Why I was banned from RNZ
First can I give my sincere thanks to the many people who have come forward to offer support over my banning from Radio NZ for criticizing the Prime Minister. I have been genuinely humbled that so many people have called Radio NZ on this banning and am amazed at the response. It proves to me that NZers do care about public broadcasting and find this move repugnant.
I would like to focus on the official reason Radio NZ have finally given for banning me that they released to TV3 news yesterday afternoon.
“Mr Bradbury’s invitation to take part in The Panel discussion segment was withdrawn because his personal comments about the Prime Minister were deemed to be in breach of Radio New Zealand’s editorial requirements for fairness and balance.One of his comments was regarded as being potentially defamatory.
Well this is a different story to the one I was told on Friday morning by RNZ. At no time was defamation mentioned to me as the justification, I was told my criticism was over the top and that I would be banned. The defamation reason is an excuse on the hop, they are just making it up as they go along.
Let's note, I didn't have my 'invitation withdrawn', I was banned, that was the word used during my Friday morning phone call and they know it. The reason given was my criticism of the PM breached their magically ill defined 'editorial requirements for fairness and balance'.
It was an opinion piece segment.
I gave my opinion.
Just as I have for over a decade on that station.
Beyond the point my co-blogger Phoebe Fletcher makes regarding the unlikelihood of defamation as a reason to ban me, Gordon Campbell has written on this fairness and balance justification given by RNZ, his conclusion is pretty damning...
It is worth recording the immediate response by Mora as soon as Bradbury had finished:
Mora : There was certainly a lot of acrimony across Parliament when that happened. I was a bit confused. I didn’t see the TV coverage.
Bradbury : I was watching it, I was watching tt…
Mora : Getting back to your point about Radio Live. What did he say about cats? That’s the thing. Because people like cats. And I’m sure they’d be keen to hear what the Prime Minister thought about the moving of Coronation Street.
Only after this point did co-guest John Bishop make some ‘balancing’ remarks about Key’s behaviour in Parliament. Point being, if RNZ’s concern was with balance and its own standards, why was that opportunity not taken up straight away by Mora, the programme’s host – who instead, chose to try and trivialise Bradbury’s comments by defending the PM talking about cats (“That’s the thing”) rather than meet the substantive issue head on? Cats were the thing on a day when, as Bradbury had said in his preamble, the country’s credit rating had just been downgraded? In context, it is evident that it was Bradbury who was raising the substantive issues and trying to keep the discussion on a serious course – and RNZ that is dodging its opportunity to respond, and lunging for the life raft of triviality.
Ultimately, Bradbury has been made to pay the price not only for RNZ’s forelock-tugging deference to its political paymasters – but also for Mora’s failure to defuse the situation at the time by offering even the semblance of a substantive response to the issues Bradbury had been raising. (‘I didn’t see it, lets talk about cats’ is not really cutting it.)
Even Russell Brown fires up...
Radio New Zealand’s panicked response suggests that the broadcaster in thrall of the government ain’t Radio Live. The indefinite ban was a ludicrous over-reaction, so clumsily handled as to suggest butt-covering on an orchestral scale.
Bomber is partisan and provocative? Well, come on down Captain Obvious. Surely this cannot have been news to either the RNZ board or management.
...I would note as a side bar to Russells piece that my comment on the $43 million dollar loan was tongue in cheek, however it is a pointed tongue. Let's not forget the loan was originally turned down by the MED, and it wasn't until a meeting between Impey and Key at Telethon that decision was over ridden allowing Ironbridge to gain a rate they could not have picked up on the open market.
Then there is the Godfather of NZ Broadcasting and original Panel member, Brian Edwards...
Bomber Bradbury – a gutless reaction by Radio New Zealand that smacks of political hypersensitivity.
I’m saddened by Radio New Zealand’s banning of Bomber Bradbury for several reasons:
For anyone who believes in non-commercial public service broadcasting, Radio New Zealand is pretty well all there is and it’s bloody good. Aside from TVNZ’s Q and A and TV3’s The Nation, both marginalized in what for most people are unwatchable time slots, and TVNZ7, about to be sacrificed to the Government’s total lack of interest in quality radio or television, there is no discursive examination of politics and current issues on radio or television in this country. National Radio is the glorious exception with Morning Report, Midday Report, Nine to Noon, Checkpoint and a swag of other programmes, willing to take the time to examine issues in detail and depth.
I’ve always thought of National Radio as courageous in its approach to tackling political issues and forward thinking in its approach to broadcasting standards. There’s a list of words you’re not supposed to say on air, but I don’t object to that. I don’t regard not being able to say ‘Fuck’ on the radio as an affront to my right to freedom of speech. I don’t need it to make my point.
But, as an invited political commentator on public radio, being able to express my disapproval of the actions of political parties or politicians in the strongest terms, short of defamation, is an absolute sine qua non. I don’t want to have to pussyfoot around. And, to be frank, I don’t want to give up several hours of my time preparing for and appearing on a network or programme that expects me to pussyfoot around.
...and Chris Trotters thoughtful contribution...
Defusing The Bomber
As Bomber’s commentaries nudged the stridency levels higher and higher, and Afternoon’s Baby-Boomer audience grew weary of the Bradbury blame-game, the programme was dragged further and further away from its comfort-zone. Sooner or later, Radio New Zealand was bound to say: “Nup. That’s it. We’ve gone too far out on this particular limb.”
