Three postscripts to recent blogs:
■ Political scientist Bryce Edwards, who runs The Democracy Project out of Victoria University, has stitched together a very useful summary of media comment on the Three Waters project, opposition to which is rapidly mounting as its implications – mainly relating to centralisation of control and the consequent erosion of local accountability – become more obvious.
As already noted in an addendum to my post last Friday on the subject, the government has committed $3.5 million to an advertising blitz intended to soften us up for this massive power grab. The egregiously patronising tone of the campaign indicates that neither the government nor its advertising agency think much of the public’s intelligence.
But Edwards’ wrap-up reveals something equally disturbing. He cites an article by Stuff local democracy reporter Chloe Ranford which suggests that the boundaries of the four proposed water authorities, which some perplexed commentators have called illogical, were drawn to align with iwi boundaries.
Coming on top of the He Puapua report, with its vision of 50-50 co-governance with Maori, this will stoke suspicions that the Three Waters project is as much about power-sharing with iwi as it is about reducing costs and ensuring consistency of water quality and administrative efficiency.
Does anyone remember Labour being up-front about this in last year’s election campaign? I don’t, but of course that could be incipient dementia.
■ One of the regrettable things about sports radio station SENZ’s sacking of producer Sam Casey for saying what he thought (always a risk in the mainstream media these days, unless you’re a certified, card-carrying wokester) was that Jason Pine got caught up in the controversy.
For those who don’t know him, "Piney" is a veteran NewstalkZB sports broadcaster who was head-hunted by the new Australian-owned outfit to host its night-time show and help put the station’s team together.
Pine, a close colleague and friend of my late brother Justin at Newstalk, is well-liked and respected. I imagine he would have felt acutely uncomfortable at being required to issue a media statement on behalf of his new employers confirming Casey’s dismissal. It wasn’t the type of start he would have anticipated.
Well, waddya know? The digital news service BusinessDesk reports today that Pine has handed in his resignation and is believed to be heading back to Newstalk, where I imagine he’ll be welcomed home with open arms.
Sources told BusinessDesk there had been no falling-out between Pine and SENZ and that he’d simply decided the new job wasn’t the “right fit”. But that sounds to me like HR-speak designed to gloss over an embarrassing situation for the company. More likely he formed the opinion, after the Casey episode, that SENZ wasn’t the type of outfit he wanted to work for.
So I’m pleased to report that Pine’s honour is intact. But as BusinessDesk says, it’s hardly an auspicious start for SENZ, which doesn’t launch till July 19. The immortal words of Sergeant-Major Williams from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum come to mind: “Oh dear, how sad, never mind”.
■ Further to my previous references to the government’s $55 million media bribe (sorry, I meant to say its heroic attempt to save journalism, which you can read about here and here), Graham Adams on Muriel Newman’s Breaking Views website reports an exchange in Parliament last week that I haven’t seen covered elsewhere.
Judith Collins and David Seymour were putting the heat on Jacinda Ardern over Labour’s so-called Public Interest Journalism Fund. Collins wanted to know whether the fund – applicants for which must commit to Treaty principles and support for te reo, among other things – was influencing the editorial decisions of media outlets. Seymour more pointedly asked what would happen to a media outlet that had accepted money from the fund but wanted to report something deemed inconsistent with Treaty principles.
Ardern brushed off the questions as if they weren’t worthy of an answer, but that’s by the bye. What interests me is whether the exchange in the House was reported by any media outlet that has accepted, or has its hand out for, money from the fund.
This highlights another potentially disturbing and insidious aspect of the media slush fund. Can we expect mainstream media outlets to report criticism of the fund or possible revelations and concerns about its misuse, or will that be left to independent journalists such as Adams?
You see what's happening here? I'm already wondering whether the media are choosing to ignore stories about the fund that might not reflect favourably on it or them. The mere fact that it’s necessary to ask this question shows how media companies compromise their credibility by accepting money from a highly politicised government agency.
Incidentally, “Public Interest Journalism Fund” strikes me as a bit of a mouthful, and time-consuming to type, besides. So I’m giving it a shorter, punchier name: the Pravda Project, after the old Soviet Union’s esteemed official press organ, on the assumption that the PIJF will exhibit the same fearless independence and unstinting commitment to the truth.