RNZ audience up

Radio New Zealand has revamped itself and as a result it’s audience is climbing.

Here are the latest survey numbers:


That has to be good as media options have fragmented a lot over the last decade in particular.

Content is important but a lack of advertising must help a lot now as people more actively seek respite from the commercial onslaught.

I think that having a public broadcast option is essential.


Earthquake – update information

Key facts from RNZ:

  • A 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck near Hanmer Springs at 12.02am on Monday.
  • There have been two confirmed deaths. One person died in a house that collapsed in Kaikoura, and a second person died at a house in Mt Lyford, inland from Kaikoura.
  • Scores of severe aftershocks have hit.
  • Kaikoura is still cut off from the rest of the country, with major landslides blocking the roads in and out.
  • Six people suffered moderate to serious injuries in Kaikoura and were airlifted to hospital; another 18 were treated for minor injuries.
  • Most of Wellington’s CBD will open as normal on Tuesday morning, with parts of Featherston St cordoned off.
  • People living near the Clarence River were told to evacuate after a dam breach. A group of kayakers, and another group of 16 rafters, have been found safe.
  • Tsunami warnings have been cancelled, but people are advised to stay vigilant near coastal waters.

Morning update (Tuesday 15 November).:

  • Mass evacuations are due to begin this morning from quake-hit Kaikoura, on the South Island’s east coast.
  • The town is cut off by road and rail, and the navy ship HMNZS Canterbury has been sent to help bring supplies and get people out.
  • 1200 tourists are believed to be stranded in Kaikoura, and RNZ News has been told as many as 50 helicopters will also help evacuate them.
  • Large aftershocks have continued to rattle buildings and nerves overnight in the town of about two-thousand people.
  • Civil Defence says only three days’ supply of fresh water remain.
  • The Takahanga Marae deputy chairperson, Major Timms, says the town’s concrete water tank has split in two. The marae yesterday fed about 700 people in the aftermath of the quake and is expecting large numbers again today.
  • A team of specialist engineers will begin inspecting earthquake-damaged buildings this morning.
  • The Civil Defence national controller David Coetzee (could-seer) says about 50 buildings in Wellington need further assessment. And the engineers will also carry out assessments of several buildings in Kaikoura. Mr Coetzee expects it will take a couple of days to get a complete picture of the extent of the damage.


  • You may be able to head back to work today, but you should check with your boss to make sure you can go back to your building – and use your commonsense.
  • Commuter rail services in Wellington are expected to return to normal schedules today after yesterday’s quake related suspensions operator Metlink says.
  • The capital’s bus services are running but are diversions are in place in the central business district  to allow inspection of buildings for quake and wind damage.
  • The Fire Service says there were no major callouts in the capital overnight although Civil Defence said there were some instances of broken glass being dislodged by last night’s winds.
  • Some areas of the CBD remain cordoned off due to the risk of further glass and debris being dislodged by strong wind.
  • Civil Defence says Central Wellington will be open for business today  but people will need to use their commonsense and check with their employers whether their building has been inspected and deemed safe to enter.
  • A KiwiRail spokeswoman said two freight only Interislander ferry crossings of Cook Strait were made last night but passenger services were yet to resume.


RNZ beats commercial radio

The biggest surprise for me in this story is that Radio NZ (the now like to be called RNZ) hasn’t been included in ratings done for commercial radio before.

This makes some of Stuff’s stuff a bit strange in Bloody marvellous! John Campbell and Morning Report lead RNZ to a ratings resurgence

The “king of breakfast radio” Mike Hosking has been dethroned by state broadcaster RNZ’sMorning Report programme.

RNZ has attracted the highest national audience against commercial radio news rivals in all key time slots, results from a survey released this week show.

It was the first time in 17 years RNZ has been included in a radio survey with its commercial competitors.

How can they (Stuff) claim ‘a resurgence’ and that Hosking is ‘dethroned’ when there was no previous comparison?

Regardless of that, the survey GfK survey (conducted over 18 weeks and sampled nearly 11,00 people aged 10 years and over) shows that RNZ is a major player on the pictureless airwaves.

Total New Zealand Commercial Radio Audience Measurement

For the first time a Commercial Radio Audience Measurement Survey has been conducted across the whole of New Zealand, giving valuable insights into the strength and scope of commercial radio listening across the country. The survey was conducted over 18 weeks and sampled 10,863 people aged 10+.

Department of Statistics estimated population data at 30 June 2015 indicates approximately 4,010,000 people aged 10+ years live in New Zealand. The Total New Zealand Commercial Radio Audience Measurement Survey shows over 3,134,000 or 78.2% of them listen to a commercial radio station each week.

