Posted by BE on April 7th, 2013
[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.
So did I think Susan Wood was ‘terrific’? Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on November 27th, 2012
For around 45 years I’ve been broadcasting and writing in New Zealand. My occasionally forcefully expressed liberal/left opinions have over that time attracted both agreement and disagreement, approval and condemnation, sometimes deserved, sometimes not.
Rob Muldoon used to refer to himself as ‘a counterpuncher’, adding that he always hit his opponent back harder than his opponent had hit him. I like both the term and the approach and readers of this blog will know that my responses to critical comments can range from reasonable disagreement to dismissive rejection to outright cruelty. I generally regret the outright cruelty and have been known to apologise for it when taken to task.
But, whatever my faults, I have at least always put my name to my opinions. In those 45 years I have never said or written anything anonymously or hidden behind an alias or nom de plume.
There are of course occasions in which anonymity is prudent and justifiable. But the commonest reason for not putting one’s name to one’s opinions is not having the courage of one’s convictions – cowardice. And nowhere is this more evident than in comments on blog posts where opinions are rarely expressed under the writer’s own name. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on November 7th, 2011
As a general principle, celebrity endorsements of politicians aren’t worth much. When actors, pop singers and assorted stars of the large and small screens say, ‘I like Candidate X, vote for him!’ the man and woman in the street are inclined to (quite sensibly) respond, ‘Why should I vote for him, because you like him? You’re an actor (pop singer etc.) not an authority on the state of the economy or the best way to solve the unemployment problem.’
And even if the endorsement comes from highly respected people, the effect may not be positive. In 1975, driven as much by their distaste for Rob Muldoon as their enthusiasm for the Leader of the Opposition, a group of highly prominent people, including Geoffrey Palmer, Sir Jack Harris, Sir Edmund Hillary, John Hinchcliff, Graham Nuthall and Sir Paul Reeves formed Citizens for Rowling.
The electorate was unimpressed, perhaps resenting the idea that these high-and-mighty people wanted to tell them how to vote, or possibly because the campaign merely served to emphasise Rowling’s weakness as a candidate. Needing help isn’t a great recommendation for any aspirant to the highest office. Muldoon not merely trounced Rowling in 1975 but went on to defeat him in two further elections.
There can be exceptions. Oprah Winfrey’s declared support of Barak Obama cannot have done his Presidential ambitions any harm. Winfrey was herself one of the most powerful people in America with a massive and devoted following. But such situations are rare. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on November 3rd, 2011
Chairing a television debate between two party leaders during an election campaign is probably the most difficult thing an interviewer can do. The stakes will never be higher and each leader’s aim will be to monopolise the available time by out-talking his or her opponent. Volume can come into the mix as much as, and sometimes more than, debating skill.
The moderator’s job is:
- To ensure that the two sides get more or less equal time not only in the overall debate but within each question area;
- To play devil’s advocate to both sides and with equal force;
- To keep order.
To achieve this, he or she:
- Must have a natural authority;
- Must not be overawed by the debaters or their status;
- Must enjoy their respect;
- Must be willing to read the riot act to them if things get out of hand;
- Must, like a Rugby World Cup referee, not unreasonably restrict the free flow of play by being unnecessarily pedantic;
- Must, regardless of gender, have a good strong voice.
If the moderator is unable to be heard when the debaters are talking over one another or if he is too lacking in confidence to interrupt and demand that they behave like civilised people, then he shouldn’t be doing the job. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on January 4th, 2011
I’m delighted that Judy has posted the famous/infamous interview between Simon Walker and Rob Mulddon on the presence of Russian warships in the Indian Ocean. Simon is an old friend. We worked together both as television colleagues and, later, as advisors to David Lange and the Labour Party after Muldoon drunkenly announced the snap election in 1984. I wrote Lange’s opening television address. Simon was a left-winger then, or so we thought, but his actual allegiance was with the laissez- faire Douglas faction. He would go on to work for a large PR company in Britain, a right-wing think-tank and Her Majesty the Queen inter alia.
Simon, possibly the smoothest and most urbane person I have ever known, was an excellent interviewer. But it was the Muldoon confrontation that really made his name. A remarkable achievement, made all the more remarkable because pretty well every propositon he puts to Mr Muldoon is wrong in fact or implication. And it is a bit rich to supply an interviewee with a list of questions you want answered and then not allow him to answer them. But it’s still great television.
A couple of years later, I wrote this piece for the Dominion Sunday Times. Almost 25 years later, the names may be different, but everything else remains true.
I have invented a new law that will save the nation – from everything. I call it Catch 23.
Clause One of Catch 23 states: Only those of sound mind may hold office as Members of Parliament.
Clause Two states: Any person seeking election to Parliament shall, ipso facto, be deemed to be of unsound mind. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on May 5th, 2010
More than 20 years ago Judy and I ran a 2-day media training seminar for 150 business executives in Wellington. The final session took the form of a panel discussion, which included former Prime Minister Rob Muldoon. During the discussion Sir Robert referred to the diffiiculty cabinet ministers often faced in responding to what he called ‘television’s forceful visual images’.
From memory, he used the example of an elderly woman complaining about the inadequacy of the pension. The pleasant looking woman is interviewed in her little pensioner flat. She is seated in an armchair with a blanket around her shoulders. A raggedy looking moggy is asleep in her lap. She complains of the cold and of not being able to afford to keep a heater running in the flat. She often stays in bed to keep warm. It’s impossible for her to afford anything but the barest necessities. She regards a banana once a week as a luxury. She’d love to get out a bit more, but could not possibly afford the expense of owning a car. It’s heartrending stuff and there’s more, much more.
After the film has been shown, the Minister of Social Welfare is interviewed in the television studio. He expresses sympathy for the elderly woman and outlines a number of services and special benefits that are available to someone in her situation. But he might as well not bother. His coolly rational responses, delivered in the hostile and sterile atmosphere of the television studio, cannot match the emotionally charged scene which the viewer has just watched. Television’s ‘forceful visual images’ almost invariably take the day. Read the rest of this entry »