So the Nats are attacking National Radio. It had to happen. Last time the wee blighters were in power they tore down RNZ’s building, locked them into an absurdly expensive lease in an inappropriate building, tried to make them a commercial radio station and pushed to close down the newsroom and make RNZ source its news in from commercial suppliers.
Of course National’s interest in beating RNZ down is two-fold. Firstly RNZ is about the only outlet in the country that offers independent in-depth information on a nationwide level and as such represents a serious threat to National’s fact-free governance (think of how many National ministers have been caught out telling porkies on Checkpoint or Morning Report while other stations just regurgitated their media releases). The other is that RNZ has a market share that could be up to 50% of listeners. There’s a lot to be plundered by National’s private sector mates there (and let’s not forget how Steven Joyce made his dosh).
Let’s be clear about this. Cutting news funding undermines quality. We’ve seen it again and again in commercial media. The problem is we rely on quality news to make sense of what’s going on and to cut through the spin so we can make informed choices about big issues like who we want to govern our country.
By cutting and threatening RNZ, National is undermining one of the most important players in New Zealand’s fourth estate and threatening the democratic accountability it forces.
I recall back in 2007 Jonathan Coleman claiming public broadcasting was akin to North Korean totalitarian propaganda. It seems that the minister isn’t above a little political interference with the independent media himself.