Owning the news agenda

Written By: - Date published: 8:20 am, May 24th, 2015 - 47 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, journalism, Media, spin - Tags: , ,

He who pays the piper calls the tune. If you own the news organisation then you determine the news agenda. Not day by day and piece by piece of course, but generally and powerfully. Most recent example:

Campbell’s crusades irked TV3 bosses

Pike River mine victims’ spokesman shocked coverage might have contributed to axing.

MediaWorks management viewed Campbell Live’s crusading journalism as a liability that stretched audience patience, company sources say.

The show’s ongoing coverage of Pike River, where 29 men died in a 2010 explosion at a West Coast coal mine, was specifically singled out by management as having led to viewer “fatigue”.

The review by management – which concluded on Thursday with host John Campbell leaving the network and the show facing replacement within the next six weeks – also considered Campbell Live over-emphasised charitable fundraising and coverage of the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, GCSB spying and child poverty.

Campbell Live focused on issues that annoyed its bosses at Mediaworks, so out it goes, despite its recent surge to (usually) most popular show. Mediawork’s CEO Mark Weldon happens to be good buddies with John Key – which could of course be a coincidence, but probably isn’t. In short:

…the writing was on the wall as the show was rumoured to be too pink in its persuasion by friends of John Key, high up in the echelons of MediaWorks.

This is consistent with National’s track record in manipulating the media from the top. It happens in the context of many other warnings about control of the media both internationally and in NZ, see:

  • Peter Oborne’s description of The Telegraph scandal,
  • David Fisher on the deterioration of media openness in the public service,
  • Fisher again on being manipulated by National’s dirty politics,
  • and Alistair Thompson on the NZ media’s current bloodbath.

The political right are getting more and more open about controlling the shape and the substance of the media world that we all live in. The political left needs an answer.

UK-media1

47 comments on “Owning the news agenda”

  1. Jenny Kirk 1

    Okay then – it looks like more people need to get behind Scoop NZ News and keep that media outlet afloat so that we all have access to some “leftie” comment and statements and facts.

  2. whateva next? 2

    Bang on Anthony.
    It was only when Murdoch changed his mind about the Tories in the UK, in particular Thatcher, that after 18 (long) years, they were out on their arses, and Blair (godfather to his son btw) was in.
    Same now, the media (and Crosby/Textor, also Ozzies) decide who WE vote in. Amazing, ?revenge for ancestors being sent to the colonies, fair enough.
    Main tactic is turning the left on itself, while the Right slash and burn, as evidenced by the Standard comments post election/budget, and in UK.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32858845

    • DS 2.1

      Murdoch switched to Blair (and Obama) because he realised they were going to win, and he didn’t get where he is today by backing losers. He’s evil, not stupid.

      • mike 2.1.1

        When that bastard dies I plan to sing that perfect song from Wizard of Oz: “Ding Dong the witch is dead, Which old witch? the wicked witch”. Then watch his dysfunctional family tear themselves apart over the dough.

  3. Atiawa 3

    The only answer for the political left is for there to be a strong workers movement. The “lefts” industrial arm has become decimated during the last 25 years to the extent that it’s political wing, when in government is relied upon to enact worker friendly legislation supporting & improving minimum conditions of employment.
    Winning four weeks annual leave, five days sick leave and higher minimum hourly pay rates was the domain of unions and their membership. The fifth Labour government – 1999 – 2008, had fertile ground to put in place worker friendly legislation and although they replaced the Employment Contracts Act with the Employment Relations Act they didn’t overly advance the power of workers on the job. Thousands of workers today now rely upon a government to receive a pay increase.
    Of course that government achieved fine things, as previously mentioned and it is difficult to blame them for legislative change that if enforced gave to all workers a better deal then they enjoyed previously.
    The union movement could have used that period of time ( 1999- 2008 ) to consolidate its position by merging together to form NZ Unions Inc.
    A private sector union and a public sector union is all that is required. They should have an industry focus i.e. a transport union would act in the interests of all workers employed in road transport, rail, aviation & shipping. While a health union, for example covers those in the wider health sector – doctors, nurses, lab workers, receptionists etc, as would an education union industry sector act in the interests of teachers, admin, caretakers, teacher asst’s etc.
    The Labour party and the labour movement can’t act in isolation of each other. They have lost their way and need to find each other again. The left can only compete with the might of the msm by organising on the ground. Thats why it’s called the “struggle”.