The survey showed:

  • RNZ’s Morning Report programme, hosted by former TV personality Guyon Espiner and Susie Ferguson from 6am-9am, had about 386,000 listeners.
  • Mike Hosking Breakfast, which runs from 6am to 8.30am, was ‘a distant second’ to Morning Report.

(In May, Newstalk ZB reported that Mike Hosking was the “king of breakfast radio” with 265,000 listeners).

  • RNZ shows Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan, Jesse Mulligan in afternoons and Checkpoint with John Campbell were all leading their time slots against rival stations.
  • The Edge was the top ranked station nationwide with 663,000 listeners each week followed by RNZ with 529,000 listeners. Newstalk ZB was close behind with 504,000 listeners.

So RNZ appears to be working and providing something that many people make use of.

I think that an alternative to commercial radio is worthwhile and adds something different to the radio mix.

The Spinoff cuts off comments

Following the lead of Radio New Zealand who earlier this week announced they would no longer allow comments on their website, yesterday The Spinoff announced they are also disabling comments.

Editor and Publisher Duncan Grieve: The end of comments on The Spinoff

Today The Spinoff officially turns off comments. Here editor Duncan Greive explains his reasoning behind the decision.

As of today, as of exactly right now, The Spinoff is turning off Disqus, the comments engine we’ve used since we started in September of 2014. The motivations are simple and twofold. First, comments make us no money but have a cost. Second, they have been getting vile at times, a trend I see as likely to worsen as we evolve. I’ve been mulling it ever since I read this excellent summary of The Problem with Comments on, of all ye olde places, Popbitch. And I was spurred into action after reading Megan Whelan’s announcement that RNZ is doing it over on their platform earlier this week.

The financial side:

…we, more so than most commercial websites, lack a mechanism by which we gain from return visitors to a page. While comments may have started as a method of engaging with your audience and allowing feedback on a story, they evolved into mostly being another vehicle by which an advertising-funded site might gain a few more ad impressions. As we don’t get paid per page view – and have no plans to ever evolve into a site which does – return visits to a particular story are nice but essentially meaningless to us.

The cost comes in because comments need moderating. It needs to be part of someone’s job to read them. Which both takes time, and means some poor young Spinoff employee has to spend part of their day wading through a cesspit of weird raging avatars each day. I don’t really see the upside to that.

Using “some poor young Spinoff employee” to do the moderation suggests they put a low priority on comments and their management. It’s not surprising they ended up with a cesspit of weird raging avatars each day.

But the main reason is “We’re turning them off because they have been getting horrible at times”.

Seriously bleak and offensive. And I don’t see that changing.

Why am I so confident that the current plague of nasty, often misogynist comments is the beginning, not the end of a trend? Because we’re gaining a much bigger audience – in June we topped 400,000 unique users for the first time.

And because a big part of how we’re attracting that audience is by confronting some parts of New Zealand’s society and culture which have been toxic for too long. In the past month alone we’ve had commentary on racism, misogyny and homophobia – and that was just in a single piece on a vile RadioSport segment.

One, it should be noted, that has since been abandoned, thanks largely to the furore our reporting of the segment caused.

That’s a shame. Big issues need to be openly discussed. But decent needs to be properly managed, and it seems that mainstream media and journalists don’t have the skills or motivation to do that. So they give up.

This decision helps contain the risk of publishing bad words to just our staff and contributors, rather than a semi-anonymous section of people looking to fight the tide of progress to a more just and rational world.

Because that’s in part what The Spinoff has evolved to become. A place where ideas are tested, where some of the shittier assumptions our society has lived with for too long are confronted and dismantled.

So, as of right now, we’re following Bloomberg, CNN and others into the comment-free future. If that makes you mad and you want to respond, you know where to find us.

How are you supposed to confront and dismantle “some of the shittier assumptions our society has lived with for too long” without allowing them to be discussed?

It’s challenging enabling online debate on contentious issues, but I think it’s important that the effort is made.

It requires hard work and time.

But I think in the modern age of communication we have to find workable ways of being inclusive with our handling of issues.

People want to participate. In an open and democratic society they should be able to participate.

It’s the choice of major media to scrap their attempts to be inclusive. RNZ, The Spinoff and others do some good but we need more than elite media lecturing to us.

Fortunately there are plenty of alternatives that will continue to allow open discussion, and that are prepared to minimise the crap and grow the good things that debate can give us.

