Archive for the Politics Category

The Audacity of Hype

Posted in Books, Politics with tags on 30/05/2010 by ThreeDice

Just finished this one. Light satire from the man who bought us In The Loop: Armando Iannucci. It’s a collection of various newspaper columns that have appeared in the Telegraph or the Observer between 2002 and 2008. Which means that it’s really easy to put down and pick up again if you’re busy. It’s scathing and it takes no prisoners. Film, Art, TV, Politics, Religion, War, it’s totally topical and poetic in it’s criticisms.

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Save (Radio) New Zealand

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , on 20/02/2010 by ThreeDice

I need to write a serious blog. With each week that goes by, I am feeling increasingly let down by our leaders. In the last three weeks, John Key has announced that he will not be reforming the taxation system in line with recommendations made by the taskforces he commissioned. He was never going to follow their advice anyway it seems. He had his own agenda. An agenda of self-preservation. Investing in property in New Zealand is a way to avoid paying tax. It is only rational, then, that instead of investing in businesses or companies (shares) that may create jobs, sell products, bring wealth to New Zealand and grow our economy, people buy houses. It follows, somewhat predictably, that the more people there are who want to buy houses, the more the price of those houses (which are a scarce resource) will be. This is why the cost of buying a home in New Zealand is so crippling. This is why I won’t be able to live in New Zealand for much longer. Bernard Hickey hit the nail on the head with this one in his nzherald.co.nz column. John Key’s supporters own property. He can’t tread on the toes of those who will re-elect him, in Hickey’s words:

“He is saying, I don’t like the activity of investing in property to avoid paying taxes, but I’m not brave enough to challenge them or convince them what is in their best long term interests.”

Hickey also makes the point:

“What happens when the baby-boomers who voted him in start complaining about how they can’t watch their grandkids grow up in New Zealand? Who will deliver the tough message?

Not John Key.”

If that’s not enough to grind your gears and drive you vote for somebody else try what followed; GST is likely to be raised to 15% in order to accommodate tax cuts to personal tax rates. This is totally nuts. High income earners are the only ones who will benefit from this, once again, these people are John Key’s biggest supporters. They will get him re-elected but New Zealand once again, will be worse off.

Then there was the announcement that the government will be considering MINING IN NATIONAL FUCKING PARKS. Think about that for a second. Going into a place that is protected by law from being developed or destroyed with bulldozers and diggers and ripping out some rocks that will be sold so that in the short term the government will have some cash. And then what happens when there are no more rocks to sell? Your left with a hole in the ground, no natural beauty, no ability to be able to market the parks as destinations for international travellers, and no money. Here Key has forgotten to think about the thousands of New Zealand businesses who trade on our international reputation of being environmentally prudent. These companies pump millions of dollars of revenue into the New Zealand economy every year. This revenue has now been put at risk.

Key has tried to put a band aid on it by setting up a fund out of the profit from the sale of anything found by the mining companies which would be dedicated to preserving the parts of the parks that aren’t going to become mines.

This is otherwise known as fucking for virginity.

Then there’s the MMP thing. This has been a long time coming really, as National campaigned on a commitment to hold a referendum to gauge public opinion of the electoral system. I am an MMP apologist, generally, but I am happy to admit that it is flawed and that it could be improved. Throwing out the entire system to start at square one with a new one is, will not solve the complaints people have. Jane Clifton has written about this a number of times and has done so again in this week’s Listener:

MMP has become the catch-all for a host of complaints about politics for which it is not, upon sensible analysis, responsible. The glibbest misconception is that “the tail wags the dog”  -  an impression printed indelibly on the New Zealand psyche by Winston Peters. His New Zealand First Party actually achieved very little in the way of stopping majority parties doing things.

Ask the Green Party how much it was able to “hold the government to ransom” and you will get a long tail of woe, starting with genetically modified food and emissions trading.

The Maori Party may make some gains… but look at what it’s having to suck up: GST hikes, accident compo tightening, to name only this week’s hit parade.

Let us also not forget that it doesn’t matter how you vote, politicians will still get elected. Most of the minor parties have fractured from major ones because MMP has facilitated this, but without MMP, we would still have them. Rodney Hide, Winston Peters et al. would still have been elected under an FPP system as candidates from the National Party.  Both major parties voted for the anti-smacking law, suggesting this would have been legislated with or without Sue Bradford.

