Brian Edwards Media

Political Interference in Radio New Zealand: It won’t do, Mr Brownlee; It won’t do, Mr Cavanagh.

stuff.co.nz

Good heavens, the idea that Cabinet Ministers could ring up the Director General  of the NZBC, as it then was, and throw their weight around, was already pretty well gone when I was an interviewer on the current affairs show Gallery in the late sixties and early seventies. If the Minister of Broadcasting himself wanted to issue a direction to the Corporation, he had to table the fact in Parliament. And it happened rarely.

One might have thought that 43 years later, the notion that it was OK for government ministers to interfere in the editorial affairs of public radio or television would be considered laughable. But apparently not.

Gerry Brownlee evidently  thought that his status as a Cabinet Minister entitled him to ring up Radio New Zealand and demand a right of reply to comments made on Jim Mora’s Afternoons programme some weeks ago by Christchurch MP Lianne Dalziel. The topic under discussion was of course the Government’s handling of the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes and Dalziel was predictably unimpressed. Brownlee is the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister and seems to have considered that his portfolio gave him the right to demand an instant right of reply on the programme.

The production team disagreed. As a regular contributor on the show, I can tell you that Afternoons is a tightly scheduled programme. It isn’t easy to slot in an additional item. More importantly, Afternoons would almost certainly have been  conscious of the significance of acceding to what amounted to a demand from a Government minister for immediate air time during a live broadcast. Brownlee was told that the programme could not fit him in. 

Two disgraceful things then happened. First, Brownlee contacted the Radio New Zealand CEO, Peter Cavanagh, with his demand for air time. There is no way to regard that as other than an appalling example of political interference in the editorial decision-making of a current affairs programme on public radio.

Next, Cavanagh acceded to Brownlee’s demand and instructed the programme’s producers to put the Minister on the air. According to media writer John Drinnan in this morning’s Business Herald, Brownlee was on for about 6 minutes. I have to go back to the sixties to recall such an egregious example of gutlessness on the part of a public radio or television executive.

Brownlee had absolutely no right under broadcasting legislation to demand an instant reply to statements made by Dalziel on Afternoons, whether those statements were correct or not. The Act does not require balance within each episode of a radio or television programme, but over a reasonable period of time. Provided Afternoons’ coverage of the earthquake recovery programme did not show an ongoing bias against the Minister’s or CERA’s performance, he was not entitled to demand a right of reply and certainly not an instant right of reply on a live programme.

If, on the other hand, he felt  he could demonstrate a bias on the part of Afternoons against him or CERA, he had the same right as any other citizen to complain to Radio New Zealand and, failing a satisfactory reply, to make a formal complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

If I seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill here, it must be understood that these events go to the very heart of broadcasting’s absolute right to be free from political interference in matters of programming and editorial control, particularly in the field of news and current affairs.  In bullying Radio New Zealand into putting him on air, Brownlee behaved disgracefully. No less disgraceful in my submission was Cavanagh’s allowing him to get away with it.  If we are to protect public radio from the machinations of a government that quite clearly would prefer that it did not exist, we really need CEOs who are made of sterner stuff.

[I first read about these events in Drinnan’s column in this morning’s Herald. I’m told they were discussed recently on Mediawatch and that others have blogged on the topic. The issues remain the same.]

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62 Comments:

  1. Are you sure this is a breaking story ? The essence of this story was covered on Mediawatch on National Radio a few days after the event. Karl du Fresne blogged all about it here on February 20th;

    http://www.karldufresne.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/brownlee-goes-to-man-at-top.html

    BE: Well no, I’m not absolutely sure. I’m not a great follower of blogs myself and I missed that particular Mediawatch. I’ll have a look and decide whether I need to amend the post accordingly. That said, another voice indicating that this is not an acceptable situation, may not be a bad thing.

  2. Excellent post, Brian. Except for the apostrophe abuse in the penultimate line of the penultimate paragraph. CEOs, please.

    BE: What apostrophe? Where? I suppose you’re going to say that I took it out after reading your comment. But can you prove it?

  3. Thank you Brian, another good blog. It was also reported on Radio NZ’s media watch on Feb 19 http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/mediawatch. This didn’t seem to generate the story any other media coverage however so perhaps you’re and John Drinnan’s efforts will get it the attention it deserves.