RNZ turning off comments

Radio New Zealand is ending an 18 month experiment and plans to turn commenting off later this week, saying it’s too hard to moderate adequately.

Why we’re turning off comments

From later this week, we’re removing comments from RNZ.co.nz

When RNZ switched on comments last year, it was an experiment to see whether we could create a space where thoughtful and insightful comments would thrive.

And while the comments have been, for the most part, exactly that, there haven’t been many people involved in that conversation.

More and more, the conversations around RNZ’s journalism are happening elsewhere. We want to focus on making those spaces reflect that journalism and our charter.

They explain:

Comments on news websites are a fraught topic. For a long time they seemed like the way forward, a way to bring the audience into the stories, and let’s face it, comments are still what media analysts like to call “content”. In the social media, mobile-driven world comments are the ultimate in “engagement”.

But for as long as there has been comments, “don’t read the comments” has been a common refrain. If you’ve spent any time in discussion forums, you’ll be familiar with the pedantry and bad behaviour often found there.

As far back as 2012, Gawker Media founder Nick Denton said the promise of thoughtful discussion hadn’t been fulfilled.

“I don’t like going into the comments … For every two comments that are interesting – even if they’re critical, you want to engage with them – there will be eight that are off-topic or just toxic.”

And so, news websites began turning off comments sections. Popular Science, CNN, Mic.com, Reuters, Bloomberg and The Daily Beast have all turned off comments in the past couple of years.

“It is no longer a core service of news sites to provide forums for these conversations,” wrote The Week’s editor-in-chief Ben Frumin. “Instead, we provide the ideas, the fodder, the jumping off point, and readers take it to Facebook or Twitter or Reddit or any number of other places to continue the conversation.”

Stuff made it clear that they still allow commenting…

Patrick Crewdson Retweeted RNZ News
RNZ commenters will be welcome on @NZStuff. (Have I mentioned this?

…with a link to a job description:

We are seeking two highly-motivated Comment Moderators to join our dynamic and growing team at Stuff, based in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch.

This job would suit a journalist who cares about fostering lively (but civil) debate; who believes that audience views should be solicited and celebrated, not disparaged; and who wants to help shape the conversation on the country’s biggest news website.

You will need to have a strong understanding of media law and ethics and be comfortable making judgment calls about community standards. You will be able to work quickly in a high-pressure environment without compromising accuracy.

You’ll be adept at spotting potential news stories or Stuff Nation submissions in the comments section and will help bring them to life.

StopPress discusses news site commenting and moderation: RNZ scraps its online comment section

Whelan says that for RNZ to serve the public, it needs to know what its audience is interested in.

“Increasingly though, that’s happening in places away from our own website. In the days before social media, the idea was that comments were a place where our audiences could engage with our journalism, add their thoughts and expertise to stories, and in the best possible way, deepen the discourse,” she says.

Fairfax group digital and visual editor Mark Stevens says comment sections are important, and that some of Fairfax’s audience is reading/watching content on its social platforms, but some aren’t.

“But they all deserve to be able to engage with us on that content. Commenting is a very important part of the relationship between the newsroom and our audience,” he says.

However, he admits moderating comments on Fairfax’s websites and its social media channels is difficult.

“It’s hard. It’s time consuming and the comment queue can be a pretty toxic place. But that’s not a reason to give up on it or ditch it for the majority of commenters who actually have something constructive to add to our stories,” he says.

It’s difficult enough moderating a small website with a modest number of comments.

We have seen here the extremes some go to to try and disrupt and shut up sites that they don’t like. Marc Spring, with the help of Cameron Slater and Dermot Nottingham, misused the Court to gag Your NZ and put me in jail because they didn’t couldn’t handle a bit of criticism and didn’t like me stopping their ongoing harassment here, contrary to Court limits (to those who complain about me continuing to critique Whale Oil one reason why I don’t roll over and shut up is to keep standing up to the bullshit bullies).

Is comment moderation endangering freedom of speech?

“Possibly, but equally we have a responsibility to ensure we aren’t breaking the law or being unnecessarily offensive in what we publish on our site,” he says. “That doesn’t translate to moderating out opinions we don’t agree with, but it does mean we have no tolerance for hate speech, or swearing, or defamatory remarks etc.”

He says in addition to ensuring comments met Fairfax’s terms and conditions, he is also an advocate of keeping the comment section civil. “We don’t nail that every single time, but we do try hard to keep the nastiness out of there, even if the trolls are managing to stay on the right side of the law.”

