Waiting for the news 

By Peter Carr

With the rapid browning of the grass around us and the continuing cloudless azure skies one could be forgiven from forgetting that the holiday period is over.

Except, that is, for the fact that the government sponsored TV1 channel has now pushed the recommencement of the morning news programme back even further. Here we have what is clearly a state (and state directed) broadcaster who generously (for which read cut costs) terminates the programme mid-December and fails to push the restart button until the very last day of January.

Forgive me if you feel I am being churlish, but the production of news is a being that exists in a continuum. Can you imagine the Herald taking a six-week break? Would Radio NZ’s national programme (again state owned and directed) shut up shop for a lengthy period and thus only produce up to the minute news broadcasts at 6pm each day?

Of course not. But then there is effective competition among a plethora of radio stations – and long may it continue. Older readers will well recall the struggle that non-state radio broadcasters in both the UK and this country had to reach their emerging audience. Hiding on ships outside the (then) 3-mile limit in order to be heard.

It is understanding that governments in a one-party dominated state (aka the old USSR) should try and maintain total singular dominance on what they want the public to hear – or rather not hear. But in an enlightened multi-party environment it appears to me that every effort should be made by major news broadcasters to disseminate, up to date and frequent, honest political-free statements of what is happening. Should they wish to then put a slant on that news then it is clearly the unfettered role of the news editor to do so. But to what degree are news editors in government owned (or sponsored) news organs given that all-important freedom?

Take for example the now frequent and almost over-bearing preamble in Māori in news broadcasts. Before I get chastised let me state very clearly that I have no objection to Māori statements providing that an English direct translation follows immediately. But what of the other languages so prevalent especially in the larger Auckland area? I admire the TV1 news reporter who starts her items in several South Pacific tongues. But there is a vastly subsidised Māori TV channel that provides ample (and good) coverage of both news and items of other interest.

If I was a sole voice on this matter, I would happily take on board any and all opprobrium that may be directed at me for this seemingly one-sided diatribe. But over the holiday season I repeatedly heard many people who are perceiving this single-ethnic support as the thin edge of the wedge. The imbalanced and frankly stupid dogma regarding the governance of the proposed Three Waters is but a microcosm of what may yet be thrust upon us. Perhaps the self-elected guardian of the road in the Far North should set himself up at the northern end of the newly built Transmission Gully to check that only those who are really needed in Wellington on any given day shall be permitted to pass.

However, as the opening date for this grossly overpriced and toll-free stretch of tarmac is retreating backwards faster than the (government) rail ferries service he will be well drawing his pension before his ‘services’ are needed.

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