Commercial enterprises are rarely that transparent.

          I have been listening to the RNZ interviews on education today. I haven’t found the one yet that stops someone having their say. The Nine-to-Noon interviews does include people arguing that it’s not Parata’s fault, but the team around her. Between this and Morning Report, there’s overwhelming evidence of problems in the education ministry.

          Usually in such cases, the buck stops with the minister. RNZ interviewed a range of different people, with slightly differing perspectives. The PM and minister refused to front up to give their views. No one will be without their biases.

          Bias is not just a case of providing 2 sides: that’s a very limited notion of impartiality and doesn’t prevent bias. RNZ is doing what Hager argues for – it is trying to pursue the truth and get as much facts as they can. Along the way, they provide different angles aand food for thought.

    • Dr Terry 5.2

      Could you please list these “good ideas” (on education) from Parata? Some of us are struggling to discern what these might be.

      • Lanthanide 5.2.1

        Her decision to back down on all the bad ones, for starters.

      • alwyn 5.2.2

        I presume this is meant for me.
        I was not giving my own opinion on this. I am not involved in the education sector and am not qualified to comment on the subject of the Minister’s performance. What I was commenting on is what I see as a very left-wing and anti-National bias in the Morning Report staff at Radio New Zealand.
        What I was doing here was quoting Patrick Walsh who is President of the Secondary Principals’ Association.
        What he said was “I think the minister has some excellent ideas and has performed well in many areas”
        I assume he has some reason for his views, but you would have to ask him for specifics.
        Incidentally I find Evening Report a much more balanced program.

        • karol 5.2.2.1

          Each person interviewed should be given a fair shake. But they shouldn’t just rely on interviews, but news organisation should do do some of their own investigations to get some facts. That’s Hager’s idea about needing to relentlessly seek the facts. But these days, the profit motive means cuts in staffing, and less background research being done.

          I see as a very left-wing and anti-National bias in the Morning Report staff at Radio New Zealand.

          That looks to me like the very narrow definition that is used by news media to aim for impartiality. This is the standard idea these days that journalists take two sides, and let each one state their views/argument. These 2 sidea are usually based on the two main political party positions at the time, with the “centre” being set as the mid point between them. The “centre” sets up a false notion of objectivity. And in neoliberal times, the centre has moved a lot further Right than it used to be.

          Real in-depth journalism would be looking for the evidence and facts behind the issues themselves, looking at it from different angles. “Left” and “right” are superficial notions, whereas the facts need to be examined in detail in order to judge the validity of the politician’s arguments. Compared with most TV news items and the dailies, this seemed to happen more on the morning report interviews, with various angles looked at.

          This is the interview with Peter Walsh:

          http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2542086/principals-president-has-mixed-views-on-longstone-resignation.asx

          It doesn’t seem to me that he was prevented from giving his views. It doesn’t seem any more or less biased than the other views expressed. Yes, more searching questions could have been asked – but there may have been time restraints. It seems to me you are claiming it is the only unbiased view because he supported Parata. This assumes an objective centre between the National government and opposition parties. And of course there were limited pro-Parata views because John key and Parata declined the invite to be interviewed on Morning Report.

          Too often, especially in TV news we just get one side giving their spin, then the other side. Some journalists like Brent Edwards on RNZ are better at looking more in depth at the issues, weighing up each view expressed. However, he may be given more time and resources to do that than other RNZ journalists.

    • NoseViper (The Nose knows) 5.3

      President of the Post-Primary Headmasters group but he wasn’t having any of it. He thought that the Minister had some good ideas but was being obstructed by a disfunctional Education Department. This interviewee was the only one who seemed to be giving any non-biased opinions on the matter

      Biased opinions? Making a decision to have an opinion must involve some bias or the result is just a wishy washy anodyne remark. The PPH group President sounded as if he was being politic rather than direct.

    • Shaz 5.4

      How do you feel that most Government Ministers refuse to be interviewed on this topic (and on many others) on a news platform that aims for serious, in depth analysis?

      If there is a more generous covering of anti-government opinions then perhaps that is because one part of the conversation is missing. And that I think is the real story here. It would surely be wrong to speculate on the Ministers’ and Prime Minister’s thoughts when they are not prepared to make them public. If one side is not in the game then they can hardly expect to call the shots.

    • xtasy 5.5

      alwyn: Excuse me, would you expect the Prime Minister to turn up on Radio NZ’s Morning Report and “demand” the resignation of his education minister?