We’ve had a few pathetic trolls here too – see The Willis syndrome.  Why some people seem determined to disrupt sites, hijack discussions and abuse people is hard to comprehend but a small but dirty dishonest minority do things anonymously online they wouldn’t dare doing under their own identity in person.

It’s a tricky problem, and its trickiness is in perfect correlation with the rapid growth of publishers’ online audiences. It seems only time will tell if comment sections will buckle under the pressure of offensive comments and trolls, but with initiatives like The Coral Project aiming to solve the technology behind the problem, hopefully things will only get better and people can continue to comment freely, sans those bad eggs. 

One of the advantages of a smaller site is it is easier to build a community that gets the aims, limitations and responsibilities of free speech and jointly keeps the crap to a minimum.

As in real life there will always be people intent on causing others harm and challenges when they are determined to shit in other people’s nests but they lose if we keep succeeding.

The concept of left wing balance

Early last week Radio New Zealand teamed up with Nicky Hager to reveal not very much about New Zealand’s involvement in the Panama papers.

The Standard had a number of posts as a result, including:

Sprung! New Panama Papers dump confirm NZ is a tax haven

A new release of Panama papers absolutely confirms New Zealand is a tax haven says Nicky Hager. And ironically, it is because of New Zealand’s squeaky clean reputation that tens of thousands of foreigners have come flooding here.
Rather than actually dealing with the issue, John Key is using his old classics “nothing to see here” coupled with “Labour did it too”, “nicky hager is a conspiracy nut”, and “wait for the (Shewan) whitewash enquiry” defenses.

John Key chickens out of #panamapapers interview

The Radio New Zealand TV One Nicky Hager release of analysis of the Panama Papers is underway and the media response is fascinating.

First up John Key pulled out of his regular Radio New Zealand interview after learning what he was to be questioned about. He attended all other media invitations. One wonders why. Perhaps National needs the PR advice to try and work out how to respond.

Radio NZ working with Nicky Hager on a major story (ok, on a minor story in a major way) seems to be fine.

The second of those was by MickySavage. Yesterday he posted:

Matthew Hooton and the Radio New Zealand post

Radio New Zealand recently published a piece penned by well known supporter of the right Matthew Hooton.  What has happened to the concept of balance?

This tweet caused me some surprise when I first saw it.  I respect the quality of Radio New Zealand’s reporters and its commitment to the concept of quality journalism.  But I scratched my head when I saw this tweet because the conclusion seemed completely overblown and so un Radio New Zealand like.

What was really weird was that the post was written not by a staff member but by that well known commentator for the right Matthew Hooton.

I was astounded by this.  Isn’t Radio New Zealand meant to provide “innovative, comprehensive, and independent broadcasting services of a high standard”?  How could Hooton’s views be considered to be independent?

Hager is not an RNZ staff member. He is well known as a left leaning political activist.

Why are his views accepted as independent and balanced while it is ‘astounding’ that Hooton’s opinion is allowed on public radio airwaves?

Hooton’s article was ideologically driven and contained clear bias.  And it was completely lacking in detail or analysis.

Many people saw the RNZ/Hager coverage of the Panama papers in a similar light.

But getting back to Hooton’s column why did Radio New Zealand agree to it being published?  Did the arrangement to report on the issue with Nicky Hager upset the right that much that they demanded a patsy piece in the interests of “balance”?

So including a different opinion from Hooton is somehow a right wing conspiracy of public radio coercion, but collaborating with Hager is beyond reproach?

A rule from Presland farm:

Media balance is essential but some balance is more essential than those bloody righties being allowed to say something too.

It’s worth noting that Hooton was given a permanent ban from The Standard last week. Their sort of balance?

John Shewan on Radio NZ

Radio NZ – John Campbell interviews John Shewan on 13 April 2014 after Andrew Little made accusations against Shewan in Parliament earlier in the afternoon.

John Campbell: Did you go with Don Brash to the Bahamas to advise on tax policy?

John Shewan: Yes I did, we were both requested to go up there to advise the Bahamas Government on their VAT.

John Campbell: Requested by who?

John Shewan:By John Key, by the New Zealand Government. The Bahamas Prime Minister had requested John key for some assistance because they were having difficulty in the Bahamas getting acceptance for the proposed VAT legislation and we were sent up there to have a look at why there was such resistance and to make recommendations for change.

John Campbell: OK, so VAT is exactly the same as our GST, well not exactly the same but more or less the same right?

John Shewan: It is exactly the same.

John Campbell: Ok. Did you recommend a zero rating for off shore financial services industry in the Bahamas?

John Shewan: No we did not. And it’s very disappointing to hear the statements made today because they’re completely and utterly inaccurate.