  4. Fair enough. If you choose to amend the post, feel free to delete my original comment (and this one) with my blessing, if you want to.

    BE: Thanks, but better to fess up. And I appreciated finding out. Anyway, the more people who know about this, the better. Cheers. Brian

  5. LOL! Nice save, Brian ;o)

  6. This is such an important subject and a much neglected one in this country. Radio New Zealand is the last and only disseminater of independent news and current affairs remaining in NZ, or so I thought. This means little to a small minded political thug like Brownlee. Once confidence in the independence of RNZ is undermined it will be very difficult to retrieve. Perhaps Brownlee sees that as a bonus. What with the Tory attack on the BBC World Service radio all options for reliable news reporting in the future seem far from assured.

  7. Brian, agree with you 100%. In recent weeks we have had Fair Go staff being told to “consider advertisers” and now a Minister throwing his weight around (he does have
    considerable weight) and a producer caving in. Bad signs for editorial independence, in my view.

    BE: Worse, John, it was a CEO caving in.

  8. Wonder if the right of reply could be used in the Brownlee style except in the opposite direction. A Minister makes a misleading statement. The Leader of the Opposition phones in and says, “Oi!….”
    Goose and gander sort of thing?

    BE: Now there’s a thought. In the meantime, the mechanisms for politicians to complain about programmes are available to them, as they are to all of us. You will remember that when Helen Clark was unhappy with Campbell over ‘Corngate’ she took a complaint to the BSA. I didn’t think it was a great idea to do so, but at least it was proper and above board.

  9. When you are cash strapped and dependent on the largesse of a National Government you cannot afford to upset an illiterate (and vindictive) ex woodwork teacher.

    I feel for Cavanagh being put in that position. the wrong decision could have cost a couple of million dollars in funding.

    BE: I’m inclined to doubt that even this government would have been that crass. And I don’t feel sorry for Cavanagh. If he takes the bucks to do the job, he should do the job.

  10. Poor Jim .

    BE: Not sure what you intend to convey by that, pjr. Jim of course can’t say anything about this, which is a pity.

  11. Is there no legislation to *prevent* this sort of activity? How difficult could life have been made for the broadcaster if they’d ultimately said “No”?

    Surely a media outlet couldn’t be Muldooned in the current environment?

  12. But that is the way this government operates. Phone calls here and there to selected people, putting pressure on, making demands. Nothing on paper where possible because that is discoverable under the OIA.
    Also these Ministers only front up to the media when it suits them. The rest of the time, they duck for cover. Their arrogance and bullying is unbelievable.

  13. Have you seen the latest Clarke and Dawe? Seems familiar.

    http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2012/s3448734.htm
    Clarke and Dawe host Clive Palmer, businessman, mining magnate and part-time critic, and chat about how the elected government could end up running the whole country.

  14. 14

    Brownlee had the same right as anyone else to demand an instant right of reply. And RNZ executives had the same right to decide whether or not to grant it.

    Storm in a teacup, no? Or is it somehow compulsory for RNZ to say no?

    BE: If I could make any sense of this I’d respond. Your argument seems to be: Anyone can do anything. You then equate that with having a right to do anything. Sheer nonsense.

  15. E-mailed this to a large no of people tonight:

    “I have a very rapidly growing concern about where this country is heading.

    More and more I see evidence that we are relentlessly heading towards a totalitarian state. Am I scared? Yes I am.

    I make no apology for wanting to share my concern with all. That is no matter what your own personal feelings may be.

    If you don’t agree with me then I hope you will at least do yourself the favour of investigaing with some intellectual rigour my contention.

    Don Wood

    http://brianedwardsmedia.co.nz/2012/03/political-interference-in-radio-new-zealand-it-wont-do-mr-brownlee-it-wont-do-mr-cavanagh/

  16. 16

    Thanks for pointing this out Brian.
    It goes along with sacking union members to rehire under agencies – no doubt non-unionists will be preferred. It goes along with enormous salary increases for a few and pathetic dribbles for most. It goes along with forcing schools to comply with ‘national’ standards and withdrawing vital funds from other support areas to do so. It also goes along with Asset Sales which most citizens are adamently opposed to. The common thread is disempowerment of the many by the few and an over weaning arrogance and conviction that they can get away with it – and so far they have!

