I haven’t been blogging for the past ten days or so because I fractured a bone in my left hand and can’t type. It still hurts like hell but I’ve been drawn out of this enforced temporary retirement by my irritation over the attempts by the Right, led by National Party clown Tau Henare and assorted hangers-on in the blogosphere, to make political capital out of two questions put to Education Minister Hekia Parata by my colleague on The Nation, Rachel Smalley.
I need to start by making one thing perfectly clear: I have not spoken to Smalley about this, nor have I informed TV3 Head of News and Current Affairs, Mark Jennings, or The Nation’s producer, Richard Harman, of my intention to blog about the rights and wrongs of this issue.
I watched the Parata interview in the ‘green room’ at TV3 as it was being recorded and was hugely impressed by the Minister’s performance. When she returned to the green room to collect her belongings I said to her, “That was absolutely brilliant”. She smiled, thanked me and showed absolutely no sign of having been upset by Rachel’s question-line.
I had a similar conversation in the green room today with Judith Collins, who’d also faced some tough questioning from Rachel. “You are,” I said, “the consummate performer.” Read the rest of this entry »
In May 1970 I was interviewed by a Truth reporter called Martin Smith. The conversation revolved around my interviewing on the top-rating current affairs programme Gallery.
Smith’s story duly appeared on the front page of Truth and began as follows:
TV personality Brian Edwards admits he has a political bias.
There was ‘no interviewer around’ who did not have a political bias, he told Truth.
‘Like the viewers, we are only human beings,’ he said.
And he has allowed this bias to colour some of his interviews, he told Truth.
Next to the story was a photograph of me with the caption ‘Brian Edwards… political bias’
Rob Muldoon once said to me that he was often misquoted in the media and invariably complained. ‘There are some things I just know I could not possibly have said.’
I knew I could not possibly have said I was politically biased and had allowed this bias to colour my interviews. It was not merely entirely untrue but would have been professionally suicidal. What I had said was that I had political opinions, as every interviewer did.
Within 24 hours I had received a letter from the Deputy Director-General of the NZBC, Lionel Sceats, making it abundantly clear that, if the story were true, my contract with the Corporation would be terminated. I had no alternative but to sue Truth for defamation. Read the rest of this entry »
‘Absolutely heroic!’ That was Brad Pitt’s description of his wife Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy and subsequently to tell the world about it. I thought the description entirely apt. No one, least of all one of the world’s most famous and glamorous movie stars, makes a decision like that lightly. And it is hard to imagine any woman deciding on such a drastic course of action without compelling cause.
That cause, in Jolie’s case, was that she had been diagnosed with the faulty BRCA1 gene, a common predictor of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Her doctor put the risk of her developing breast cancer at 87 percent and of ovarian cancer at 50 percent. The assessment was in part based on hereditary factors. After a decade-long battle with cancer, her mother had succumbed to the disease at 56. Jolie is 37.
Last Wednesday the Herald republished a Telegraph Group story in which Jolie told of her reasons for having the double mastectomy, described the process in detail and explained her reasons for going public:
‘I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have the mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.
‘On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.’ Read the rest of this entry »
Rod Emmerson’s cartoon in The Weekend Herald 11/5/13
[After Question Time in the House today (Tuesday) , Aaron Gilmore made a considered speech, in which he expressed regret for the events which had ultimately led to his resignation from Parliament. He apologised to the Prime Minister, his colleagues in the House and the National Party at large for any embarrassment his conduct had caused. His words were without rancour, accusation or blame. They were greeted with applause from all members. It was, in my view, a dignified exit.]
It’s possible that only the Germans, whose language is full of nouns composed of (sometimes several) other nouns joined together, could have invented the term ‘Schadenfreude’. Schaden means harm and Freude means happiness or joy. So the two joined together can be roughly translated as ‘joy at other people’s misfortunes’.
There was, it seems to me, a significant degree of Schadenfreude in the nation’s response to the downfall of Aaron Gilmore. It was combined with the righteous indignation of a populace seemingly without sin and therefore more than willing to cast not just the first stone but a positive volley of stones. The Germans could no doubt produce an exceptionally long word to describe this phenomenon.
Prominent among the righteous were Gilmore’s former friends, colleagues and acquaintances a number of whom, preferring to shun the limelight, took to dobbing him in for a variety of past crimes, real or invented, via the honourable device of the anonymous leak. Read the rest of this entry »
A dominant theme will run through all the obituaries and tributes to Parekura Horomia – that he was a lovely man. It will be unnecessary to remind anyone who knew him of the injunction not to speak ill of the dead. The thought will simply not occur. He was a lovely man and little more needs to be said.
