Brian Edwards Media

Archive for February, 2011

John Campbell, tonight you were a disgrace to the interviewer’s trade.

John, Your mindless, bullying, tirade against ‘moon man’ Ken Ring on tonight’s Campbell Live was perhaps the worst piece of egotistical, self-important, out of control, closed-minded, biased, unprofessional  non-interviewing I have seen in more than 40 years of New Zealand television.

I have no brief for Mr Ring or his theories, but after watching your treatment of him tonight, I have considerably more respect for him as the reasonable exponent of an admittedly controversial point of view than I have for you as an interviewer.

What mattered to you in this exchange was not what he had to say, but what you had to say. And since he thought the process was meant to involve his being critically questioned on statements he had made and being given reasonable opportunity to reply, he had every right to complain when you preferred to deny him that opportunity by shouting him down. It was, quite simply, appalling.

My advice to Mr Ring would be to immediately complain to Mark Jennings, the Head of News and Current Affairs at TV3 about your mistreatment on the programme tonight, and the breach of Broadcasting Standards of fairness and balance which it contained. And, when your complaint is almost certainly rejected, to take the matter to the Broadcasting Standards Authority for their deliberation and judgement.

The microphone is a potent tool in the bullying interviewer’s hand, especially when the interview is not face-to-face and the interviewee is isolated in a remote studio location. Fortunately most interviewers do not abuse that situation. Tonight we saw what has overall been excellent television coverage of the Christchurch earthquake on both TVNZ and TV3 marred by a descent to broadcasting at the level of Jerry Springer. I have seldom been so angry.


Highway Robbery by the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Auckland City Council

I am not someone who thinks that parking officers are Satan’s spawn. Indeed I wrote a post a couple of years ago, Hug  a Parking Officer Today, in which I defended this misunderstood and much maligned occupation:

‘Parking officers make a significant contribution to the smooth and safe running of traffic in our towns and cities. They greatly increase our chances of finding a parking space.  They spend much of their time giving advice to and helping the general public. Most of us are completely unaware of any of this. But we’re unlikely to forget the parking ticket on our windscreen or the fine we had to pay. So the average parking officer is subjected to sarcasm, verbal abuse and often racist comments every day.’

From time to time I get a parking ticket myself. I’m not rapt about it, but I’ve probably got away with overstaying the allotted time more often than I’ve had to retrieve one of these billets doux  from underneath my wipers.

But on Sunday I had an experience which for the first time brought me into the camp of those who believe the parking officer’s principal function is to garner revenue for his or her local body, rather than to ensure ‘the sure and safe running of traffic in our towns and cities’.

We were teaching all day. Between our morning and afternoon sessions we had an hour for lunch. But the first session ran over and we ended up with only half an hour to find somewhere to get a bite to eat. Less easy than you might think on a Sunday in central Auckland. We decided to park in Shortland Street where our studios are located and where our second session would be taking place. There was plenty of parking and our little Smart Car duly took up half a parking space just opposite High Street where we were sure we could grab a coffee and a sandwich. We reckoned we had about 25 minutes to find a cafe, order, eat, pay, get back to the car and head up the street to the studio. We actually made it in about 20 minutes. There was a ticket under the wiper blades.    Read the rest of this entry »


How Twitter brought us news that our family in Christchurch was safe – a remarkable story.




Christchurch was my first New Zealand home. I arrived there with my wife and baby son Laurie in September 1964 to take up a lecturing job at Canterbury University. My first office was in what is now the Christchurch Arts Centre, damaged in yesterday’s horrendous earthquake.

My two daughters, Naomi and Rebecca were both born in Christchurch.  Four months ago Rebecca’s son, my newest grandchild, Inigo Peter, was born there too.

It would be strange if I did not have a particular affection for the city.

It was there too that I spent one of the happiest periods of my professional life, as a reporter on the regional magazine programme Town and Around, getting to know the New Zealanders of Canterbury and the West Coast in a way not possible for most new immigrants. They took this gaunt, skinny Irishman with his bizarre accent into their homes and hearts with a warmth I would never quite feel again as a broadcaster on the national stage. The entire district became my village. I ceased to be a stranger in a strange land. I felt that I belonged. 

Rebecca, her husband Andy and four of my eleven grandchildren now live in Sumner. Judy and I spent most of yesterday watching the television coverage from the devastated city. Communication with my daughter seemed impossible. Phone, email and text brought no response. Were they all right? We scanned the TV coverage for clues about how Sumner had fared, but most of the footage was understandably about the ravaged central city.

