Monday, May 16, 2022

Sean Plunkett: Political puff pieces funded by your tax dollar

Imagine being a support party for an incumbent government with a general election eighteen months away, the polls show the tide is going out for you and your big party mate and the pundits are picking a close-run thing come polling day.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get a 90 minute documentary made about one of your most high profile MPs and have it aired on a major TV channel, shared on social media, and replayed on demand across the internet. That sort of publicity and exposure might just be enough to tip the scales of the election in your favour, to get you, and the big party you support, back into power.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get someone else to pay for the whole thing, if you didn’t have to raise money through donations or declare the funding through the electoral commission.

Even better if you could get the $220,000.00 from the taxpayer and you knew the people making the doco were going to give you an easy ride.

Well, that’s just what the Green Party have managed to do.

In the latest round of funding decisions NZOnAir (the state created broadcasting funder) have given the green light to a project called “Being Chloe”.

It will be made by Razor Films and according to the NZOnAir website it will be a documentary “exploring the political and personal life of New Zealand’s youngest MP Chloe Swarbrick”.

It will air on Discovery owned TV3, already a recipient of your tax dollar through the strings attached $55 million Public interest Journalism Fund.

Your tax dollars all $199,9999.00 of them will fund this piece of electioneering and another $20,000.00 has already been tipped in for script development by another tax funded body, the Film Commission.

Now I’m not getting down on Chloe or the producers (one of whom is the wife of a prominent left-wing journalist) but there’s simply no way on God’s green earth that this can be seen as anything but taxpayer funding of a politically partisan puff piece. The decision to fund it with your tax dollar is bent, crooked, corrupt, and wrong.

To compound the problem it’s the second time NZOnAir has funded such a project. An earlier and much shorter film called “Ok Chloe” has already received the largesse of your tax dollar through NZOnAir.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pulled out of a similar project involving the same producers when she correctly read the room and realised how corrupt such funding looks.

It is impossible to imagine NZOnAir didn’t know exactly what they were doing when they approved this funding, but if they didn’t they are incompetent and if they did they are corrupt.

We can’t let incompetence or corruption interfere with democracy in this country.

I have no problems with someone making a documentary about Chloe Swarbrick or any other politician, but I’m damned if my tax dollar is going to pay for it.

There is time to put the brakes on this appalling misuse of your money, but only if you are prepared to resist.

Update: NZOnAir have now clarified that the documentary will not air until after the 2023 election.

Sean Plunket is the founding editor of The Platform and an award-winning veteran broadcaster and television presenter. This article was originally published by and is published here with kind permission.


Anonymous said...

How can we as the public stop this kind of abuse with tax payers money. No one pays taxes to be used like this.

Anonymous said...

If the govt website says this, it must be true... yeah, right!

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi has welcomed news of New Zealand’s ongoing position as top in the world anti-corruption rankings.

The 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index released by global anti-corruption organisation, Transparency International, ranks New Zealand first equal with Denmark and Finland, with a score of 88 out of 100.

“This is an excellent score that New Zealanders can be proud of. While we’ve always done well in these rankings, it’s encouraging to see New Zealand retain the top spot – a placing we’ve held in six of the last eight years,” Kris Faafoi said.