Hard News by Russell Brown


Media3: We have much to discuss

In his story in this month's Metro magazine, Chris Barton characterises the media environment around Auckland's Draft Unitary plan as one where shrill, even hysterical, news coverage has been set against an official communications effort from "possibly the worst communicators in the universe." He's not far wrong.

In this week's Media3, we'll take a look at that fraught media debate. I'll be joined by Metro editor Simon Wilson, New Zealand Herald Auckland City reporter Bernard Orsman, and Radio New Zealand's Todd Niall. There may be cross words spoken, but, as ever, I hope we create more light than heat.

Also on this week's show, Bryce Edwards joins us to discuss his recent column on the growing role of journalists and media figures in political culture -- both as Parliamentarians and as gotcha-obsessed Parliamentary reporters.

And Scott Yorke comes in to discuss the implications of Judith Collins' Objectionable Publications and Indecency Legislation Bill, which seeks to amend the the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act, Customs and Excise Act, and Crimes Act in some pretty sharp ways. It's ostensibly aimed at child pornography -- and no one's in favour of that, right? -- but as Eric Crampton has noted, before this rolls through, we need to think about what we mean by "objectionable" material and the extent to which our wider rights might be quietly reined in by this bill.

No Right Turn put it this way:

While the government's rhetoric around the bill is all about "child pornography", the legal definition of "objectionable" is somewhat wider than this, covering not just non-consensual and extremely degrading or dehumanising sexual practices, but also anything "injurious to the public good", including material encouraging crime, racism, or terrorism. A complete list of the books deemed objectionable is here; it includes books on how to grow marijuana, The Anarchist Cookbook, and a Cradle of Filth t-shirt. It also includes a large backlog of material banned in the 60's and 70's about homosexuality, polyamory, and interracial relationships which would never be considered "objectionable" today. So, the government isn't just kicking child pornographers - it is also kicking bookshop owners, heavy metal fans, and people who want changes to our drug laws (sadly I suspect that Collins' target demographic doesn't draw much of a distinction). And at this stage it's worth mentioning that the bills' Regulatory Impact Statement [PDF] does not mention freedom of speech or the Bill of Rights Act once.

If the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, Judith Collins would seem to warrant a particularly close watch. But do the lefties who wanted Al Nisbet's unpleasant, unfunny newspaper cartoons put down with the full force of law have any moral high ground of their own here?

We have much to discuss.

You're welcome to join at for tomorrow's recording of Media3 at the Villa Dalmacija, 10 New North Road. Come along at 5.30 for a 6pm shoot.

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