Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Paul Smith: Of baked beans and public interest


Of baked beans and public interest

NZ Media Comment By Paul Smith
www.kiwiboomers.co.nz

*******

The Print & Media Industry Council met recently and, among other things, condemned the decline in journalistic standards that has resulted from the over-commercialisation of New Zealand's media. It also went on to demand appropriate staffing levels, training and promotion of professional standards and ethics.

There's no doubt the angels are on its side. Here's Joseph Pulitzer writing a century ago: ' A cynical, mercenary, demoagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself.' Well….?

But a question journalists have to ask themselves is to what degree were they responsible for the decline in the quality of journalism? Could they as stewards of the public interest have done more, sooner? Would they have had more clout if they had retained a strong collective voice through their union? It might have helped, but there were always more powerful forces at work - market economics, the shrinking of the public sphere, ownership changes, the New Right's demolition job on unions, and technology.

So when did the rot set in? Was it in1976 when PM Rob Muldoon froze the licence fee for the next nine years and gleefully watched the then Broadcasting Corporation became more and more commercial? Was it 1989 when Labour's de-regulation of broadcasting offered nothing more philosophical in its legislation other than the need to make a buck? Was it 1991 when, to the incredulity of the rest of the world, National allowed 100% foreign ownership of media? And with no cross media restrictions?

TVNZ chief executive Julian Mounter, a former journalist, was aghast at this sudden and autocratic move. He called it "…an error of judgment which could ultimately prove to be disastrous for broadcasting in this country… We are not talking baked beans or tin cans; we are talking heritage, national identity, and national culture."

My editors at Variety in Los Angeles found it equally hard to believe and satirised it with this:

'For sale: entire broadcasting industry of compact English speaking market. Established audience and ad revenue base. Excellent European /production/sales links. Highly competitive radio interests. Some renovation required. Interested? Call New Zealand'. They did. Major print and broadcasting outlets are now all owned by overseas interests. We have become another demographic, another revenue stream.

All of it added up to trouble for journalism because all these moves pushed media further and further towards becoming a creatures of a fragmented media market.

But luckily we paused for a cuppa and National's plans to sell TVNZ were scuppered by Labour. We still have Radio New Zealand, where unionisation is at its highest at over 50% ( By comparison private radio has zip) . And a heavily commercialised TVNZ which has once again shot itself in the foot - or is that the heart? - with its redundancies.

To a large extent the public has been misled by reporting on issues like this. They were never about celebrity news presenters. The issue is and always has been about good reporting and how to maintain it in an age Pulitzer foresaw only too clearly. We should fund and respect this trade, not kneecap it. But the commercialism which Muldoon, then the rest, ushered in has taken over. Marketing now advises newsrooms. Next it will be the mailroom.

The Media Industry Council's resolution is at least trying to raise debate on important issues. Its problem is that given the absence of a coherent collective journalistic voice and movement over the past 15 years, can it now realistically demand anything?

*************

Paul Smith is a journalist, author and founder of the website, www.kiwiboomers.co.nz

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 


Julian Assange: A Thousand Days In Belmarsh
Julian Assange has now been in the maximum-security facilities of Belmarsh prison for over 1,000 days. On the occasion of his 1,000th day of imprisonment, campaigners, supporters and kindred spirits gathered to show their support, indignation and solidarity at this political detention most foul... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: The Mauling Of Novak Djokovic
Rarely can the treatment of a grand sporting figure by officialdom have caused such consternation. Novak Djokovic, the tennis World Number One, has always had a tendency to get under skin and constitution, creating a large following of admirers and detractors. But his current treatment by Australian authorities, and his subsequent detention as an unlawful arrival despite being granted a visa to participate in the Australian Open, had the hallmarks of oppression and incompetent vulgarity... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Voices Of Concern: Aussies For Assange’s Return

With Julian Assange now fighting the next stage of efforts to extradite him to the United States to face 18 charges, 17 of which are based on the brutal, archaic Espionage Act, some Australian politicians have found their voice. It might be said that a few have even found their conscience... More>>



Forbidden Parties: Boris Johnson’s Law On Illegal Covid Gatherings

It was meant to be time to reflect. The eager arms of a new pandemic were enfolding a society with asphyxiating, lethal effect. Public health authorities advocated various measures: social distancing, limited contact between family and friends, limited mobility. No grand booze-ups. No large parties. No bonking, except within dispensations of intimacy and various “bubble” arrangements. Certainly, no orgies... More>>

Dunne Speaks: Question Time Is Anything But
The focus placed on the first couple of Question Time exchanges between the new leader of the National Party and the Prime Minister will have seemed excessive to many but the most seasoned Parliamentary observers. Most people, especially those outside the Wellington beltway, imagine Question Time is exactly what it sounds... More>>



Gasbagging In Glasgow: COP26 And Phasing Down Coal

Words can provide sharp traps, fettering language and caging definitions. They can also speak to freedom of action and permissiveness. At COP26, that permissiveness was all the more present in the haggling ahead of what would become the Glasgow Climate Pact... More>>