John Campbell: Sorry I’m just going to, because you, it’s absolutely been said in Parliament that you did. So without equivocation in a very singular way – did you recommend a zero rating?

John Shewan: No. And let me say that apparently what’s been said in Parliament today is based on a report from one of the Bahamas newspapers. I have in front of me the section of the report on financial services, and it’s very important just to cover the two points.

Firstly by the time Don Brash and I arrived in the Bahamas the draft legislation had been put before the Parliament and as is the case with most countries they had proposed to exempt financial services domestically and they financial services would be zero rated. That’s standard practice.

What we recommended was that the base be broadened so we recommended a number of other items be brought in.

In relation to financial services we recommended that they retain that exemption for domestic services, but they considered zero rating business to  business supplies just within the Bahamas as New Zealand had done a few years earlier.

John Campbell: So wait a sec, this is confusing now and it sounds like semantics to me, in other words is there zero rating for the offshore financial services industry in the Bahamas, and were you part of that? I guess that’s the nub of this.

Are you using semantics to get around the fact that somehow you were influential over that zero rating?

John Shewan: Absolutely not, as I just said by the time we got up there the draft legislation already had in it zero rating financial services, just as New Zealand does.

What we were looking at was in the context of the overall regime could they actually expand the base so for example…

John Campbell: So did they show you the draft legislation, did they say ‘what do you think of this’?

John Shewan: Yes they did.

John Campbell: Ok, and so did you sign off on the zero services, did you say ‘yeah that’s a good idea we stand by that’?

John Shewan: Well what we said was, what they were proposing in relation to financial services was entirely consistent with the rest of the world including New Zealand, and we recommended that they go have a look in due course and we said, and I’ll quote what we said here. I’ve got it in front of me.

“The Bahamas Government may wish to consider refinements to financial services provisions at some future point. The regime is complicated and based on the New Zealand experience it’s best added to an existing regime and it’s more practical experience. Attempting to implement this now would likely delay the implementation of VAT”.

So we did not recommend the zero rating for offshore financial services, that was already in the legislation and indeed it’s entirely consistent with rules in New Zealand, Australia and other countries.

So this is a complete red herring, a storm in a teacup, and very disappointing and I would have been more than happy to take a call  from Mr Little’s office to respond rather than people going off on the basis of what would seem to be a completely misleading newspaper article from the Bahamas.

John Campbell: Ok does this speak to a kind of broader sense coming from some quarters that you are a fox that’s been put in charge of the chicken house?

John Shewan: Ah well that may be the case, and I’ve been asked to do a job, I intend to do it, and I’d ask that the report be judged on the integrity of the report and it’s author, be judged on the basis of the report.

John Campbell: Which seems to be absolutely fair enough. And if you’re am empiricist, you say ok wait and let’s see what John Shewan comes out with.

But I guess what people are suggesting is gosh this is the man that quite likes zero ratings, this is the man that quite likes financial trusts.

And can I just ask you a couple of questions about this.

Have you ever placed foreign clients in New Zealand based trusts?

John Shewan: No I haven’t.

John Campbell: Never not once in the course of your career as a tax expert with PWC?

John Shewan: I’ve had no involvement whatsoever with foreign trusts. It’s not an area I ever worked in.

John Campbell: Have you ever put New Zealand clients in foreign trusts.

John Shewan: Ah no I haven’t.

John Campbell: Ok, have you ever put, have you ever been associated in any way with Monsack Fonteta?

John Shewan:No, never heard of them.

John Campbell: So you’d never heard of them prior to the release of the Panama papers?

John Shewan: No I hadn’t. I had no reason too John.

Can I come back to this allegation by Mr Little, because I really take it very seriously, because the assertion is that we made recommendations to protect the Bahamas state as a tax haven.

This is one hundred percent incorrect, totally wrong. And for such statements to be made without any consultation is to me quite alarming.

The Bahamas was and still is a low tax country, a tax haven, that’s correct.

Our role was actually to enable them to start raising taxes through the implementation of it’s VAT that worked . The regime was actually in not a good shape when Don Brash and I arrived and we made substantial recommendations to broaden the base.

Ironically what we did, and this makes what’s been said in Parliament today such a joke,  we materially increased the level of VAT that will be collected by the Bahamas government by broadening the base, and including key areas such as general insurance and…

John Campbell: Absolutely. But I guess and this is the point, and, but you didn’t include the offshore financial industry right?

John Shewan: No we did not.

John Campbell: Ok. One final question. Everyone’s talking about this Westpac case. Now I’d only read reports of it so today I got the judgment of Justice Harrison.

