Brian Edwards Media

What’s To Be Done With Paul?

Is Paul Henry really an obnoxious prat or is this just an act to keep him in the papers? If it’s the latter, then he’s succeeding admirably.  There is no better way to raise your profile than to polarise your audience. In general, the most successful broadcasters – Judy Bailey being the glorious exception – have been simultaneously loved and loathed.

It’s the same for newspaper columnists. People with considered views, who can see both sides of an issue, need not apply. A columnist’s success is judged by the number of irate letters his or her editor receives. Essential characteristics –  one-eyed, dogmatic, over-the-top, contemptuous of other views. Best current New Zealand examples – Michael Laws and Garth George.

A very clear idea of how perfectly Henry fits the loved/loathed paradigm was to be found in the on-line responses of Herald readers to what has been termed ‘moustache-gate’. There were 45 pages of them when I last looked. Almost none came into the ‘considered, see-both-sides’ category.  A majority  thought that hanging, drawing and quartering was too good for him:

Paul is a self-righteous, obnoxious and overbearing twat.

God, I feel like chopping that little toe rag’s head off and watch him run around like a little cockroach.

Paul is a mean, sadistic bully.

One can imagine him at school; organising a willy-stretching competition behind the bike shed without taking part himself.

Paul Henry is an embarrassing fool. When he was a National Party candidate for Parliament he was beaten by a transsexual. Perhaps he has not got over it.

His defenders, on the other hand,  though Paul was God’s gift to television and were equally virulent:

Paul Henry is hilarious and is the reason that Breakfast rates so much higher than the TV3 version. And what is the harm anyway? Its probably a compliment for a greenie chick for someone to notice her moustache. Goes with the hemp singlet and underarm hair.

Paul Henry is a mastermind! Those of you damning him to hell should know you are playing right into his hands. He enjoys the backlash and you are shooting him straight to super-stardom. Paul is a living legend. Recognise!

 I also cried when I heard Paul’s comments about the ‘Mo’. Well, to be more accurate, I had tears rolling down my cheeks from laughing. What woman would go on national TV with that enormous ‘Mo’? It would have been rude not to mention it!

Paul’s keeps it real and makes the breakfast show fun to watch some Nz’ers just need to stop being flipin dry balls and if you dont like it then all good just breathe and change the channel. because we all know you love him too. [Punctuation and spelling not supplied!]

And, finally, there was this  novel theory:

It could just be a result of years of French nuclear testing and nuclear fall-out. It could make women grow moustaches and turn men into rude, politically incorrect brutes.

Who’s right – his critics or his defenders? Both. Henry is an obnoxious prat.  His ego is out of control and, as a broadcaster, so is he. He has done  more than enough to deserve the boot.

BUT he is also one of the most intelligent, most incisive, most accomplished, most polished, and most entertaining broadcasters this country has ever seen.

 Can’t live with him, can’t live without him.

So what should be done with Paul? Well firstly he should be fronting Close Up. Mark Sainsbury may be a nicer person, but he isn’t a patch on Henry as a broadcaster. He stumbles his way through the programme, is often barely articulate and his interviews are a shambles. But he’s responsible and safe and Henry isn’t.  

So here’s my solution.  Mark goes back to his previous job as a political editor. He was extremely good at that. Paul takes over Close Up where he is likely to beat the pants off the much nicer John Campbell.  But there’s a proviso. Henry’s contract includes a ‘penny in the jar’ clause. Every time he breaches the Broadcasting Act’s standards of balance, fairness, decency or good taste, $10,000 is deducted from his salaryand donated to the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards. Should work.

Meanwhile, check out this hilarious Media 7 compilation from Russell Brown and his Paul Henry Dick-o-meter.



  1. Absolutely agree the man is absolutely appalling.
    The best idea I’ve heard, apart from keeping the BSA complaints rolling in, is to lobby and boycott Heritage Hotels, who sponsor the show. The same approach worked nicely when Mitsubishi pulled their sponsorship of Holmes after his ‘cheeky darky’ comments about Kofi Annan.

  2. Hi Brian

    First let me congratulate you on creating this media-um.

    Secondly, I don’t mind Paul, at least he’s a bloke who is allowed to have an opinion. The last one of those I remember was Fred Dagg/John Clarke.

    I dont think the Paul topic requires much more analysis than that.

