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Submission to the Law Commission on the New Media Review (slightly edited)

© Peter Zohrab 2012

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26 February 2012



This Review, despite its many positive aspects, is vitiated by built-in biases. The Law Commission itself is politically biased, the writing team was biased towards the old print media, and the people consulted during the writing process were also a biased group.

As the Review suggests, there should be a single regulator for the old and new media. However, he/she should be elected by popular vote and be subject to appeal to the High Court.



The proposals in Part 1 have two serious flaws:

  1. They hand new powers over to journalists and their employers;

  2. They ignore one fundamental feature of the old media, in relation to the new media.


The proposals hand new powers over to journalists and their employers

Under the present system, journalists and their employers select the members of the Press Council, but they have no power over broadcasting. However, under the proposed new system, journalists and their employers would have a say in the selection of the unitary regulator who would also have power over broadcasting. Moreover, journalists and their employers would be given some power over some members of the New Media, since the former would have a say in the selection of the unitary regulator who would also have power over some members of the New Media. It is noticeable that bloggers have been appearing on television, and this apparent cooption of bloggers into the old media should not be exacerbated by giving the old media regulatory powers over the new media.

The reason given for having a single regulator (convergence and overlapping of media) seems valid. However, the model chosen constitutes a serious mistake, because the choice was based on inadequate principles inadequtely evaluated. This relates to the second flaw, which is the virtual ignoring of the unchecked biases of the old media. It is noteworthy that the Review acknowledges having had preliminary input from only 29 individuals or bodies, of which eleven have vested interests, are bloggers who have been incorporated into the Old Media, or are known to be anti-male – and some of the others are totally unknown to me, and may well suffer from some of those defects.

In paragraph 6.58, the Review states that the critical question is whether the regulator should be independent of the state. I agree that this is an important issue – provided that "the State" is not taken to include the judicial system. However, the Review bases its decision on the alleged fact that the Advertising Standards Authority and the Banking Ombudsman have the confidence of the public and the relevant industries. As far as I can see, the Review gives no evidence for this claim. I have had dealings with both the Advertising Standards Authority and the Banking Ombudsman. I have no opinion as to whether the latter makes appropriate decisions, since I do not have a knowledge of banking which is sufficient to enable me to form a judgement. However, the Advertising Standards Authority is seriously biased and incompetent – as is the Press Council.

As one example, I enclose a copy of my complaint of 20 August 1995 to the Advertising Standards Complaints Board:

a copy of the resulting Chairman's Ruling:

and a copy of the Chairman's Ruling on a previous complaint, which was mentioned in the Chairman's Ruling on my complaint.

Both these complaints were rejected.

On the issue of incompetence, I wish to point out that the Chairman's Ruling on my complaint (Decision 95/211) stated that the advertisement which I was complaining about was "very similar" to the advertisement which was the subject of the complaint in Decision 95/144. This was one of a mere four points which the Chairman used to support his ruling, but this point is at best irrelevant. I was complaining about discrimination against men, whereas the complainants in Decision 95/144 were complaining about offensive language, violence and causing a baby to cry in order to make an advertisement. The points at issue were therefore totally distinct, and the fact that the advertisement was on a similar topic in the two cases was purely fortuitous. This is incompetent.

On the issue of bias, I wish to point out that the Code for People in Advertising http://www.asa.co.nz/code_people.php lists the following relevant principles:

  1. Advertisements should comply with the laws of New Zealand. Attention is drawn to the Human Rights Act 1993 and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

  2. Advertisements should not portray people in a manner which is reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread hostility, contempt, abuse or ridicule.

  3. Advertisements should not portray people in a manner which, taking into account generally prevailing community standards, is reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread offence on the grounds of their gender; race; colour; ethnic or national origin; age; cultural, religious, political or ethical belief; sexual orientation; marital status; family status; education; disability; occupational or employment status.

