Tuesday, January 17, 2012

National tries to control the media

Just before the election, TV3 screened Inside Child Poverty: A Special Report. The documentary was funded by NZ on Air, and its aim was to expose child poverty in New Zealand and get people thinking about it. It succeeded. Unfortunately, that success was at the expense of the National Party, which really, really didn't want to talk about the issue. And so post-election, its hacks on the NZ on Air board are trying to ensure that it never happens again:

A move to censor television programmes likely to embarrass the government during election campaigns is being considered by the broadcasting funding agency, NZ on Air.

The minutes of the NZ on Air board’s December meeting reveals a decision "to seek legal advice on whether NZ on Air could require an additional clause in the broadcast covenant requiring broadcasters not to screen programmes likely to be an election issue within the Election Period as defined in the Broadcasting Act".

Because obviously, the last thing we want during an election campaign is for voters to be thinking about the issues...

This move to control the media for the convenience of political parties is Fiji-style stuff, the very opposite of what we expect in a democratic country like New Zealand. It is being pushed by board member Stephen McElrea, who just happens to be John Key's electorate chairperson, aided by a board afraid of "embarrassing" the government. Which tells us that NZ on Air needs more independence, including the freedom from political crony appointments. Their job is to fund television, not ensure the smooth re-election of the powers that be. And if some of that television makes the government-of-the-day look bad, by reminding people of facts and issues they would rather we were ignorant of, then that’s just something the politicians have to wear.