Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Veitch affair: a few questions

A few questions about the Tony Veitch furore:

So he “deeply regrets” what happened. But what does he regret most – the fact that he assaulted his former partner, or the fact that the world now knows about it? Much of his statement of contrition – “I was working seven days a week … two stressful jobs … emotionally and physically exhausted” – read like a carefully pitched plea for sympathy.

Can we assume, given that none of the Dominion Post’s claims about the assault have been denied and no writs issued (and that the Dom Post would have taken great care to get its facts right in the first place), that what has been reported is substantively correct?

Which is more repugnant: the fact that Veitch assaulted his former partner (kicking her and breaking her back in four places, according to the Dom Post), or that he then apparently tried to buy her silence with a payout, estimates of which range from $100,000 to $170,000?

If the police don’t (or can’t) prosecute Veitch, doesn’t that send a message that people with lots of money can simply pay to escape the consequences of their criminal behaviour? How corrosive is that to public confidence in the justice system?

Did anyone at a senior level in Television New Zealand know about Veitch’s attack on his former partner before the Dom Post broke the story? If so, who? And how long ago?

If it’s established that senior people in TVNZ did know, and took no action against him, what does that say about the integrity of this state-owned organisation? And if it’s established that TVNZ knew but took action against Veitch only after the public furore erupted, wouldn’t that expose them as utter hypocrites, tacitly condoning his behaviour until forced by public opinion to take a moral position?

How uncomfortable did Veitch’s on-air colleagues at TVNZ feel at having to pretend it was business as usual on Monday and Tuesday nights, and how realistic would it be to expect them to keep up the chummy on-screen banter if Veitch was allowed back on air?

Media intrusion in the private lives of public figures is a grey area ethically – but was this a case where exposure of a public figure’s private behaviour was wholly justified? Veitch is a high-profile employee of a public organisation. He’s also paid a very substantial sum of money ($200,000 by TVNZ, according to the Dom Post, but that doesn’t include his substantial earnings from other activities). Can an argument be made that the tradeoff for people who are paid such lavish sums, and who enjoy the status and lifestyle that goes with their celebrity profile, is that their lives will be held up to scrutiny? When a person’s high status and income depends on public recognition and endorsement, is the public entitled to know what that person is really like? (It shouldn’t take a lot of guesswork to conclude that I think the answer is yes.)

Finally, did One News reporter Lisa Owen single-handedly do her utmost to uphold public confidence in the integrity of TVNZ, or at least the independence of its journalism, by courageously reporting that her bosses were running for cover? Owen has never been my favourite reporter, but I couldn’t fault her gutsy performance when the pressure was on.

[Footnote: For the benefit of overseas readers who may be mystified by all this, Tony Veitch is a celebrity broadcaster who presents the sports news on the state-owned One network and hosts a jockstrappy sports quiz on the same channel. The Dominion Post reported last Monday that two years ago he assaulted his ex-partner so severely that she spent months off work and for a time was confined to a wheelchair. Veitch has now been taken off the air both by TVNZ and by Radio Sport, where he presented a breakfast programme.]


Jules Macdonald said...

I have some questions regarding the motives of the person who told the DomPost. What exactly were they trying to achieve? Some sort of justice? Revenge? Did they have the tacit approval of the victim, or did they just decide to leak a juicy story to another media mate? Why didn't they go to the police instead?

On another tack, did the DomPost go to print with just the one source? There was one un-named source in the first story, and an un-named former Vodaphone colleague in the Wednesday article. Are they just the same person? Has the source(s) ever worked at TVNZ? With Vietch? Or the Radio Network?

Anonymous said...

"When a person’s high status and income depends on public recognition and endorsement, is the public entitled to know what that person is really like? (It shouldn’t take a lot of guesswork to conclude that I think the answer is yes.)"

Even more so when both the person's personality (or perceived personality) lies at the centre of various advertising campaigns.

TV and radio often go overboard in promoting individuals as credible 'brands'.

Karl du Fresne said...

Jules raises some legitimate questions, but the bottom line - if you'll excuse the cliche - is that Veitch assaulted his former partner and then entered some sort of arrangement whereby money changed hands and nothing was said. We shouldn't let peripheral issues distract us from those core facts.

Deborah Coddington said...

Developments in the story have answered some of your questions, and at times I think I don't want to read another line with "Veitch" in it. But I'm sick and tired of all this hand-wringing and wailing about Veitch's "career being over". I couldn't even get through Paul Holmes so-called "interview" this morning on line in the Herald on Sunday. If I'd handed in an interview like that my editors at North & South would have sacked me. Career over? It's not as if this man saves premature babies, or gets children to read who've dropped out of school, or anything vital for the nation. He's a NEWSREADER for heaven's sakes, jsut that it's sports news. Yes, he's very good at it, but not ever being able to do it again is hardly the end of the world. He can clean motels, wait on tables, take in ironing - a multitude of jobs some of us have been forced to take on when we've fallen from grace. That whole Auckland celebrity/media trashy scene is grotesque and it's about time TVNZ and TV3 stopped promoting their reporters as celebrities and stars. Thank goodness the print media is different.