Judy had brought her laptop into the living room and was… tweeting!  Read the rest of this entry »


Poor choices? Here’s some food for thought.

Just come across an excellent article by Rachel Goodchild – My food parcel poverty (thanks to a Facebook link by Tau Henare).

If you’ve been following the debate on my post Poor choices? Or just poor?  you’ll find this thought provoking.


If all you need to do is tell the truth, why do people need media training?

Hard Talk's Stephen Sackur

The debate over Mark Hotchin’s interview with Mark Sainsbury on Close Up  has produced the usual shibboleths about Public Relations and Media Training. The practitioners of these dark arts are seen  either as miracle workers who can make sinners look like saints – referred to in the advertising world as ‘polishing a turd’ –  or as shysters making a killing from teaching people how to successfully lie in interviews and thus pull the wool over the eyes of the general public.  If either of these outcomes were possible, Judy and I would not be blogging about the Hotchins, we’d be with them in Hawaii, only in a much nicer spot in a much nicer house.

The “miracle-worker” version is rooted in the idea that readers, listeners and viewers are idiots who can be easily taken in by the practised sleight of hand of the PR/media trained interviewee.  But it simply isn’t so. And especially not on television.

This is what the great doyen of British interviewers, Sir Robin Day, had to say about the televised political interview:

“When a TV interviewer questions a politician, this is one of the rare occasions, perhaps the only occasion outside Parliament, when a politician’s performance cannot be completely manipulated or packaged or artificially hyped. Some TV answers can, of course, be prepared by scriptwriters and committed to memory, but not all. The answers cannot be on autocue as for an address to camera.

 “The image-maker can advise on how to sit, or what hairstyle to have, or on voice quality. But once the interview has started, the politician is on his or her own… Provided there is time for probing  cross-examination, the politician cannot be wholly shielded against the unexpected. The politician’s own brain is seen to operate. His or her real personality tends to burst out. Truth is liable to raise its lovely head.

 “In a newspaper interview, the politician may flannel or fudge, but in a TV interview the flannelling and fudging can be seen and judged by the viewing public, just as the jury in a court can form their opinion of the candour and the credibility of a witness.”

Our advice to clients has not changed in a quarter of a century. It is: Be straightforward; Tell the truth; Admit your mistakes. Why? Because that’s the only thing that works. Read the rest of this entry »


A brief assessment of the players in the Hotchin/Sainsbury/Close Up interview


Close Up – Undoubtedly a major coup, though I suspect that Hotchin, or an agent on his behalf, approached the programme. However, the  production team blotted its copy book badly by totally abandoning editorial balance and showing clips damaging to Hotchin –  largely newspaper headlines – while Hotchin was speaking. An appalling lapse in editorial judgement.

Hotchin – Plausible and persuasive. I thought he was very good. His appearance has been and will be dismissed as a PR exercise and there may well be an element of truth in that. But the risks inherent in taking part in a live and predictably aggressive television interview were considerable. And, in the end, all the PR in the world will not assist the lying or dishonest television interviewee. The audience will see through him.     

Sainsbury – Handled the interview well. Asked the questions that viewers, and some at least of those who lost money in Hanover, would have wanted asked. Somewhat repetitive and it really would be good if Mark could put his questions in a less excitable way. But overall a good performance.

Campbell Live – Ended its show last night with an undignified piece of sour grapes in which John bewailed the fact that Hotchin was appearing on his competitor’s programme and re-ran old Campbell Live clips which served merely to explain why Hotchin had gone to Close Up.  John is the superior broadcaster of the two, but would he have done this particular interview better? I doubt it.

The Viewers – Will many have changed their view of Hotchin after watching the interview? Probably not.


Poor choices? Or just poor?


NZ Herald/Mark Mitchell

I grew up at a time when being ‘on the dole’ was shameful, when single women were forced by circumstance and social pressure to give up their babies,  when women with children often stayed in bad marriages because financially there was no alternative. We weren’t very tolerant, we weren’t very caring. ‘You made your bed – now lie in it!’

I’m still a card-carrying member of Gary McCormack’s  Pull-Yourself-Together Party, so I was surprised at my own anger this morning when I read the Prime Minister’s statement that beneficiaries go to food banks because of their own ‘poor choices’.  He said:

‘…anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills. And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.’

