A Week Of It: Media Blasts From The Past
A Week Of It: Media Blast From The Past – 80s Revival
A Week of It had a chinwag with ACT leader Rodney Hide recently and shot the breeze on the topic of broadcasting. This week an inquiry regarding TVNZ begins in no small part thanks to Mr Hide's urgings. Sadly, Mr Hide's own forays into broadcasting are obscured by the murky mists of time. A Week of It understands that in the mid 90s Mr Hide acted as an intermediary for Alan Gibbs in running BBC World Service NZ and was even, from time to time, on the radio himself.
The entire saga of the rise and demise of what was known as Radio Roundtable was chronicled by former ACT MP Deborah Coddington in a story entitled 'Four Days that Shook a Radio Station'. Ms Coddington penned this story after her and Mr Lindsay Perigo's parting of the ways with BBC World Service NZ– however the story did not see the light of day till it was published in an 1998 anthology of Ms Coddington's work.
According to Ms Coddington, the World Service's owner Alan Gibbs, would tell the workers to "forget about balance" and be "Rush Limbaugh". Mr Gibbs would also occasionally tell workers that there should be "no more lefties" allowed on the airwaves. Ms Coddington, a Qantas Award winning journalist, considered this was "good news".
Tragically, according to Ms Coddinton's tale, the desire to "Bugger the BBC" and disallow all "lefties" from having a voice would just as often be countermanded by other forces. Mr Perigo eventually left the World Service fearing it was becoming just an Auckland version of Morning Report (often wittily referred to as "Moaning Report" by Ms Coddington). Ms Coddington left the station at the same time.
"I am haunted by the listener's plaintive cry – May we have our revolution back? I think of what we did do, the blow for freedom we did strike, in spite of it all. And I think of the poet's words: Of all the sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest of these : it might have been," were the final heartbreaking sentences penned by Ms Coddington of the story that was supposed to have appeared in Auckland yuppie bible – Metro.
A Week of It searched far and wide and discovered one of the occasional and very infrequent alleged "lefties" that graced the World Service. After exhaustive research A Week of It tracked down Mr Gordon Campbell of Listener magazine fame. Here is his tale - describing how he in his small part struck a 'blow for freedom'- at the World Service.
"In late 1992, I was asked by Lindsay Perigo to provide a five minute left wing comment slot at 8:45am on his radio station. For my first effort, I tried to think of a suitably provocative topic for a right wing media outlet, and came up with a call for the state to give major support to trade unions - on the grounds that the Employment Contracts Act was a dangerous tool of exploitation, and that ordinary New Zealanders needed a level of protection from the rapacious tendencies of the tycoon sector that only the state had the resources to provide.
It went pretty well, Perigo seemed happy...at least until later in the day when I got a call from him to say that sadly, my voice was apparently unsuitable for radio because it "lacked projection." So they wouldn't be needing me again. As far as I could tell, that seemed to be the end of the left wing comment slot as well. I really don't think it was Lindsay's decision. In fact, I've always respected him for even considering the notion of inviting what he would have seen as an ideological enemy onto his show. Like so many Ayn Randian notions though, it sounded better in theory than in real life."
A Week of It is certainly looking forward to the TVNZ inquiry. Will the infamous phone call Jim Bolger made to Paul Holmes be investigated? The phone call where Jim Bolger, according to Paul Holmes, accused Holmes of attempting to get Helen Clark elected in 1996, through use of the worm.
After re-election Mr Bolger floated the idea of selling TVNZ and popped by staff headquarters in Auckland:
"Its not often the Prime Minister calls by and the Holmes team looked forward to his visit. He sat down, spread out and recounted with glee how he couldn't believe the fuss a few little words from the Prime Minister about a possible sale of TVNZ had caused. I tried to put everyone at ease. Jim didn't want to talk to the staff. He entertained an estranged conversation with me, half dialogue, half harangue. He spoke to no one else. He showed off and lectured. It was revenge for the worm," recounted Paul Holmes in his autobiography, a chapter or two before the Fleur Revell chapters.
Perhaps all the politicians on the TVNZ inquiry should pay heed to the wise words made by a former Minister of Broadcasting, Richard Prebble.
"It is important that our media reflects our values and culture. It is clear that New Zealanders put more value on a media that informs rather than just entertains. These and other cultural values will only be protected by New Zealand ownership."
Roger Kerr of the Business Roundtable was recently encouraged that Treasury was once again recommending reforms - such as reductions in personal and corporate tax rates, a slowdown in the growth of Government spending and a review of its quality, tariff reductions and a rethink of government policies on climate change, the Resource Management Act, roading, electricity and privatisation.
Heartbreakingly, for many a year the classic Treasury report that would warm the cockles of Ruth Richardson and Bill Birch's hearts, has been missing in action. Now, thanks to some brave and noble but faceless policy analysts in the class of 2005, men such as Roger Kerr can once again have a cuppa at the Wellesley club and be proud to have worked at number 2, the Terrace. Right now Graham Scott, an ACT candidate of the last election, is probably thumbing through his blueprints for economic harmony in the 80s, jotted down on dog eared math paper, and shedding a small but perfectly formed tear.
Not every former Treasury employee will be smiling though – the occasional quasi-marxist that infiltrated this, the most 'right-thinking' public service think-tank, will be sleeping a little less soundly now that the Bowen corner lion is back on the prowl. Members of the fourth estate would be advised to look carefully for bags under Bill English's eyes in the coming days…