      Of course the first ones asking for her resignation or sacking are the ones who are in opposition, or badly affected by her incompetence and unreasonable policies (teachers, organised in unions, also principals and parents, I am sure).

      While I agree that RNZ National is not what it used to be, it still is by far at the more acceptable and better end of the spectrum of “MSM”.

      It is at the same time listened to by only a fraction of the whole population, so some may argue, that is not really MSM broadcasting.

      I see more bias shining through the nine to noon show host, the afternoons host and the likes, than in Morning Report, which is by far the most informative morning news and current affairs program on NZ Radio. Forget television, as all they show is true crap, full of bias, personality self promotion and trivial gossip, weather, lifestyle, only selected political topics and whatever.

  5. Yeah but the medium is not the message.

    If anything the media are more democratic today than ever before in history. The ruling class virtual monopoly of MSM is nothing new. But this monopoly is weakening. Even as late as the Russian revolution radical and revolutionary media were illegal, and only surfaced when the masses were strong enough to commandeer the printing presses. Today radical and revolutionary media have their own social channels. Of course they are subject to blackouts because the ruling class has the ultimate power.

    But even so, the real issue is the message not the medium. Only the most revolutionary media and literature critiques the basic assumptions (dominant ideology) of the MSM which in summary is the ideology of the ‘alienated bourgeois subject’. Occupy was interesting because it reflected the global crisis and the contradictions set up in Occupy produced a three way critique of the dominant ideology.

    Liberal democrats critiqued neo-liberalism as unfair enriching the 1% at the expense of the 99%. Some Keynesian tweeking could fix this. This proved utopian as Krugman admitted recently. The dominant ideology was pushed left but still left intact.

    Radical democrats and socialists critiqued capitalism because unequal exchange transferred wealth from producers to owners of capital. Some major mobilisations and state intervention would change that. People like Chomsky, Klein and Zizek got instant global audiences.

    Marxists critiqued capitalism as in terminal crisis as rising exploitation of labour brought the destruction of society and nature. There was no alternative but revolution and the massive creative exercise of building a new society to sustain society and nature.

    If Generation Zero picks up on half of this the creativity will be exponential and there is no way that the system will be able to shut it down.

    • karol 6.1

      I did not make any claims about the “media being the message”. I said the problem was partly to do with the nature of corporate domination of the media, plus the wider political system. I also agree that the control of the MSM is weakening, due to fragmentation and the rise of the Internet. hence the recent attacks on bloggers by some senior NZ journalists. And I am more focused on the content and the way news is reported.

      I do think you may be a little optimistic about how much Generation Zero will be able to dismantle the current power structure. However, I do would love it if that happened.

      The Occupy movement is a hopeful sign. However, most people get their news from the MSM – especially the 6pm TV news and the headlines in the daily papers. This forms the basis of large numbers of people’s decisions about voting, or not voting. And the MSM and right wing politicians were very quick to pronounce the death of the Occupy movement. Dismantling the power of the elites is a long hard struggle.

      • OneTrackViper 6.1.1

        What is this “Occupy movement” of which you speak? I think it died about two years ago. They have almost got the grass in Aotea Square restored now. A hopeful sign of what?

      • red rattler 6.1.2

        Karol my point about the media and the message is that the media doesn’t determine the message. The ideas (messages) which the media mediate already exist in the consciousness of particular individuals in particular social classes which in turn reflect their class interests. The dominant ideology is the default position of the bourgeois media. Whether one reads the bourgeois dailies or state media or not, one tends to take for granted the naturalness of the market, individual rights including the right of citizens to be informed in order to be rational.

        However, capitalism doesn’t operate in reality according to this model, wars, crises and now climate catastrophe, stir up lots of shit. Liberal and radical media advance reformist critiques and programs and produce media to propagandise these. eg the SPD mass paper in Germany during WW1 had a circulation in millions. But as the revolution began in 1918 and the SPD refused to challenge the capitalist order, revolutionary workers and soldiers took over the bourgeois presses and began publishing demands for a socialist republic. In Russia the Bolsheviks whose papers were banned seized the presses of several dailies to print their revolutionary propaganda.

        My point is that none of these political oppositions to bourgeois society seized the press in order to remove ‘bias’ or speak truth to power. They had no illusions that the media could be class neutral or objective. Rather they wanted the close down the bourgeois press and use the machines to print their condemnation of capitalism and their program for socialism. That program was to take power, not converse with it.