And so on.

But my biggest gripe, the thing that has sat me down and made me write this whole blog is Jonathan Coleman’s ultimatum to the board of Radio New Zealand. Coleman has said that the board needs to cut its expenditure or  seek alternative forms of revenue. Simply put, this cannot be allowed to happen.

On Thursday I joined a Facebook group with 144 members called Save Radio New Zealand. That group now has 7,706 members. As someone who runs Facebook campaigns for a living, I can assure you, that represents massive support for this cause. Radio New Zealand is the very last place in the whole country where free and informed debate can be had without bias and without commercial or political interference. Allowing corporate sponsorship of RNZ programming is embryonic to losing RNZ down the same toilet down which we have flushed TVNZ.

Brain Edwards has blogged about why we should save our $38 million radio network.

The saturation level of advertising required to keep the stations viable makes any discursive examination of issues impossible. For a few months I worked as a morning host on Radio Pacific. I vividly recall an interview I did with Alex Haley, the author of Roots. Haley was speaking movingly about his slave ancestry.  Every four or five minutes I could hear my producer in my ear, telling me that we had to take a break to go to the commercials or to the next race at Trentham. ‘This time…’ It was embarrassing to me and demeaning to my guest. On National Radio’s Top of the Morning, a decade later, I could have devoted 40 uninterrupted minutes to that interview with a listenership of up to 340,000 people, outrating every other radio station in the country. 

Commercials and quality radio simply do not go together, which is the very best reason why RNZ should resist any attempt by the government to introduce sponsorship into its programmes. Sponsorship is simply the thin edge of the wedge that will lead to the full commercialisation of the only worthwhile radio network in the country – the destruction, in other words, of public radio in New Zealand.

Why should we care about Radio New Zealand? Not least because democracy requires an informed populace that has access to disinterested news reporting and the discursive and probing analysis of social and political issues and is beholden to no-one other than its listeners – not to government, not to political parties, not to power elites, not to commerce, not to the hawkers of goods and services.

If you have never had the joy of listening to what RNZ has to offer, you should. They have a great website with tonnes of podcasts. Please visit it. Please begin to understand, if you haven’t already, what your government is doing to your country.

Labour Day Collection

Posted in Film, Politics with tags on 25/10/2009 by ThreeDice

Today is Labour Day in New Zealand. As such I thought it would be good to stop and consider exactly why we have a holiday on this day. Labour Day commemorates the struggle for an eight-hour working day. New Zealand workers were among the first in the world to claim this right when, in 1840, carpenter Samuel Parnell won an eight-hour day for workers in Wellington.

You can read more about his achievements in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

“There are twenty-four hours per day given us… eight of these should be for work, eight for sleep, and the remaining eight for recreation and in which for men to do what little things they want for themselves”

To celebrate Labour Day, NZ on Screen has made a collection of NZ made films and television programmes available to watch on their website. The special Labour Day Collection incorporates documentaries such as Someone Else’s Country and In a Land of Plenty as well as the four part TV special Revolution. It also includes relevant episodes of Gliding On and Gloss which deal with worker’s rights as a theme.

I highly recommend you try to make some time to watch some or all of the material available at some stage. NZ on Screen is a magnificent and, in my view, underutilised resource archiving a mammoth amount of NZ made film and television. Many full length films and television episodes can be accessed from there which I’m sure would provide most New Zealanders with a sense of Kiwianic nostalgia.

Enjoy your holiday. And remember why you have it.

2011 Rugby Wold Cup Broadcasting Rights

Posted in Politics with tags , , on 14/10/2009 by ThreeDice

What an unusual country we live in. We have two broadcasting organisations which, while admittedly having different organisational structures and different objectives, are both non-private entities that are competing with one another to broadcast the 2011 Rugby World Cup. tvnz_logo

The rights are valuable. They will mean that whoever wins them will be able to sell the audiences of the coverage they provide to advertisers.

For this reason, the rights are tendered and the broadcaster who bids the most for them gets to screen the cup.

It sounds very straightforward, but it’s not. What happened was TVNZ and the other major FTA broadcasters put in a bid for the rights. Then MTS put in a bid that was substantially higher. It was able to do so because it used money on promise from Te Puni Kokiri, a funding body which is able to provide money for the purposes of strengthening relationships between Maori and Non-Maori.

community-8-MTS Logo on BLACK 720x576  In normal circumstances, that’s where the matter would have ended. Instead though, details of MTS’s bid were leaked from an un-named parliamentary source, to TVNZ, who was then able to make an offer over the top of MTS.