  3. One of the best summaries of Paul Henry that I have seen – acknowledges his strengths and weaknesses.

  4. Brian – Me thinks you are a bit sensitive to some things.
    You may have noticed lately that the printed press especially has gone into what I call an ‘Extreme’ mode. I suspect TV1 is doing the same.

    You see, people simply got tired of the usual drivel that is put up in headlines and on the TV news. Weve had 10 years of politcal correctness where one was not allowed (by peer pressure and similar actions) to really say what one thought. For example – for some time before Brash made his Orewa speech, to criticise ‘maori’ was simply the death kneel for anyone in public sevice; and if you werent you were told by the PC police that you were racist. The Poll reaction to the Brash speech showed what people really felt and thought.

    The Charter had a similar deadening effect on what was being pushed on TV1. I recall a programme about nose flute players in bloody egypt. I mean – if that didnt make you change channels – nothing would.

    And at the same time the Internat came along, and bloggers. When I get up in the morning I feed the cat, then go to the computor and open in this order:
    Kiwiblog, No Minister, the Guardian and finally NZ herald.
    Obviously I dont pay to see them, and I get some honest comments on the first two sites. Comments you will never see (yet) in newspapers and on TV.

    However to maintain their viability , the newspapers and TV have to fight back. They wont do that with more blandness, and they wont do it with more advertising.

    So they got to go more extreme – well extreme compared to recent years.

    Ill give you another example. After the election last year, Radio NZ morning report either couldnt get National people on the radio and/or decided that Phil Goff was the person to comment. Regularly they only had comment from him. I got tired of that (hes not running the country and if there was to be comment on the national scene Id rather have the people running the place commenting) and I got into the habit of not even turning them on anymore in the morning.

    So my current morning programme is:
    1. Feed the cat.
    2. Check the websites
    3. Get dressed
    4. Put the toast on and turn TV1 on (and go straight to sky news if there is an advert on)

    Its the result of choice. They have to get my attention to get me back – and its really, really bloody hard to get someone back who has wandered away.

    • Well Barry, I really can’t remember a time when we weren’t allowed to say what we really thought. Surely you weren’t that cowed. As for Brash’s Orewa speech, it may not have been overtly racist, but it was certainly designed to appeal to racists and, as the polls you refer to showed, it did. My experience is that people use the term ‘PC’ when they haven’t got an argument or to describe anything they don’t like. I missed the ‘nose flute plalyers in bloody Egypt’. A pity. Sounds interesting. But the Charter had next to no effect on TVNZ’s programming. For one thing, no one had any idea where the money went. Anyway, you should be happy with the extended honeymoon the media are on now with John Key. And I do agree with you that there are lots of media outlets to choose from these days. Glad to hear you’ve got a cat. Shows character and discernment.

  5. Excellent piece Brian. With the comment “Can’t live with him, can’t live without him.” you’ve summed Paul Henry up to a T.

  6. Nice comeback Brian.

  7. I have to admit I do not like Paul Henry’s contempt for small/medium cars. And implicitly for those who cannot afford better cars.

  8. I’ve just watched the Media 7 dick-o-meter mash. Three times. Careful scrutiny (watch closely, now, as he turns!) reveals that Paul has the most dreadfully protruding teeth. They look quite grey to me. And are they false? Did he spend so much time shaving that Nixon-like dark stubble that he had no time to glue his plate in properly? Was he fathered by Ed the Talking Horse?Or is he just a mutant and repellant rodent?

    We must be told.

    • Thanks for your considered opinion, William. But you’d better be God’s gift yourself if you’re going to write this sort of stuff. Are you?

  9. Paul Henry comes across as, to paraphrase a great English songwriter, a little boy lost in a big man’s shirt. He’s obviously not lacking in intelligence, and at times even a certain charm. But what may pass for ‘wit’ and ‘a knowing world weariness’ in his own mind is often perceived by a large proportion of the viewing public as a distinct lack of empathy that at times borders on outright cruelty. And a cynicism that speaks of an ego totally out of control.

    I have never met Paul Henry, he may be a lovely man who is completely different off camera, but I suspect the TV face may not be that different from the man himself. He certainly doesn’t strike me as a great actor. Or indeed capable of holding his tongue, ever.

    I suppose it does all make for ‘great TV’, Brian, but that means TV is in a pretty awful place in my opinion.

  10. If Henry shows his face on my TV I switch it off! I find him UNINTELLIGENT, and a SLOB with disgraceful manners. I cannot for the life of me see how you can compare him favorably with anyone at all.
    How can you say Henry doesn’t ‘stumbles his way through the programme, is often barely articulate and his interviews are a shambles” – your words – after seeing that appalling clip over!

