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Gordon Campbell on RNZ’s banning of Bomber Bradbury

Gordon Campbell on RNZ’s banning of Bomber Bradbury

The lifelong ban that RNZ has now been imposed of Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury for breaching the state broadcaster’s hallowed standards of balance is outrageous, even if privately, Bomber is probably having a Groucho Marx moment – in that, in the wake of RNZ’s craven behaviour, he probably wouldn’t want to be a member anymore of any Jim Mora panel that would have him as a member.

In his position, I’d feel exactly the same way. In future, this will leave the Mora panel reaching for Chris Trotter as its only token ‘left wing’ balance to the endless stream of right wing guests on the show.

Does this mean that RNZ’s notion of balance should now require the likes of Matthew Hooton to be kept off the airwaves in the name of balance? After I did an abrasive interview with National party leader Don Brash for the Listener before the 2005 election I recall Hooton calling me ‘evil’ on RNZ and adding for good measure that a journalist with my extreme views should never have been let anywhere near Brash.

No-one from RNZ called me up to ask for my response to my character and professional integrity being slagged by Hooton on RNZ, and nor would I expect them to – much less that Hooton should be banned from state airwaves for life. It is called freedom of expression. Democracy is supposed to be robust enough to handle criticism of anyone, and especially of a Prime Minister whose (carefully packaged) personality is a recognised element in this year’s election campaign.

Bradbury’s alleged sins and Mora’s response are worth quoting in full. After slamming Radio Live for the hour long infomercial that it had gifted to the Prime Minister and which had allowed Key an uninterrupted forum to express his views about cats and Coronation Street, Bradbury then went on to say this:

And John Key's attempt yesterday to blame the Labour Party for a man’s attempted self harm in Parliament is a new low, even for Parliament.

Yelling, "It's your fault, it's your fault" while making a throat slashing gesture at Phil Goff (as a man with mental health issues dangled from Parliament’s balcony) is the sort of ravings one expects from a meth addict on a bender, not the political leader of a country.

Topping this nonsense off is Key's excuse that he was actually talking about Labour's criticism of his over spending on the Diplomatic Protection service? What could justify making a throat slashing gesture at Phil Goff for an event that had all the implications of an attempted suicide if the guy had actually fallen? What a lovely – what a lovely - little piece of work our Prime Minister is when he is caught off guard.

The above comment – in a segment where guest panelists are explicitly asked to speak their minds – had led to a lifelong RNZ ban for Bradbury. For that reason alone, it is worth recording the immediate response by Mora as soon as Bradbury had finished:

Mora : There was certainly a lot of acrimony across Parliament when that happened. I was a bit confused. I didn’t see the TV coverage.

Bradbury : I was watching it, I was watching tt…

Mora : Getting back to your point about Radio Live. What did he say about cats? That’s the thing. Because people like cats. And I’m sure they’d be keen to hear what the Prime Minister thought about the moving of Coronation Street.

Only after this point did co-guest John Bishop made some ‘balancing’ remarks about Key’s behaviour in Parliament. Point being, if RNZ’s concern was with balance and its own standards, why was that opportunity not taken up straight away by Mora, the programme’s host – who instead, chose to try and trivialise Bradbury’s comments by defending the PM talking about cats (“That’s the thing”) rather than meet the substantive issue head on? Cats were the thing on a day when, as Bradbury had said in his preamble, the country’s credit rating had just been downgraded? In context, it is evident that it was Bradbury who was raising the substantive issues and trying to keep the discussion on a serious course – and RNZ that is dodging its opportunity to respond, and lunging for the life raft of triviality.

Ultimately, Bradbury has been made to pay the price not only for RNZ’s forelock-tugging deference to its political paymasters – but also for Mora’s failure to defuse the situation at the time by offering even the semblance of a substantive response to the issues Bradbury had been raising. (‘I didn’t see it, lets talk about cats’ is not really cutting it.)

Finally, one of the most interesting things about the Bradbury affair is that no-one has rebutted his interpretation of Key’s contemptible actions. The mainstream media has instead tiptoed carefully around Key’s comments and throat-slitting action (largely, by ignoring them) or has tried to blur its meaning with a ‘both sides at fault’ response... eg Mora’s comment “There was certainly a lot of acrimony across Parliament when that happened.” This conveniently fails to address the fact that the acrimony was triggered by Key’s words and actions.

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