  17. Perhaps Gerry listened to FIona Farrell reading her poem titled ‘Panegyric’ from her recently published ‘The Broken Book’ (http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.co.nz/2011/10/broken-book-by-fiona-farrell_12.html ) on Radio NZ … and he felt empowered by the gravitas of his public persona?

    PANEGYRIC
    He’s the Minister of Earthquakes
    and Tectonic Upheaval.
    His portfolio is Forces
    Chthlonic and Primeval.

    The hills bow down,
    the oceans kneel
    before his mighty rod.
    Panjandrum. Plenipotentate.
    And next in line to God.

    (From pages 171/172 in the book)

    BE: Lovely!

  18. The craven indolent quislings of the Gallery annointed their buddy, Big Bully Brownlee, the ‘politician of the year’. Seems they like what he and his mates do to them? Treat ‘em mean and keep ‘em keen, eh? Imagine the howls from the doyens of the Gallery had a Labour minister made such a call. But not a peep. Silence.

  19. Allowing the jackbooted oaf Gerry Brownlee to kick down doors to appear on the extremely polite ,mild mannered ,affable, Jim Mora’s show is an affront to the man himself(Jim).A law should be made to ensure that the oaf ,Brownlee, has to keep his jackboots in the closet.

  20. How typical of the left to display the intellectual snobbery of their very being in a personal attack on a fine Minister. Somehow, in leftist sneer- talk, being a former woodwork teacher is a disgrace?
    I wonder if Ben’s cloth cap is at the back of the cupboard behind his elitist trencher.

    BE: I’m no keen on this sort of abuse either. But I think you’ll find that it originated not with the Left but with Winston Peters.

  21. Thanks for posting this Brian, I had also missed the earlier commentary on it.

    As for Alan Wilkinson’s comment, I think I can, with effort, discern his point here.

    Brownlee had the same right as anyone else to demand an instant right of reply. And RNZ executives had the same right to decide whether or not to grant it.

    No, the show’s producers have a right to decide whether they will accede to such a request (to grant an instant right of reply during their broadcast), but the executives should not be getting involved directly in the operation of an individual broadcast, and a Government Minister should never be contacting a public organisation’s CEO to demand special treatment.

    It’s one thing for Brownlee to contact the show’s producers, which a lot of other people could have done in a similar situation. But to then call the CEO was completely inappropriate.

    Most people cannot call the CEO in such a situation, and even if they managed to they wouldn’t get anywhere. The CEO would say it’s an operational matter and that there are avenues for complaint if the person felt they had been treated unfairly. That’s exactly what Cavanagh should have done here.

  22. Pepe
    Its his actions which are attacked.I didnt notice any derogatory context to his being an ex woodwork teacher,although his literacy should not be in question.Brownlee’s actions are most definitely disgraceful.

  23. This may be appear to be a case of heavy handed political interference. On the other hand the Christchurch earthquake and recovery program is very much an ongoing situation. There has been a considerable loss of confidence amongst people in the region, and derogatory discussion about how it has been, or is being handled, only exacerbates an already serious ongoing problem. Brownlie obviously felt an immediate response was required. By the time a BSA complaint had been processed the horse would have well and truly bolted. Wouldn’t it have been more balanced, if Mora was going to introduce a political slant on a sensitive recovery situation, for Brownlie or substitute to be invited?

    BE: As I indicated, balance does not have to be achieved within a single programme. Had Brownlee got his people to ring Afternoons and suggest that they might like to invite the Minister to respond to what Dalziel had said, I’m sure he would have been accommodated. What’s wrong here is a Cabinet Minister using his influence to persuade the CEO of Radio New Zealand to instruct the producers of a programme to put him on air, and the willingness of that CEO to accept that instruction

  24. 24

    Steve: “the executives should not be getting involved directly in the operation of an individual broadcast”

    Don’t be silly. You would castigate the likes of Doug Graham for signing off subordinate’s documentation without proper scrutiny but now say the RNZ CEO should not keep an eye on the balance of programmes his company is putting to air?

    “A Government Minister should never be contacting a public organisation’s CEO to demand special treatment.”

    Where is the evidence he demanded special treatment? He didn’t ask that no-one else be given the right of reply he wanted.