So this is Westpac versus Inland Revenue, you know the case, and if we turn in to point 564:

“Mr Shewan recommended that Westpac pay thirty to forty million annually even though that sum represented a rate of only 6.5% against the reported profit.”

So that’s in Justice Harrison’s judgment from the high court. Is that true?

John Shewan: Ah well it’s been taken out of context but it was part of an overall letter which I’m limited in terms of what I can say about that, but actually what it was saying is, and most tax advisers at the time were saying the same thing, is that there were likely to be changes made to the banking and tax rules to tighten the tax base, and that was in fact done. And then these cases came before the courts after that, but the rules had actually already been tightened so they were historical.

And actually that advice was actually in line, in terms of saying the banks should be paying tax.

John Campbell: And by golly they had to, right. I mean there was a huge award made against them.

John Shewan: The entire banking industry was included in that…

John Campbell: Absolutely…

John Shewan: …and it would have been fifty to eighty tax advisers involved, and all I can say is in the context of 38 years working in the tax area there are cases that you will win, there are cases you will lose.

I’m entirely satisfied with my record and I’m entirely satisfied that I have consistently acted with integrity. I accept that some Members of Parliament have had more litigation experience than me and they may have a better track record and good luck to them on that.

But I absolutely reject any suggestion that I’ve acted in anything other than a totally professional way, and I do object to some of the very misleading so-called facts which are complete myths that are now being perpetrated in Parliament.

Radio NZ Report: Trust reviewer rejects Labour’s Bahamas accusation

Audio: “Completely and utterly inaccurate” – Listen to John Shewan’s live interview on Checkpoint with John Campbell

Andrew Little’s comments in Parliament: Little slams Shewan who slams Little

Current affairs going online

Mediawatch on Radio New Zealand on Sunday looked at Current affairs drifts online – will funding follow? (includes audio link of the programme)

Current affairs programmes that once aired on national networks are now reappearing online. Is this a trend that could loosen the broadcasters’ hold on the bulk of public funding?

Two weeks ago, broadcaster Willie Jackson and left-leaning blogger Martyn Bradbury launched a daily discussion show called Waatea 5th Estate. It screens on on Auckland’s local channel Face TV, which is available nationally on Sky TV. The show is streamed live on YouTube, and on the websites of Willie Jackson’s Waatea News and Martyn Bradbury’s The Daily Blog.

It’s a multimedia counterpoint to, in Bradbury’s words, “dumbed down tabloid trash served up as current affairs on other channels at 7pm”. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it does show what can be done on TV and online these days with a small budget.

On an episode last Monday about broadcasting, AUT media lecturer Dr Wayne Hope said government broadcasting funding agency New Zealand on Air “should broaden its remit to fund more programmes like this one”.

It’s not clear how Fifth Estate is funded.

NZ on Air already fund some online content:

Last year NZME – owner of the New Zealand Herald and Newstalk ZB – launched an online video channel called Watch Me.

Two video series on it were funded by NZOA to the tune of $100,000 each. One is a video version of satirical political website The Civilian, and a recent online episode tore into contemporary television news.

If public money is available to satirise TV journalism online, there seems no reason not to use it to put journalism which TV broadcasters have abandoned – such as 3D – online as well.

It will be interesting to see whether public funding of current affairs moves online.


Radio NZ abuse

There’s  and interesting issue of abuse on Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint with John Campbell Facebook page.

Some fairly extreme abuse went on for several days, targeting John Key and his mother.

5:30 pm yesterday Whale Oil picked up on it and posted Why are RadioNZ and John Campbell allowing death threats against the Prime Minister?

6:36 pm David Farrar followed up with a post at Kiwiblog – Hate speech on the Radio NZ Checkpoint Facebook page. 

9:23 pm Farrar also commented about it on it on Twitter:

David Farrar @dpfdpf

The John Campbell Checkpoint Radio NZ FB page has some of the worst hate speech I have seen online. People saying…

9:30 pm this was followed by:

That’s a speedy response once Radio NZ found out. It has since been claimed they ended up deleting around a hundred comments.

Farrar had several digs at Radio NZ over funding, I don’t think that’s the issue here.

My guess is that Radio NZ had had relatively few problems with abusive comments and were caught out by a sudden spate of them. I’m sure they will be more vigilant in the future.

Danyl at Dim-Post joined in on this early this morning – The mysterious case of the hate speech comments on the RNZ Facebook page.

He suggested it looked suspicious.

