Written By: - Date published: 1:49 pm, June 23rd, 2015 - 43 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, Andrew Little, broadcasting, Media, national, Politics, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: clare curran, maori television, Mihingarangi Forbes, paora maxwell, te ururoa flavell
From the Government that brought you Mike Hosking on prime time TV and an array of right wing guests on Radio New Zealand and from the movement that got rid of John Campbell and brought back Paul Henry comes more deeply concerning evidence of interference in journalistic and editorial independence.
Recently Labour’s Clare Curran released emails suggesting that the Minister in charge, Te Ururo Flavell through his office tried to influence editorial decisions made by Maori Television. Specifically his office tried to persuade Maori TV to not include a New Zealand First representative on a panel discussion about Whanau Ora on the basis that they would not add to the discussion. Then at the last minute the idea was shelved. This happened a couple of hours after Flavell met with Government appointed head of Maori TV Paora Maxwell and although Flavell denies that the subject was even discussed you wonder what happened to make this result occur.
Curran believes that section 10 of the Māori Television Service (Te Aratuku Whakaata Irirangi Māori) Act 2003 has potentially been breached. The section states that the Minister of Maori Affairs “or any person acting by or on behalf of or at the direction of [the] Minister … or a director acting without the authority of the board, must not direct the Service, or any subsidiary of the Service, or any director, officer, or employee of the Service in respect of … the gathering or presentation of news or the preparation or presentation of current affairs programmes.
The Minister has said that no such breach has occurred. It seems that the particular form of nudging and winking did not comprise a direction, at least as far as he is concerned.
Andrew Little smells a rat. From Stuff:
I think Te Ururoa Flavell should not only explain to the Government, he should explain to the public at large about what happened in that meeting, and to the best extent he can, why that debate on Whanau Ora was cancelled.
In the absence of explanations about what happened in the meeting, and in the absence of an explanation about why the debate on Whanau Ora was cancelled, we are entitled to draw inferences – I have, and I smell a rat.Until he explains what happened in that meeting with the head of Maori TV and we get an explanation about why the programme was cancelled, it’s hard to be conclusive that he’s broken the law.
But if those explanations, if he gives them, are not satisfactory, then it is reasonable to at least suspect that he has broken the law, and it is for that reason I think he should have the responsibility for Maori TV taken off him.”
Little is certainly correct that responsibility for Maori TV should be passed onto the Minister for Broadcasting. Giving the Minister of Maori Affairs power is providing too much temptation to Flavell to interfere.
And it is no wonder that Mihingarangi Forbes left if this is the level of managerial interference that is going on.
When the Government changes there needs to be an urgent investigation into broadcasting with a view of establishing a state owned broadcaster with editorial independence. A revamped Radio New Zealand with stronger independence and a video channel along with be a start. Because otherwise we can kiss goodbye to any concept of independent main stream media reporting of local issues.