    • Colonial Rawshark 3.1

      The only answer for the political left is for there to be a strong workers movement.

      Unions and organised labour will be a part of the answer going forwards. But they are a 20th answer for 20th century times. We need new answers in a networked, deindustrialising, financialised, under employment world.

      Also, it was the unions and their leadership who let down NZ in the 1980s and 1990s when there was still time to stop the neoliberal juggernaut in its tracks. Thank Ken Douglas and his ilk.

      • adam 3.1.1

        Trade unions are not working – there are other models to unionise on.

        • Colonial Rawshark 3.1.1.1

          Indeed. They will be civil society organisations of new types, and many won’t be employment unions.

          • Atiawa 3.1.1.1.1

            Good luck with whatever they are.

            If unions weren’t effective why do right wing governments continue to dilute and undermine their relevance?
            They are the only organisation in the world able to deliver for working people. Sure, they aren’t the perfect answer. But I’ll await your reply to find out what replaces them.

            • Colonial Rawshark 3.1.1.1.1.1

              You need to examine the history of the Great Depression to understand that employment unions were only one of many civil society organisations which forced the US Govt to deliver the New Deal.

              In the US the unions have been complicit in destroying terms and conditions for newer younger workers in order to preserve the privilege of senior workers.

              And it hardly needs to be said – but a lot of people aren’t “working” or “employed” any more.

              • Sacha

                Local examples of some new forms of mass organising are Generation Zero and Action Station, neither based around employment relationships.

                • Colonial Rawshark

                  And notice how Grey Power putting the boot in helped remind Labour that trying to cut back on NZ Super was a no-go.

                  • Atiawa

                    Grey Power is just another collective.

                    Maybe we start calling unions Future Grey Power. You know, the same as young Labour or the young Nats or Greens.

  4. Brendon Harre 4

    The cost of setting up ‘media’ due to developments with the internet and social media is at an all time low. Yet kiwis access to quality debate/discussion is also at an all time low. This suits our current government which is not interested in ideas or progress. John Key job is to be the laid back selfie taking public image of a status quo government that only makes changes to reward its mates or to spin and twist the situation to maintain its grip on political power e.g. the compassionate conservative budget.

    The left being the progressive ideas part of the political spectrum need the oxygen of public debate. So this issue is critical for the lefts long term future. I think what the left needs is some centrist websites that do good audio, video and written media where left wing politicians can engage with the public in an intelligent way. This place should also welcome debate from experts in civil society as part of this ‘ideas’ debate. These websites should be accessible from multiple forums -facebook, twitter etc and devices -smartphone, laptop, work computer etc.

    An example might be Julie-Anne Genter on Transportblog

    http://transportblog.co.nz/2015/05/22/submit-on-mill-rd/

    • Colonial Rawshark 4.1

      The Standard represents a fraction of what is needed in NZ. Yet the Left has not got together to create anything more, yet. A miniscule budget of $500K pa would go a long way to setting up an independent left wing volunteer media, one which also helps to support the activities of Scoop and others.

  5. joe90 5

    But.. but.. impartial arbiters of the truth…
    /

    So far in the election campaign, 95% of the columns in the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid the Sun have been anti-Labour. This is a new record for the rightwing paper, long known for virulent attacks against Labour.
    But this paled in comparison to the Daily Telegraph, a respected conservative broadsheet, which sent out a mass email to its readers urging them to vote Conservative and included a link to the Telegraph’s editorial backing the Tories. (The Guardian has endorsed the Labour party.)

    http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/may/07/david-axelrod-uk-media-most-partisan-fox-news

    • Colonial Rawshark 5.1

      Which of these newspapers forced Ed Miliband to unveil his Limestone Policy Tombstone days before the election? Or to back the Tories on opposing Scottish independence and then not follow through on its pre-referendum promises to the Scottish people?

