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A Week of It: Democracy 'n' Media Special

A Week of It: Democracy 'n' Media Special

Media Freedom Fighter Flees From Foreign Ownership Question
TV3 News Boss Takes Issue With Head Office Statement
Party Brimming With Compassionate Conservatives Releases Tough Immigration Policy
Advertising Agency Wastes Money On Lambton Quay


Media Freedom Fighter Flees From Foreign Ownership Question

Mr Tim Pankhurst, Dominion Post editor and media freedom watchdog.


New Zealand Media Freedom Committee Chairman, Tim Pankhurst yesterday called the judgement on the TV3 Dunne/Anderton case a “bizarre decision”.

Mr Pankhurst, who is also editor of the Dominion Post newspaper said TV3 was a commercial entity driven by ratings. In Mr Pankhurst's opinion if TV3 thought Peter Dunne and Jim Anderton are not relevant enough or charismatic enough for their programme “that should be their call”.

A Week of It contacted this lover of media freedom and asked him a couple of questions, sadly after a question about foreign ownership of New Zealand's media, Mr Pankhurst got slightly huffy and after pointing out the question was "ridiculous" returned the handset to the cradle.

Certainly it appears freedom to question is not met with the same zeal as freedom to express.

Concerns had been raised recently about foreign ownership of New Zealand's media by Progressive Leader Jim Anderton.

"I've been told that the foreign-owned TV3 will interfere in our country's democratic process by silencing the voice of the very third party that has actually delivered under the MMP system over the past six years," said Mr Anderton upon being informed he had been culled from TV3's Leaders Debate.

Progressive MP Mr Robson, also seemed concerned about foreign ownership of New Zealand's media. Mr Robson recently pointed out that there is a "North American- controlled TV channel that says it'll be having the 'best election coverage' but proposes to ban the United Future and Progressive parties who have played an actually indispensable role in Parliament since August 2002."

In the decision which obliged TV3 to include Mr Anderton and Mr Dunne, Justice Young pointed out the vital role a free to air broadcaster such as TV3 played in New Zealand's democracy .

"The effect of what it chooses to do regarding election coverage is significant in a national context. What [TV3] does can influence voters’ decisions and thus is a vital part of democracy," he wrote.

Given all of these concerns it seemed only fair to try Mr Pankhurst, the Media Freedom Committee Chairman one more time. A Week of It attempted a second time to get a clear and precise answer to this question;

"Are you concerned about foreign owned corporations barring MP's who support the current Government and thus possibly being seen as interfering in New Zealand's democracy?"

It was also pointed to Mr Pankhurst, that concern about foreign ownership of New Zealand's media had been raised by duly elected MPs, not by A Week of It. Mr Pankhurst, a man whose minions expect everyone they contact to give them a quote stated " he had said all he had to say on the matter" and again returned the receiver to the cradle in a prompt fashion.

A Week of It is mystified as to why a media freedom advocate such as Mr Pankhurst would be loathe to answer a question regarding foreign ownership of New Zealand's media? Surely the fact the Dominion Post owner's head office is somewhere in Australia couldn't have anything to do with it?


TV3 News Boss Takes Issue With Head Office Statement

Mr Mark Jennings TV3's head of news and current affairs.


Continuing A Week of It's theme of media matters and democracy we caught up with TV3's head of news and current affairs Mark Jennings, shortly after his company had received a toweling in the Wellington High Court. Mr Jennings was kind enough to give us five minutes of his time before heading off to supervise the construction of an extra couple of lecterns for TV3's Leaders' Debate.

A Week of It: How do you respond to the accusation that TV3 is interfering with New Zealand's democracy?

Mark Jennings: Even in my most self important moment I don't think I could claim that.

A Week of It: Well Richard Prebble from ACT claimed that because Peter Dunne had been culled his party was history and that the debate could be ACT's big chance – he [Mr Prebble] is a pretty sharp political commentator?

Mark Jennings: This debate has perhaps been escalated to perhaps the most significant in New Zealand's political history – do you believe that?

A Week of It: I don't believe that - however there have been issues of democracy raised – do you just brush them off ?

Mark Jennings: "My answer to that is two fold: First of all we are one of a series of debates. There are debates being broadcast on Sky TV, on Prime, on all the radio stations - the newspapers will probably even have debates. Secondly, we will provide the minor parties like Anderton, Dunne and even Destiny with other opportunities. We told them that and we made that point in court.

A Week of It: Do you agree with the statement that 'owners have every right to direct their operations in terms of both content and ideology'?

Mark Jennings: No I don't agree with that. I have a position here of being editor-in-chief and I have total editorial independence. The owners of this company do not direct me in any way.

A Week of It: So you would disagree with a statement allegedly made by Gordon Fisher, President, News and Information, CanWest Global Communication Corp.

Mark Jennings: If that is what he said - yes I would disagree. I would also suspect that the Board of Directors of CanWest Media Works would also disagree. Not that I have pressed them - but they have reassured me of my editorial independence.


Fuller statement attributed to Gordon Fisher, President, News and Information, CanWest Global Communication Corp. 2003

I do believe owners have every right to direct their operations in terms of both content and ideology. I actually think that is their obligation. I don’t see how they cannot. Their commercial interests are, frankly, about only one thing. Content. We are selling content. It is a commercial reality.


Party Brimming With Compassionate Conservatives Releases Tough Immigration Policy

This week the National Party attempted to emulate TV3's style by culling a few would-be New Zealanders - this time before they even make it to our shores. Under National's proposals there will be a few less refugee family re-unifications occurring should they win the upcoming election .

There seems to be some concern in National that the worlds destitute may be gaining refuge in New Zealand and then undergoing a fate worse than any barren refugee camp – welfare dependency. National's immigration spokesman Tony Ryall, says it is hypocritical to encourage refugees to come to New Zealand and then let them rot on a benefit. Following adverse reaction to National's allegedly hard hearted policy proposals, Mr Ryall attacked the "predictable bleating from Labour and its left- wing apologists".

Not all National MP's have taken such a hard yet principled stand when it comes to immigration as Mr Ryall. Hidden within National's ranks there would appear to be the odd woolly liberal.

Many years ago National MP's Pansy Wong and Wayne Mapp wrote to Lianne Dalziel requesting she take pity on hundreds of Indonesians (of Chinese extraction) who had been denied refugee status following race riots in the late 90s in Indonesia.

More recently a swag of National MP's, including Simon Power, Judith Collins and Lindsay Tisch have spilt gallons of ink writing letters to Paul Swain on behalf of down-trodden Zimbabweans. Some of these letters have requested the Minister bend the rules a little to assist these new immigrants and the diffulties they face in New Zealand. After perusing these letters (released under the Official Information Act) there can be little doubt there's plenty of compassion lurking in New Zealand's largest 'conservative party'.


Advertising Agency Wastes Money On Lambton Quay

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