Thursday, November 30, 2023

Ben Espinar: Peters vs Media

There is ample evidence of faltering journalistic integrity in our media over the past 6 years

Newly minted Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has elected to drag the issue of media bias firmly back into the limelight less than 24 hours after being sworn in as part of the country’s new coalition Government.

The veteran politician has been prodding away at an increasingly hostile relationship with media for several years now, an acrimonious union which looks all too likely to explode now that the two will be brushing shoulders in the halls of power on a far more regular basis.

Firstly, let us not beat around any bushes – the contemporary media in this country detest Winston Peters. He represents to them a last symbol of the kind of vintage kiwi politician that this enlightened age of progressive reporters has largely hunted to extinction.

It may even be unreasonable to bemoan them for hating him. He ruthlessly and indiscriminately chastises them any chance he gets – to the dismay of some and the giddy delight of others.

The question is – who’s to blame for this relationship breakdown? Does the media have a point when it questions the integrity of a deputy Prime Minister that barks his personal disapproval of the nation’s state broadcasters in his first day on the job?

Or is it Mr Peters who is justified in his condemnation of the media for continuing to ignore a declining public trust that is underpinned by the PIJF and instances of biased reporting?

Either way, it’s clear from Peters’ most recent stand-up that the media will need to quickly adapt to Mr Peters’ newfound political prominence if it is to extract anything of value from their often-fiery interactions with him.

On Tuesday evening, media lingering outside the new Government’s swearing-in ceremony were greeted by Mr Peters with claims of biased reporting and faltering independence from the previous government.

The media did not take kindly to this at all. That evening, Newshub responded to these claims of biased reporting with perhaps the most biased report of a politician’s comments I have ever seen. Point to Winston.

The coverage consisted of Newshub’s Political Editor Jenna Lynch standing outside Parliament bleating about how ‘unbecoming’ she thinks it is for a Deputy PM to undermine public confidence in media.

Firstly, that Jenna Lynch dislikes Winston Peters, or any number of other prominent figures who are old and male is not ‘news’ in that it is not surprising, insightful, or even particularly relevant.

Second, it is not the Deputy Prime Minister that has undermined public trust in media…

Since accepting money from the government in exchange for “Commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi”, media in this country have been held in increasingly disdainful regard by a growing portion of the population. Whether they view that perspective as ‘becoming’ or not.

Rather than addressing these concerns and working to regain the public’s trust, the media lectured them for spreading ‘disinformation’, and then did it again…

In 2022 TVNZ and Stuff accepted $500,000 between them from the Government in exchange for a number of programming and print deals, including an hour long 1news special on climate change, five news articles on, a selection of interviews with climate experts on Breakfast TV and a 7 Sharp interview with a government official.

All of these were presented as news content, none of them were adequately marked as government advertising. To quote broadcaster Mike Hosking at the time ‘if that isn’t media corruption, I don’t know what is’. The story received almost no coverage other than this comment.

The media’s mistake, in my estimation, lies not in signing up to PIJF and other deals, and thus formally accepting the government’s view on issues like the treaty and climate change, but rather in failing to adequately acknowledge how their readers and viewers felt about it.

And they’re still failing at that. After branding the aforementioned deal with the Government as ‘media corruption’ last year, Mike Hosking this week referred to Winston Peters’ claims of bribery in media as ‘categorically not true’. Is he forgetful or has he had a change of heart?

Going further still, Former Prime Minister Chris Hipkins went on TVNZ – who agreed to present government messaging on climate change as news in exchange for money, and suggested Peters could be ‘breaking the law’ for commenting on media independence.

The fact is this ‘deny, deny, deny’ attitude is an industry wide affliction at the moment. You’d be hard pressed to find a media commentator in the mainstream that hasn’t come out swinging at Winston Peters' comments, or blindly defended the persisting arrogance of their profession in the face of free-falling public trust in it.

There is ample evidence of faltering journalistic integrity in our media over the past 6 years. This article does not contain anything that hasn’t been publicly admitted to by government officials or published in the public domain by the relevant players.

The eligibility criteria for the PIJF is published in full by NZ On Air. The deal between Stuff/TVNZ and the Labour Government was confirmed by former Energy Minister Megan Woods in May of last year.

