Brian Edwards Media

Posts Tagged 'Broadcasting'

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

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.  Read the rest of this entry »


Bomber Bradbury – a gutless reaction by Radio New Zealand that smacks of political hypersensitivity.

I’ve only just caught up with the transcript of what it was that Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury said on National Radio’s Afternoons programme that got him banned from the programme. Here’s the text of the offending passage:

“What does a $43 million loan to Mediaworks buy you on Radio Live – apparently an hour of John Key avoiding answering any questions on politics. Why pay Mediaworks $43 million for that, when John Key can appear on Close Up and not answer questions for free.

…“Radio Live didn’t offer any other political leader an hour of free talkback and went on to claim that allowing the Prime Minister to host an hour of radio minus any hard questions at all about his policy isn’t political. Which is kinda like arguing that allowing George W Bush to write editorials in the New York Times about his favorite cake recipe during the invasion of Iraq isn’t ‘political’.

“Radio Live say it’s because of electoral law that John Key couldn’t answer questions on politics. Really? Put Key in there for an hour with an interviewer and ask him questions, that would have side stepped those issues, but to give him an hour where he gets to hide behind a ‘no politics’ zone on the very day our credit was downgraded is simply disgraceful!

… “And John Key’s attempt yesterday to blame the Labour Party for a man’s attempted self harm in Parliament is a new low, even for Parliament.

“Yelling, “It’s your fault, it’s your fault” while making a throat slashing gesture at Phil Goff (as a man with mental health issues dangled from Parliaments balcony) is the sort of ravings one expects from a meth addict on a bender, not the political leader of a country.

“Topping this nonsense off is Key’s excuse that he was actually talking about Labour’s criticism of his over spending on the Diplomatic Protection service?

“What could justify making a throat slashing gesture at Phil Goff for an event that had all the implications of an attempted suicide if the guy had actually fallen? What a lovely little piece of work our Prime Minister is when he is caught off guard.”

I know a bit about Afternoons. I’m a regular on ‘The Panel’, usually with my good friend and mortal political enemy, Michelle Boag. We were in fact the very first Panel when the show started in September 2005.  Read the rest of this entry »


“one of the finest pieces of television current affairs I have seen in this country” – Brian Edwards

Now here’s a novel idea. Let’s have a television current affairs programme on which people of diametrically opposed viewpoints can debate the issues that divide them, forcefully but without undue rancour. Such a programme would require a chairperson who could control the debate, ensuring that each side  was given a fair opportunity to state their case and that the principal areas of disagreement were afforded an airing. This would of course not be possible with a programme duration of less than 30 commercial-free minutes.  

You won’t find a programme like that on TV1 or TV3.  If you feel like watching political chat on Saturday or Sunday morning, there are Q & A and The Nation, but these are essentially interview programmes, and the interviews rarely run to more than 10 or 12 minutes. With the possible exception of Paul Holmes, the interviewers also seem to prefer the sound of their own voices to the sound of their subjects’ replies.  And anyway, it’s the weekend and you’d rather be lying in bed reading the paper or heading out for brunch with the family.

TVNZ7 has Media7, but its focus is by definition restricted to media matters and it rarely, if ever, devotes an entire programme to the sort of debate I’ve described above.

And, as far as I know, there’s nothing like that on Prime either.   Read the rest of this entry »


Why should we care about Radio New Zealand?

Ross Giblin/The Dominion Post

Ross Giblin/The Dominion Post

 Why should we care about Radio New Zealand?

Because it is the only broadcast medium in the country that takes the time to examine issues of consequence to New Zealanders at length and in depth. It can do so because, and only because it is a non-commercial radio network. It is not beholden to advertisers, does not need to concern itself with ratings – though many of its programmes outrate its commercial competitors – and its programmes are not interrupted or abbreviated by the irritating presence of advertisements.

Radio New Zealand’s success in commanding a large and loyal audience with programmes such as Morning Report, Nine to Noon, Checkpoint, Afternoons, Kim Hill’s (and formerly my own) Saturday morning show, gives the lie to the proposition that the public are not interested in social and political debate or intelligent conversation. They are.

In contrast the free-to-air commercial television channels offer us quasi ‘current affairs’ programmes such as Close Up and Campbell Live whose function is less to inform than to entertain and whose mandate is to retain the ratings momentum generated by the channels’ preceding news, sport and weather packages.

The entertainment ethos that drives these programmes – and the channels’ network news bulletins as well – is that the viewer has a limited attention span, requires constant stimulation and novelty, and has little appetite for the serious examination of social and political issues. To be palatable, what information the programmes offer must be served up in tasty, bite-sized chunks. Nothing too long, nothing too tough, nothing requiring chewing. The viewer must be given no excuse to reach for the remote to change the channel. Read the rest of this entry »


The Plunket Enigma

Photo: Radio New Zealand

Photo: Radio New Zealand

Sometime after my unceremonious sacking by Sharon Crosby as host of Top of the Morning, I was interviewed on Morning Report by Sean Plunket. I was surprised by the vehemence of Plunket’s questioning. His theme was that there had been a clear conflict of interest between my role as media advisor to the Prime Minister and my role as host of the Saturday morning programme. Had Top of the Morning been a political or current affairs show, he would have been quite right. But it wasn’t. It was a magazine show, devoid of any political content. Of the 750-odd interviews I did on the programme, only three were with politicians and in every case dealt with the guest’s life and times, not with their political views. Interestingly enough, I interviewed Jenny Shipley on the programme, but never Helen Clark. Read the rest of this entry »