    “Most people cannot call the CEO in such a situation.”

    Of course they can. It is common to go to the top of an organisation if you want things fixed. How the CEO handles it or delegates it is up to him/her. And how an organisation handles complaints is its own business and varies widely which is another good reason to start at the top. Media people are rather too precious, methinks.

  25. 25

    BE: “You then equate that with having a right to do anything. Sheer nonsense.”

    Yep, that certainly was nonsense.

    Anyone can complain in anyway they choose and propose any remedy they choose. Which Brownlee did.

    Likewise RNZ can choose to handle complaints and remedies in any way they deem appropriate. Which they did.

    Was Brownlee’s complaint and remedy handled appropriately? I don’t know. I don’t know what Dalzell said that upset him. I don’t know how the RNZ CEO interacted with Mora and his producers. I don’t know what Brownlee said when he did get on air.

    I just know that the Lefties got their knickers in a twist because Brownlee complained to the CEO and then got to reply on air. Pardon me if I find that more amusing than horrific.

    BE: “I just know that the Lefties got their knickers in a twist because Brownlee complained to the CEO and then got to reply on air. Pardon me if I find that more amusing than horrific.” “Lefties?” It’s so easy to dismiss people’s views and concerns by branding them as something you’re opposed to. As a broadcaster with half a century’s experience this has nothing whatsoever to do with being Left or Right. It has to do with abuse of power. Cabinet Ministers should not be using their positions to coerce public broadcasters. You probably can’t understand that the independence of the media from political interference is important and not a matter for ‘amusement’.

  26. Lemme see if I have this right…

    Dalziell was able to criticise the government without contradiction or discussion — or would have been free to, had a “concerned listener” (Brownlee) not called in.

    Oh, that’s all right then.

    BE: No, still not quite right. But we’ll be patient and try again, shall we? Not all the boys and girls move at the same pace. Now Mr Brownlee, who is a Minister of the Crown, gets to be on television pretty well every night telling us what he’s doing to help all the poor people in Christchurch whose lives have been devastated by the earthquakes. And sometimes we see Ms. Dalziel whose constituents those people are. We see a lot more of Mr Brownlee than Ms Dalziel because he’s the Minister. But we don’t see Ms. Dalziel every time we see Mr Brownlee express an opinion because that would be silly. And anyway we have TV journalists to challenge Mr Brownlee on what he’s said.

    Now on this occasion Ms Dalziel was having her say on the radio. And there was a journalist there to question her. And Mr Brownlee, who gets far more air time than her, still wasn’t happy and huffed and puffed until he was allowed to answer back, which he really isn’t supposed to to under the rules about the right of public broadcasters to be free from political interference.

    And did I mention that balance doesn’t have to occur within each individual programme but over a reasonable period. I was sure that I did.

    Now I really do hope that’s helped, Wake Up. Are you awake, Wake Up? Wake up!

  27. 27

    “You probably can’t understand that the independence of the media from political interference is important.”

    Don’t be so silly. Asking for a right of reply is not political interference. The proper remedy for misinformation is more information. Political interference would be censoring opposition or making threats to get what you want. There is no indication either happened is there?

    BE: he wasn’t asking for a right of reply, he was demanding to be put on air there and then and using his position as a Minister of the Crown to bully the RNZ CEO into instructing the producer of the programme to put him on air.

  28. 28

    I’m completely impervious to your “rhetoric”, Brian. It simply shows weakness.

    What is the evidence he bullied the RNZ CEO?

  29. Karl de Fresne, well known lefty.

  30. At the risk of being branded a total idiot, I too would like to know the evidence for claiming the the CEO of RNZ was bullied. Do you have access to a transcript of their converstation?

    fow al we know Mr B may have made a very polite request to the CEO who saw the justice of Mr B’s plea.

    It seems that the only evidence we have of ‘demands’ or bullying is in third party reports; hardly admissable evidence.

    I have no time for Brownlee but in the interests of justice I would like Alan’s question to be answered.