The moment came last Thursday afternoon. Bomber took aim at the Prime Minister and squeezed-off a sustained burst of heavy-calibre fire. It was no better or worse than a dozen other well-aimed political fusillades he’d unleashed over the past few months. But, it was one too many.
What happened? I don’t know – and I haven’t been able to find out. Did RNZ Board Chairman, Richard Griffin, put the vice-like metaphorical squeeze on CEO Peter Cavanagh’s wrist? I doubt it. The most likely explanation is that, quite suddenly, and without the clear warning he was entitled to and should have been given, Bomber crossed the invisible line from “gutsy call” to “major liability” – and the Bomber-disposal squad went into action.
Unfair to Bomber? Yes. Bad for the programme? Possibly. Deeply embarrassing for Radio New Zealand? Definitely.
RNZ's claims here of breaching their editorial policy and that my comments were defamatory are clearly weak ones justifying a ban.
Their next justification is the following...
"Mr Bradbury’s comments were inconsistent with information he had provided to programme producers before going on air.
This is a barefaced lie. RNZ asks you to send them a line about what you have been doing and the topic you would like to talk about.
Here is the word for word email they send panelists...
Can you please let me know (a) what you've been up to lately and (b) anything you'd like to discuss at half time in PANEL SAYS.
I wrote a brief line about what I was doing (MCing the Wintec School of Journalism end of year debate and lunch between Media and Politicians next week) and that I wanted to talk about John Key.
That email was sent to them at 2.38pm.
When I was in the studio pre show and Jim was running through what I had done and what I was talking about from my email, I read out the first paragraph of my opinion piece and we all laughed. To claim that what I had sent them was inconsistent with information he had provided to programme producers before going on air isn't just the weakest justification for banning me, it's actually not true.
Mr Sulky pants, Cameron Slater has been running the line that I breached internal policy and has bought hook line and sinker RNZ's weak justification. Why Dr know it all suddenly thinks he is an expert on production guidelines within Radio NZ amuses me as much as his self belief that he's an expert on all topics on Earth. His super simplistic reading of the situation is actually beneath him. You can do better than this champ.
Their last justification was this...
"Mr Bradbury later apologised to the programme’s executive producer.It was made clear to him that while his invitation to appear as an occasional guest on The Panel was being withdrawn, it was not a ‘lifelong ban’ and it did not apply to other Radio New Zealand programmes."
...this is a twist of the truth. Firstly I apologized to the Executive Producer for any offense taken, I certainly did not agree with their ban for criticizing the PM and to insinuate I did is a lie. As I posted, I thought they were joking at first. The impression I was left with when I asked if it was a life long ban from the angry Executive Producer ringing me was, as I posted, that a Green-Labour Government would get into power first and it certainly DID apply to all of Radio NZ. They are simply trying to backpedal way from the avalanche of criticism this has sparked by claiming the ban is a short one, if this is actually the case, when am I back on the Panel?
So what really happened here? I've read most of the comments across the blogosphere and the many arguments put up, and as someone in the eye of this storm, I'd like to forward my perspective of why I was banned.
Did John Key and his Department have a hand in banning me?
With my hand on heart, I have to honestly tell people I don't think for one second that John Key or his Department had anything to do with my banning. Why? There are 3 reasons.
1:Come on, John Key and his Department couldn't give two tosses about what I think about John Key.
2: John Key and his Department are just too slick to be stupid enough to start something like this. They paper mache over any controversial issue, why buy a freedom of speech fight that goes across the political spectrum over me? Rule number 348 250 of Cameron Slaters rules on politics is 'don't get in the mud to wrestle with a pig'. Sadly in this analogy, I'm the pig, but you get the idea. For a PM that is so risk adverse that he's smiled and waved his way through the last 3 years, why misstep so badly now?
3: The third point I think is the best evidence that John Key had no hand in this. If this had been a hit ordered by the PMs office, no one would know about it. The amateur hour theatrics of the way I was banned has none of the polish of a professional hit. Why call me to ban me? If the pressure had come on from the PM, I just never would have been called ever again to be on the panel. Instead I get this angry phone call to say my criticism of the PM was too harsh and that I would be banned.
I just don't think there was any direct pressure from the Government at all, and I say that as someone who clearly can't stand this Government and the misery they have brought to the poor of this country.
So what do I think happened? Something far more insidious than obvious interference, I think this was a case of self censorship by Radio NZ management. Their tepid desire to produce bland, non-offensive programming for mashed potato recipes has created a management style so risk adverse that they respond blindly to any perceived offence before any is actually registered.
Banning me for criticizing the PM and their jellyfish justifications for doing so are RNZs management responsibility. Their culture of self censorship before any umbrage is actually taken is weak for a public broadcaster and is ultimately counter productive to the role they are supposed to play in providing a divergence of opinion.
This whole needless mess and PR disaster (check their facebook page) has been RNZ managements screw up and they need to acknowledge their clumsy handling of the entire affair.
On a final note, can I say that in the reading of many of the comments posted throughout the blogs, I have noted a certain annoyance from some at my style.
In the past I have enjoyed the fight with the right more than the actual point at times and have allowed myself to throw rhetoric around for the fun of it. This experience and the surprising show of support has made me appreciate the role that I have as a commentator in a media dominated by bland baby boomer pundits and hard right wing opinion masquerading as middle of the road NZ.
In the future, I will endeavour to take that media role on with the responsibility it demands. I'm not suggesting I will put away my stomping boots, but I will be a lot more focused about what I'm stomping.
Again my humble thanks and gratitude for the incredible show of support from my whanau and from people I've never met who were disgusted by my banning.