Well, here is the news: Some people have unexpected bills, Mr Key. Some people’s cars break down, because cheap, old cars are all they can afford – seen a repair bill lately? Some people need dentistry – seen a dentist’s bill lately? Some people need to pay the rent, which they can’t afford even with an accommodation supplement – seen the news on Auckland rentals recently?

I don’t think those are poor choices. I don’t think those are choices at all. Read the rest of this entry »


Family First’s Latest “Family Issues Survey” is on the Web now – Read it and Weep


NZ Herald

[Some hours after this post was published, the survey was removed from the Family First site.]

 Family First’s  2011 opinion poll, Family Issues Survey 2011, is now online. There are 28 questions. Each question invites one of these responses: 

  • Strongly Agree
  • Agree
  • Neutral
  • Disagree
  • Strongly Disagree
  • Undecided/Not Sure  

Here are the 28 questions: 

 1. (Marriage)  New Zealand should develop policies that encourage a cultural shift towards a lifelong exclusive commitment expressed in marriage e.g. subsidised pre-marriage and marriage counselling. Amend welfare and tax systems to eliminate marriage penalties and disincentives to marriage. 

2.  (Definition of Marriage) New Zealand should protect marriage as being one man – one woman. 

3.  (Parenting) New Zealand should recognise that parents have primary responsibility for nurturing, raising and educating children. Governments should respect and support the exercise of parental responsibilities. 

4.   (Childcare) New Zealand should provide greater flexibility for parents to choose the best child care arrangements for them. End discrimination against stay-home parents i.e. funding only going to Early Childhood Education. 

5.  (Anti-Smacking Law) New Zealand should scrap the anti-smacking law. Amend the law to state explicitly that parents who give their children a smack that is reasonable and for the purpose of correction are not breaking the law. 

6.  (Sex Education) New Zealand should promote age-appropriate sex education which is values based, increase funding of abstinence education, and provide support and resources for parents to be primary educators of their child’s sex education.

7.  (Adoption) New Zealand should allow only married couple adoption – not de facto, same sex or single adoption. 

8.  (Government) New Zealand should replace the offices of Children’s Commissioner and Families Commission with a Minister of Families in Cabinet to advocate, research, and oversee family-based policies and the impact of legislation on families. 

9.  (Child Abuse) New Zealand should establish a non-political Commission of Inquiry to understand and address the wider causes of family breakdown, family violence and child abuse in NZ. 

10.  (CYF Complaints Authority) New Zealand should establish an independent CYF (Child Youth and Family) Complaints Authority, similar to the Police Complaints Authority, to hear complaints about CYF from families who feel they have been unfairly treated, and to safeguard against abuse of state power. 

11.   (Welfare) New Zealand should change welfare payments to include vouchers which limit spending on alcohol, tobacco, gambling and other expenses which detract from the needs of the children. 

12.   (Income Splitting) New Zealand should allow income-splitting for married couples for tax purposes (optional for families to enter in to).

13.   (Abortion) New Zealand should change the law to acknowledge the humanity / personhood of the unborn child from conception and protect that unborn children throughout the entire duration of pregnancy. 

14.  (Informed Consent) New Zealand should introduce a ‘Woman’s Right to Know’ law. This law would require doctors, who are independent from abortion providers, to inform women seeking an abortion of the medical risks and all the consequences of and alternatives to the procedure so that a woman is fully informed.

15.  (Parental Notification) -New Zealand should have automatic parental notification in cases of teenage pregnancy, teen abortions and other medical procedures except in exceptional circumstances approved by the court.  

16.   (Stem Cell Research) New Zealand should promote adult stem cell research, and oppose embryonic stem cell research. 

17.  (Euthanasia) New Zealand should oppose euthanasia – and increase resourcing of hospices and palliative care. 

18.  (Loan Sharks)  New Zealand should introduce stricter regulations on ‘loan sharks’ including capped interest rates and registration. 

19.  (Gaming Machines)  New Zealand should introduce a nationwide ‘sinking lid’ policy on gaming machines (the gradual reduction in numbers of machines). 

20.  (Prostitution) New Zealand should amend the Prostitution Reform Act to prosecute the buyer, provide resources and incentives to help prostitutes out of the industry, and criminalise the act of pimping and brothel keeping. 

