Teapot tapes and media collusion in politics

In The Big Read:David Fisher has written about Teapot tape – the real story of 11-11-11, which details what happened, and of particular interest is the herald’s involvement and how they saw what unfolded.

From Fisher’s account it’s not hard to see how Key and his team were highly suspicious of how and why the recording was made. It is now officially accepted by Key that the recording was accidental, which is plausible in the context of a frenzied media scrum and the use of new technology used by a video novice.

It raises one important question in particular about how TV3 and Winston Peters appear to have worked together in an election campaign that may have had a significant impact on the election result.

A few points of note:

In a piece by political reporter Isaac Davison, which described the event as “the most eagerly awaited conversation of the election”, Mr Banks said he wasn’t bothered about any recording because he and Mr Key discussed “pretty bland stuff”.

It may have been “the most eagerly awaited conversation of the election” for journalists going by the circus they made of it (and helped make happen through public pressure on Key) but did the people of New Zealand really care about it?

I thought the whole thing was trivial and farcical and a blot on media and politics.

It was a staged meeting which was equal parts media and political circus. The meeting was the Prime Minister’s signal to his National Party supporters in the electorate that they were free to vote for Mr Banks as the local MP.

If enough people did so – and they did – it would secure a coalition partner for the National Party and assist in forming a government.

I give Epsom voters a lot more credit for thinking for themselves without needing manic media signalling. After all they has already elected Rodney Hide in the two previous elections. Key wisely avoided a repeat in 2014 and David Seymour still managed to get elected without the same media madness.

It’s bizarre, looking at the footage and photographs now, that no one noticed Ambrose’s little black bag with its recording device inside on the table next to the politicians.

Perhaps it is a bit bizarre but not really surprising considering the frenzied focus on what was little more than a nod and a wink, except for the mad scramble for media headlines.

There was also disbelief at the claims it was a “News of the World-style” operation. I – and others involved in the story – were astonished at the claim, disbelieving and simply speechless at having actions and motives ascribed which bore no resemblance to what happened.

It’s not as if the media are ever guilty ascribing actions and motives that bear little resemblance to what happens.

Ambrose, though, was deeply upset. He became the focus of the attention that followed after Mr Key made a police complaint.

Not surprising he was upset, but it also shouldn’t be surprising that Key was also very upset – although the police complaint wasn’t a smart reaction.

The issue didn’t go away, either, after he gave a copy to TV3 and it started reporting on the content of the conversation, albeit via claims being made by NZ First leader Winston Peters.

I think this is an aspect of the story that should get much more scrutiny.

Did TV3 feed Peters content of the recording?

They gave Peters’ election meetings special attention, I remember one in particular in Invercargill that TV3 promoted in advance and then covered.

It appeared to be deliberate media-political collusion and may have had a significant impact on NZ First getting back into Parliament. They got a late surge to get them over the 5% threshold, partly at least thanks to publicity given to Peters by TV3.

The circus over the cup of tea meeting was a headline hinting circus with many media involved. It is disturbing to see how much they try to influence election outcomes.

As Barry Soper says in A real storm in a tea cup:

But it was the media melee and the fact that a recording device was left on the cafe table that got all the publicity, derailing the campaign for at least a week.

It was the media that derailed the campaign in 2011. I think there’s no doubt they changed the outcome of the election so some extent.

When media collude with politicians to give them a campaign advantage this raises serious questions about how our media can influence elections in order to create headlines for themselves.

Who will challenge media on how they manipulate politics for their own purposes? It’s not likely they will call themselves on it.

Leave a comment

22 Comments

  1. Graeme Edgeler wonders who might post the interview – The Teapot Moan Scandal Ends; or Who will Broadcast the Teapot Tape?

    More circus. At least it’s not during an election campaign.

    Reply
  2. “When media collude with politicians to give them a campaign advantage this raises serious questions about how our media can influence elections in order to create headlines for themselves.”

    Does this not happen all the time? Is doing it by design worse or better than doing it by nature? As a ball park example, Mike Hosking.

    Reply
    • It does happen often but during an election campaign it’s a bigger issue, so worse then.