From time to time the lovely man was delivered by ‘the boss’ into Brian and Judy’s tender care for ‘media training’. Parekura was ‘expansive’ when he spoke to journalists or in the House. His expansiveness sometimes got him into trouble and our brief was to encourage him in the view that where journalists and the Opposition were concerned, less really was more.
We decided that our client needed to learn the dark art of starving his questioners of material to use against him by answering as many questions as possible with an undecorated ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. This did not come easily to Parekura who may well have thought it abrupt or rude and whose natural instinct was to convert a word into a sentence, the sentence into a paragraph and the paragraph into a full page. Where answering questions was concerned he was generous to a fault. Read the rest of this entry »
Question: Could a reasonable person or a decent human being have voted against the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill?
Tom Scott’s cartoon would seem to suggest that only dinosaurs – ancient, stupid and rather ugly creatures – could have charged mindlessly in where angels feared to tread.
The cartoon interested me because it reflected the Janus-like quality of so much liberal thinking: permissive of almost everything except contrary points of view.
So let’s look as some specific areas.
The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, as its title so unambiguously stated, was a bill to change the legal definition of marriage. Could a reasonable person, a decent human being find cause to object to that?
I would have thought so. Changing the legal definitions of words is always a serious business and no more serious than when those definitions refer to longstanding human institutions and are enshrined in a multitude of laws, contracts and traditions.
You don’t have to be a dinosaur to say, ‘When you change the meaning of a word, you simultaneously change the reality to which that word refers, a reality which in this particular case has existed for thousands of years in myriad cultures.’
You’ll note that I’m not saying that opposition to the legislation is right. What I’m saying is that it expresses the natural discomfort that an entirely reasonable person, a decent human being, could be expected to feel when they are required to redefine not merely a common word but their lifelong and previously unambiguous understanding of the meaning of that word. I’m saying that it is understandable. Read the rest of this entry »
Referring to John Key’s current dissatisfaction with the ‘knuckleheads’ of the Fourth Estate, a prominent journalist, who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty, observed to me recently, ‘No Prime Minister who ever attacked the media got re-elected.’ He was evidently out of the country during both Rob Muldoon’s and Helen Clark’s three terms, but his remark was less than flattering to the members of his own profession. Journalists, it seems, will revenge themselves on politicians who criticise them, in the process abandoning their duty to report objectively and dispassionately.
Key’s response to media attacks on his credibility, and to the Press Gallery’s dealings with him during ‘stand-ups’ in the corridors of Parliament, has been to suggest that he’ll either abandon the stand-ups altogether or at least greatly reduce the number of questions he will take.
I would suggest the former. It makes absolutely no sense to throw yourself into a pit of hungry bears who have been practising tag-team mauling while they waited for your arrival. It would be hard to think of a more uncontrolled, uncontrollable or dangerous arena. Read the rest of this entry »
[Update: Susan Wood was admirably restrained in her interviews on Q & A a week after this post appeared.]
In the check-out line at Victoria Park New World this morning I bumped into my regular co-panellist on the media review segment of TV3’s The Nation, Bill Ralston. After comparing notes about why men enjoy supermarket shopping and women generally don’t, Bill asked me if I’d watched Q & A which follows the Sunday edition of The Nation on TV1 and is, I suppose, our competitor. No, I hadn’t watched it, but I’d be looking at it later on MySky. Bill thought I shouldn’t miss it. Susan Wood was ‘terrific’, she’d demolished David Shearer and given much the same treatment to National’s Nikki Kaye.
By coincidence, Bill and I had earlier been talking on The Nation to freelance journalist Karl Du Fresne who’d penned an article entitled ‘RNZ must right its lean to the left.’ Karl’s position was that there was strong evidence of endemic left wing bias by Radio New Zealand interviewers and he cited Kim Hill, Kathryn Ryan and Mary Wilson as examples.
I don’t agree with Karl’s thesis any more than I agreed with those who claimed right-wing bias on the part of the media when Helen Clark was running the country. Journalists have, in my view, an obligation to call to account whichever political party or coalition holds the reins of power, to be, if you like, an informal opposition.
Anyway, when I got home, I watched Susan Wood interviewing David Shearer and Nikki Kaye.