    • OK, you don’t like him. And there are things about him I don’t much like either. But whatever he is, he isn’t ‘unintelligent’.

  11. On the few occasions I have watched him I found his argument or comment little more than sophism. For example his comments on Climate Change. Why does he resort to ad hominem argument (as in the case of Stephanie Mills) when the topic was the peace talks? Has he nothing constructive to add? These are not in my opinion expressions of intelligence.
    To slobber – “to run at the mouth in infantile helplessness”. I think that sums his performance up in a nutshell.

  12. I find it thoroughly cringe-worthy to see Henry on TVNZ. He could be suited to ‘Back of the Y’, maybe, if he grew up and developed a sense of humour. But to see someone with the emotional maturity of a somewhat stunted 12 year old at the helm of one of our national broadcaster’s flagship shows is batshit crazy.

    Who are the people in TVNZ that continue to pay this man? Are Henry’s ratings really so stellar that we need to suffer this kind of garbage? Will those responsible for Henry’s ongoing employment be among the 90 TVNZ staff the Government insists on firing? The whole arrange seems batshit crazy.

    Really very disappointing on TVNZ’s behalf and clearly disgusting on Henry’s. I pity those who have to work with him, if I were them I’d be looking for a transfer before I was forever tainted by association.

  13. 13

    Hi Brian,

    Thank christ for that. You have finally hit the nail on the head. After reading thousands of inches of copy dedicated to this topic, I too had come to the conclusion that this lot are nothing but a bunch of media-whores.

    Barely a week goes past without Laws taking a swipe at the Palestinians /the Greens / Students / Maori / any other easy target.

    Or maybe it’s George, pinning the ails of the world on abortion / women while waxing lyrical about his imaginary friend.

    And then there is Paul Henry.

    I feel this lot have had nine years of pent up petulance and now that School Mistress Clark is gone they are free to run amok.

    And the whole “So they got to go more extreme” argument is such a cop out. (Have you thought this through logically?) Are you so dumbed down by mainstream media / reality TV that you need petty insults, puerile rudeness and downright arrogant, male chauvinism before they can get your attention?

    When I get up in the morning, I go for a wee, I make a coffee and then I go in search of the truth.

  14. Brian, in your opinion…

    1. Is Paul consciously obnoxious to attract attention? or,

    2. Is Paul unconsciously obnoxious and doesn’t know any better? or,

    3. Is Paul unconsciously obnoxious but consciously doesn’t restrain himself because attention = success? or,

    4. Something else?

    • A pinch of the first; a dash of the second; a soupcon of the third; and a generous sprinkling of the fourth. Hope this answers your question, Richard.

  15. What about Leighton Smith and Ian Wishart?

    Do they not belong in the company of Garth George?

    Michael Laws is in a different category.

    • Well, Johnny, I don’t listen to Leighton Smith and don’t read Investigate magazine, so I’m really not qualified to comment. But I suspect you may be right.

  16. The handiwork of Ian Wishart can be inspected on It went quiet after the “successful” outcome of the general election.

    Like Leighton Smith, Wishart was REALLY keen on a change of government at the last two elections.

    Brian, how do these people and media get to be the way they are? I suppose the needs of advertisors and associated readership and listenership are important?

    If you take them on, the NZ Herald and 1ZB would claim to be working for balance. But if you look at peak listening on radio or most visible features of the NZ Herald (including editorials and op eds) then can we not see a pattern?

  17. Spot on analysis BE!
    Love him or loathe him, Henry delivers the goods.
    He is miscast however, on Breakfast, and he must know it. Which makes me wonder how much of his ‘off colour’ commentary is designed to rile up his bosses, who don’t appear to be in a hurry to give him Sainsbury’s coveted job!

  18. Congratulations. A good site. Nice to see intelligent and generally tolerant discussion.
    As a leftist I can’t stand Paul Henry and turn him off. My beloved sister as a rightist changes channels as soon as he appears. Seems he’s got the balance about right.

    • Pretty well sums up people’s attitudes to Paul. I like him, despite his obnoxious prat moments. Your beloved sister may be missing something.

  19. Hi there,
    I’ve been a bit of a Paul Henry fan for a little while now, and have obviously heard both sides opinions on him.

    Sure, he’s opinionated. What is the big deal? Imagine the viewer feedback segment if no-one was allowed to state a controversial opinion; get over it. He has a laugh here and there, at others AND himself; it’s ok, it’ll be alright.