    • Colonial Rawshark 5.2

      I mean, Rupert Murdoch has been a major problem for the Left of politics for decades now. And decades on the Left still have zero answer to him? It’s worse than pitiful. Are we all still going to be bitching about how biased and right wing his media is come the 2020’s.

      • joe90 5.2.1

        And decades on the Left still have zero answer to him?

        While consumers of the news continue to be in thrall of free shit I doubt there is an answer CV.

        • Colonial Rawshark 5.2.1.1

          Then we stay stuck in this loop of deriding the Murdoch media decade after decade after decade.

          • Bill 5.2.1.1.1

            Murdoch backed Blair. Murdoch backed the SNP. Murdoch backed the Tories.

            Murdoch then, supports his back pocket. Again, where people drive the narratives, the Murdoch’s of the world lose their influence and are reduced to publishing purile crap in a desperate attempt to increase sales by publishing stuff that the general populace has already moved way beyond.

            I’ll throw the Sun’s backing of the SNP in its Scottish editions as an example. Did they get a bump in sales? I doubt it. Would their backing have had much influence in an electorate where almost all major media (TV and newspaper) backs Labour? Not really. And look at what happened in spite of the otherwise blanket media support for Labour. One MP.

      • whateva next? 5.2.2

        Right wing made sure there are no Woodwards and Bernsteins these days, and sorted any potential ones by getting rid of John Campbell, despite his popularity. Utterly corrupt now.

  6. Sable 6

    The MSM are a lost cause which may prove to be no bad thing if enough people like myself and others defect to sites like this one and those mainstream outlets not influenced by Western neo cons.

  7. Melanie Scott 7

    I presume everyone commenting here has read Nick Davies’ “Hack Attack”. It is an ABC of political, governmental and big business manipulation, control and disruption of journalism that is deemed critical of them. Welcome to the brave new Murdoch world.
    If the UK with its huge population and supposedly wide political spectrum of able, journalists and commentators and it’s long tradition of vigorous political commentary, can be neutered by one multinational outfit, then what hope has little old NZ?

    • Bill 7.1

      England and Wales, not the UK, is neutered. And there’s a reason for that. The general population in England and Wales are still in the position of being mere spectators. That’s not the case for the entire UK.

  8. Bill 8

    You can’t so easily spin and bullshit people who are engaged.

    NZ society needs a conversation that will engage people. AGW would, I believe, engage people. Engaged people formulate political and cultural narratives that can’t be so easily manipulated or controlled.

    Sometimes, it seems, it can take a long time to pick up the most obvious of lyrics even when the record’s stuck…

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      AGW has had prominence for 20 years now. Its a discussion which will keep rolling on but it remains at far too abstract a level to really engage many more people. That will only change if the focus switches to strong proposals for concrete change, project by project.

      • Bill 8.1.1

        Yup. That would be right enough if it was true.

        Thing is, I can’t think of any msm – newspaper, magazine or TV article – from the past 20 years that has been honest about AGW. Today, the Guardian’s hand wringing AGW project is awash with falsehoods and pulled punches…everything’s going to be fine duntyaknow?

        meanwhile, there’s nothing abstract about stacking an atmosphere to deliver +2 degrees C…it fucks up just about everything to one degree or another and is easily explained. There’s the climate/biology etc of about 20 million years ago when the atmosphere was last sitting at around 400 ppm that might give us a heads-up of what thrives in that climate.

        But all we hear is that 2 degrees is do-able and that we have no record of these conditions from the past 800 000 years, implying that maybe 900 000 years ago the conditions we have set up now existed. No-one mentions that ice core samples only go back 800 000 years. No-one mentions the seabed samples from 20 million years ago that record, as far as we’re aware, the last time there was a concentration of atmospheric CO2 sitting at 400ppm.