21.  (Drinking Age) New Zealand should raise the drinking / purchasing age to 21. 

22.  (Law and Order) New Zealand should maintain the ‘Three Strikes’ legislation. 

23.  (Internet Filtering) New Zealand should introduce compulsory ISP filtering of pornography so that children do not stumble across or deliberately access internet pornography at home, school or public libraries.. 

24.  (Media Standards) New Zealand should develop and enforce higher standards for TV, film, radio and advertising content including levels of violence, sexual content and objectionable language. This includes greater community and family representation on the Broadcasting and Advertising Standards Authorities and Censorship Board with regular changing of board members after limited terms of office to avoid desensitization or lack of accountability. 

25.  (Public Indecency) New Zealand should amend the Crimes Act to clearly define ‘indecent acts’ in order to prevent public nudity and events such as “Boobs on Bikes” 

26.  (Sexualisation of Young People) New Zealand should introduce stricter controls to prevent the sexualisation of children through marketing and media. 

27.  (ETS) New Zealand should scrap the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

28.  (Referendums) New Zealand should adopt binding Referendums which requires Parliament to pass laws in accordance with the result of a citizens’ initiated referendum. 


Read the rest of this entry »


A Little Bird Has Chirped In My Ear…

Randall K Roberts

A little bird, who fled the nest some time ago, has chirped in my ear that when  Jonathan Marshall went to Hawaii to interview Mark Hotchin, the poor boy’s tape-recorder was kaput. That’s what the little bird chirped. I, of course, could not possibly comment. So many little birds have been chirping in my ear this week, it’s been  positively deafening.


Lawyers for the Sunday Star Times threaten me with an action for defamation – but the threat is “not for publication”.

I have received a menacing email from a Ms Sarah Bacon, a partner in the law firm Izard Weston. The firm acts for Fairfax New Zealand Limited, publisher of the Sunday Star Times.

The email refers to my recent post The Hotchin Affidavits – Four witnesses swear that Amanda Hotchin did not speak the damaging words attributed to her by the Sunday Star Times.

Paragraph 9 of Ms Bacon’s email reads: “Your blog and the comments that follow defame our client, the Editor of the Sunday Star Times and Mr Marshall. Our client will not tolerate these false and defamatory publications. Our client expects you to immediately remove the defamatory material from your website (along with any cached material) and to ensure that no further defamatory postings are published.”

Paragraph 10 reads: “We also put you on notice that our client will be minded to take action against you if you draw any adverse inference from the fact that our client is unwilling and unable to engage with you on this issue in a public forum.”

I have read and re-read the Hotchin Affidavits post and there is absolutely nothing in it defamatory of the Sunday Star Times, its editor or Jonathan Marshall.  Read the rest of this entry »


I have had it up to here with non-assertive (big girl’s blouse) tradesmen!

This is going to be short and sweet. I have had it up to here with non-assertive tradesmen. These pathetic wimps, wusses, chicken livers, cream puffs, crybabies, fraidy cats, milksops, momma’s boys, pantywaists, sissies, yellow bellies and big girl’s blouses do not have the cojones to tell even a little old lady they can’t concrete her drive, fix her leaking roof, build a kennel for her Dobermans, replace her kitchen incinerator, paint her picket fence, stop her garage door making graunching noises, clear her blocked drains or find out why her front door-bell isn’t working FOR THE NEXT SIX #$*&@*%#! MONTHS!

Oh no, the little old lady might be unhappy about the delay, she might get a little bit cross and tell them that it was ‘rather disappointing’ and she’d hoped to get the job done ‘a little sooner’ than in six months. And that might make the tradesmen quail and quiver and wet their pants with fear.  Read the rest of this entry »


The Hotchin Affidavits – Four witnesses swear that Amanda Hotchin did not speak the damaging words attributed to her by the Sunday Star Times

On January 8 of this year I received an email from Amanda Hotchin. The email was in response to a post I had published on 16 May 2010, entitled Reflections on Not Caring in Hawaii. The post was highly critical of the Hotchins and in particular of a statement attributed to Mrs Hotchin in an article in the Sunday Star Times under the by-line of Jonathan Marshall. In the article Marshall reported having approached Mrs Hotchin at the property she and her husband were renting in Hawaii and having asked to speak to her husband, Mark.

