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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Taurima excuse for TVNZ purge

[UPDATE 14/05/2014: The NZ Herald's editorial on party membership and journalism is as perverse and puritanical as Gavin Ellis' defence was (as mentioned below).  The comments coming in are worth reading - they are heavily critical of the Herald for pushing Act and the overt bias of their journos, esp. John Armstrong, Audrey Young and Fran O'Sullivan for their sycophantic pro-National lines. I would say consensus is that it is far better to have card-carrying political party members who are impartial journalists in their output (eg. Shane Taurima) than it is to have journalists with no membership who are frothing partisans whenever they are in front of the mic or keyboard (eg. Mike Hosking).]

Shame on Shane Taurima telling TVNZ he wasn't going to stand for Labour, and shame on TVNZ for    believing him.  Everyone else involved in politics understood that Taurima was going to contest the Tamaki Makaurau electorate and/or would be standing for Labour in 2014.  If it was a secret it was only to TVNZ and this is why I don't have much, if any, sympathy for either of their positions.  This in no way can exonerate Taurima's activities on the company clock, in the company office and on the company's tab, but what has been exonerated is TVNZ executive oversight of managing this conflict -  they are blameless apparently.  The real problem from an employment perspective that seems lost in all the political/Labour headlines is that Taurima was seeking other employment (regardless of whether it was as an MP, it could have been any job somewhere else) and using his company position to help secure it - that is bad faith.  And it can be documented as having started within a fortnight of returning to work after unsuccessfully contesting the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election in 2013 according to someone who has actually read the report.  I'm just going off the TVNZ press release.

TVNZ executive reaction to the report is what it was from day one: initiate a political purge.  The only refinement to the original concept of an inquisition is that there is to be two classes of political forced confessions and punishments.  

Firstly, the top editorial staff and all political staff at News and Current Affairs Division must declare party membership and political involvement and presumably will be sacked if they hold any membership.  Secondly all the other staff in the division must declare party membership to the management, but will not be sacked.  Does anyone else - apart from the Union obviously - find this chilling McCarthyist bullshit at the state broadcaster utterly intolerable?  The list will be available under the Official Information Act so we can all see for ourselves I take it.

Gavin Ellis, ex-NZ Herald boss was on RNZ saying he thought having party membership was incompatible an a complete no-no.  I found this odd.  What business is it of him as an editor to inquire or demand?  For commentators and opinion writing perhaps, but not for every reporter, editor, producer etc.  If the copy is straight and there are no complaints - as there was with Taurima's output - then there was no question and is no question.  The conflict of interest and bias situation is grossly overstated by Ellis and others.  Following their logic religious reporters would have to be atheists!  And the right wing Sky City shill Mike Hosking is not politically biased because - as far as they know - he hasn't renewed his National Party membership?

Every journalist should be given respect to manage the situation without any need to disclose or any other rule.  Paying a small sum of money to be a financial member of a political party and doing the normal things an ordinary member does would not constitute a high enough level of public engagement and participation to cross any ethical lines.  However getting into the realms of party office holding and positions of public advocacy and having party relationships with the politicians they are supposed to be reporting on would be crossing lines.  The point is the editors should trust the journos to know all this without having to come up with an expensive review and more reports and HR and the unions stepping in. etc. That's the problem with a purge - the basis is hysteria and panic with little consideration of the consequences.  Like... if party membership is admitted... then they are either sacked or they must repent and renounce their party.  How is this acceptable? When is this deadline?  Establishing a staff political register at TVNZ is madness of a fascist variety.

I note that the reporter on One News who read out the ban was wearing a black tie and handkerchief.


At 27/5/14 10:57 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Previously (In the 70's) being in a political party was never a problem for a journo. There was bugger all opinions in a paper only the Editorial. All else was reportage. Now we only have opinion! I cant see too much problem with using work place - on a salary the employer gets a great deal from the employees a little bit of redressing the balance going on!


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