TV3, ACT, and make believe news

On the night of the ACT Party conference 3 News ran an item by Brook Sabin highlighting Rodney Hide talking about hate, the poor, Maori, and unions.

They think you must have horns, and hate the poor, and hate the Maori, and hate the unions – well, that’s true.

My initial reaction was surprise that Hide would say that, and the conference MC Jim Hopkins was obviously also surprised, as he asked Hide if he would revisit his comments.

3 News showed Hide saying “No!” and then cut. But that wasn’t the whole story.

There were subsequent blog discussions (I saw them at Kiwiblog and The Standard), some condemning Hide based on the 3 News item, some defending him.

Ex ACT MP David Garrett was a vigorous defender, he had attended the conference and witnessed all of Hide’s whole speech and the follow-up to Hopkins’ invitation to revisit. Garrett has since reiterated his opinion:

I knew – as did Hopkins – as soon as the quip didn’t go right that that is what would be the soundbite on the the News…as it was. Hopkins invited Rodney back to “have another go at it”..Rodney did so, in considerably more detail, about the media generated perceptions of ACT. None of that of course made the news.

This raised questions and I became further suspicious when I saw that no other

I have also talked in person to John Boscawen and others from ACT who attended the conference who were disappointed with the 3 News item.

I advised 3 News chief political reporter Patrick Gower of Garrett’s version and asked:

Is there any longer recorded versions of what Hide said (before and after what was shown) and after Hide’s “No” to Hopkins asking if he would revisit it?

Can you add anything to your side of the story?

I haven’t had a response yet.

I also asked Rodney Hide to explain what he meant and what actually happened. He has responded:

I spoke off-the-cuff and don’t have a verbatim memory of the context but I do of the controversial sentence because my friend Jim Hopkins who was MC drew my attention to how it could get misconstrued as “gold” by the news media.

The context was how ACT and ACT people get misrepresented in the media.  And I gave examples.

The specific sentence was how we are supposed to hate all these groups which I listed — poor people, maori, unions, I then paused for dramatic effect, and said something to the effect well it was true that we disliked unions and gave the example of the practices of the teacher unions.

I described in particular how teacher unions were holding back maori and poor people. Anyone familiar with my history and recent columns would know that has long been a theme of mine.

After my speech. Jim Hopkins said that the specific sentence could be misconstrued and would I clarify which I immediately did.

I took some time and care in doing so.

Either then — or in the speech — I also gave the specific example of some years back a drunken print journalist and subsequent TV3 political editor accosting me at a party as to why ACT hated Maori so much.

I was nonplussed.  I asked how they could ever think such a thing.  They said because ACT didn’t want Maori Doctors.  I said I wasn’t aware of anyone in ACT making such a statement. 

They then explained ACT is against a Maori quota for medical school.  I hadn’t realised until then that anyone could be so stupid — or indeed so racist — as to think that the only way Maori could succeed was through quotas and that the ACT party in calling for one law for all could be concluded by the news media as not wanting Maori doctors. 

I gave examples where that hadn’t been necessary and pointed out that Sir Peter Tapsell was an ACT supporter! 

I explained that ACT felt the problem was one of lifting educational attainment, rather than dropping the entry bar for ethnicity.  That was all back in about 1997 and was all to little effect.

I explained all that to the audience to give an indication for how tough it is For John Banks with the media in this country.

I didn’t want to be reported because I knew John Banks was to speak in the afternoon.  I prefer now to stay out of the media.   I clearly failed in that because my words could be used to make the exact opposite point to the one that I was making about ACT but precisely the point I was making about the news media.

This all directly contradicts the news item as shown on 3 News, which was also very negative about ACT’s chances of surviving – their online report is titled Act Party struggles to avoid political oblivion. It focussed on Hide’s comments (seemingly misleadingly edited) and made weird references to livestock and artworks.

Hide is no longer an active participant in ACT’s operation or it’s rebuildingt. Over halfway through the item John Banks was given some coverage, but it did not show ACT’s chief rebuilder John Boscawen at all.

Sabin closed the item with:

…today it was hard to tell what was real, and what was make believe.

That could describe Sabin’s news item.

I would be surprised (and very concerned) if this was a deliberate attempt to misrepresent what Hide said.

My guess is that Sabin took his own meaning and built a story around it, something that is common in media coverage. In this case Sabin seems to have been totally wrong.

This  deserves an explanation from Sabin and/or 3 News, or at least an acknowledgment that in this item they got it totally wrong.

Otherwise it leaves me wondering what news we should believe.

Leave a comment


  1. Darryl

     /  10th March 2013

    TV3 are a disgrace in there reporting. In our house we say before the news comes on at TV3, (that we watch now and again). Who in the National Government, are they going to attack tonight. They change the context of everything. We are convinced they are campaigning for the Left.

  2. I was there; Hide’s account above matches what I remember. Hide gave a litany of what he characterised as the media view of ACT (and, if I recall correctly, which I may not, he also predicted that it would be the media’s portrayal of the conference), followed by his explanation of why it was all wrong. The MC invited Hide to provide further detail, given the near certainty that someone like 3 would just pick up that quote.

    • Thanks Eric, further confirmation that 3 News got it totally wrong.

      I have asked Brook Sabin and Patrick Gower to address my concerns, so far they have ignored me, but I think something apparently that blatantly wrong is important enough to keep pursuing. So I will.

    • If anyone else can confirm or contest either side of this story I’d be grateful to build more of a case.


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