Thursday, October 7, 2021

Frank Newman: Calling out media bias

People with absolute power can absolutely not be trusted. That's why we need an independent press.

Most people are inclined to give others the benefit of the doubt and hope for the best. But we are now past doubt and hope as far as the mainstream media in New Zealand is concerned.

There have always been some within the media who have used their position of influence to advocate their political perspective or persecute others. Previously though, these individuals had been more of a localised stain operating at the fringe and posed no real threat to the integrity of media industry which largely remained true to their professional ideals of accuracy, fairness and balance. Not so today. Now the only ones claiming the media are accurate, fair and balanced are the media organisations themselves.

How can any media entity claim with any degree of credibility, to be free of political influence when they receive state funding with political strings attached? A stinging attack came recently from former Labour cabinet minister, Dr Michael Bassett, when he said,

"Their gig is to bribe the media in the run-up to the next election in the hope that they will save Labour. This is happening in two ways. First, the direct distribution of cash from the Public Interest Journalism Fund aimed at keeping the media on side until the next election. All the big daily papers have dipped into it already, and applications are now open for a further swag of taxpayer money.


"The second way the government is trying to keep the media on side is by over-paying them for printing the masses of Covid announcements. I’m reliably informed that the government negotiated none of the regular discounts available to those who advertise on a grand scale in newspapers and TV. The expectation is that none of the media greedies will bite the government hand that feeds them. Or not very hard. If my information is correct, it is corruption, pure and simple."


The first of these points is bad enough, but at least it is transparent. Anyone who wants to look can see the amount of funding provided and the strings attached.


But if the second is taking place, if the government has paid above the odds for advertising, then it is tantamount to a back-handed subsidy and would be corruption.  I guess this is something the media is not likely to be investigating anytime soon!


What we can say with some certainty is that the public are turning away from the former mainstays of news delivery, and in large numbers.


Normally that signal is something those media bosses would take notice of, and do something about. The problem now in New Zealand is the Government is the marketplace, so keeping their audience happy becomes less relevant than keeping the government happy.


Those media entities that are benefiting from the handouts may privately say they have to take the money to survive, but let's have some public honesty. Let's stop pretending they are upholding the virtues of accuracy, fairness and balance, and admit they have been bought-off with government money.


Let's also strop pretending that governments are virtuous and place the greater good above their own political longevity.  There is nothing virtuous about using other people’s money to advance political agendas, regardless of whether those agendas are left or right.


It's hard to believe that Donald Trump’s seemingly outrageous claims of bias and fake news that were so incredible a few years back are now credible when applied to the New Zealand media.


It really is time for the public to hold the media to account and call them out when they fail to uphold the principles of accuracy and impartiality.


My question to readers is this: Is it time to establish a public interest media watch organisation to call out media bias and speak out on behalf of the many who are demanding better from our media?


Frank Newman, a political commentator and investment analyst, is a former local body councillor.


DeeM said...

"Is it time to establish a public interest media watch organisation to call out media bias and speak out on behalf of the many who are demanding better from our media?"

Anything to try to correct the woefully biased NZ media would be fantastic, Frank.
But how do you see the "public interest media watch organisation" working exactly and who would be appointed to it.
And what would make it effective in light of our government-MSM unholy alliance.
Would its purpose be to hold media to account directly or rather to highlight bias to the public at large who would then hopefully force change? Either way, how would its findings be communicated and reach a large audience?

Sorry, lots of questions but only because I'm keen to see something practical and effective which would counteract the dire state NZ finds itself in.

Kiwialan said...

Friday last week a huge gang funeral in Auckland with burnouts and breaching lock down conditions. Saturday motor bikes riding on foot paths, nearly hitting a family, running red lights, wheelies, no helmets. Video clips on the Herald site but nothing on TV 1 or TV 3 7pm news???? Censorship protecting who?

Janine said...

The most important thing we can do as individuals is to encourage people we know to distinguish between myth and facts. Myths perpetuated by our media become facts. Whether we agree with them or not, facts are facts.

Some examples:

Myth: "Jacindamania" as promulgated by newspapers like the Herald.Headlined on their front page.
Fact: Bill English received more votes. Winston Peters was the reason Ardern became PM. She was relatively unknown by many voters.

Myth: Ardern is a good communicator.
Fact: Many now look for information as to what is happening regarding important issues in New Zealand such as He Pua Pua, Three Waters, the safety of the vaccine, on Google or blog sites. She speaks much but imparts little knowledge.