One reason why that information might have been leaked is because of hype. The only way the government can make money from the RWC is to sell tickets to games and attract tourism income from overseas. Ministers may have been led to believe that without the hype that only the likes of a major broadcaster would provide, there would be less interest in the Cup and less return on investment. maori-pitasharples

Another reason cited early on was coverage. There was a concern that if an MTS bid was successful, then they wouldn’t be a guarantee that 100% of television owners would be able to receive the broadcasts.

In my mind there are major flaws with both of these justifications. They oversimplify quite complex ideas unique to the media industries.

On the first count, you don’t need television to create hype. Television as an advertising medium is dying slowly. Sure, TVNZ would have been able to give itself free ads to promote its own coverage but fewer people are watching TV now that these ads are worth less than they used to be. MTS could run an effective digital, outdoor and print campaign and maybe targeted radio and generate the same amount as hype as TVNZ could have through the same channels. This money wouldn’t be wasted as MTS would more than be able to make back its investment from advertising revenue brought in from the RWC games.

The coverage argument is actually quite complicated. Yes, MTS doesn’t have blanket NZ wide coverage. But it should and one day it will.

Listen:

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There are two ways to receive a broadcast signal in this country. One way is analogue, that is, through and aerial. The other way is digital, that is, through a satellite dish. The analogue technology is on the way out. The government’s new digital platform – Freeview – is supposed to replace it. The government wants people to be on Freeview by 2015. That way they can switch off the antiquated analogue network and sell, or licence the frequencies for other things such as mobile TV.

Now, wouldn’t a great way to encourage switch over be to offer the RWC on Maori TV? Surely this would speed up the process of analogue switch off and hasten the sale or lease of the VHF and UHF frequency bands. Wouldn’t it?

As if all of this wasn’t enough, MTS has a lot more broadcast freedom than TVNZ has. Recently TVNZ has been told to act less like a public service broadcaster and more like a commercial organisation. This is one of the main reasons why TVNZ decided not to screen the Commonwealth Games and instead sell their broadcast rights to Sky. MTS, fortunately, doesn’t have the same directive, so it can screen coverage without having to work around schedules for news bulletins and the like.

Plus, TVNZ just plain doesn’t deserve the rights. It’s an incredibly poorly run broadcasting operation that refuses to accept advice on how to pull itself up out of its situation.

Anyway, just recently announced tonight was news that suggests that MTS will lead a joint bid for coverage across itself, TVNZ and TV3.

Let’s hope that these John Key and Pita Sharples can teach Jonathan Coleman a thing or two about the industry he’s supposed to govern as broadcasting minister.

Frost/Nixon

Posted in Film, Politics on 04/10/2009 by ThreeDice

 

This afternoon I got around to watching Frost/Nixon. Which makes this the second post today about a political film.

I am on a roll.

I never saw the trailer for this one, although I was first intrigued by a promotional interview the real David Frost gave to Jon Stewart on The Daily Show some time in 2008.

On the surface of it, I guess I thought it would be less dramatic than it was, and there would be more emphasis on the interrogation. But this wasn’t the case. Having not seen the original interview, I have to take the film’s word for it that the first 75% of questions is crap.

Frost/Nixon is mildly educational actually. It takes the form of docu-drama; a dramatic narrative woven into staged to-camera pieces by characters which gives the aura of authenticity to the project. It’s also quite fast moving, which I guess has its pros and cons.

On the one hand, you’ve got people who know the facts and who want to see behind them, and on the other hand, you’ve got a new generation of political junkies (myself included) who never lived through this period and who have a desire to know exactly why, as soon as there’s a hint of political corruption or abuse of power, the suffix –gate is added to it.

It’s also, in many respects a film about television. The battle between Nixon and Frost is also a battle between a generation that understands television and one that doesn’t. It addresses questions about chequebook journalism, contractually bound interview scenarios, ratings driven mediascapes, and issues about the credibility of interviewers who don’t have backgrounds in investigative journalism or political reporting.

All this is absolutely riveting to a mediaphile like myself, but, in the end, it’s pretty safe to say that if you aren’t a news junkie or politics geek, then you might find yourself struggling to get all the way to the end.