According to Marshall, a conversation ensued in which Mrs Hotchin said, “We don’t have to justify where we get our money from or what it is spent on to anyone. I don’t care what anyone says.” These words appeared in quotation marks and not as reported speech in Marshall’s report, indicating that they were the actual words spoken by Mrs Hotchin.

It was primarily on the basis of this quotation that I and others accused the Hotchins of being indifferent to the plight of thousands of Hanover investors, many of them elderly, who had lost their life savings when the company went under.

In her email to me, Mrs Hotchin claimed that she cared greatly about what happened to the investors and denied that she had ever spoken these words, or anything like them, to Jonathan Marshall. She continued:

The “quote” is pure fabrication. I have four sworn affidavits from people who were present or nearby when I told the reporter to leave the property. Two of those affidavits are from two Americans working on site at the request of the rental management company (who I do not know personally) who overheard our exchange and confirm I said nothing like what I was “quoted” as saying.   Read the rest of this entry »


The Finest Television Interview Ever Recorded: Melvyn Bragg talks to Dennis Potter


On 15 March 1994 Melvyn Bragg interviewed the playwright and  television dramatist Dennis Potter. The interview was broadcast on the BBC’s Channel Four on April 5. Potter died of cancer two months later on June 7.

Potter smokes throughout the interview, holding the cigarette and lighter between the bunched fingers of his clawed right hand. Like his hero Philip E Marlowe, the mystery writer in perhaps his most celebrated work, The Singing Detective, the playwright had suffered for much of his life from debilitating and painful psoriatic arthropathy, a skin and joint disease which, in its chronic stages, formed lesions and sores over his entire body, partially crippling his hands and feet. He was eventually obliged to write with  the pen tied to his wrist.

Beside his chair in the television studio he has a flask of morphine, which he drinks from at intervals during the conversation to control the pain.

All of this would make the interview remarkable enough. But it is the quality of what is said, of Bragg’s questions and Potters responses, which allows me to call this ‘the finest television interview ever recorded’. Much of a media commentator’s time is given over to criticism in the negative rather than the neutral sense of the word. I thought it appropriate to redress the balance a little by inviting you to watch this small screen gem. The YouTube version is in seven parts, each just under 10 minutes long.

If you’re unfamiliar with Potter’s work, Wikipedia or YouTube are both  good places to start.



From ‘Ninth Floor Productions’, starring John and Liz and Jessica and Angelina (and Shane), It’s ‘Bedazzled PM’. And it’s HOT!!!!!

This really is a very curious little episode. Let me go through it with you. Feel free to stop me anywhere you think my reasoning is faulty.

The Prime Minister is appearing on Tony Veitch’s Radio Sport breakfast show.  Veitch asks him whether he would like to be Australian cricketer Shane Warne.

Mr Key replies: ‘Yeah, well given his current liaisons with Liz Hurley.’

He adds: ‘I like Liz Hurley. I reckon she is hot.’

I’ve been wondering how I would have answered that question. It’s difficult because I think Shane Warne is a total sleazebag. But, for the purposes of the exercise,  I’ll pretend that I’m a fan.  Read the rest of this entry »


And the award goes to….. Award Shows!

I just love award shows – BAFTAs, Emmys, Oscars, Golden Globes, SAGs – it makes no difference. After 10 minutes a yawning Judy has declared she can’t take any more of this sick-making rubbish and is off to bed. Me, I’m still there at 1am, waiting for the biggie. Drum roll and trumpets please! And the winner is…

Of course I already know who the winner is, because there was no spoiler alert either on TV1 or TV3 News and Judy wasn’t fast enough to the mute button on the MySky remote – another good reason why women should be banned from ‘remote control’ without first passing a driving test.

I hear the newsreader saying: ‘A clean sweep for The King’s English at this year’s SAG Awards with the movie taking the prize for best picture and Colin Firth carrying off the award for best actor.’  Grrrrrrr!

Still, it doesn’t really make any difference. Finding out who wins isn’t the point of the exercise. My four or five hours glued to the box constitute anthropological research – the science of human social and cultural behaviour and its development – at the highest level. This is the human zoo in action: how will the presenters, the winners and losers behave? Will they be better than the presenters, winners and losers last year? Can we find evidence of evolution at the Emmys, of original thought at the Oscars, of genome growth at the Golden Globes? Or did God, as many of them believe, create the actor in His own image – perfect, immutable, not capable of improvement?  Read the rest of this entry »