Hard News by Russell Brown


Current affairs TV in "making difference" shock!

Given our history of quietly shelving issues that might deflate the bounty of our farms, it's remarkable that the weekend's Sunday programme on factory pork has provoked such a rapid and prodigious response.

The Prime Minister is says he is "disturbed" by the report. The Minister of Agriculture has demanded answers. The Pork Industry Board has cancelled its shindig (no wonder, given that the owner of the farm featured is a recent director of the board itself).

And TVNZ is getting hundreds of posts from members of the public on its normally quiet message boards. It looks as if something might actually happen.

The key to the programme was the former face of New Zealand pork products, Mike King. Yes, it would have been an even better look if King had turned before he lost his promotional contract with the Pork Board, but I don't doubt his sincerity, or the real sense of horror he felt in that visit to the sow stalls.

Ironically, it's far from clear that the farming practices shown in the programme are actually illegal. And if the retail price of pork did jump by $2 a kilo if regulations were changed, it would create more space in the market for imported pork grown in even worse conditions.

But sometimes you have to do the right thing. Intensively-farmed pork is the worst meat. You shouldn't eat it. About half the country's pork production isn't yet free-range, and more than a quarter of farms still use sow stalls. I'm sure the industry can print up some stickers to tell you what you're buying.

Happily, there are already companies, like Freedom Farms, making a virtue of free-range farming. And their product tastes much, much better.

PS: A word too for Sue Kedgley. I think she's wrong on many things, but she has long been right on this one.

Another bouquet: I almost refused to watch Friday night's Close Up lead story on principle, so lurid and blaring were the promos for it. I'm glad I did. The story concerned a predatory 40 year-old Auckland man who has been grooming, manipulating and having sex with young gay men -- and infecting them with HIV.

The main voice in the story was that of social researcher (and Public Address reader!) Michael Stevens, and that doubtless helped with the tone of the report, which, rather than demonising gay men, emerged as a story of a community looking for help to deal with a predator. I hope they get it.


In this week's Media7, we're deconstructing the news. A video piece by Simon Pound will kick off a discussion with Trish Carter, Richard Langston and Paul Norris as to why TV news looks and feels the way it does. We're not planning any live crosses.

If you'd like to join us, we'd need you at The Classic in Queen Street by 3pm tomorrow and have you out by 4.30. Just hit Reply and let me know.

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