It’s all there in black and white. There are no cover ups. There is no conspiracy. The fact that the Deputy Prime Minister made accusations relating to this publicly available information is not what is undermining public trust in journalism or democracy, as the former Prime Minister and Newshub spuriously claim.

What is undermining this trust, is their own astonishing stubbornness and inability to accept that the actions of their executives and editors have led directly to the negative perceptions they continue to fight so vociferously to dismiss.

Ben Espiner produces the breakfast show on The Platform. He has a BA in Political Science and English Literature from Victoria University of Wellington. This article was originally published by and is published here with kind permission.


Anna Mouse said...

Well stated. Fact is always better than fiction when it comes to 'news'.

EP said...

Well said! It is truly astonishing that so many in the media can be so thick. We can all understand that there can exist a range of opinions about any one thing, but the MSM backlash to the new government - not only Peters - is nothing short of infantile, embarrassing. I don't listen at all, but I think of people I would still respect if their employers were not so woke, and just hope they can keep their jobs until the insanity dissipates.

Anonymous said...

lol - Winston is male and stale. What happened to the pale bit? Fails the narrative of who the bad guys are. Go Winston!!! Male and stale and making sense.

Anonymous said...

“It’s all there in black and white. There are no cover ups. There is no conspiracy.”


When you look at the bribe funds for the Covid Cult, the Climate Cult, the Treaty Cult and the Trans Cult, they were all out in the open.


Cindy Ardern gave a speech at the United Nations, where she explained her philosophy.

Free speech is a “weapon of war,” and must be resisted at all cost. She asked, “How do you tackle climate change if people do not believe it exists?”

Her answer was clear. Annihilate any opposition voices.

The reason the corruption funds were all out in the open is because Cindy Ardern believes that she is fully justified bribing the media.

Ken S said...

The problem with the Hosk is that he has got his Gucci knickers in a twist because Winston appears regularly on the Platform and ignores adsquawk zb. This leads to his constant carping criticism of the Deputy PM making him look like the rest of the MSM losers.

Rob Beechey said...

Fair minded Kiwis suffered years of one sided mainstream journalism protecting an idiot Govt and their woke ideology The dam has finally burst, championed by Winston Peters. If you stop still for a minute, you will hear the cheering taking place all over NZ. Thank god we still have a cantankerous politician motivated enough to sink the boot in. Good on you Winnie.

Geoff. said...

It seems to be generally accepted that you can never win against the media because they have access to their readers/listeners and will always have the last word. If anyone is likely to change that perception it will be that old goat Winston. With interviews on the platform he can let rip without any fear of being edited or misquoted. This has all the promise of a good old fashioned schoolyard scrap, and I wouldn't bet against Winston.

Anonymous said...

Dear Master Ben Espiner.

Oh dear, can I suggest that you triple lock your residential doors at night, me thinks that Jessica Mutch-McKay & Maiki Sherman just might send Benedict Collins around "to sort you out" - how it will be done not sure, will keep you updated.

In your interesting profile on PJIF and recent "oral dribbling's by Media etc", you forgot one "esteemed Media person" - Mike Hoskings/ News Talk ZB who the other day, following his morning show posted on the NZ News Talk Website/ in His "Mikes Mínute" - a diatribe of Winston Peters and his comments (widely reported) about the PJIF - according to Mr Hoskings - Winny had got it wrong. Amazing "turnaround" as thru this Medium, to which you have placed your article - Mr Hoskings has previously done the same thing - "praising Winston Peters and his potential return to Parliament & potentially working with National & Act."

Having sat watched, listened I wondered who at NZ Herald + News Talk ZB "got to Mr Hoskings" and "gave him the good oil to pour all over Winston Peters and "his anti media jibe".

I know who I believe and "it isn't the NZ Mainstream Media" not since it was reported - long ago - about the PJIF - and the instant denials from NZ On Air at the time.

Robert Arthur said...

Perhaps the msm could meet the new world with a whole new approach. Perhaps a series of truly objective articles examining the conditons of the PIJF and the effective influence. A whole new novel experience for reporters, editors and the public. They would likely claw back many readers lost over the last 6 years. They need not worry about maori readers.They gat their political fill from the local rebel propoganda centre (marae) and the innunerable one eyed myth fostering maori publications regularly summarised on BV
And while at it could drop all the gratuitous te reo twaddle (mahi, motu, city names, day names, greetings, pepe, etc etc)

Anonymous said...

