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MAXIM Real Issues - No. 149, 24 MARCH 2005

MAXIM Real Issues - No. 149, 24 MARCH 2005

TV battle style over substance
Jobs at risk for many disabled people
TV cameras in Parliament okay for now
Upper Hutt Change Agent workshop

TV battle style over substance

The battle for the 7pm current affairs audience is heating-up. This week TV3 launched its heavily-promoted Campbell Live in competition with Paul Holmes on Prime and Close Up on TV 1 with Susan Wood. The competition is to be welcomed and will hopefully have the effect of keeping the networks on their toes.

It may, however, also affect the quality: in the desperate drive to be ahead of the opposition we can expect more bizarre and sensational journalism. This has nothing to do with quality, content or facilitating substantive debate, but everything to do with satisfying commercial advertisers and winning the 'ratings wars'.

Reaction to the shows is being cast in terms of personality and style, when it should be on what's being said and how this relates to understanding the issues affecting our lives. It is essential in a democracy that so-called current affairs programmes be content-centred, rather than personality-centred.

The conduits of interpretation - the presenters - should be more interested in generating debate and a genuine exchange of ideas, rather than their own popularity. Equally, the public should demand substance over style driven journalism. Let's hope the show that wins the public's attention and the 'poll wars' is that which most constructively contributes to public debate and cultural examination.

Jobs at risk for many disabled people

An attempt to treat disabled people fairly may in fact end up doing them a disservice. The government has introduced new legislation which will overturn a blanket exemption from minimum wage and holiday laws that is currently enjoyed by sheltered workshops around the country. More than 3000 people are employed in these workshops, often run by non-profit organisations.

The Minister for Disability Issues, Ruth Dyson, says that if people are doing real work, they should be able to earn real pay for that work. Opponents, who include most of the opposition political parties, the former Health and Disability Commissioner Robyn Stent, parents of disabled people, and the sheltered workshops themselves, say it will not be economic for the workshops to pay the minimum wage. They point to overseas experience, where similar changes have forced many sheltered workshops to close and left many disabled people out of work and at home.

The MPs on the Social Services select committee considering the proposed law have been at such disagreement that they reported it back to parliament this week without recommendation.

Ms Dyson is correct to say that disabled people deserve to be treated with dignity. But it will be a strange kind of justice if law change with this motive deprives people of an important activity that helps enhance their dignity.

To read the Select Committee report visit http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/Content/SelectCommitteeReports/138-1.pdf

TV cameras in Parliament okay for now

In the past week the government has backed away from its plan to exclude independent TV cameras from parliament and replace them with a state-produced feed. Cabinet announced on Monday that the $6.2 million allocated for the new system would be deferred until after the election and considered in the 2006 budget.

The Commonwealth Press Union media freedom committee, which met with Speaker Margaret Wilson this week, is hailing the decision as a victory for media in general. The Green Party Co-Leader Rod Donald, who has criticised the backtrack, is however partly right in saying, "whatever the merits of TV networks being allowed to have cameras in the debating chamber, the case in favour of a live television broadcast of Parliament is overwhelmingly positive." A full-time state-produced broadcast of Parliament could improve democratic accountability, but this is no reason to exclude independent cameras, which would restrict parliamentary openness.

Upper Hutt Change Agent workshop

If you want to be informed about current issues and challenged to think more deeply about 'hate speech', education, same-sex marriage and the 2005 election, come along to the Upper Hutt Change Agent workshop. Be equipped with practical tools to engage in public policy and debate.

For details visit http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/events/event.php?id=1

Political Correctness and the Theoretical Struggle by Dr Frank Ellis was published by Maxim Institute in 2004. In light of the current government inquiry into 'hate speech', Ellis's warning against state control of thought and expression is a timely read. For details visit http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/publication_page/pc_summary.html

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Robert F. Kennedy

Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.

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Real Issues is a weekly email newsletter from the Maxim Institute. The focus is current New Zealand events with an attempt to provide insight into critical issues beyond what is usually presented in the media. This service is provided free of charge, although a donation to Maxim is appreciated. Items may be used for other purposes, such as teaching, research or civic action. If items are published elsewhere, Maxim should be acknowledged.

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