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  22nd March 2016

      Media, originally newspapers, have been dirtying up and steering politicians and politics for centuries. We just have to learn to be wary when media, especially big media do these stunts. Alternative media and opinion forums abound these days so we’re probably better able to do keep our eye on the ball than ever before.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  22nd March 2016

        Some of the things printed in previous centuries were far worse than anything printed now-you should see some of the c.18 and early (and later, really, now I come to think of it) papers, nobody would get away with that sort of thing now. They were really scurrilous.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  22nd March 2016

          I don’t believe that John Key and John Banks did make the meeting into the circus that the press did. He was pointing out the advantage of strategic voting in MMP which means that you can have two for the price of one, so to speak, and that’s perfectly valid. I don’t know why the press were under the impression that we all wanted to see the two in the cafe, night after night….we couldn’t hear what was being said, so what was the point ?

          Reply
          • jamie

             /  22nd March 2016

            “I don’t believe that John Key and John Banks did make the meeting into the circus that the press did.”

            But Kitty it wasn’t even a “meeting” in any meaningful sense. It was only ever a media circus from the beginning.

            Reply
            • Robby

               /  22nd March 2016

              First world problems. What a tragedy. Who died???

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  22nd March 2016

    The political media are as power hungry as the politicians. That is why they get up in the mornings. That is why they are so hostile to Trump because he is destroying their power as Pat Buchanan notes in his article I linked to on the last Trump post. The distinction between the likes of Fisher and Slater is only means, not objectives.

    Reply
  4. Oliver

     /  22nd March 2016

    John Key forced to apologize again. This guy has a long rap sheet of offending. It’s time for him to go, he’s over stayed his welcome as far as I’m concerned. Three strikes and you’re out.

    Reply
    • Revel

       /  22nd March 2016

      He hasn’t apologised at all. In fact the opposite. Honest opinion is a defence to defamation and Ambrose has made a statement he accepts Key’s was honest opinion.

      Reply
      • jamie

         /  22nd March 2016

        He hasn’t apologised, but he has admitted he was wrong.

        That’s also a “blue moon” event in the John Key diary.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  22nd March 2016

          Oliver, I don’t suppose that John Key gives a damn what you think. You seem to imagine that your opinions are of far greater importance than they are.

          Reply
          • Robby

             /  22nd March 2016

            Oliver probably doesn’t give a damn about what you, I, or JK thinks either Kitty. His opinions are as important to him as yours are to you, and mine to me. That doesn’t mean they are correct tho’ 🙂

            Reply
  5. Key on paying the costs (someone else paying):

    Reply
    • Robby

       /  22nd March 2016

      Funny how the story keeps changing. Someone should submit an OIA request for the actual amount that has been spent on his legal costs since 2013…..

      Reply
    • jamie

       /  22nd March 2016

      This is what I don’t understand. The guy has a squillion dollars in the bank and could have just paid this small amount himself but it seems like he’d rather let the story keep going on and on with all this “who-pays-for-what” stuff.

      If he had just forked out he might have actually put a bit of positive spin on it – good guy fronts up and gets back to work etc – but now it’s just messy. Seems like he’s trying a bit too hard to get someone else (anyone else) to pay a small bill that he could have easily paid himself and been done with it.

      Is it possible the bill isn’t as small as we’ve been led to believe?

      Reply
      • Patzcuaro

         /  23rd March 2016

        You don’t become a squillionaire by paying for things yourself, you get someone else to pay.

        Reply
  6. Kitty Catkin

     /  22nd March 2016

    Can’t you make the print any smaller, Pete ?

    Reply
    • Fair enough with the teapot rat swallowing, but the flag is quite different, it was a democratic option that was always going to be difficult to succeed with.

      Reply
      • Patzcuaro

         /  23rd March 2016

        I agree but the flag referendum will still be a set back for Key as he has been unable to sway voters to the alternative flag option. As the Lockwood flags have been around awhile they had a head start but the process was unable to through up serious challengers. Both of the black & white flags ( Koro & Fern) were very weak options.

        Reply

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