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Privatise Television New Zealand ! (edited)

© Peter Zohrab 2005

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(Open Letter to the National Party's Broadcasting Spokeswoman)

Dear Mrs Te Heuheu,

I urge you to reconsider your apparent decision not to privatise TVNZ. I suggest that it would be morally defensible and politically imperative to privatise it after the election, even if you promise not to do so before the election.

The reason for my saying this is that there seems to be a pattern surrounding the National Party and the issue of privatising Television New Zealand: In every election cycle, National talks about privatising it, but when it comes to the crunch (i.e. Election Year), it backs down and promises not to do so.

I am sure that the reason for that pattern is that National really wants to privatise it (partly because it is a left-wing propaganda outlet, though less so than in the past), but it can't afford to, politically, because TVNZ has its ways of bending you to their will. In other words, it will give National even more unfavourable coverage than normal if it feels that National will privatise it if it wins. So, every election year, National goes weak at the knees and caves in to the demon TVNZ.

This is the Death of Democracy !

As I have found, TVNZ has subtle ways of giving unfavourable coverage. For example, it can use non-verbal ( e.g. camera) techniques, which it can claim were accidental or imaginary. For example, the interviewer's head can move from side to side, causing the interviewee's eyes to shift from side to side -- creating a shifty-eyed appearance in the interviewee. As another example, I was interviewed by them for an "Assignment" programme on boys' education, and I appeared on-screen with my eyes closed for most of the part of my interview that was screened -- because the female interviewer kept staring at me with a very intense and semi-hostile expression on her face, while she asked questions which I was bound to answer in a way that I would expect her (as a probably feminist) to be hostile to. I had to close my eyes to shut off her stare and concentrate on my answer.

In addition, the provisions of the Broadcasting Act with regard to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) are a farce. The BSA is a quasi-judicial body which rules on issues such as anti-male sex discrimination. It has without exception ruled against all the complaints of anti-male sex discrimination that I have made against TVNZ over the years, and I am not aware of any single case where it has ruled against any broadcaster on the issue of anti-male discrimination.

The BSA consists of short-term (3-year) political appointees, and their decisions can only be reversed by the High Court on the basis that the BSA was exercising a discretion (rather than complying with particular legal standards). Any High Court decision can not be appealed further. It is a well-established legal principle that judges

*N.B. The issue of "political appointments" (i.e. appointments by politicians) in the judicial area is an interesting one. New Zealand has been moving from a system of supposedly non-political appointments by the Executive towards the appointment of judges by an independent body, on the one hand, whereas the United States, on the other hand, has long had an explicitly political system whereby the Executive appoints Supreme Court judges (subject to Senate confirmation). The US system at least makes it explicit that the judicial system makes a lot of political decisions, and this may underlie the US's refusal to accept the authority of the International Criminal Court. Countries whose systems pay lip-service (as it were) to the notion that judges are apolitical might be more willing than the US to subject their citizens to the decisions of judges from other countries.

 

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