  4. Stereotypes may be used to simplify the process of communication in relation to both the product offered and the intended consumer. However, advertisements should not use stereotypes in the portrayal of the role, character and behaviour of groups of people in society which, taking into account generally prevailing community standards, is reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread offence, hostility, contempt, abuse or ridicule.

These principles respectively proscribe discrimination against men, the portrayal of men in a manner which is reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread hostility, contempt, abuse or ridicule, the portrayal of men in a manner which, taking into account generally prevailing community standards, is reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread offence on the grounds of their gender, and the use of stereotypes in the portrayal of the role, character and behaviour of men which, taking into account generally prevailing community standards, is reasonably likely to cause serious or widespread offence, hostility, contempt, abuse or ridicule.

However, these principles were completely ignored by the Advertising Standards Complaints Board. At most, it could have wriggled out of a positive decision on the complaint by claiming that, taking into account generally prevailing community standards, such negative attitudes and actions towards men are so common that this advertisement could not have been expected to change society's attitudes one iota!

However, the Chairman's Ruling did not mention any of the above principles at all. The Chairman noted that "there is no requirement for advertisements to present a balance of views." However, there were no views expressed in the advertisement whatsoever, so this remark was completely irrelevant, and was targeted at excusing discrimination against men. The Chairman also noted that "the advertisement targeted domestic violence and abuse against women." However, the very point of my complaint was that targeting "abuse against women" was discriminatory against men, since what should have been targeted was domestic violence, no matter who the victims and perpetrators were. Far from fighting discrimination the Chairman in fact practised discrimination in this ruling.

I do not expect that the Law Commission will accept my argument here, because I have had many years' experience of the Law Commission, and I do not believe that they have any concept of men having any rights – any more than the Advertising Standards Complaints Board does. The Law Commission made a huge song and dance about women's access to legal services , some years ago, but failed to unearth any issues which were even remotely as serious as the fact that there is an offence called "Male Assaults Female" (which the Law Commission has referred to very discreetly in some proposals on the Crimes Act in general) and the fact proven by Justice Ministry research that men get more severe sentences for the same crime than women do . This is typical of the way that organisations such as the Press Council, the Advertising Standards Complaints Board, the Broadcasting Standards Authority, the Human Rights Commission and (indeed!) the Law Commission treat complaints of discrimination against men. Such complaints are read down as being trivial or nonexistent.

The Review makes the point that the Government (i.e. the Attorney-General and the Minister of Justice) appoints all judges, and that it would be good if the new regulator was independent of the Government. However, the Review does not point out that the independence of judges – once appointed – is protected by the fact that they are well-paid and appointed for life. The issue is whether a regulator appointed by the media, together with others, would be more or less independent than a regular judge. The Review does not make that case convincingly.

Perhaps there is a third way. Perhaps the regulator could be elected by popular vote. Since I have had many extremely negative experiences with the Broadcasting Standards Authority, the Press Council and the Advertising Standards Complaints Board – to the extent that I consider using their procedures to be a meaningless ritual that I nowadays engage in rarely – I am in favour of direct election.

The proposals ignore one fundamental feature of the old media, in relation to the new media.

It is true that there is a certain "culture of verification" (Paragraph 4.35) in the old media. However, occasional scandals come to light, such as that of the Black (i.e. politically correct) New York Times journalist who regularly made up news stories. I have also had the experience of having my submission to a Select Committee ignored by the media, while the submission of another (feminist) group to the same Select Committee in the same session was turned by the newpaper concerned into its sole report of the proceedings on that day. It is impossible to know how common such occurrences are.

The Review is seriously deficient in its analysis. In paragraph 6.56, it states:

The privileges and exemptions conferred on the news media by law should be conditional on a guarantee that there will be responsibility and accountability.

Similarly, in paragraph 4.80, the Review states:

... we believe society continues to depend on authoritative and disinterested sources of information about what is happening in the world.

Similarly, in paragraph 3.40, the Review refers to:

...the role of a professional body whose primary task is to provide citizens with accurate and impartial reports on what is happening in society.