        Similarly, today nobody who seriously critiques capitalism wants to create an objective balancing of world views in the centre. Anti-capitalism means exposing bourgeois ideology and taking over the bourgeois media. Occupy WS printed its own version of the WSJ. And social media becomes an alternative to the traditional bourgeois media which cannot be shut down so long as hackers have a power source. The Standard is a good example of an open forum which includes the RWNJs and many various positions from the centre to far left. No-one here thinks that the Labour Right let alone the bourgeois media can tell TS when to shut down.

        The irony is that capitalism in the West is in terminal crisis yet its best performing corporates are in the internet and social media which for the first time are enabling a freedom of expression that hitherto had to be won by force. It is the representation of serious liberal, radical and Marxist critiques of capitalism in crisis in the social media that presents the younger generations with the intellectual and political weapons to resist their Zero status and become the organic intellectuals of the socialist revolution.

        • xtasy 6.1.2.1

          With all that socialist resoluteness, where are your supporters to take the action you suggest?

          I have been to protests against draconian benefit reforms over recent months, and the largest crowds numbered only a few dozen in most places.

          There is such widespread ignorance, indifference and also apathy, it is not funny.

          You are talking “revolution” and seizing the opportunity, but you lack the revolutionaries to follow you and take action.

          With all respect, the Standard is of course a formidable forum, but still it only reaches a fraction of society, and the same applies to all social blogs!

          I actually am starting to notice a tiring of blogs, as people see no point in raising issues, but nobody taking action on the ground and walking the talk.

          Mouse clicks and typed words are not strong enough actions on the streets or elsewhere. It is cyber space activity, sort of.

          People all depend on income earned or benefits. Even so called beneficiary advocates are largely in part paid by MSD by the way. So much for independent “advocates”!?

          You are welcome to convince me that I am wrong, but you better make a good effort, as the realities around me require this.

        • karol 6.1.2.2

          You raise important points, redrattler. I do agree that the MSM will never be that radical. However, I also doubt that it’s going to be possible in the near future for revolutionaries to seize the press and run a socialist alternative press/media that people will follow in large numbers.

          For the immediate future I think it’s important to understand how media bias works, and how strongly it represents the neoliberal position. It’s important to understand how much political parties of the left and right are caught up with this system, and how much leftwing parties aim to appease the MSM. This system, that the media is part of, is having a demonstrable impact on how people think, behave, and vote. It also has some impact on people’s choices for political action.

          Many are choosing political action that doesn’t involve the political establishment: boycotts, occupy-movement actions, etc.

          I think there are several important elements that will contribute to an alternative, but I don’t think any one of them will be successfuul on their own. As xtasy points out, the numbers involved with grassroots activism are very small. Consumer boycotts don’t challenge the system, but tinekr around the margins.

          for any flax roots activism and community action to be successful, it needs a communication network/s. Blogs and other online forums and networks can be part of that, as well as alternative video, radio and TV channels.

          But there also needs to be some interaction with the mainstream. I don’t think ignoring it and working outside it will result in any significant challenge to the elites. How long was the system begun by the Russian Revolution successful?

  6. Too bloody right mate. You are spot on karol.

  7. xtasy 9

    A good topic raised here, Karol!

    I had first hand experience of mainstream media bias early yesterday morning, when briefly listening in to Marcus Lush on the morning program of Radio Live.

    He openly favoured the proposed new convention centre that Sky City Casino want to build in return for extra pokies and game tables. He used to be opposed, but apparently now has “changed his mind”.

    His comments were more or less, Auckland needs a large, international convention centre as the one proposed by Sky City, and it time to get on with it, and to put aside political issues the Greens for instance raise.

    He had Barnett in on his show to also favour the convention centre.

    Now in past years, when I listened to the then more common public broadcasting, it was a total NoNo to ever comment one’s own opinion to the public while being a journalist on a program. It was not the role of a journalist or moderator to add her or his own view.

    Nowadays it is totally common, and you get it all the time on Radio Live, 1ZB and other commercially run stations, and Paul Holmes and others did the same on public television and radio quite frequently.

    So that is what we have now, it is not at all independent, and I continue to claim that this country without a real “4th estate”, is basically run by a selected, opinionated, biased, self serving elite, in some ways like a dictatorship.

    Sadly very few get it, and many young people grew up with all this, knowing none else, and taking it all as the “normal” state of affairs.

    Mind sluttery one may even call some of what goes on, sick, really!