    Breakfast is info-tainment, not another news program. It’s allowed to be quirky and light-hearted. Imagine starting the day with another dime-a-dozen, cardboard cut-out presenter…yawn.

    On Close-up, when he stands in for Mark, Paul is not the exact same as during breakfast. He is obviously more to-the-point. The man is brilliant at interviews; constantly asking the hard questions and not letting the respondent get away with side-stepping. (E.g. interview on Breakfast with the Air NZ head representative in regards to some flight attendants receiving unfair pay).

    One thing I don’t understand is people getting so worked-up about it. Overly worked-up, in my opinion (I assume having an opinion these days is allowed). It’s bizarre some viewers take one or two comments so personally. At the end of the day, those who don’t like his style need only switch the channel to some prompt machine puppet. Freedom of choice (especially if one has Sky TV etc).


    • I’ve been a bit of a Paul Henry fan for a little while now, and have obviously heard both sides opinions on him.

      Fair enough, but the broadcasting codes in New Zealand require broadcasters to meet standards of fairness, balance and good taste. Paul doesn’t always meet those standards.

  20. Yes that’s true, it’s a shame he’s human

  21. I just wish I could bring my class of nine-year-olds to the Breakfast studio so he could tell them to their faces that they’re mad to worry about climate change. He might even want to explain to them why humiliating someone for their appearance was OK. We call that bullying at primary level.

    • I just wish I could bring my class of nine-year-olds to the Breakfast studio so he could tell them to their faces that they’re mad to worry about climate change.

      Great idea. Why not suggest it? It sounds like a marvellous programme idea to me.

  22. Paul Henry……is simply brilliant and I can’t wait to see him every morning! He tells it like it is. He’s fantastic.

  23. Remember when Josh Kronfeld called him a dickhead? Henry’s response was to throw his head back and guffaw nervously because he knew he couldn’t resort to infantile bullying when faced with a well-respected All Black. (How about a t shirt with the slogan “That is a dickhead on TV”?) Easy targets every time, capable of occasional wit but mostly just a rude, nasty little man. Can’t blame him – TVNZ are just doing lowbrow to get the ratings up, why would we possibly want to be challenged or inspired when we can laugh at women with facial hair? Why would we want to be treated to the wit of someone like Clive James when Paul Henry is waxing abusive…..sorry,’telling it like it is…’ Mr Edwards, we can definitely live without him. We deserve so much better.

  24. When Paul started off on Breakfast I was thinking “who the hell is this self-indulgent overly opinionated git” but I have grown to look through this and take him with a grain of salt and as a result this fellow is really quite funny. Paul just says it like it is and is defineately not p.c. – I too call a spade a spade but would say I have a little more tact than Paul and consider others feelings more. Keep PH on breakfast – he is a nice contrast to other rather boring or stiff personalities.

    • When Paul started off on Breakfast I was thinking “who the hell is this self-indulgent overly opinionated git”

      I can understand your position. However, I think it’s vital to have a sharp-minded, coherent interviewer on Close Up who can sustain a probing interview and not stumble around, saying “I mean” every ten seconds.

  25. Opinions oh yes he is loaded with them, and that in itself makes a change on Tv. He livens up an otherwise dull television experience. I cannot stand those inane, safe comments by presenters that we are subjected to, it is like watching a puppet show.
    He is outspoken, he is polarising, he is sharply intelligent and makes great viewing. Who else on TV makes you laugh and doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Shift him to Close Up

  26. Once, quite a number of years ago, I had an experience in the city where my daughter with Down syndrome and a major heart defect, was having an epileptic seizure in her pushchair, in the walk-through to the Downtown Shopping Centre from the car park. My younger daughter was in another pushchair, crying. My friend ran back to check that I’d locked the car. I stood there with the two “babies” and burst into tears myself, feeling so overwhelmed. (I suppose Paul Henry would call that an “emotional outburst”!)

    Not one person came over to offer help. Most people looked awkward and practised the humanly art of avoidance.

    My friend returned and on the way to a medical appointment, one kind lady smiled at me, which I reciprocated.

    She restored my faith in humanity….until I saw Paul Henry. He wiped the smile of my face.

    Comments like his send a message to the community that it is OK to laugh at and put people down who are perceived to be “different”.

    I wonder if Paul Henry has ever experienced anyone close to him with an intellectual disability. Perhaps if he had, he wouldn’t poke fun at others. Perhaps………