This topic caught my attention, not because I support David Seymour or ACT, but by the media’s reaction to his post. This encouraged me to investigate the role of mainstream media today.
The Dominion Post is now a left leaning newspaper and went out of its way to discredit David Seymour. In its editorial (10 September 2021), the editor attempted to dismiss Seymour’s claims as nothing more than mischief making, if not racist. The editor quoted Seymour’s rebuttal of the criticism he received, but failed to publish the full rebuttal, unlike the NZ Herald. The editor attacked it, using words like the points he raised as mocking Māori. Seymour raised some valid issues, and his release of the vaccine code was not only about that but was linked to many Māori favouritism issues. He raised issues on the new history curriculum, Māori co-governance of the Three Waters, the observation of the Treaty principles in land and water, and the Māori Plant Variety Rights Committee. The editor accused Seymour of not providing evidence stating, “And yet, why should greater Māori governance or input be seen as a threat by everyone else? No answer is given.” His rebuttal was only a statement, not a complete document outlining these issues. You need to write a series of articles on these matters to do that.
This year, I have noticed the Dominion Post carefully following the government’s line. In at least two editorials they have parroted government policy, none more so when the editor fully supported and quoted Chris Hipkins on the government not paying a premium for the Pfizer vaccine. The editor, like the government, felt this to be unethical, or immoral and that we should be supporting poorer countries who needed the vaccine more (Dominion Post editorial – 3 July 2021).
Sadly, look where that has got us now. Surely it is the role of our government to look after its own citizens first before those of other countries? Of course, the Dominion Post cannot now criticise the government over its poorly managed vaccine rollout or the reasons for the Delta outbreak, or the harsh lockdowns we are now experiencing and the damage to businesses and our citizens’ mental health.
Further, the Dominion Post has endeavoured this year to be an advocate of redefining history, especially to Māori, what I call revisionism. Naturally, it has a bent towards writing and supporting Māori and co-governance, without highlighting the pitfalls and problems that may incur, let alone fully explaining the inherent problems and deeper meaning of He Puapua, its threat to democracy and the Westminster system of government. This is not in their interest or editorial line. Equally, publishing David Seymour’s rebuttal is not in their interest. However, they are content to provide an opinion piece by Joel Maxwell (13 September 2021), which I found offence. If I wrote a similar article on Māori, I would be accused of being racist. For example, he wrote, “I don’t want to be rude, but from an indigenous perspective the only thing England successfully exported was classism – oh, and syphilis. England didn’t even provide penicillin – the eventual syphilis-fixer was a Scot, Sir Alexander Fleming, and fungus.”
Further, I have noted at least four Dominion Post “journalists”, professing their left leaning views, and one happily declaring himself a leftist. This is concerning. Meanwhile, two prominent centre right journalists who wrote for the Dominion Post had to “retire”. One now writes for other organisations. His articles were common sense and well written. Sadly, that does not exist now in this newspaper, there is very little balance and I have cancelled my subscription.
Conversely, the NZ Herald published David Seymour’s full rebuttal to the criticism he received. The NZ Herald (11 September 2021) had an excellent article, “Any risk of media being in Govt’s pocket is a danger to democracy”. The article by Bruce Cotterill, clearly outlines the need for a balance in journalism and a need to ask the critical questions, no matter who is in government. This does not appear to be happening today. I have quoted him to get my point across, and I will back up this up with some further alarming facts.
Firstly, “In the last couple of weeks we’ve seen the leader of the opposition accusing TVNZ of bias against the opposition parties. We’ve also seen journalists openly expressing their personal political opinions on Twitter” “In the meantime, Media Works radio has continued the change that sees its talkback line-up reflect a more left-leaning makeup.” (Hence, the “retirement” of Peter Williams).
Secondly, “The organisation that publishes this newspaper is the closest we have to an exception. Through the efforts of a number of radio broadcasters on Newstalk ZB and some of the print journalists and columnists in the New Zealand Herald and its affiliate publications, there is a semblance of balance at least. There are some right-wing opinions and of course some Government supports in the mix too, and that’s ok. It’s about balance. However, beyond that, I sense that the NZ media are letting us down. In particular the two television news channels are serving up sympathetic reportage, rather than proactive investigation, on a daily basis.” (NZ Herald, 11 September 2021)
Why is this the case?
Here are some facts. “Stuff itself, (and I assume the Dominion Post), in the recent pay-outs by government, has received $300,000, with the requirement to produce a “cultural competence” course for journalists “to fundamentally shift representation in New Zealand media”. The Spinoff, handed out $207,000, must agree to do a podcast series “to explore Māori issues”. This is pretty small beer, given that Māori Television, NZME, Pacific Media Network, Newshub and eleven so-called support partners, were awarded more than $2.4 million, and are reportedly required to hire 25 Māori and Pacific cadets, some of whom are required to be “diverse””. (The Spectator Australia, 2 September 2021) The largest recipient of Government funding is Radio New Zealand with $48m. There is also the $3.5m spent by the Government on propaganda for the “Three Waters” issue.
Therefore, the mainstream media can no longer be called independent when they are funded by government with strings attached. Bruce Cotterill puts this most alarmingly, when he writes, “A free and independent press is a critically important foundation to any democracy. Without it, governments can go unchecked and the rule of law will suffer. One only has to see the events in Hong Kong over the last two years to see the impact on a society where the influence of the press has been extinguished.
“Sadly, our media does not appear to be as independent and free as we should prefer.”