        We went from denial in the msm to celebrating the North West Passage and grapes being grown in SE England or whatever to Carbon Capture and Storage is on the horizon (it isn’t) and how 2 degrees is a realistic target (it isn’t), all washed down with sensational, sans context, reporting of 1 in 100, 1 in 50 year weather events.

        For the past 20 years AGW has been buried and trivialised.

        If you want ‘abstract’ and shrugged shoulders, then tell people all about peak oil as they fill their tanks with $2 a litre petrol. Or tell them about the impending non-availability of rare metals when those rare metals are oozing from their throw-away computer devices and phones.

        Even if ‘peak’ comes, as it must in an economy predicted on growth, it’s way too late in arriving to impact on anything we’re doing to the climate.

        • Colonial Rawshark 8.1.1.1

          It’s easy to explain to people about $2/petrol. Oil is cheap at the moment because the global economy is slow and although demand is low, oil production remains high. But don’t be fooled, that’s just like leaving the taps full on even though the water tank is close to empty.

          But forget about that.

          By concrete change and concrete projects I mean things like the electrification of rail. Free public transport. A popular campaign to ask people to keep using their electronic gadgets until they break before getting another one. Requirements for food to be labelled with ‘food miles.’

          Not comparisons with what climactic conditions were like 800,000 years ago. That’s what I call “abstract.”

          BTW I agree that we’ve long shot past 2 degrees. I won’t see the worst of climate change within my lifetime, but today’s primary school kids are stuffed.

      • weka 8.1.2

        AGW hasn’t had prominence for 20 years. It’s really only in the past 5 or so years that most people accept the reality of it and that it gets regular MSM attention outside of the politics pages and beyond the denier distractions. I think we are at a tipping point now where enough people are concerned that it will spread into the population at large. Bill is right about it being something that can engage people and the time is ripe. Problem is, we don’t have a plan for making that happen. Maybe it will just keep building around social media and MSM coverage.

        • Colonial Rawshark 8.1.2.1

          AGW hasn’t had prominence for 20 years.

          Funny, I remember the hooplah around the Rio Earth Summit well. That was 1992. The Kyoto Protocol was all agreed and signed by 1997. That was headline news.

          So I think 20 years is a fair statement. Time flies, eh.

          • weka 8.1.2.1.1

            Yep, and I know people that were concerned about CC in the 1970s, but that’s not prominence. Rio was a specific event that people (your average NZers) moved on from once it wasn’t in the news, if they took any notice of it at all.

            Have a look at the following links from the Guardian, where in 2015 there are multiple articles on CC every day. That’s relatively new. And then compare it to their last page date from the 90s and work your way forward in time. Even allowing for the fact that they weren’t online as much in the 90s, it’s still a good indicator. It’s not until about 2008 that the articles start increasing, and even then it’s until later that they get really serious about it.

            http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-change

            http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-change?page=449

  9. Red delusion 9

    Ever consider people don’t want to be engaged, don’t want to be in a union, a political party, a community group. They just want to get on with their life without interference by government or busy bodies who know best, we go on about Msm, most people don’t even give a toss about most of the topics that so enrage the extremes of left and right. they vote once every 3 years as such to maintain status quo barring crisis and not manufactured ones

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      They just want to get on with their life without interference by government or busy bodies who know best, we go on about Msm, most people don’t even give a toss about most of the topics that so enrage the extremes of left and right.

      Ah, the usual RWNJ BS.

      The people are the government and if they don’t get engaged then they get bossed around by those that think they know best – the RWNJs such as National and Act.

      • Grantoc 9.1.1

        ‘The people are the government’

        Are they? What people? Your statement seems illogical and meaningless.

        Approximately 40% of voters voted for Labour and the Greens, and they are not the government.

        • Colonial Viper 9.1.1.1

          if you think about it, it becomes very clear: without the support and aquiesence of the people, the government is nothing.

    • Bill 9.2

      Ever consider…

      Yup. And I’ve a fair idea as to why. As you say, the status quo is boring and relentless. People just don’t want it impinging on their time and just want to be left alone to get on with their life.

