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Telecom NZ, Porn and Republicanism

25 July 2005

Telecom NZ, Porn and Republicanism

Telecom customers are entitled to know what Ms Theresa Gattung’s position is on her company’s dissemination of hardcore porn (so-called “adult content”) via its mobile networks. Is it just a “grey area” for her company, as a National Business Review report states (July 8)? Is it one for which she is unwilling to take the principled stand?

Ms Gattung, Chief Executive of Telecom New Zealand, is one of the best-paid executives in the country, an influential businesswoman and the gatekeeper of broadband. She not only has overall control of Xtra, the country’s largest Internet service provider (ISP), but also is responsible for the networks that run much of New Zealand’s Internet infrastructure.

The NBR, in its report on the axing of “porn” (“smut”) from cable TV by TelstraClear boss Dr Allan Freeth, states: “Adult content [is] a grey area for Telecom New Zealand, which doesn’t have a stance on it. But through its 19.9% ownership in the Hutchison Australia its mobile network, is in the game.

Hutchison globally has one of the biggest adult content deals with Playboy for porn on mobile.” (July 8, 2005, p.3). It is noteworthy that Telecom’s Xtra has refused to support a voluntary code of practice for ISPs regulating how the industry should interact with consumers and with each other, proposed by the non-profit InternetNZ. Such regulations would relate to the dissemination of hard core porn, paedophile material etc.

Ms Gattung clearly allows her personal views to infiltrate and affect her business decisions relating to company expenditure. As Telecom spokesman John Goultier has admitted, the company's support for a plan to mail a petition on changing the New Zealand flag to 1.4 million households "flowed on" from Chief executive Theresa Gattung's endorsement, while NZ Post's Ian Long said his company only become involved at the request of Telecom, one of its largest clients.

This planned intense lobbying to trump up demand for immediate change, marshalled by Ms Gattung, was no doubt driven by political agendas. Now Telecom has suddenly withdrawn its backing for the planned mail-out blitz following news of waning public interest in replacing the monarchy with a republic (see ref. 1).

If Ms Gattung is in any doubt over whether most New Zealanders oppose her company’s involvement in the dissemination and of porn, she should get her company to commission a poll of its customer’s and shareholders on the question, “Do you think Telecom should maintain its 19.9% ownership in the Hutchison Australia mobile network that allows for the dissemination and promotion of porn.

Money saved by her pull-out from flag petition could be used to fund the poll. If the majority of those polled called for the axing of Telecom’s porn connection, one wonders how Ms Gattung would respond.

“We suggest that a leader with good values and standards and who wants her company to be known for its integrity, would take a lead in the decision-making process on this issue and axe all Telecom porn connections including its sponsorship of the NZ International Film Festival featuring hard core pornographic material, says Society president Mike Petrus.

1. A Fairfax New Zealand-AC Nielson poll last week surveyed 1055 people nation-wide with the question, "Do you think that New Zealand should become a republic?” 27 percent of people surveyed said "yes" and 63 percent said "no", (10 percent "don't know").

A May 2004 poll showed 41 percent favoured a republic, while 50 percent wanted to retain the monarchy. The Maxim Institute has suggested that growing support for the status quo may be connected to the recent London bombings. The Queen has been visiting survivors in hospital, while Prince William made a hit with the New Zealand public on his recent high-profile tour. (Maxim Institute Real Issues. No. 66, 21 July 2005).


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