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Salient. Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 25. October 4, 1976

Meddling in Media — Unchanneling the News

page 7

Meddling in Media

Unchanneling the News

On Wednesday, September 29th, between noon and two, a forum in the Union considered the ins and outs of amalgamating the news services of TV1 and TV2, and other proposals by the National government.

Six hundred students came up from the cafe and out of the graveyard to hear the "nitpickers" and camera pushers from Avalon. Although outnumbered 100 to 1 the six television people were calm and outspoken, as they folded their legs, tried on sunglasses, chewed matches, and blew smoke into the crowd. But it was a strong, valuable, meeting where students were lucky to discuss the National Government's destructive intentions in broadcasting, with the people who 'run' television in Wellington.

To kick off, there were six speeches:

Brian Edwards resented the way people involved in broadcasting were being used as "pawns in a political grudge match". Norm Kirk had got rid of the NZBC as a gesture of revenge on what had been for a long time a National Party organ, and now National were reinstating the NZBC in order to undo all that Labour achieved.

In the old days, the NZBC clung stupidly to the idea of 'balance' in political reporting. Equal time had to be given to all parties, so that if one refused to appear on TV, then neither was the other allowed to appear, interviewers were opinionless, Holyoake wrote his own questions, and NZ had "a rightwing press, and a wingless broadcasting set-up".

The years 1969-72 saw things happen with Gallery, Exel, and Edwards. By today, a lot of good things have happened - interviewers have views, there's investigative reporting, and a bit of satire. Edwards thought Muldoon was the real Minister of Broadcasting, since Hugh Templeton carries himself "with all the aplomb of a ventriloquist with laryngitis - the dummy does the talking". The present regime has "all the hallmarks of Mussolini," threatening the independence of the news service and suppressing information.

Edwards referred to New Zealanders being called "traitors" for their views, unions being victimised, and nuclear ships being sneaked into NZ ports. He thought independent news services (independent of each other and cabinet) would save NZ from going in "that ominous direction".

Peter Morrit (president of TV producers and Directors Assoc.) questioned the practicability of instituting programme standards under the proposed legislation. Not only would a lot of paranoid 'morality' enter TV (e.g. how NZBC banned navels on screen), but there'd be plenty of interference from the Government. Although Avalon was surrounded by a moat, they were in touch with the public, and sought to : give the public enough information to make up their own minds; investigage, rather than just regurgitate govt, hand-outs; question and foster debate; and defend new view-points against established view-points. Without this, "we're damned."

Photo of a man talking a lecturn

Tony Isaacs (a TV producer) thought [unclear: indepena] channels made programmes that reflect NZ's own identity and culture. The NZBC did not do this, and it will not.

Terry Bryant (TV producer) said the independent channels had more children's programmes and 500% more drama than NZBC offered. The channels should run their own finances, and if they make money from their own efforts, they can plough it back into new programmes. Without competition between channels, quality will go down, and freedom will go out since the government will control the money - "the people who control the money have got you by the you know what, and if they've got you by the you know what, your hearts and minds will follow."

John Barningham who has worked with tits, feathers, and actors all his life, reckoned it's impossible to work when you've continually got the threat of change hanging over your head (i.e. abolishing, then recalling, NZBC). NZBC stifles new ideas, because you are always afraid "maybe they won't like it."

Dianne McKee (Broadcasting Journalists Assoc) didn't say much in her speech, although contributing much in question time. She banged the lecturn, and said "balls" a few times. She thought that a broadcasting minister would make too many decisions, and would naturally be politically biased.

In question time, Edwards sunk his fangs into the local newspapers, and suggested that since one news service was being ditched to prevent duplication of news on TV, then it was equally logical to ditch either the 'Dominion' or 'Evening Post'. On the same grounds (though he couldn't decide which contained the more National Party propaganda).

Terry Bryant agreed that "you can't have realistic values unless you're welt informed." One cantankerous youth finally conceded that Brian Edward's last interview of the PM had lowered his own personal view of Muldoon: "what more do you want?" glowed Edwards.

Diane McKee disagreed that her Association was a pack of trendy lefties - her fellow journalists had a variety of political viewpoints and some are "to the right of Chaing Kai Shek."

Would Broadcasting journalists go on strike? If legislation was unsuitable. The reply - "we are prepared to withhold labour."

It emerged that Ian Johnstone's programmes on South Africa, "The God Boy", and other programmes made by the channels, were making dough overseas, as well as promoting New Zealand.

Brian Edwards bowed out by saying that under the proposed legislation, broadcasting people will be accountable to a politician, accountable to Hugh Templeton. "Accountability produced timid broadcasting."

The question of accountability seemed to be a recurrent concern for these people involved in the media, I think because accountability has a lot to do with degree of freedom, and freedom has got a lot to do with democracy, which is one of the many things under heavy attack by Muldoon and his bunch

- Martin Doyle

Photo of a student meeting