The world was talking about it, when our media continued to play along.

Anonymous said...

Journos were commenting privately when the PIJF was being proposed, that it could lead to under-mining of editorial independence and declining audience trust.
However, newsroom chatter never carried any weight in the boardroom.
Now the misgivings have been found to be justified.
When organisations lose public trust the media is often given to interview PR “experts” on the how and why it all went so terribly wrong.
Remoteness, hubris, and intellectual arrogance are often identified as contributing causes.
The resulting after-the-event analysis and advice is usually full of strategies blindingly obvious to anyone with a modicum of common sense.
So for all mainstream media in the current situation, here’s a brief summary of how to proceed, PR-expert-style:
- Admit you got it wrong. No conditions, excuses, or blame for other parties.
- Commit to do better in future.
- Set up at least semi-formal audience perception and feedback mechanisms.
- Rinse and repeat.
Depending on how bad and how persistent declining trust becomes, resignations of key personnel may be required.
There y’go, simple, and no charge at this point. However, you’ll need me on speed-dial as the situation worsens and my retainer fee is not cheap. . .

Willow said...

Over the last 6 years millions upon millions of our tax-payer dollars have been used to specifically suppress the truth over covid , the treaty, transgender issues, climate change, welfare payments, the Ukraine war and more.

You just couldn't make this up. Even the novel 1984 never got close to being this bad..

Consequently our economy is wrecked, there is racial disharmony and many people are sick and dying of the side effects of the vaccinations.

Three cheers for St Winston the Intrepid who all along has championed for the truth.

Anonymous said...

Other comparable countries such as australia and the uk havr balance in their mefia, right and left. Here us bz it is mainly hard left.

Anonymous said...

Ben it becomes so obvious about what the media won't talk about, when you listen to rhe platform as a comparison, and hear sean plunket debating many interesting issues openly and having such great interviews. Nz herald are a basket case of a paper, and zb are losing it a bit now that good journalists like barry soper and kate hawkesbury are no longer there. They are employing nore lefties like jason walls who openly loathes national. It puts you off listening to them. Their talkshows are often safe topics like the roads, or favourite receipes. I hope the platform grows.

Empathic said...

I noted the other day a Radio NZ interviewer herald a 'weekly chat' with the leader of the opposition. The interview was of course with Chris Hipkins and I don't recall any such regular platform given to any opposition leader when Labour was in power. Taxpayer-funded RNZ is showing its political bias and its plan to work against the new government.

The interview provided Hipkins with a platform to exercise some verbal violence in expressing his resentment about losing the election. Among other insults he referred to the new triumvirate as a "gang of thugs" and claimed Winston is "malicious and he's here on behalf of international tobacco". These accusations deserve defamation proceedings as it's unlikely Hipkins has any evidence whatsoever of links between Peters and 'international tobacco'.

Hipkins asserted that Peters' accusation of bribery was "totally baseless". However, his justifications referred to Peters being deputy prime minister in the coalition government that established the PJIF, and claiming that there was no evidence newsrooms scrutiny of government had been compromised. These arguments, even if valid, don't refute Peters' accusation at all. But they are unlikely to be valid. While deputy prime minister, Peters was kept in the dark about Labour's racist agenda; that's why he ruled out working with Labour early in the last election cycle. He may not even have known about the offending clauses in the PIJF contract. As far as the PIJF not compromising media, that can only be true if those media ignored and contravened the PJIF contract which would have rendered them liable to pay back the money. Most unlikely. And we all know that those media paid by government bent over backwards to use Manglish, to represent Maori interests over and above all others and to avoid any critical scrutiny of fake 'principles of the Treaty'.

At least the interviewer did (meekly and politely) ask whether Peters' accusation might have referred to the PJIF clauses requiring media to support Labour's positions regarding the Treaty. Hipkins avoided clarifying or addressing those clauses, instead resorting to bluster about having "given up trying to second-guess what Winston is saying". Pathetic. Face up to the truth Chris. Your socialist government used typical socialist tactics to exert control over media in order to promote its policies and to reduce critique.

Robert Arthur said...

Re Empathic, if Hipkins cannot second guess Winston's very clear allusions, presumably he failed to second guess his maori caucus...and as a consequencw lost the election, and almost certainly the next one as well.