Is mainstream media biased? (Part Two)

The Roy Morgan poll was released on 1 November 2021 and was only reported by Mike Hosking’s ZB breakfast show. The poll showed Labour was down 6% to 39.5% and National was up 3% to 26%. Act remained unchanged at 16% and the Greens were up 1% to 10.5%. Further, the poll produced interesting information on voting patterns.

On 21 November 2021, the TV3 Reid Research poll had Labour at 42%, National at 26% and Act at 17% (an interesting comparison to the Roy Morgan poll – which accurately predicted the result of the last election). In reviewing this poll, Tova O’Brien bagged National and Judith Collins, who does have a problem with public perception. She made little reference to Labour’s fall in the polls.  Tova is a favourite of the Prime Minister at the daily briefings, so it is not surprising that she decided to focus on Collins and not Labour.

This is the second time I have seen Tova having a rant on the opposition leader. This was followed the next night by smearing National, while ignoring Stuart Nash who had made slanderous and unfounded comments on Groundswell in parliament.  It is not  the role of an objective journalist to provide a slanted political stand. Her comments came across as a deliberate tactic to smear the opposition leader and National, while ignoring the gradual decline of Labour and its performance (hence the importance of understanding the factual determinations of the Roy Morgan poll).

Karl du Fresne raised similar concerns regarding Tova O’Brien and Newshub when he wrote the following:

“Some media go further, actively promoting narratives that favour the government; witness Newshub political editor Tova O’Brien’s sustained, malicious and deliberate undermining of Judith Collins. Contrast that with the same organisation’s very occasional (and mostly polite) reporting of government failures. O’Brien’s exposure of Kris Faafoi’s inability to explain his own hate speech proposals, and Michael Morrah’s valiant chronicling of the government’s failings and dissembling over Covid-19, stand out precisely because they contrast sharply with the deferential tone of most Newshub journalism, especially in relation to Jacinda Ardern.”

It is important to consider how political polls are reported, or not reported at all. It is the language and slant placed on newspaper articles and in television reporting that is concerning. Kar du Fresne recently wrote an article (17 November 2021) on media bias and the inevitable backlash. He makes several pertinent observations that are relevant to this article. For example, “Today’s media are overtly and vigorously politicised. Identity politics is relentlessly promoted; journalists have become polemicists, using their privileged position to lecture readers, listeners and viewers and to put their own spin on events.”

He goes on to correctly state:

“In recent months the media have given the public even less reason to trust them by eagerly lining up to take ideologically contaminated money from the government’s so-called Public Interest Journalism Fund – or as I prefer to call it, the Pravda Project. No one is convinced by newspapers’ protestations that their integrity and independence are not compromised by signing up to a thinly disguised propaganda exercise; I’m not even sure they convince themselves. Well might protesters complain that journalists are paid by the state, because it’s almost true. Authoritarian governments overseas deal with the media by shutting down troublesome radio stations and newspapers, assassinating journalists or putting them in jail, but Labour under Ardern has realised there are less messy ways to ensure media loyalty.”

On 15 October 2021 Karl du Fresne wrote that “The dangers hardly need spelling out. A country where government policies largely go unchallenged by the institutions that normally hold politicians to account is a country that risks acquiescing in the face of an authoritarian state.”

To give an example of the media’s bias, Andrea Vance undertook a smear campaign of the Taxpayers Union in the Sunday-Star Times, when she accused the Taxpayers Union and others opposing Three Waters as encouraging a “nasty undercurrent of racism”, which also contained serious accusations and sweeping statements on complex legislation. Naturally, the Taxpayers Union objected to Andrea Vance’s article and sought to write a rebuttal in the same paper. Stuff refused to publish it, suggesting it be shortened to 150 words, being no more than a letter to the editor.  Instead, they booked space for a paid half-page ad in the Sunday-Star Times. When it was submitted, they were told “we will not be publishing this” without further explanation.

This is a blatant example of political censorship by a newspaper to allow free speech and the prevention of an honest debate on a complex issue. Consequently, readers are left with a distorted view of an issue that is very important to the nation.

In May 2021, Bryce Edwards (Political Professor at Victoria University) was part of a panel discussion when he spoke on The State of the political left (in the Age of Outrage). He discussed the changing nature of the left and how it has become less tolerant of the right or of any dissenting view, and he concluded in part by stating,

“This left-wing elite approach is very compatible with a more censorious approach to politics. Whereas the traditional left has been the force in society that is most favourable to “free speech” and towards mass participation in politics, it’s now quite the opposite. Traditionally it was forces of the right and the Establishment that clamped down on political expression and activity. Historically, the left has championed the rights of the oppressed or marginalised to organise, to communicate politics, in order to win human rights and political gains. And this is why it’s somewhat surprising that increasingly the left wants either the state or society to put limits on political debate and expression.”

We are clearly seeing this in television newsrooms and many newspapers. Thankfully, there are still a few radio broadcasters and bloggers to provide an opposing view. I have included some facts to back up this argument. This information is a summary of the detailed analysis complied by Frank Newman of Breaking News on 16 September 2021. Of the mainstream media the most left-leaning media were:

1= TVNZ (-10.1) – the most favourable (pro) coverage was for Labour (8.9). The least favourable (anti) was for National (9.2).

1= Radio NZ (-10.1) – pro Labour (8.3), anti-National (9.0).

3. Newshub (-9.9) – pro Labour (8.4) anti ACT (10.9).

4. Newstalk ZB (-8.9) – pro Labour (7.8), anti-National (7.5).

5. Stuff (-7.3) – pro Labour (7.4), anti NZ First (9.1).

6. NZ Herald (-5.2) – pro Labour (5.0), anti NZ First (4.6).

In summary:

  • TVNZ, Radio NZ and Newshub are the most pro Labour.
  • TVNZ and Radio NZ are the most anti National
  • Newshub is the most anti ACT.
  • Stuff and the NZ Herald are the most anti NZ First.

I quote from Frank Newman, who cynically writes,

“Undoubtedly reporting will be influenced to some degree by the fortunes or misfortunes of the political parties themselves (failed leadership coups and the like). Or it may of course reflect the political bias of those controlling the content, or maybe the political views of those providing the funding. Is it a coincidence that the most pro-Labour media are those that could not survive without funding from the Labour government? Or is it just that journalism is an industry that attracts lefties? Or is it because journalists who don’t toe a woke line get cancelled?”

There is a disturbing trend in New Zealand media where there is significant bias in reporting.  Not surprisingly, Newspaper subscriptions are falling (the Dominion Post subscriptions have fallen 19%). Others are slowly turning off from the six o’clock news and switching to international outlets. This trend is a genuine threat to democracy and the rights to freedom of speech. It is no wonder we are becoming a more divisive society and many are slowly turning on the media. It is, without doubt, a troubling matter.

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