Myth: Donald Trump is terrible. He will not become president.
Fact: we happened to be in New York in 2016. The blue collar workers fell over themselves telling us how much they loved him and were all voting for him. We only knew of him because of his hotel chain. Jack Tame looked like he had lost his favourite toy when Trump won. We were definitely not surprised by Trumps win.

Myth: Most want the country to be called Aotearoa
Fact: 80% don't

Myth: Most people want to learn the Maori language. This promoted by TV channels.
Fact: Most of us don't

You can see by the Medias relentless drive on these issues how myth becomes fact.

Terry Morrissey said...

The absolute drivel you get when you push the “contribute” on Stuff web site.
At Stuff our mission has always been to provide you with trustworthy, accurate and reliable news and information. We’ve never taken your support for granted.
This commitment is more vital than it’s ever been, particularly in light of the challenging times we all find ourselves in. And we remain a trusted source of information even though, like news organisations everywhere, we’re under more commercial pressure than ever.
Each time you contribute, you’re helping our journalists continue to do what they do best: sort the facts from the fake news and report on the things that matter to you in your daily life. Your contribution will enable us to shed light on our nation’s most important issues and continue to question those in power.
Now there’s a new way you can support journalism by making direct financial contributions to help power our local and national news teams up and down the country and our award-winning investigations
As our traditional means of funding journalism decline – advertising in particular – the direct support of our readers will become even more important.
Today, open and robust public discourse is under greater threat than ever. Together, with your support, we can continue to play our role in safeguarding a free and open society and fostering a democracy that’s accountable to all its citizens.

What a compltete and utter crock. Sorry. Myth.

Ian P said...

The media are the defenders of our Democracy. That requires intellect and courage. If that is missing the sword will inevitably prevail over the pen. Tragic.

Lesley Stephenson said...

Stop buying newspapers. The Govt money is no good to a newspaper if no one is buying them.
Stop listening to news on TV. Ratings are everything to TV channels.
If Jacinda thought no one was listening to her 1pm show she would stop.
Govt decisions would get leaked on social media for those who want to know.Has it ever been possible to change Govt decisions through submissions and letters to newspapers? It seems to me only Maori have been able to affect change in
Govt decisions.

5th generation Kiwi said...

Our Local Whanganui Chronicle, owned by NZ Herald NZME, is so pro labour and our belovered leader. In the past year alone the regular cartoon in the middle of the paper has at least 4 or 5 a week having a go at national or act or insulting Trump. The regular columnists are 100 % pro Cindy and the wonderful job she is doing. From a media background I used to write a regular column that was more middle to right wing. This was stopped 3 years ago. When asked why I was told by the editor we don't have to give a reason.
Our TV, Radio,(except for Hosking) and press are largely left leaning cindy devotes. In fact out of all Ladours objectives the control of the media has been their only outstanding success.

Phil Robinson said...

I wrote to the editor of the Northern Advocate about the Public Interest Journalism Fund recently. Was my letter published? Of course not! Here it is:

Bribery vs. Brutality

We had dinner guests recently who had never heard of the Public Interest Journalism Fund, the scheme whereby the government rewards media outlets prepared to meet certain criteria. In particular they must promote the notion that the Treaty of Waitangi established a partnership between Māori and the British Crown. Our guests’ ignorance was understandable; our media have carefully avoided mentioning the PIJF. Acknowledging that they’re receiving money with strings attached would undermine not only their credibility but also their chance of receiving any more of the $55 million on offer.

By contrast, in June when 500 police officers raided Hong Kong’s main pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, seizing computers, hard drives and reporters' notepads and arresting five executives, the people of Hong Kong were only too aware of what was happening.

The beauty of the PIJF as a mechanism for controlling the media is that it not only gives journalists an incentive to toe the party line, but also gives them an incentive to say nothing about the incentive itself! There’s more than one way for a government to suppress dissent, and the Labour Party’s subtle bribery may prove more corrosive of free speech than the Chinese Communist Party’s blatant brutality.

Allan said...

Wouldn't it be good if we had a NZ section in the Sky News programming. However much Kiwi's dislike our Aussie cussons we have to admit that they do hold their politicians to a account and Andrew Bolt's interview with Muriel does show a willingness to support the democratic process in NZ. Perhaps this could be built on. I'm sure that if the Jacinda's uncle Xi suddenly started to dredge the Manukau for a naval base they would get worried very quickly.