These three statements are complete jokes, and demonstrates that the Law Commission is either completely hypocritical or completely out of touch with reality, and that it also does not understand one of the most important features of the Internet.

There never has been – nor do the Law Commissions proposals provide – any guarantee that there will be responsibility and accountability in the new or old media. Indeed, one of the central themes of my Men's Rights activism since 1987 has been the lack of responsibility and acountability in the old media. There is no doubt that society does depend on the old media for news, but there has never been any credible demonstration that the old media are authoritative, disinterested, accurate or impartial, as far as I am aware. Quite the contrary. The Law Commission is essentially a collection of lawyers, and the Law has one habit which is highly detrimental in this context: the Law is in the habit of deeming things to be the case, because it would be impractical to inquire into the real state of things, in certain circumstances.

I once mounted (and withdrew) a civil court action against a large number of parties, some of which were media outlets. In an interlocutory hearing, with the notice "No public Admittance" (or something to that effect) fixed to the outside of the door where the hearing took place, a journalist from one of the defendant newspapers asked the judge for permission to sit in on the hearing. I objected, but the judge merely described me as "not liking" the media, said he was not going to have a "closed hearing", and let her stay. In other words, he was deeming the media to be the eyes and ears of the people, rather than (in effect) a totalitarian feminist political party, which is what they are. There are political parties who also dislike the media, such as the Act and (to some extent) National parties, but they do not see it as fruitful or essential to attack the media openly as Winston Peters (New Zealand First party) does.

It is highly tendentious and offensive to describe the attitude of people such as Winston Peters and myself as "not liking" the media. We dislike the media for concrete reasons, and these reasons are never exposed to proper public view, because it is the media who control what is exposed to proper public view. And it is the very facts that the media control what is exposed to proper public view, and that they use this power for political (e.g. feminist) purposes that causes us to dislike the media!

The Law Commission itself is a case in point: it is deemed to be independent. One could say that it is independent of Government, but is a very empty claim, given that one of its recent Presidents had previously been a Labour Party Prime Minister, and could easily (if he had been younger) have become a Labour Party Prime Minister after being a Law Commissioner, as well! In other words, the Law Commission has a Left-Wing slant, and its precise relationship to the Government of the day is almost a detail, in that context.

Similarly, the Review deems the old media to be authoritative and disinterested, and deems there to be a guarantee that there will be responsibility and accountability in the old media, without inquiring into the actual facts of the matter, which prove the contrary (13indoct.html , ismedia.html and mediares.html). Although journalists love to point the finger at how media company owners (e.g. Rupert Murdoch) allegedly apply political filters to the journalistic process, it is the journalistic workers at the coal-face who have by far the greater opportunity to choose what to cover and how to cover it. There are various degrees of openness about the way that many journalists see their profession as an opportunity to crusade in favour of certain values or causes, and there is every reason to believe that this – both consciously and unconsciously – affects their decisions about what to cover and how to cover it. There is no journalistic ethos – let alone any enforced ethos – that promotes "disinterested" news-gathering and dissemination.

The Review (paragraph 4.83) makes the point that it was the old media (i.e. The Guardian) which informed us about phone-hacking by other sections of the media. However, not only was the News of the World a commercial rival of The Guardian, it was also (more importantly) an ideological rival. The Leftist Guardian could probably have dished some dirt on Left-wing papers, but it chose to attack a Rightist publication. Surprise! Surprise!

I must point out here that even Rightist media seldom cover anti-feminist news (apart from demonstrations).

I have been on the Internet since before there were any commercial Internet Service Providers (I used the Wellington City Council's free service), and the main reason I used the Internet then – which is still my main reason now – was that it was the only way to bypass media censorship of pro-men (a.k.a. anti-feminist) views. The Men's and Fathers' movements – then and now – would have been totally inconceivable in their present form, if we were/had been reliant on what the Law Commission's calls "authoritative and disinterested sources of information about what is happening in the world". As far as I am concerned, the news media are a criminal, oppressive autocracy.

