by Geoffrey Churchman
Although the mere mention of politics turns some people off — the new Park Avenue Market has made clear that stalls on politics and religion there are not welcome — it’s nevertheless an important subject as it affects most of our lives one way or another. Government sets the rules for society and the economy, how much people are required to contribute for the things it decides to do with its institutions, and the means by which it is all enforced.
At the local level, things which councils are empowered to do are fairly limited, even though requirements by the central government of what they do have increased in the last couple of decades.
With Parliament and the Executive (the Cabinet), however, all is possible.
NZ’s democracy took a big step forward in the mid-1990s with the adoption of Proportional Representation, whereby the ‘two party club’ gave way to representation of political parties with their different ideologies and policies in proportion to their support among voters.
The problem is that the attention they get from the Mainstream Media (MSM) is determined by perceptions of how many seats in parliament they will get — and the fewer that number, the less coverage they will get. If the likelihood of a party gaining seats (5% of the vote or an electorate seat) is very low, don’t expect any coverage, unless the coverage is driven by an agenda.
Another major factor these days is the political leanings of the editors and journalists; strict neutrality has become the exception rather than the norm. Most TV watchers know the slanted presentations that they are going to get from overseas ‘cable’ news channels like CNN, Al Jazeera, the BBC, Fox News, RT and Sky News, which variously cater for left or right wing, conservative or radical audiences. The same applies in NZ, except that Centre-Left and Hard Left attitudes dominate, particularly with the Stuff, NZME (NZ Herald), and Newshub (TV3) companies. Unlike its counterparts in Australia and the UK, TVNZ is actually relatively non-partisan, but its News mantra is clearly the following subhead:
Until the 1990s the main networks in America — CBS, NBC and ABC — all felt there should be a degree of public service in their news bulletins. But that decade their ownership all changed and with the change came the expectation of maximizing the potential of competitive peak viewer times by the new stockholders. The more sensational a story the better, and if in reality it wasn’t all that remarkable, no matter: it can be sexed up.
We’ve seen this almost every day on TV1 and TV3; never mind that politicians generally are not seen as icons by the public in the way sports and entertainment stars are, they can be made sensational. Every public hugging by Jacinda is a must-include, and if she has her hijab on, so much the better (the irony that it is a religion which makes clear women are inferior to men is ignored).
On the other hand, every gaffe / Political Correctness transgression by Donald Trump will get scorn treatment which is duly repeated by Newshub and TV1.
All this is driven by another MSM News mantra:
Cater to the lowest common denominator
This piece on medium.com from January 2018 succinctly sums it up: “TV is designed to appeal as many people as it possibly can so that advertisements are worth more and the revenue stream will steadily increase… TV does not encourage the treatment of a particular subject with breadth or depth.”
So, don’t expect thoughtful analytical articles or items by the MSM on policies being espoused by either the major or the minor parties during the 70 days left in this election campaign.
There was one surprising, or perhaps not-so-surprising, exception to this lack of coverage by Newshub (TV3) in its 6 O’Clock news bulletin last night (11 July), however: in an item on the New Conservative Party, which in the last published opinion poll had 1% support (along with the Maori Party.)
Although not presented by the obsessive Patrick Gower, it had his fingerprints all over it. The item seized on this rather unremarkable statement in its welfare policy —
New Conservative believes that the best place for a solo mother with a baby is with her immediate family. If that is not possible, then New Conservative would house these solo mothers in residential accommodation with a suitably trained/experienced couple as hosts.
— to make it seem remarkable, and then proceeded with the real purpose: yet another of Patrick Gower’s exaggerated rants about “right wing extremists” with, naturally, a sound bite from his beloved and equally obsessive Sociologist Paul Spoonley, plus a special mention of Botany seat candidate Dieuwe deBoer who presented to a Select Committee last year that the Jacinda & Stuart Nash gun ban would apply to a lot more than MSSA rifles of the type used by the mosque shooter. After the amnesty had ended last December deBoer got raided by a police armed detachment because he hadn’t handed in his bunny gun. But, of course, that’s not the way Patrick Gower made it look.
Probably, Patrick Gower laments the fact that the New Conservative Party is the closest he is going to get to indulge his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when it comes to parties standing at the election. He will get a big opportunity, though, when Brenton Tarrant is sentenced next month, and he’s probably already preparing lengthy rehashes of his silly claims in May of last year (see our analyses of them at the time).
The question needs to be asked: are not all people’s ideas and proposals worthy of examination without the predetermination by Patrick Gower and his ilk in the MSM that anything outside of their own ideology is the concoction of crackpots and wackos? Doesn’t democracy require it? Or do the MSM not care about democracy? (That is probably and regrettably a rhetorical question.)
Waikanae Watch has already looked at some and intends to look at some more minor party policies in the next 70 days.