      Throw a spanner in the works; something that people do give a shit about and things change. That doesn’t mean that people suddenly rush out and join all those institutional structures that contribute to the current deadening of society.

      For those ‘old’ political vehicles, they either adapt and move with the times or die.

      Meanwhile, life for an energised, informed and hopeful populace moves away from that bogged down reality where people are nothing beyond vaguely grumpy spectators to a tedious politics that resembles a run down traveling circus coming around every three years.

      • Tracey 9.2.1

        “the status quo” is safe. Fear is used as a political weapon to get people to want more of the same. People fear change cos it means risk. Look at how Labour and National use fear to defeat the Greens, far more than they use fact or proper discussion/debate.

    • Tracey 9.3

      I consider it, but have you considered that your picture might be a tad patronising?

  10. Mike the Savage One 10

    Owning the news media is just one thing to be concerned about, even if a media outlet or forum is independently owned and run, and tries to be balanced in reporting, there are other challenges and problems to be worried about.

    A program that raises serious issues, that could cost private business, or on the other hand also government departments or so, a loss of reputation, loss of credibility, loss of income and whatsoever, does often “invite” legal experts of the criticised party to knock on the doors of the program’s producers.

    That is another thing many in the media are too mindful of these days, besides of their own commercial interests, based on getting good ratings and thus being a sound vehicle for businesses to advertise on.

    Large corporations, also often being the more generous, large donours to political parties, they do not take lightly any critical reporting, that disturbs their vested business interests, nor do representatives of government agencies.

    So what do they do? They instruct their lawyers to send letters, containing some warnings, that if certain claims are made, the media may have to face them in court. How else can you explain what happened following some revelations about ACC a few years ago, where they exposed their “exit strategy”, designed to get rid of certain costly claimants, on ’60 minutes’? After that program there was no further reporting on the matter, and the public were instead kept busy with getting media report on “privacy breaches”, nothing else.

    So far blogs still have a bit more freedom and leeway, but the day will come, where we will have to be careful with what we write and comment on here.

    Perhaps also that has something to do with Campbell’s loss of favour at Mediaworks?

    • Pat 10.1

      “So far blogs still have a bit more freedom and leeway, but the day will come, where we will have to be careful with what we write and comment on here.”

      that day has been and gone….think back a few weeks when an Aussie DJ was sacked for online comments about ANZAC day….am sure if we looked hard enough there would be similar examples closer to home….1984 revisited

  11. Clemgeopin 11

    Re-posting here as this is a more appropriate thread for my comment:

    Three points:

    (1) I think most of us know/sense that our major big-business-owned newspapers and the media works (TV3), is directly beholden to Steven Joyce and his government for bailing them out of debt. I also suspect that their management appointments, such as Key’s personal friend, Mark Weldon, former NZX boss, etc has been due to the plan/influence executed by this government behind the scenes. Same trick was played for country’s spy chief for GCSB with Key’s childhood friend, Ian Fletcher. The push to get John Campbell out, the country’s ONLY journalistic voice for the voiceless who was holding this crooked government for the wealthy to account was uncomfortable for the National Government’s untrustworthy ‘leaders’. Have you ever noticed or wondered that in the time that Paul Henry has been on the morning breakfast show, Key has gone on his show regularly, probably a half a dozen times or so (I am not sure about the exact number, as I don’t watch it, but from anecdotal or cross news accounts) while Key has not gone to Campbell Live for a very LONG time in spite of many invites to front up! I wonder why not! A coward or does he think John Campbell is a bad journalist or does he think that his government is just not answerable to tough questions?

    (2) I am not sure why the independent blogs as well as the publicly owned TVNZ, RNZ can not hold this dodgy government to account more strenuously? Surely, they need not be afraid?

    (3) Don’t we have any very wealthy but ethical straight up good and honourable fair minded individuals in the country who can start or own some MSM to allow a parallel pro-progressive voice for the common people and the country in competition to the myriad of primarily one sided pro wealthy RW rogue outfits running as media but really constantly playing dirty politics against the progressive parties and their leaders? Time to take the country back from the RW rogues.

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