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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Key's electorate chairman attempts to censor political docos at NZ on Air

There's a level of self censorship currently on display at NZ on Air that makes Radio NZ's banning of me for criticizing John Key look like time out on the naughty step.

NZ on Air seems to have become NZ off Air.

How many sleepy hobbits are even aware that John Key's electorate chairman is actually on the NZ on Air board and that he is actively attempting to censor political documentaries, because that's exactly what Tom Frewan over at Scoop has uncovered...

The alarm at TV3’s decision to screen the documentary on Tuesday 22 November at 7.30pm, a slot normally occupied by "reality" genre programmes such as "Drug Bust" and "Kalgoorlie Cops", was first raised by a board member, Stephen McElrea, who also happens to be John Key’s electorate chairman and the National Party’s northern region deputy chairman.

There are two distinct issues here, the first is the role of NZ on Air, the second is the issue of political appointees.

This ridiculous situation has come about because the brilliant child poverty documentary by Bryan Bruce was aired in the week of the election and has sparked NZ on Air to look at censoring any doco that might cause the Government embarrassment in an election period.

How very North Korean of NZ on Air.

Surely critical media that questions what the Government does is EXACTLY the role of NZ on Air, sadly however the board is far more interested in pacifying the Government of the day and the emails released by the Official Information Act that Frewen has unearthed paint a cluster of Yes Minister clones anxious to cover their own butts.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that NZ on Air is part of the problem in terms of the brain deading of our nations public broadcasting and gutless self censorship like this has no place in a progressive democracy. The issue regarding the poverty documentary should have been whether it was factually correct or not, it certainly never should have been whether it embarrassed the Government.

TV3 should be celebrated for screening the poverty doco, not bullied by NZ on Air because it raised difficult questions for the Government.

The second issue is the appointment of John Key's electorate chairman sitting on the board of NZ on Air in the first place, because allowing him on there to censor political docos is an outcome that would sicken anyone with basic comprehension skills.

This isn't the first dodgy appointment by National that borders on the absurd, well known National Party homophobe Brian Neeson was appointed on to the Human Rights Review Tribunal. Why a bigot who has done more than any other NZer has to legally hate homosexuals was appointed to a tribunal over seeing human rights has never been examined by the mainstream media. His appointment would be as unacceptable as Paul Henry becoming the next Race Relations Commissioner. Adding insult to injury was the fact that the process to appoint Brian was a farce. Idiot/Savant with the 2010 scoop on how Neeson was appointed...

Exclusive: An appropriate process? Firstly, it confirms that the cronies were appointed without any interview or formal process. They were "well known to Ministers" who were "satisfied as to their suitability for appointment". And that, apparently, was the end of the matter. There was no examination of qualifications beyond a standardised curriculum vitae form, and certainly no formal test of their ability to contribute meaningfully to the work of the Tribunal as recommended by its chair. They were "well known to Ministers", and so they were in. Whether this is a suitable appointments process for a quasi-constitutional body with power to overturn legislation such as the HRRT is left as an exercise for the reader. The nomination of these cronies displaced more qualified candidates. Power had initially proposed the reappointment of eight existing, experienced members of the HRRT. Four of them were dumped to make room for these cronies. These included all three legal practitioners, who the chair had specifically requested be retained to provide a core of legal capability "to ensure continuity in the decision-making process of the Tribunal". Faced with a choice between an effective human rights body, and jobs for their mates, National chose the latter.

...I accept political appointments as part of our system, either side stack the decks with their people when they win, but within that appointment system there must be some level meritocracy and believable objectivity - I'd consider appointing the Prime Minister's electorate chairman onto the public broadcasting funding body and a homophobe onto the HRRT is an audacity too far.



At 18/1/12 2:27 pm, Blogger Frank said...

This is a step-to-far by National and I think thuis may be their first bif F**k Up for the new year.

Unfortnately, the msm is still mostly in Xmas/New Year Brain Dead mode - though "Summer radio" o RNZ did a great job today on fleshing out the story.

Heck, even my partner (who is fairly apolitical) couldn't believe the crap she was hearing from NZ on Air. So even the Sleep Hobbits may be stirring on this one.

I've written to the Broasdcasting Minister and to National board member, Alastair Bell, who may or may not be the same charachter who tried to apply pressure on NZ On Air. As for writing to Craig Foss,


Is it simply outrageous that NZ on Air - and more specifically - Board member, Stephen McElrea, is attempting to interfere with the broadcasting and programming of television documentaries, citing that it might contravene NZ on Air's impartiality. Specifically, NZ on Air has criticised and condemned TV3's broadcasting of a documentary on child poverty four days prior to last year's election.

This is absolute rubbish. It is also dangerous.

It is not - and should not - be mandated to a state owned organisation as to what New Zealand citizens are/aren't allowed to watch, and when. Then is North Korean or Syrian style of government.

Furthermore, it appears that Board member, Stephen McElrea, is involved in attempting to empower NZ on Air to have authority to determine when specific programmes may be broadcast by independent media,

"“The minutes of the NZ On Air board’s meeting in December says it is now considering adding a clause to the broadcast covenant requiring broadcasters not to screen programmes likely to be an election issue during the election period.”" - http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/96173/nzoa-accused-of-political-bias-over-poverty-show

This is outrageous and unacceptable. More so because because Stephen McElrea is deeply connected to the National Party, in his role as a Regional Deputy Chairman, and as John Key's Electorate Chairperson in the Helensville Electorate.

This is totally unacceptable. Not only is this a gross conflict of interest, but it places NZ On Air's independence into serious question.

This entire situation demands the following;

1. A new system of appointees to state bodies be set up which may make impartial appointments based solely on merit, rather than political connectivity. Such a reform is necessary if the public are to maintain confidence in our state structure and bodies.

2. Stephen McElrea must step down immediatly from NZ On Air. His position is simply not tenable, and casts a dark shadow over the impartiality of that organisation.

I sincerely hope that the suggestions and comments I have made here are brought to your attenton, as I believe this issue demands your utmost attention.



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