Hard News by Russell Brown


The TVNZ 7 Internet Debate

You may have noticed that I'm participating in the TVNZ 7 Internet debate, which will air (and stream) live from Avalon next Tuesday evening from 9pm in association with Internet NZ. The first hour will be on TV and then it'll carry on online-only.

David Cunliffe, Maurice Williamson, Metiria Turei and Rodney Hide will debate internet-related issues under four broad headings -- Broadband, Convergence, Copyright, Cybersafety and "Digital Divide" -- and Sean Plunket will moderate. Fran O'Sullivan and I will ask questions and pass on live questions from viewers. There'lll also be a studio audience asking questions, a live IRC channel, questions submitted via Skype and online polls. Yes, it does sound complex.

Naturally, I'm interested in what correspondents to the country's cleverest discussion forums think, so feel free to post questions or outline themes you'd like to see discussed. You can pop over to the website for the programme for a few leads.

Meanwhile, the Media7 show on the sometimes uneasy relationship between journalism and academe is online now at TVNZ on demand. The Windows media clips are here, the podcast here here, and there'll be some YouTube action here soon.

The panel is Jim Tucker, the convenor of the mildly controversial media-and-diversity forum bankrolled by the Ministry of Social Development (we kick off with Simon Pound's report on the foum); David Cohen (who was also at the forum); and former editor of the Independent Jenni McManus, who is as forthright as ever. We cover, among other things, the frequently-expressed concerns of Karl du Fresne about People Who Pontiificate.

Jim covered events at the forum in his blog.

Karl du Fresne, who was a late addition to the panel, declared himself happy enough with the forum.

Some valid points were made, particularly in regard to the flawed Asian Angst story (the complaints about which were upheld by the Press Council). I squirmed at the brutal mauling Coddington got from people who were plainly unaware that she was present. She later stood up, identified herself and defended her story with commendable grace and dignity, and was given a fair hearing.

As best as I can recall (because I wasn’t speaking from notes), I made the point that while Coddington’s critics pounced on a fatal failing in her story relating to statistics, that didn’t mean the subject itself should have been considered off-limits.

Of course not. And Keith Ng said so on Day One of the whole business:

I don't really buy into the idea that either N&S or Coddington are deliberately racist, or even that their motives were purely cynical and commercial (I suspect it was an important driver, though). I think that they wanted to ask whether Asian crime was a problem in New Zealand, and that the police concerns were a legitimate starting point … In a sense, I think they missed their own point. It could have been a legitimate story.

But perhaps we can now move on from a story published in 2006 and thoroughly examined since. I do actually think Deborah Coddington showed some guts turning up at the forum and giving an account of herself, and I'm inclined to contrast that with the invisibility of the editor who commissioned the story and wrote that cover line.

Meanwhile, Karl himself is back to moaning about Kim Hill, in this case for the crime of not having Bob McCoskrie or Garth McVicar on her show. Yes, of course, Because we never hear their voices in the media, do we?

I personally can't think of anything that would destroy the appeal of Kim Hill's show so much as it becoming an extension of the weekday rent-a-quote drone, and du Fresne's attempt to frame every programming choice in terms of the alleged political orientation of individual guests -- rather than whether they've written a good book, done some interesting research or can tell a joke -- is strained to the point where it seems reasonable to ask if he has a chip on his shoulder. In discussing an interview with Tony Simpson he maintains that:

Hill and Simpson circulate in the same arty/literary/media/academic/political milieu. They probably bump into each other at film festivals, book launches and exhibition openings. Wellington is, after all, an intimate little village, and the same people tend to pop up repeatedly on the book launch/film festival/exhibition circuit.

I would guess that Hill and Simpson are pretty comfortable with each other’s views. So the atmosphere in the studio on Saturday sounded cosy, as it invariably is when Hill interviews people she approves of.

Preliminary questions about Simpson’s childhood prompted the disclosure that he came from a working-class background, which made me wonder whether Hill’s guests now consider this mandatory as a means of asserting their political credentials. Another of her recent guests, a writer whose name I forget, managed to squeeze in three or four references to his supposed working-class origins

Well, the Leader of the Opposition has been fond of the same thing, hasn't he? Whatever … I can't even be bothered conducting an ideological sniff-test on the last few weeks' Saturday morning rosters, because it just plays into the same old thing. It sometimes seems to me that (especially in his tub-thumping about the hopeless Clydesdale paper) that Karl is happy to champion mediocrity if it suits his purpose. But perhaps that's just me.

Any, folks, I digress. Hit me with some Internet Debate goodies.

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