Dr Michael Bassett

Dr Michael Bassett

< Columns

TV One Still Doesn't Get The Message....


It's becoming clear that the state-owned TV One and its management have no intention of stopping their left-slanted news presentations despite being reminded by Karl du Fresne and others that using the airwaves to proselytise is improper journalism. Worse, it seems that the new Minister for Media and Communications either hasn't tried, or has failed, to persuade TV One's management that they should be striving to ensure balanced reporting.

TV One's 6pm bulletin on 22 February began with a story about child poverty statistics. After six years of a Labour Government, five of them with Jacinda Ardern as Minister for Child Poverty Reduction, the figures for those in poverty are now much worse. Without saying this in so many words, the report by Cushla Norman acknowledged the problem's cause could (she didn't say should) be laid at the door of the last government. But the selection of two of the three commentators told another story. Carmel Sepuloni, whose policies caused most of the problem, was given lots of space to defend her stewardship and to attack the Luxon-led government's new approach to the crisis. She was backed up by the CTU's so-called economist, Craig Renney. Not surprisingly, he went into attack mode against any proposal to change Labour's failed policies. The third commentator, Jonathan Boston, at least conceded that keeping on with policies that gave us today's crisis might not be a wise course!

Then TV One's Bulletin moved on to the case of a real estate agent who is objecting to being forced to complete a compulsory course on Maori culture and tikanga before she can renew her practising certificate. Surprise, surprise, who should be the reporter covering that story but the self-confessed Maori crusader, Te Aniwa Hurihanganui, whose lack of sympathy for the complainant oozed out of her every pore. The realtor in question objects to the course being compulsory. She's entitled to object, one would think. Having to endure a course in Maori culture and tikanga mid-career, 184 years after the Treaty, when there are no longer any full-blooded Maori and their original tikanga has been almost completely forgotten, does seem rather ridiculous. Given that the realtor practises in an area where about 50% of the people are Chinese, a course in Mandarin might be more help. I must admit however, I'd have been inclined to take the Maori course, if only to see whether it was another tonne of tosh like so much "tikanga" these days: stuff invented in truck loads by a growing industry in search of opportunities to make money, and almost certainly happy, in this case, to take the credulous real estate industry on their virtue-signalling ride. This, of course, is an every-day reality that a Maori crusader like Te Aniwa Hurihanganui could never concede. Is she really cut out for work with a state-funded media outlet that should be producing unbiased reporting?

Then the next evening came a TV One story about Maori desecration of statues of Captain James Cook in various parts of New Zealand. Who did the reporter, Donna Marie Lever, approach for comment but that old-style Maori agitator, Ella Henry. Cook, of course, was one of the greatest navigators of all time. His world-renowned biographer, J.C. Beaglehole, was a Kiwi on whom the late Queen bestowed her highest honour, an Order of Merit. But that wouldn't have meant anything to Ella Henry for whom Cook is a symbol of the dreaded "colonialism" without which, of course (though she'd never admit it) she wouldn't have her well-paid, taxpayer-funded, job at AUT. There are dozens of better-informed commentators who could have given a more balanced assessment of Cook, and of the recent vandalism, its cause, and how sensible people should respond. But the thought of approaching them never occurred to Donna Marie Lever, or to TV One.

Then on Sunday 25 February at 6pm came a story claiming "fears" about the government's new policies on gangs. I'm personally not sure they will improve things much, but as ever TV One's reporting was negative. Without much effort, Corazon Miller could have found someone to say something positive about what is being proposed. She had the same problem on the 27th when discussing the scandal surrounding accredited employers and the legions of young foreign workers who have been let into the country on what appears to be false pretences. The whole scandal looks suspiciously like yet another Labour government stuff-up by Michael Wood who made a mess of the Immigration portfolio over several years. Identifying the Labour culprit, however, goes against TV One's current policy. State-owned TV One, these days, is on a crusade to criticise every idea and every change of direction advanced by the new government. It does do not identify who was responsible for creating the mess that is the subject of the clean-up unless it's National. Bizarre!

I'm not saying here that TV One's journalists should always be giving the thumbs up to the new government's policy announcements. Far from it. Some new policies appear to be the product of very slender thought, and are unlikely to achieve their ends. Moreover, the reporters are entitled to their personal views. But they are NOT entitled to promote those beliefs as news, or to protect their favoured political party or politicians on State media. If TV One had someone competent in charge, the reporters would all be called in and reminded about their obligation to report balanced news.