Slowly, we are becoming aware of the constraints the so-called “Public Interest Journalism Fund” is having on the media. There is an impression that the media is now biased in its reporting, and there are some compelling reasons to believe so.
As the Platform wrote recently, “The perception has grown that funding is only available to media who consistently toe the line on political issues and in particular those related to the Treaty of Waitangi or co-governance. Those seeking to challenge these things need not apply.”
The Platform highlighted two main points:
- The funding agreements are set up like loans.
- In the first section of ‘General Eligibility Criteria’ a document is provided as a ‘resource’ called Te Tiriti Framework for News Media which references He Puapua as an authoritative document.
Essentially, media outlets who received money from the Public Interest Journalism Fund were taking out a loan. “That is essentially how the Public Interest Journalism Fund is set up – like a loan. Not only do applicants have to thoroughly explain how they will adhere to the particular co-governance model of understanding the Treaty in order to get the funding in the first place, they have to agree that should they deviate from presenting this perspective, NZ On Air can say that they have defaulted on the agreement and demand the funding be repaid.
“Additionally, the agreement stipulates that in the event of a default:
“You indemnify us against all liability we may have to any third party as a result…”
The fund can also “takeover” the project too. In which case they would demand all your resources be at their disposal and/or get another company to complete the project – adhering to the correct narrative of course. In the situation of a “takeover”, the agreement states:
“You hereby irrevocably constitute and appoint us as your attorney-in-fact with full power and authority…” (The Platform, 18 June 2022)
To avoid such an event happening, the media outlet must follow the party line, in this case Labour’s vision as seen through the lens of He Puapua, “agreeing that due to colonialism we live in a society that perpetuates racism, supporting a vision for constitutional reform of New Zealand, and restructuring of “non-Government organisations…according to Te Tiriti o Waitangi” (That Platform, 18 June 2022).
In his blog, David Farrar added “That is essentially how the Public Interest Journalism Fund is set up – like a loan. Not only do applicants have to thoroughly explain how they will adhere to the particular co-governance model of understanding the Treaty in order to get the funding in the first place, they have to agree that should they deviate from presenting this perspective NZ On Air can say that they have defaulted on the agreement and demand the funding be repaid.
“So if a media organisation that received some of the $55 million from the Government started running an editorial line that the Treaty of Waitangi did not establish a co-governance partnership, then they could be forced to repay the money they got” (David Farrar, 19 June 2022 – KiwiBlog).
As a side issue, Karl du Fresne has reported on the potential conflict of interest that now exists between Kiritapu Allan (Justice Minister) and her partner Mani Dunlop who is RNZ’s Māori news director. “Many people (I’m one) will feel uncomfortable that Allan is in an intimate relationship with an influential figure in one of the country’s major news organisations – one that happens to be state-owned” (Karl du Fresne, 20 June 2022).
I am equally uncomfortable with such a relationship. It certainly breaches all the rules of neutrality in journalism in this case. Does it pass the sniff test, or the pub test? Clearly it does not. I was not surprised when Mani Dunlop interviewed David Seymour, screamed at him, and called him a racist. She was blatantly conflicted, biased, and already compromised in her opinions.
I will leave it to Karl du Fresne to have the last word as he summaries this situation well. “One consequence is that sceptical RNZ listeners now have an additional reason to wonder whether, given the nature of the relationship between a senior editorial executive and a cabinet minister, the broadcaster can be relied on to observe strict neutrality in the way it reports politics, and especially in the way it presents and interprets news and opinion involving Māori. This applies no matter how conscientiously Dunlop tries to do her job, because it’s a matter of public perception, and public perception is impossible to control.
“The other inevitable upshot is that the large body of disaffected New Zealanders who already suspect their country is under the control of an elite cohort that calls the shots in vital areas of national life, notably politics and the media, will treat the Allan-Dunlop hook-up as further evidence that they’re right” (Karl du Fresne, 20 June 2022).