    BE: “fow al we know Mr B may have made a very polite request to the CEO who saw the justice of Mr B’s plea.” It’s of little consequence how polite Brownlee’s request was. The producer of the programme had already made it clear he didn’t want him on that particular programme. Brownlee was effectively asking the CEO to override the producer’s decision, which he did. For a Cabinet Minister! In terms of public broadcasting’s independence from political interference that is, at the very least, a really bad look. I’m astonished at the near total ignorance shown in many of these comments of the basic principle that the media, and in particular Radio New Zealand, which is funded entirely by the government and is therefore particularly vulnerable, should be totally free from political interference and nowhere more so than in the areas of news and current affairs. When cabinet ministers start demanding (and getting) air time on public radio or television, the very notion of truly objective, balanced and independent news and current affairs broadcasting will be gone.

  31. 31

    Steve, good comment! Touche.

  32. 32

    Karl du Fresne: “What wasn’t clear from Peacock’s account was whether Brownlee, frustrated after failing to get through to Mora’s production team, leaned on Cavanagh to intervene, or whether the minister’s staff simply explained their predicament to the RNZ switchboard operator, who then offered to connect them to Cavanagh. If it were the former, it has unsavoury echoes of the days (mercifully long gone) when cabinet ministers considered it their God-given right to heavy state-owned broadcasters; if the latter, then the explanation may be perfectly innocent.”

    So I take back my compliment, Steve. du Fresne did not have his knickers in a twist. Only the Lefties do.

  33. Who are these people who persist in voting for Brownlee and Co.?

  34. 34

    Nor did Drinnan have his knickers in a twist:

    “Residual ill-feeling remains on Radio NZ’s Afternoons with Jim Mora show after Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee went over producers’ heads last month to respond to criticism on the show.

    A Christchurch-based Labour MP was having a ping at Cera, the recovery organisation.

    Brownlee took umbrage and called in to respond. But when he rang through, producers said they could not fit him in.

    Undeterred, he called back and ended up talking to chief executive Peter Cavanagh, who told them to put the minister on the air. He was on for about six minutes, I am told.

    My source said Mora was particularly unhappy, but given the subject matter it does not seem to me like a classic case of political interference – and more useful than a couple of PR folk on the panel prattling on.”

    And Drinnan’s right about Mora’s panel quality as well.

  35. “du Fresne did not have his knickers in a twist…”

    It’s a bit of a Schrödinger’s cat-type situation. Karl essentially agrees with Brian’s criticism (i.e. he has his knikers in a twist) IF Brian’s summary of what occurred is basically correct. If the more innocent version is closer to the truth, then he doesn’t. But we’ve been arguing about Brian’s version (that after contact with the minister, the CEO overruled the producers), which is backed up by John Drinnan.

  36. You would castigate the likes of Doug Graham for signing off subordinate’s documentation without proper scrutiny but now say the RNZ CEO should not keep an eye on the balance of programmes his company is putting to air?

    Yes I would castigate someone for signing off a subordinate’s documentation without proper scrutiny, for the obvious reason that they signed something off without the proper scrutiny.

    Now, getting back to what we were actually talking about, keeping an eye on ‘the balance of programmes’ would never require a decision about whether a particular person gets right of reply in a particular show, for the reason Brian has already given.

    Where is the evidence he demanded special treatment? He didn’t ask that no-one else be given the right of reply he wanted.

    The producers advised him they couldn’t fit him on that particular show. Then he, a Government Minister, called the CEO and voilà, he was on the show that day. If you think that the same would have happened for any other Joe Blogs, you’re being naive. And again, he wasn’t asking for the right of reply in general, he was insisting on being included in that very broadcast, which is not a requirement to meet standards of balance.

    “Most people cannot call the CEO in such a situation.”

    Of course they can. It is common to go to the top of an organisation if you want things fixed.

    That’s funny. You’re confusing what people might often want with what actually happens. I’ve worked for two large organisations – one private sector, one public – and both commonly have instances of people wanting to complain to the person at the top if they get an answer they don’t like from their first contact. How often do they actually get put through to the CEO? Pretty much never.

    And how an organisation handles complaints is its own business …

    That’s also obviously incorrect. In particular, how public broadcasters handle complaints is public business.

  37. 37

    Steve, in my view a CEO is entitled to overrule his staff. In fact that is exactly what he is employed to do, not be ruled by them. Of course that requires excellent judgement which is also what he is employed to have.

    So there are two questions. Did Brownlee bully or threaten the CEO? And did the CEO employ proper independence and good judgement in his decision?

