Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Bad Judgement

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  • Rich of Observationz,

    The Greens new plan for cheap long term government loans for solar panels will reduce carbon emissions and help ordinary Kiwis gain energy independence at no taxpayer cost.

    Sure, we need a lot more than 30MW to close the gap and get us to 100% renewables, but it's a start. And with Europe feeling the ompact of climate change, it's unlikely that National's fuck-the-planet energy policy will be without cost in terms of exports for much longer.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Even the most aggressive reporters will never turn on colleagues who cross to the other side to work for politicians or take money for media training in the way they might scorn those who display any political beliefs.

    No, but let’s take Radio New Zealand for example. Kathryn Ryan is a bit of an oddity in not leaving the political editor slot to become a political spin doctor (or in Al Morrison’s case to join DOC). But there’s actually a clear process in place to manage any actual or perceived conflict of interest, and I’m damned if I can see any such thing in place at TVNZ.

    It should be an absolute fraking no-brainer that senior editorial management at a public broadcaster don’t use their workplace for party political purposes. Ever. Really. WTF were Morris & Taurima thinking?

    Oh, and as a sidebar. Much as I despise Paul Henry, if the best Taurima's defenders can do is bring up Henry standing for Parliament fifteen years ago, while working on-air NOT in senior editorial for a private broadcaster, you're reaching.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    But there’s actually a clear process in place to manage any actual or perceived conflict of interest, and I’m damned if I can see any such thing in place at TVNZ.

    I suspect you're right. Again, this comes back to editorial leadership.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    I think that this is one of the few times I can recall where TVNZ's Māori programming has been accused of bias, and it all seems to be after the fact. (Māori Television has ruffled a few more feathers, though.)

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Well, Al Morrison’s working for the State Services Commission, perhaps he can fly up to Auckland and facilitate a few workshops for TVNZ management and staff on the nuances of public sector political neutrality and basic media ethics?

    All I can think of is thank God TVNZ and Radio NZ, unlike the BBC, isn’t desperately trying to make a politically tricky case to Parliament and the public for increasing the license fee that provides the bulk of their operating income.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Sure, we need a lot more than 30MW to close the gap and get us to 100% renewables, but it's a start. And with Europe feeling the ompact of climate change, it's unlikely that National's fuck-the-planet energy policy will be without cost in terms of exports for much longer.

    ahem, cough, Tiwai Point should just about do it .... so, on to cow farts ....

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Tristan,

    Paul Henry is an interesting case. On his first show at TV3 he told David Cunliffe he would never vote for him. Cunliffe said he thought he was supposed to be an independent journalist. Henry replied 'what gave you that idea?'

    So Henry has declared his bias and not to many people has an issue with it.

    So it seems to me people have an issue with Shane because he didn't wear his bias like a badge.

    I't couldn't be just about using an an empty room and sending personal emails on work time could it?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 221 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Tristan,

    So it seems to me people have an issue with Shane because he didn’t wear his bias like a badge.

    OK, you tell yourself that. I don’t know how the hell I can make any clearer my issue is with Taurima’s blatant lack of political neutrality (can’t really think of a bigger “badge” than seeking to become a parliamentary candidate), and an AWOL management culture at TVNZ that should never have let things get this far.

    And for the record, if Paul Henry is using Three’s newsroom as a platform to restart his political career we can being drawing some real equivalences here. Tough interviewing – even being a bit of a dick – is no more ipso facto “political bias” when Paul Henry does it on Three, than when ‘Scary Mary’ Wilson or Kim Hill are ruffling feathers on National Radio.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie, in reply to Tristan,

    I have to say, when it comes to finding a meeting room for the LEC if the best you can do is "how about at TVNZ's offices" I think maybe you're starting to get to the piss-up in brewery level of organisational difficulty.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • WaterDragon,

    The Tau Henare performance on Morning Report this morningwas the stuff of farce. I know he was biased because I felt he was. C'mon Tau, get a grip

    Behind you • Since Jul 2011 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Euan Mason, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    The Greens new plan for cheap long term government loans for solar panels .....

    How does this relate to the issue being discussed here? Should we regard your post as spam?

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    and an AWOL management culture at TVNZ that should never have let things get this far.

    I know this is a bit of a nitpick, but politically connected folks come and go all the time into the offices and meeting rooms at TVNZ. There's no way TCNZ's management could know that the purpose of any given meeting wasn't kosher without being told so by the participants.

    To my mind, the failure here is pretty clearly Taurimu's, not his bosses.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Euan Mason,

    I think people who don't want another three years of Key government should concentrate on the real issues. People who rather like paying 33% tax and don't mind stepping over beggars, carry on bitching about who awful Labour are.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Euan Mason,

    An “unbiased reporter” is a fiction (Gower is a case in point), and so there’s nothing wrong with Taurima favouring the Labour Party. When he and his staffers begin using TVNZ resources to conduct party business, as they appear to have done, then there is a problem. He was right to resign.

    Henare, Bennett and Findlayson just see a cheap way to make some political capital, but if they over-reach then it may backfire on them.

    The real danger of over blowing this is how it may affect interviewing. A politician who is put on the spot may be inclined to invoke a “biased reporter” defense rather than answer difficult questions.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Euan Mason, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I think people who don’t want another three years of Key government….