In Paragraph 5.6, the Review points out that "Corporatized media is (sic) a major seat of economic and political power." That is no doubt true, but the Review does not mention that individual media workers are also a major seat of political power. After all, who would tell the Review about that? The media? Of course not, because they have a conflict of interest. Media workers are quite happy to tell the public and the Review about their bosses' economic and political power, but they are obviously not keen to stress their own personal biases and how they work their way into their day-to-day decisions. This boss-worker split also hints at the probable role of journalists' unions in promoting and even enforcing certain Leftist social values, norms and political agendas (e.g. feminist ones). I found this to be the case in the Post-Primary Teachers' Association, when I was a teacher. Whatever the organisation, feminists will work to take it over, and I am sure that media unions are no different.

I have a Diploma of Journalism and have worked as a journalist, and I can tell you that the news media are extremely amateurish as regards what content they publish, which is part of the reason why they are able to carry out so much anti-male censorship. Their definition of what counts as news is subjective, ad hoc and arbitrary, at best. For example, the media seem to follow an unwritten rule, which states: "Report demonstrations," which is the only reason the Fathers' Movement has had any news coverage at all.

On the other hand, virtually no pro-male men are asked by the media to give their opinions on relevant issues, whereas random feminists are constantly trotted out by the media and called "experts" for their anti-male views. It must be pointed out that journalists are often accepted into training courses or jobs for their (Left-wing) political views, for how well they write (print media), how mellifluous their voices are (radio) or how physically attractive they are (television), and that their main academic qualification may be in something as irrelevant and devoid of logic as English Literature.

Television must be singled out here, as the Review itself does (albeit briefly). In paragraph 5.13, the Review describes television as having been perceived "as a powerful, all pervasive medium with a unique ability to impact on audiences." Watching television requires little intelligence or concentration, because of its combination of images and sound, and the frequent use of television for entertainment corrupts the critical faculties of both the producers and consumers of television news and current affairs.

Because television "teaches" the same message simultaneously to vast numbers of people, it creates what are considered to be the important issues of the day. In other words, the ideological priorities and other biases and the variable competence of television journalists become overnight the pressing concerns of a large section of the population, with obvious political consequences. It is easy to think of Acts of Parliament that have come into being (directly or indirectly) as a result of the decisions by journalists (especially television journalists) as to what kind of event constitutes "news" that should be placed in front of the public.

The word "teaches" is not inappropriate. The media are an in-bred little world, in which it is easy for people to get an inflated sense of their own abilities and importance. The pretty faces on television, in particular, are bound to attract a lot of fan mail, and this is bound to go to the recipients' heads, resulting in a feeling that they have the ability to "make a (huge) difference" and that they consequently have a duty to use this power in whatever way they consider to be "wise" and "responsible", which may incorporate a political agenda. For example, a TV One newsreader, Judy Bailey, was seriously talked about as being the "Mother of the Nation", which I found completely ludicrous – especially as she seemed to use her position to promote her version of feminism.

Another issue is that the complaints system is based on individual incidents. The assumption is that media transgressions are rare, and can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. However, this system is inadequate to deal with systemic bias, such as systemic bias against men. If this bias occurs more or less on a daily basis, there is no way that a complaints system can deal with it, unless it is deliberately set up to deal with it.

The Review also does not clearly separate out news from opinion, advertising, advertorials and entertainment, all of which occur in the old media. The Review does clearly point out that news is basically provided only by the old media (i.e. that news-gathering requires a professional organisation), but it fails to point out that this is really the only thing that distinguishes the old media from the new media.

News needs to be treated differently from opinion, advertising, advertorials and entertainment for the purposes of regulation. There needs to be some thinking done along those lines, otherwise the solution chosen for the issue of a regulator will be inadequate. It is news that society needs. It is news that is central to what the Review correctly describes as the media's constitutional function. Opinion, advertising, advertorials and entertainment can be provided by anyone, and they are only combined with news for practical, commercial reasons.