    I don’t know the answer to either which is why I decline to get my knickers in a twist. Do you?

  38. How are you coping on the island with the new right left give way road rule Alan? Seems you’re stuck in the middle again with fools to the right and jokers needing to turn left.

  39. 39

    Steve: “keeping an eye on ‘the balance of programmes’ would never require a decision about whether a particular person gets right of reply in a particular show” A bland assertion without foundation. When a CEO believes his company is getting something wrong he should always fix it in the most appropriate manner which may be immediately.

    ” If you think that the same would have happened for any other Joe Blogs, you’re being naive.” Probably unlikely, but another senior official or MP, not so much.

    How often do they actually get put through to the CEO? Pretty much never. If they are a senior business, bureaucrat or political leader? Pretty much always I would expect.

    how public broadcasters handle complaints is public business Rubbish. The outcome might be public. The internal process is not.

  40. 40

    Kat, I think you got your directions mixed up again.

  41. Ben – “When you are cash strapped and dependent on the largesse of a National Government you cannot afford to upset an illiterate (and vindictive) ex woodwork teacher. I feel for Cavanagh being put in that position. the wrong decision could have cost a couple of million dollars in funding.”

    Indeed. This is perhaps an issue that should be addressed by the next incoming Labour-led government. I’m thinking that an independent funding body for Radio NZ (and a revived TVNZ7) could be swet up. Something along the lines of the Remuneration Authority which governs MPs pay and conditions?

    Of course, an incoming National Govt could dismantle such an independent authority – but it certainly wouldn’t be a “good look”.

    Alan Wilkinson – too many of your posts here to reply to (what are you doing away from stuff.co.nz’s posting boards?). But suffice it to say that National needs all the apologists it can currently muster. So you have your work cut out for you.

    As for your statement, “Anyone can complain in anyway they choose and propose any remedy they choose. Which Brownlee did.”

    No, Brownlee did more than complain – he demanded an immediate remedy, and used his ministerial position to achieve it. None of us mere mortals have the same right for instant remedy, do we?

    But never mind, Alan. I’ll hang on to your comment for future reference. Should a Labour minister ever abuse his/her power in a similar fashion; and you raise objections; I’ll just take the liberty of re-posting,

    “Anyone can complain in anyway they choose and propose any remedy they choose. Which Minister ‘X’ did.” (Saves a lot of time if we just C&P and recycle each others’ justifications for ministerial mis-behaviour.)

    As you were.

  42. 42

    BE: With every comment you write, Alan, you make it easier for readers to answer my rhetorical question.

    With every comment you write, Brian, you make it more obvious you can’t answer my actual questions so resort to silly personal attacks – in my experience so often the first resort of the Left.

    Did Brownlee threaten RNZ? Did the CEO make the correct call? I don’t know, do you? Do you even know what was the issue that Brownlee wanted to clarify or correct?

    BE: Here’s what I’m going to do, Alan. I’m going to go back and delete all my unkind personal references to you. Because you have a point – they’re inappropriate and unhelpful. Put it down to frustration and lack of patience. I pride myself that I’m pretty good at explaining and I have utterly failed to explain to you why Gerry Brownlee should not have demanded air time on a live broadcast of Afternoons, a public radio programme, why he should not have taken his demand to the CEO when the programme’s producers had turned him down, and why the CEO should not have yielded to this political pressure. The long-standing principles of broadcasters’ independence from political interference seem to escape you. The validity of your argument escapes me. Let’s agree to differ and leave it like that. And while we’re being so understanding, perhaps you could stop lumping me in with ‘Lefties’. It’s rather insulting since I have a mind of my own.

  43. “keeping an eye on ‘the balance of programmes’ would never require a decision about whether a particular person gets right of reply in a particular show”

    A bland assertion without foundation.

    Other than the multiple occasions that that foundation has been pointed out. Come on man, help me to help you be taken seriously.

    ”How often do they actually get put through to the CEO? Pretty much never.”

    If they are a senior business, bureaucrat or political leader? Pretty much always I would expect.

    Oookay. So your answer to my point that most people cannot call the CEO in such a situation is to admit that most people cannot call the CEO in such a situation. Glad we’ve cleared that up.

    ”how public broadcasters handle complaints is public business”

    Rubbish. The outcome might be public. The internal process is not.