So it seems really odd that people like Insane Clown Posse fan ‘Tim Wikidclownz‘ would all randomly one weekend decide to pour into a sleepy Radio New Zealand Facebook page and leave comments about gassing John Key’s mother and similar obscenities. And that WhaleOil, the guy who stumbled over that copy of The Luminaries uploaded to Mega that only the person who illegally uploaded it would know about, also stumbled over these.

This has been expanded on in comments.

I haven’t had a detailed look at the Radio NZ comments and they are now deleted, but some at least seem to have been made by people who look like they have been generally abusive. It’s not uncommon on Facebook.

Especially absent any evidence I doubt this was a sophisticated sting by Slater or associates. I’ve had first hand experience of that sort of thing here and there were differences.

I think it’s more likely someone saw the abuse and informed Slater or someone at Whale Oil who then put the post up to take a swipe at Radio NZ.

A good citizen would have informed Radio NZ so they could take appropriate action. It looks like Slater might have passed the story on to Farrar, who later advised radio NZ.Both could have done better but seemed more interested in dumping more on the state funding of Radio NZ

Farrar has followed up with another post today: Further on Radio NZ Facebook page

A few extra thoughts on the hate speech which was on the Radio NZ Checkpoint page.

Unless you vet comments in advance, no publisher can prevent inappropriate comments from appearing. I don’t think anyone blames Radio NZ for the fact they appeared.

Most won’t blame them, it’s unavoidable in forums with open access, as much of Facebook is.

But what one can judge on is how quickly they were removed. RNZ staff acted once there was publicity about it, but for an organisation with $35 million a year of taxpayer funding, the comments should have never lasted as long as they did.

No they shouldn’t. Someone at Radio NZ should probably have picked up on it.

And one would hope someone who noticed the problem would have informed them. That was less a priority than putting up blog posts.

Some salient points:

  1. Some of the comments had been up for three days or longer – conclusion no regular checking of the page.
  2. The comments were incredibly vile – massive use of the c word to describe the PM and one person saying his mother should have been gassed in the holocaust – how could people feel you can say such a thing on a Radio NZ page?
  3. Over 100 comments had to be deleted by RNZ staff, which was close to a quarter of the comments on the page. So this was not one or two comments that slipped through, but a mountain of vile abuse which dominated the page.
  4. No-one alerted RNZ to the comments before they got publicity. If someone used such language about a politician on KB, I’d have several e-mails within minutes from readers alerting me to it. But somehow no one reading the Radio NZ Checkpoint Facebook page thought the comments needed drawing to the attention of Radio NZ. This suggests that the only people on the page were those of a similar view on John Key.
  5. Has Radio NZ done anything beyond delete the comments? Have they reported those who made the most vile comments? Have they blocked them from the Radio NZ FB pages? Or are they free to do the same next time?

Apparently Radio NZ is investigating.

Of course as well as Dim-Post there’s been comment and accusations elsewhere. I’ve seen some on Twitter, but none with supporting evidence.

The irony of Whale Oil and Farrar highlighting and strongly criticising onlibe abuse has not gone unnoticed.

Whale Oil comments have been cleaned up but posts can still be fairly abusive and provocative, and Slater’s tactics online along with people associated with him are amongst the more despicable in New Zealand taking in to account the power imbalance involved.

Comments threads at Kiwiblog are not for the faint hearted, with abusive comments, lies and attacks common. But Farrar will address serious examples if they are pointed out to him.

And this is symptomatic of a major online problem. It can be a wild west where people seem to think they can have a free for all.

While moderation is necessary by those responsible for forums I think there are wider community responsibilities. I think it’s important to confront and stand up against online abuse.

But that’s sometimes not easy and not without substantial risks, as I have found out (I think justice will end up being done but it takes some time).

Online communities should be like any other communities, with responsibility for decent behaviour taken by all those taking part.

We are all learning as we go how to deal with a rapidly evolving online world. We need to keep looking at how to improve on what we have.

And this also requires politicians and media to show a lot more responsibility with their own behaviour and not encouraging and glorifying bad behaviour. More on that next post.

Little on defying the TPPA

Here’s the interview of Andrew Little on Radio New Zealand where he says he would defy the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Labour says it will defy TPP

The Labour Party leader Andrew Little says his party would defy the Trans Pacific Partnership in Government.


The Labour Party leader Andrew Little says his party would defy the Trans Pacific Partnership in government.

An international agreement on the trade deal was reached late last year and now has to be ratified by each country’s government. There are reports it could be signed in New Zealand next month, two days before Waitangi day.