  8. Lefty 10

    I get impatient with criticisms of the msm from the left when it is simply doing a good job of carrying out the function it is designed for – defending its owners’ class interests. Thats what it exists for and it could hardly be expected to do otherwise.

    The broad left certainly has the resources to set up its own media outlets.

    I suspect the reason it doesn’t is that many of the self described left don’t really want to speak truth to power with all the uncomfortable ramifications that would accompany it.

    Yet I think a media firmly grounded in a democratic anti capitalist analysis would actually thrive if it was bright, bold and brave and embraced both traditional and new forms of communication.

    I would love to be proved wrong and would be at the front of the queue to support something different.

    • karol 10.1

      I also would like to see a left wing owned and managed media. But I think you underestimate the resources, power and will of the right wing elites.

      Over the last two or three decades the neocons (often named neoliberals) have been very successful in systematically taking control of any media opportunities available. Before the 1980s, the MSM wasn’t as strongly dominated by neoliberal discourse as it is today. Thatcher, Regan et al were very savvy about the importance for their political aims in having a compliant, or collaborative media. The way the MSM has developed since then has contributed to disengagement by many people from parliamentary politics – this is very bad for the left, and I have blogged about it before:

      “Name” journalism & voter dis-engagement

      Our current government has been closing down the last remnants of public service broadcasting, and shifting what’s left to commercial corporate owned media platforms. Stratos and Triangle were providing and developing programmes like citizen A and the Union Report. Soon there will be just RNZ and Maori TV, that are not totally in the control of big media corporations. I previously blogged about that here:

      Public service broadcasting and politics

      There is no simple or one solution. The left needs to be active on many fronts and diverse ways.

  9. I suppose I am trying to convince people here that debates in and around the MSM don’t matter except as symptomatic of major developments of new media in global politics.

    Anybody who has reflected on the events of the past 2 years, the Arab revolution, the Indignados occupations in Europe, Occupy, and upswellings of strike action from China to South Africa, would see that events have redefined the role of the media because of the active participation of the new media.

    The bourgeois MSM media cannot prevent a growing anti-capitalist movement from stripping the emperor of ‘his’ clothes. It is the struggles of masses that by using new media that accounts for the growing open polarisation between classes that ultimately exposes and weakens the ability of the bourgeois to fool most of the people most of the time.

    NZ is not a good example of these changes showing through clearly, it is small and its politics are dominated by a self-satisfied middle class. Yet the polarisation between left and right inside Labour is as I have argued symptomatic of this global shift. More obvious are e.g. Syria, where a popular revolution is being fought with small arms and with cameras that prove that revolution is interactive and not embedded in MSM. And Marikana where a massacre was captured on many cameras and where ANC can no longer hide the fact that it is the tool of imperialism.

    The new media’s interactive role in these developments is analogous to the seizure of the presses of last century. I would argue that this time the global revolution will be interactive and truly international and will not be isolated and strangled as it was around a century ago in Russia. Of course for that to happen we have to be actively part of that global revolution.

    • karol 11.1

      redrattler, I think all the things you mention are part of the complicated situation we are in today. However, I do think the MSM continue to matter, as being part of the problem and a possible part of the solution.

      There was a time people saw the new technology of printing presses as leading to a more inclusive democratic society.

      http://books.google.co.nz/books/about/Origins_of_Democratic_Culture.html?id=Tb1-A-IjhHUC&redir_esc=y

      People invest such hopes in each new technology. McLuhan put his hopes in the electronic global village with a particular focus on TV.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan#The_global_village

      In effect you are doing something similar with a focus on new media as the truly revolutionary communicative technology. Each technological change does open new democratic possibilities initially. However, the elites then respond by finding ways to shut down such revolution, and then to harness the potential of the medium for their own uses. We are seeing that now with the commericalisation of the Internet and e-technologies, and with issues around copyright & file sharing – Dotcom, TPP etc.

      I think the left needs to understand how each technology of communication works within the contemporary state, global, social, political and economic systems. Then consider how we can best use them. It’s all part of the total whole.

      The Right tries to dominate from “above”: political, state, commercial systems of control, including using the media and other systems of communication. The left is at its best when its direction is fueled by collective imitativeness from below: flax roots and community movements.

      Currently the MSM prides itself on its impartiality – this myth first needs to be exposed as a limited bias between two centrist neoliberal positions. It characterises and dismisses anything outside that as “extremist”.

      This is my starting position, laying down the evidence-based, ground-work for my later posts in the series. I plan to focus on flax roots activism and community action, and their relationship to the whole picture, in a later post in the series.

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