    Yes, it is. Try Google.

  44. Hes making Putin look like a sunday school teacher!

    Personally the way things are going in this country id rather be answering to Vlad Putin then this national government….who seem hell bent on trashing NZ before being biffed out to some directorship of some company set up to rip off the good people of NZ ie Finance companies…

  45. Im sure “Lefties” have a mind of their own also .

    BE: My point was that I don’t want to be treated as a category, not that people on the political Left don’t have minds of their own. I would have thought that was a view I was unlikely to hold.

  46. 46

    Steve, I once worked as an expert witness for RNZ in a major contract dispute. At the time RNZ employed three in-house lawyers as well as a top external QC for the case. How RNZ handles complaints internally and which staff are assigned is entirely its own business so long as it complies with relevant legislation.

    Your “point” comparing Brownlee to Joe Bloggs is irrelevant. Joe Bloggs is not responsible for a Government department handling hundreds of thousands of distressed people in damaged homes. It was entirely appropriate for the RUNZ CEO to take Brownlee’s call. As far as I know from the “evidence”, sketchy as it is, Mora’s producer may even have referred him up to the CEO for a decision when he was not satisfied.

    Your assertion that an immediate response is never required is just indefensible. If something incorrect is going to mislead and possibly distress many thousands of people an immediate correction would be justified. Whether this was the case no evidence has been presented.

    There is no foundation for your assertion. I can only presume you claim otherwise on the basis of BSA rulings. However these are a minimum standard of public responsibility that a wise corporate leader will exceed when appropriate. Read Drinnan’s last sentence again.

  47. 47

    BE: Here’s what I’m going to do, Alan. I’m going to go back and delete all my unkind personal references to you.

    Thanks. I’m sure we can debate in a civilised way. And, no, despite succumbing to winding you up a bit I don’t consider you a blinkered Lefty – or myself a blinkered “Righty”. I am sure we are both more complex and intelligent than that.

    I absolutely believe in media freedom. However I don’t believe that entails a requirement that a public broadcaster is never to accede to a Minister’s request to clarify something immediately on behalf of his department. Nor that the producer is always the sole and final arbiter of what goes into a programme. So on those matters apparently we differ.

  48. 48

    Frank, I’ll make it easy for you. No need to read all my comments. Just answer these with supporting evidence:

    What was the issue that Brownlee wanted to clarify or correct?
    Did Brownlee threaten RNZ?
    Did the CEO make the correct call?

    And be assured, when a Labour Minister is accused of similar interference I will also ask to see the evidence before rushing to judgement, keen as the Collective may be to haul the accused off to the guillotine.

  49. Just a pity that our Prime Minister isn’t as keen to front up on National Radio as is the Minister of CERA.

  50. What is interesting in this issue is the reaction of Brownlee to the Jim Mora item. Was he sitting in his office listening to Lianne Dalziel or did one of his staffers come running to him suggesting he should contact Jim Mora for a right of reply immediately. His reaction appears irrational at best and abusive and bullying at worst. This incident does reflect the growing unease of the growth of absolute power being exerted by this executive. The union movement is certainly taking a hammering, after this incident the independence of Radio New Zealand/TVNZ is now in question. This is the thin edge of the wedge. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  51. 51

    “His reaction appears irrational at best”

    So you know what he was reacting to? Please tell us. No-one else has.

  52. Hey.

    Gerry can do what he wants. Eg recruitment of jenny shiplee
    Without following the govts own strict recruitment guild lines.
    Hey, wait till the govt uses the red cross money for a stadium.

  53. AW says ‘I am sure we are both more complex and intelligent than that.’

    Unfortunately the evidence so far provided persuades any reasonable reader of exactly the opposite as far as this particular ‘expert witness’ (a vague-well-after-the-fact claim to privileged authority?) is concerned.

  54. 54

    Galeandra, you offer just another sad example of the Left’s immediate resort to personal attacks having no content to contribute.

    Do you not feel embarrassed about that?

    And I mentioned my experience only to show some of the complexity of the complaint handling structures, resources and processes internal to an organisation like RNZ since it was claimed that they are the public’s business. They are not.

  55. Alan, you said how an organisation handles complaints is its own business, and that only the outcome “might be public”. That’s wrong. The process has to be open and transparent – that’s legislatively required. Arguably, how a private company handles complaints is entirely its own business, but not so public organisations.

