The press pile on against the new Government goes on and on, literally and figuratively, and on. One of Saturday’s efforts was a long op-ed from Sir Ian Taylor expressing his buyer’s regret having voted blue for just the third time in his 70+ years.
Sir Ian claims to embrace MMP – “a system that, it was argued, would give minorities a voice in our democracy“. In the very next sentence, however, he says, “What we are seeing instead is a disproportionate amount of power given to someone who has 8 seats out of a total of 123!” So, while digital analytics is clearly Sir Ian’s thing, he seems a bit lost with paradox.
He singled out the “vindictiveness of our Deputy Prime Minister…where he accused not only media colleagues but also, by default, members of a government agency, New Zealand On Air, of being bribed by the past government”.
I’m not sure the learned gentleman concerned said that. I thought what he said was: major media players accepted taxpayer monies under terms of overt political messaging, and that they should own that mistake, instead of hiding it.
Sir Ian waxed lyrical about his time on the esteemed and autonomous board: “New Zealand on Air is a board I once had the privilege of being on. I know from experience that there was never ever any question of bias.” Perhaps so. That was 2015–2018. He continues:
The only way journalists could access those funds was to have their applications approved by the New Zealand on Air board, a completely independent organisation. By making the claim that “you can’t defend $55 million of bribery” our Deputy Prime Minister just accused the full board of being complicit in his bribery claim and they, quite justifiably, should expect an apology for such an unwarranted, and potentially defamatory, claim.
I’m sorry to break it to Sir Ian, but it was NZ on Air that inserted the “Actively promote” Te Tiriti ‘bribery’ clause. Far from an apology, they instead should be apologising, and resigning.
When the pre-election 2020 cabinet approved the “Draw down of tagged contingency” from the Covid Contingency Fund for the purposes of “Investing in Sustainable Journalism” they envisioned:
32 In recognition of the broad definition of public interest journalism, eligible content may include (but not be confined to) at-risk journalism that:
32.1 seeks to inform and engage the general public about important issues of the day,
32.2 investigates, reports on and explains public policy or matters of public significance, engages citizens in public debate, or informs democratic decision-making,
32.3 holds power (in its various forms) to account, or
32.4 covers matters of interest to a range of New Zealanders, including (but not limited to) matters relating to cultural, ethnic, and artistic expression; sports; science and health.
Not a tiriti anywhere, in the entire document, nor a tangiwai, nor waitangi. I can’t see how anybody could reasonably object to the cabinet’s framing. However, handing the ball to NZ on Air they, NZOA, of their own volition ‘invited’ Te Mangai Paho (responsible for promotion of Maori language and culture) to equal partnership in formulating the funding criteria and determining eligible content, it was from that collaboration (collusion? conspiracy?) the star was born, or, conversely, the turd was splattered:
And we know this to be true from the little blue squiggle; that’s the intitialing by Larry Parr, Chief Executive of Te Mangai Paho, on the document co-signed by Cameron Harland, the NZOA equivalent. There is no way those two gentlemen buddied-up to produce this agreement: it had to be approved by both boards. They, both boards, are therefore culpable.
That’s the thing that should be disappointing Sir Ian: that erstwhile ‘politically-neutral’ agencies, under Labour, determined to abandon their intrinsic principles and replace them with ‘te tiriti’ principles. It’s why this issue is another canary in the coalmine of co-governance. It’s quite open to challenge for the sake of transparency in our democracy, and should be robustly argued.