    Yet more spam from you, Rich. Look, I tend to favour left-of-centre policies, but that’s not what we are discussing here.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Andre Alessi,

    I know this is a bit of a nitpick, but politically connected folks come and go all the time into the offices and meeting rooms at TVNZ. There's no way TCNZ's management could know that the purpose of any given meeting wasn't kosher without being told so by the participants.

    I suspect the point is more about TVNZ staffers ever getting the idea that this might not be an absolutely inexcusable idea in the first place. Not that TVNZ managers didn't intercept and stop that specific meeting, but that they didn't perhaps make it clear enough what was and was not appropriate in this case.

    That said, having been a TVNZ employee in the past, I don't think I'd have ever been under the illusion that organising political business while at work, using work resources, would have been okay.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    Hoping you knowledgeable folks can enlighten me here - is it OK to display party billboards on your property at home if you work for a government agency? Partner says no, I say yes.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 828 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    A very interesting 2005 story from the Herald, on the topic of journalists and political affiliations. Includes my 20-years-ago membership of the Auckland Central branch of Labour.

    Also notes two journalists who came back: Helen Bain (ministerial press sec) and Deborah Coddington (MP).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Russell Brown,

    A very interesting 2005 story from the Herald

    Got a link for that?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Josie McNaught,

    Paul Henry? He's small fry. What about Mike Hosking hosting the launch of the PM's last election campaign, openly driving around in a free car and promoting it any way he can (what if it was a car whose production was connected to nasty child labour practices, or part of a company tied up with mining, or dodgy oil exploration? ) How about his open support for the National party's one and only growth policy for Auckland? The convention centre? What about his free meals at the various cafes and restaurants associated with the casino that he always tweets about so effusively ? He might not be hosting actual political meetings at TVNZ (which, let's face it were hardly bringing down the govt stuff and more likely to involve organising sausage sizzles and telephone trees) but he IS allowed to anchor TVNZ's flagship evening show which IS part of their news hour- regardless of whether you think the drivel they peddle is news or not. He is as wedded to the Nats as Shane is to Labour, but from a purely commercial point of view he brings in advertising so he gets off scott free.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2012 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • thegirlstefan,

    hi Russell

    off-topic, but I'd be interested to know your thoughts on the presenter/programming changes at Radio NZ

    Aotearoa • Since Oct 2011 • 42 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Carol Stewart,

    The Code of Conduct for State Servants says:

    We must:
    * maintain the political neutrality required to enable us to work with current and future governments
    * carry out the functions of our organisation, unaffected by our personal beliefs
    * support our organisation to provide robust and unbiased advice
    * respect the authority of the government of the day.

    The list of organisations it applies to is quite extensive (more so than the Public Service Code of Conduct it replaced in 2007) and includes TVNZ.

    The resources available there give good guidance, but I would say it is not okay to display party billboards because of the perception it would generate that there is a lack of impartiality in your work for the government of the day. There is nothing in law to prevent you from doing so, and each agency may have a different take on it. It would also depend on your role within an agency, whether an executive or a minion.

    I always used to apply the “front page of the Dominion” test, taught to me when I first joined the NZPO back in the 80’s. “Would this make the front page of the Dominion? And how would that affect the Minister/Department if it did?” So, swimming across Cook Strait would make the front page (then) and would not adversely affect the department, but hosting a political meeting on work premises, would be a bad effect.

    Above everything else, public servants must be apolitical in their work and be seen to be apolitical. Doesn’t mean you can’t have political beliefs, but it does mean you can’t act on them openly or prominently while working for the government. Can you be a member of a party? Yes. Can you be part of the local electorate organisation? Ye-es, as long as management is aware of it (no surprises). Can you stand for political office yourself? No, you’ll have to take an unpaid leave of absence for the period of the campaign, generally speaking

    The guidance notes say:

    As a general rule, we are free to belong to any lawful organisation. Our rights to participate in social campaigns and the activities of political parties, unions and professional associations are not precluded because we work in the State Services. But we need to be aware always of the perceptions others may have of our ability to be politically impartial in the way we do our work. When expressing views on behalf of such groups, we must ensure that we will not be seen as speaking on behalf of our State Services organisation.

    […]

    Just as membership of a political party is acceptable for most of us, so is helping with fundraising, assisting with a leaflet drop, or taking part in other forms of support for a party. However, senior State servants, and State servants who have a close working relationship with Ministers, should avoid these affiliations.

    This standard involves two different principles. It imposes an absolute obligation not to bring our political interests into our work. It also implies that there is a variable tolerance for political involvement. We must maintain in our non-working lives the level of political neutrality that is appropriate for the responsibilities we have. Those of us in very senior positions may be required to have a very low level of involvement, perhaps with our interest being discernible only by a visit to a polling station on election day.

    By contrast, if we are unconnected with policy development or are not in a managerial role, we will usually be free to be politically active. What makes the difference is our ability to work not only with the current Government but with future Ministers, following a change in composition of the Government. We must be aware always of how perceptions of our personal activities could undermine the confidence that Ministers have in our organisation.

    As always, it is a matter of judgement. Whether it is a political party involvement or taking on a role in a community campaign group, a union or a professional organisation, we must be careful to keep politics out of our job, and our job out of politics.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    I just remembered the other rule of thumb - if you have to ask whether it's okay, then it's probably not.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Shows how TVNZ ceased feeling like a public sector organisation many years ago. Not part of the culture.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    if [we] are unconnected with policy development or are not in a managerial role, we will usually be free to be politically active

    Which is the case for nearly everyone, and quite right. You can't gag a huge percentage of the workforce like that.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

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