The crucial issue is referred to in paragraph 3.43 a.:

The media's functions of providing news to the public, and ensuring that public officials are held accountable, are so important in a democracy that the law should not unduly impede their exercise of those functions.

The Review's ultra-naive approach to the issue of whether the old media actually do fulfil these functions adequately obscures the fact that one might just as well state the following conflicting concept:

The media's functions of providing balanced news to the public, and ensuring that public officials are held accountable in a balanced fashion, are so important in a democracy that the law should not unduly impede the thorough supervision of those functions.

As is pointed out in Paragraph 4.27, the old media's functions are quasi-constitutional in nature. That being the case, their activities are unacceptably untransparent. What do we know, for example, about the quantity and nature of the information that flows into an old media office which constitutes potential "news", but which is filtered out. What do we know about the overt and covert criteria which govern what gets filtered out? All this should be in the public domain, in order for the old media to be accountable.

Here are two examples from the BBC World News programme Foreign Correspondent, where UK-based foreign correspondents and UK journalists exchange views in an apparently unscripted conversation: On one occasion, a female journalist suggested that the truth should be hidden from the public (I think she was talking about the Euro currency crisis); on another occasion, an American journalist said that he had hardly reported the activities of the UK Euro-skeptics, and it could be surmised from a comment subsequently made by another journalist that he was "gay", objected to the "homophobic" attitudes which were assumed to be prevalent amongst Euro-skeptics, and that this is what had led him to under-report their activities.



The proposals in Part 2 seem largely appropriate. However, it is important that the Beyond Reasonable Doubt standard be retained when putting someone at risk of civil punishment for breaching the criminal law. Otherwise, they could be acquitted under one standard, and yet convicted under another, which would tend to lower public respect for the justice system (and increase calls for the abolition of the Beyond Reasonable Doubt standard, perhaps).



It is relevant to speak about the particular individuals who have been involved with this Review to date – either in the drafting of it, or because they have been consulted in the course of the drafting process.


People consulted

  • Twenty-nine people or institutions are mentioned as having contributed to the drafting of the Review. Twelve of these are old media organisations (Newspaper Publishers’ Association of New Zealand, The Media Freedom Committee, The New Zealand Press Council, The Broadcasting Standards Authority, Fairfax Media New Zealand, APN News & Media, Television New Zealand) or old media individuals (Sinead Boucher, Gavin Ellis, Matthew Harman, Jeremy Rees and Alastair Thompson) or apparently closely linked to them.

  • Only four people are primarily new media bloggers: Claire Browning, Fraser Mills, David Farrar and Cameron Slater.

  • The Broadcasting Standards Authority is outnumbered by four organisations (and at least one of the Review's authors) which have/have had a stake in the current Press Council system, which is an alternative model to the Broadcasting Standards Authority model.

  • Therefore, those consulted included many more of the old media as opposed to the new media, and many more presumed supporters of the Press Council model than of the Broadcasting Standards Authority model.

  • No critics of working journalists are included, as far as I can see. Naturally, I feel that I should have been consulted, since I am (as far as I know) New Zealand's most high-profile intellectual critic of the media, and I am known to the Law Commission. Winston Peters also criticises the media, but – as far as I know – he does not do it in any theoretical way. Media studies academics routinely criticise media owners, but are not known to have ever investigated Leftist or feminist bias in working journalists, despite this being an extremely traumatic form of censorship which is suffered by politically incorrect sections of society on a day-to-day basis.

  • Care Honoré Brett is a former newspaper editor, and therefore has a conflict of interest. When is she ever likely to draw attention to the biases of working journalists?

  • Steven Price both taught me Law at Victoria University of Wellington, and I have a very low opinion of him, from ethical and Men's Rights points of view.

In short, I consider that there was significant imbalance in the writing team and in the people consulted.


See also:





Peter Douglas Zohrab

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