Written By: - Date published: 8:31 am, February 15th, 2016 - 85 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, brand key, david cunliffe, democracy under attack, Dirty Politics, election 2014, greens, john key, journalism, labour, Media, national, newspapers, same old national, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags:
This is a topic that has been the subject of many, many Standard posts which have complained about the the bias that New Zealand’s media shows for the political right. But it is always good to have verification. Massey University academic Claire Robinson has analysed media coverage from the last election campaign and concluded that it was heavily biased towards National.
Media were biased towards Prime Minister John Key during the last election according to new research on images in the media.
Sixty percent of those were of the two major party leaders – John Key, the National Party leader, and Labour’s then leader David Cunliffe.
Images of the Prime Minister outnumbered those of Mr Cunliffe by three-to-one.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters was the third most photographed leader, and Colin Craig of the Conservative Party the fourth.
The measurement is a simplistic one, counting the numbers of times each leader appears. But the difference is significant and the bad news is that things are getting worse.
Robinson states that the papers showed “structural” rather than “political” bias. I am not sure how she can claim this.
New research to be released this evening concludes that four of the country’s top newspapers were biased in their coverage of the last election.
The research by Massey University Associate Professor Claire Robinson finds that the Herald, Herald on Sunday, Dominion Post and Sunday Star-Times all exhibited substantial bias in their selection and use of images during the election campaign, most of it in favour of Prime Minister John Key.
“Labour and Phil Goff have real grounds to feel they were unfairly treated in print during the last election campaign,” Dr Robinson says.
Dr Robinson assessed every image of John Key and Phil Goff published during the election campaign in the four big papers. Mr Key featured 138 times while Mr Goff featured 80 times. Mr Key also dominated the column centimetres, at an almost two to one ratio.
Both Mr Key and Mr Goff received much more positive and neutral coverage than negative coverage from all four papers, but the Herald and Herald on Sunday were generally more positive in their treatment of Mr Key, whilst the Dominion Post and Sunday Star-Times were kinder to Mr Goff.
“My research suggests there could be grounds for a complaint to the New Zealand Press Council that the newspapers breached the principle of fairness and balance in their campaign coverage.
Things are getting worse in that the imbalance, as measured by photos, went from nearly two to one to three to one when the treatment of Key and the Labour leader are compared.
The test does not measure the quality of the photos used. I recall posting about the calibre of the photos used after Labour’s best start announcement early in 2014. It was hard to imagine a worse set of photos that could have been used.
As noted by Robinson’s earlier release there is an obligation for the print media to exhibit balance. The New Zealand Press Council’s statement of principles states this:
An independent press plays a vital role in a democracy. The proper fulfilment of that role requires a fundamental responsibility to maintain high standards of accuracy, fairness and balance and public faith in those standards.
The elevation of Mike Hosking and Paul Henry to positions of authority the year before the 2014 election clearly helped the Government. Add to this National’s huge financial resources and evidence of media bias and it is no wonder that Labour and the Greens struggled.