    Your “point” comparing Brownlee to Joe Bloggs is irrelevant.

    And yet, you felt the need to completely deny it in the first instance. But it’s good to see you now accept that the minister was treated differently than the average person. I take it there’ll be no more demands of evidence of special treatment, as you now state openly that that is what you expect him to receive.

    It was entirely appropriate for the RUNZ CEO to take Brownlee’s call.

    I’m not saying it was inappropriate for him to take the call. I’m saying Brownlee shouldn’t have tried to make the call, and that, given he did, Cavanagh shouldn’t have put any pressure on his producers to change their decision.

    Your assertion that an immediate response is never required is just indefensible.

    It is not required by law, that’s just a fact. An immediate response may sometimes be appropriate, but whether it is in any given case is for the producers and journalists involved in the particular production to decide.

    It’s certainly not appropriate for a government minister to get himself an immediate right of reply that he otherwise wouldn’t have received. That is, by definition, government interference in the journalistic judgment of public media.

  56. ‘…the Left’s immediate resort to personal attacks…”

    Yeah, and it’s so unfair. I mean, the right never resorts to personal attacks.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/northwestvoices/2017712270_rushlimbaughsshow.html

  57. 57

    Steve, I don’t watch US shows. I’m sure there are incoherent nutcases on the Right even here. I just meet more on the Left.

    Please cite the legislation that determines how the internal handling of complaints has to be managed.

    Anyone can complain to a CEO, not necessarily by phone, but it is quite normal to ask to speak to a more senior manager if you are not getting satisfaction. There was nothing wrong with Brownlee either being passed up to the CEO or asking to speak to the CEO – I don’t actually know which happened.

    As for your claim the producers and journalists have sole authority and final call – tosh. The buck always stops with the CEO and he calls the shots when he needs to.

    It’s certainly not appropriate for a government minister to get himself an immediate right of reply that he otherwise wouldn’t have received. That is, by definition, government interference in the journalistic judgment of public media.

    Only if the CEO was coerced not persuaded. I await such evidence.

  58. @Alan, on his island.

    “I’m sure there are incoherent nutcases on the Right even here. I just meet more on the Left.”

    Dear Alan, we all like a good rave, now and then, but you are in a hole and still digging. Are you and Kimbo related?

  59. 59

    Kat, now you have not only your directions confused but our location, activities and my relations. Completely incoherent, sadly.

  60. I’m sure there are incoherent nutcases on the Right even here. I just meet more on the Left.

    Aw, precious.

    Please cite the legislation that determines how the internal handling of complaints has to be managed.

    Why? I didn’t say that the way a complaint is “managed” is specified in legislation. I said that, contra to you, the complaints process of a public organisation is not purely its own business.

    Anyone can complain to a CEO, not necessarily by phone, but it is quite normal to ask to speak to a more senior manager if you are not getting satisfaction.

    Yes, I’ve covered that already. And we’re in agreement: how you or I or Joe Bloggs would be treated in regards to complaining to the CEO is different from how Brownlee, a minister for the crown, was treated in this case. QED.

    Only if the CEO was coerced not persuaded. I await such evidence.

    If he got to have a reply that he otherwise would not have been given, it is by definition government interference.

  61. “Completely incoherent, sadly.”

    Alan, you have summed yourself up precisely, and thats why I suggest you quit digging before you end up drowning in the deepest long drop in the BOI.

  62. 62

    Steve, you are just quibbling everywhere.

    RNZ is entitled to handle its complaints process however it wishes subject to compliance with requirements to deliver responses and outputs prescribed by the BSA. That means complaints can go to the CEO, to lawyers, to producers or any other staff to make decisions as the RNZ wishes. As I said.

    How Brownlee was treated was appropriate for his status as a responsible Minister. The CEO took his complaint and RNZ made a decision in the manner it chose and was entitled to choose.

    Your last sentence is entirely fatuous. If he didn’t want and ask to get a reply of course he wouldn’t have been given a reply. Do you suppose every politician and bureaucrat who wants media coverage waits quietly in his room until some journalist thinks to ask him out? And that the alternative is “Government interference”? Ludicrous.

    Kat: nope, I’ll just ignore your nonsense. But are you ok?