Once upon a time the term ‘current affairs’ had an unambiguous meaning. Current affairs programmes were essentially programmes about politics or issues with a strong political content. On shows like Compass and Gallery we talked to and about politicians and political issues. Compass was documentary in style, film rather than studio, not unlike TV1’s Sunday programme today; Gallery, on which I made my name as a ‘fearless interrogator’ of those in power – a novel concept in those days – had both studio and location items, but the live studio interview, primarily with politicians, was the programme’s trademark feature.
If you check out the backgrounds and ages of the people who complain that there are no ‘real current affairs programmes’ on TV anymore – people like me – you’ll probably find that they’re in their sixties or older and that they come from the school of ‘serious’ current affairs, which essentially means long studio interviews with politicians or lengthy studio debates between politicians. Being entertained was relevant to those viewers only insofar as the disembowelling of politicians was entertaining and new. Our early heroes were Robin Day and David Frost; today we bow down before HARDtalk’s Stephen Saccur and… I can’t think of anyone else.
‘Discursive’, a long word for ‘long’, is our preferred description of the sort of interviews we approve of, so that excludes Campbell Live, the late lamented Close Up and pretty well everything else masquerading (our word) as ‘current affairs’ on the telly.
‘Serious’ is our other favourite word which is why Seven Sharp does not and cannot qualify in our philosophy as a current affairs programme. Those people are having far too much fun. Giggling and current affairs are incompatible. Read the rest of this entry »
Over the last couple of weeks Judy and I have received phone calls and an email from Cathy Barker. Cathy is the wife of former Spliz Enz drummer Michael Barker. Cathy and Michael are the parents of teenager Tristan Barker who has become infamous in Australia - where he has just finished school - and beyond for his anarchic and generally offensive rants on Facebook and Twitter.
According to Australian media reports, Tristan has ‘hundreds of thousands’ of teenage fans who hang on his every word. His Twitter page reveals that he currently has just under 15,000 followers, so I suspect his fan numbers may be exaggerated. But that’s still a lot of people and his on-line presence is undoubtedly significant.
Tristan’s methodology, by his own telling, is to slaughter as many sacred cows and offend the sensibilities of as many people as possible in order to make us all think. He is clearly highly intelligent and writes well.
But his outpourings are properly unacceptable, I would have thought, to even the most liberal mind. Here in New Zealand, Netsafe Executive Director Martin Cocker has described Tristan’s actions as ‘inciting of acts of hatred’. Whether that is Tristan’s intention or not, I think Cocker may well be right.
Unsurprisingly, Tristan who is a Kiwi and whose parents live in Rotorua, has attracted the particular attention of the Australian media, most recently for allegedly assaulting Channel Seven’s Today Tonight reporter Dave Eccleston who had travelled to Rotorua to interview him. Eccleston required medical treatment. Tristan appeared in Rotorua District Court this morning, charged with common assault. He was remanded on bail until April 3. Read the rest of this entry »
I got home rather late from dinner with friends tonight and tuned into TV3′ new hard-hitting current affairs show 3rd Degree. You’ve no doubt seen the preposterous promos for the show with Duncan Garner and Guyon Espener being the Batman and Robin of current affairs, fearlessly interrogating the bad guys. But their discomfort with the load of codswallop which they were compelled to front last night was as plain as the noses on their faces. Garner is brilliant and Espiner not quite as brilliant but together they should be a force for good. Instead they had the embarrassing task of having to appear enthusiastic about a disaffected car clamper and the beautiful but embarrassingly miscast Anna Guy. Good god, what an appalling waste of two of the most incisive political minds this country has ever seen. But hey, no doubt the execs at TV3 thought it would rate. And it just might. But the cost to your reputation and the reputation of Garner and Espiner may just be too high a price to pay. What is it they say about putting lipstick on a pig? Let’s hope for better next week.
On the second of March 2012, I wrote a post entitled ‘Our kids buy a car on Trade Me and get ripped off in a big way.’ That story came to its conclusion three days ago, on the second of March 2012, exactly one year later. To understand what has gone on in that year, I’m afraid you’ll have to read the original post first. But it’s an instructive story that may serve as a warning to others.
First the dramatis personae (the cast):
*Jon Horvath, the original owner of the car, who sold it to Erkan, with $7,000 odd owing to the finance company, Debt Works, some of it presumably in penalty fees.
*Erkan turned out to be Erkan Kilic. Mr Kilic comes from Turkey. He was, he would later claim, selling the car on behalf of one of his countrymen, whose name was Onur Ozbal.
*Onur Ozbal, the actual owner of the car, then living in Australia.
*Anil Ozbal, Onur’s brother. It was Anil whom Quentin met when he went to uplift the car and hand over his $3,700. Anil handed him a scrap of paper with the car details, price and Onur’s name on it. Anil then signed Onur’s name on the paper which Quentin took away as a receipt.
The car was repossessed roughly six months later. Of the four options which Quentin and Livy then faced to get the car or their money back, they opted to take a case to the Disputes Tribunal, which we used to call the Small Claims Court. This wasn’t entirely straightforward since they weren’t entirely sure who ‘Erkan’ was and Trade Me wasn’t about to tell them without evidence that a crime had been committed. Read the rest of this entry »
[I think it's important that, if I get something wrong in a post, especially in a criticism of an individual or organisation, I should fix the mistake. In this post I surmised that the more than 400,000 average audience cited by TVNZ for its first three episodes of Agent Anna was a 'cume', that it included anyone who had watched the programme for more than 5 minutes during those three weeks. In a comment on the site, TVNZ's Drama and Comedy Commissioner Kathleen Andersen said that this was incorrect. She wrote: 'The 400k was the audience average in 5+ for each of the three episodes that had been to air. It was not the cume.' I accept that that is the case and that my surmise was incorrect. However, I stand by my assertion that TVNZ's claim that 1.2 million people 'tuned in' to the programme over those three weeks, which Kathleen Anderson concedes was a cume, is 'rather misleading' since it conveys to the ordinary reader, not familiar with ratings jargon, that this was the total number of people who 'watched' the programme, when in fact it was a headcount of anyone who literally 'tuned in' for 60 seconds (not even 5 minutes, as I suggested) or more during those three weeks. Given that the average audience for the show was more than 400,000 and the number of people who 'tuned in' for a minute or more over those three weeks was 1.2 million, the inevitable conclusion would seem to be that significantly more people 'tuned out' over that period than 'tuned in'. 400,000 is nonetheless a solid rating for the programme. I'm indebted to Nielsen Television Audience Measurement for their assistance in this.]
Years and years ago, in another life, I fronted a television commercial for the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand. I don’t recall seeing the result on TV but I remember that I wasn’t very good. After numerous takes the director took me aside and said, ‘We’re having a bit of trouble with the accent, Brian. Viewers won’t know what you’re talking about.’
I was naturally affronted.
‘What on earth do you mean?’
‘Well, it sounds as though we’re in the railway business.’
‘In the railway business! Is this a joke?’
‘Well, come and have a listen.’
I listened to the playback, but couldn’t hear anything unusual.’
‘Well Brian, you’re saying “Rail Estate Institute of New Zealand”, not “Real Estate Institute of New Zealand”’.
He was right. If you say ‘real’ with an Irish accent, it comes out ‘rail’.
Twenty takes later I’d got it right.
I can’t remember what I was paid for this gig, but it was a lot less than Kev got for flogging carpet.
Thanks to our gypsy lifestyle, Judy and I have had lots of dealings with real estate agents over the years, some brilliant, some dire. So we were quite interested to see how the profession would be portrayed on what the Herald has described as ‘TV One’s new hit comedy series Agent Anna’ starring Robyn Malcolm. Read the rest of this entry »
There’s been debate about the latest TV3 Reid Research poll. The poll, which was taken between February 12 and February 21, has National on 51.4%, Labour on 32.6% and the Greens on 11%. No other party reaches the 5% threshold.
In the ‘Preferred Prime Minister’ stakes John Key is on 41% with David Shearer on 10%.
Where the parties are concerned, the poll is out of step with recent TV1, Fairfax, Herald and Roy Morgan polls by between 2% and 7%. Commentators have also pointed out that in the last election all the major polls overstated National’s support by between 3% and 7%.
Given Labour’s and Phil Goff’s woeful results in that election, one might think it barely mattered.
But when you take into account the current level of unemployment, the Government’s abysmal handling of the Christchurch school amalgamations and closures, the Novopay debacle and the Prime Minister’s complicity in the shonkiest political deal I can remember since I’ve been in this country, National’s and its leader’s high ratings do seem somewhat strange.
But in one sense, the accuracy or lack of accuracy of the polls really is irrelevant. This is because the pollsters are objectively proved right or wrong only once every three years: after the election, when it’s too late for their influence on the outcome to be undone. Read the rest of this entry »