Note that signing is a step before ratifying – see TPPA process corrects claims of lying.

Mr Little says National has the numbers to pass the legislation without Labour. Andrew Little doesn’t intend to abide by the agreement if elected to government next year.

The interview:

RNZ: Once the ink’s dry on this how would a Labour government actually be able to flout it anyway?

Andrew Little: One of the provisions in the TPPA that most concerns me, I raised this in all the meetings I had  in Washington DC at the end of last year, is the part of the agreement that says that countries who are party to it will not be able to pass laws to restrict land sales.

So of we decided that there were too many Americans or too many Australians or too many Chinese or whoever buying up New Zealand farmland and we wanted to put restrictions on that then we wouldn’t be able to pass laws to do that.

The USA and Australia are party to the TPPA but China isn’t.

Andrew Little: That seems to me just an absolute contravention of our sovereign right to have a Parliament that passes our laws.

The funny thing is of course when you look at it, when you look at the agreement, at least three countries have got exemption from that provision, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore, and when I asked about the issue when I was in Washington DC I was told that actually New Zealand didn’t even ask for an exemption to that provision.

So we’re stuck with an agreement that would prevent a future New Zealand Parliament from passing a law that the New Zealand public might want to have.

The same must apply to many international agreements New Zealand has made. If a future New Zealand government wanted to pass a law that was in breach of an agreement then they would breach the agreement and would have to be prepared for any consequences, including the possible need to withdraw from the agreement..

RNZ: But if Labour was elected how would you actually defy this, how would you not go ahead with the bits that you don’t agree with?

Andrew Little: So the point I’m making, I’m getting to, is the Labour Party has a policy  that we would restrict or put in place restrictions on land sales, because we know that New Zealanders are concerned about the amount of land that is falling into non resident foreign ownership. And so we will proceed to do that.

But what I I guess they’re making clear (that part wasn’t clear) made clear in my meetings with officials of the administration at the end of last year and what I think is important for New Zealanders to do both around the time of the signing next month that happens then and during the course of legislation in our Parliament here is for New Zealanders to make very clear that they don’t agree with those parts of the TPPA that compromise our sovereignty.

I don’t know what Little means exactly by “compromise our sovereignty” but any international agreement made by New Zealand can affect what we can then do if we want to abide by those agreements.

It may be a ‘sovereign right’ for a future Government to pass legislation that breaches the Geneva Convention, or any other international agreement that we are signatories to, but it may not be very smart.

We need to send that signal very clearly so that when there is a change of government it won’t be a surprise to other members of the TPPA and we will proceed as if we will do what’s in the best interests of New Zealand.

Labour may be faced with a decision to decide whether it’s in our best interests to abide by international agreements or to breach or withdraw from the agreements. If they want to further restrict foreign buyers of land here it could involve more agreements than just the TPPA.

RNZ: Why such a strong opposition from Labour now?

Andrew Little: Ah well our opposition to anything that compromises our sovereignty is nothing new, we’ve made that pretty clear. I was pretty clear in my speech to the Labour conference at the end of last year is that  you know it is simply something we would not contemplate or would not agree with and we would defy it and I’ve made that clear to various American authorities I met with at the end of last year. I’m making it clear now.

You know I just I am stunned, I was stunned to hear when I was in Washington DC that they are where lining up the 4th of February as a date for the Ministerial signing of the agreement, and I said to some of them, I said are you nuts?

If Little knew last year about the plan to sign the TPPA on February 4th why is it suddenly big news now?

This is two days before our national day, the day we celebrate our national identity and our national authority. Why on earth would you set that aside as a date to sign an agreement that is so controversial and is not particularly popular in New Zealand. And was met with a sort of dumb silence.

So you know they will go ahead and do what they want. It just demonstrates a level of arrogance around this whole thing.

I think what’s important for New Zealanders um you know because there is a level of concern about it, that we send a very clear signal and take every opportunity to do so, that those things that undermine the sovereign right to our New Zealand Parliament, um we have to you know tell the other parties of the TPPA it’s not acceptable and we won’t abide by it.

What Little should be asked is if this not abiding by agreements that he or Labour don’t find acceptable could apply to any international agreement made by New Zealand.

If Labour is establishing a precedent of breaching agreements (or threatening to breach agreements) they don’t agree with I think this should be made very clear. And Little should say whether it could apply to any agreement they don’t think is acceptable.

RNZ: Is the Labour caucus behind this? Goff? Shearer? Are they with you?

Andrew Little: Ah, well, they it Labour Party policy is the policy of the Labour Party, both the you know the rank and file and the caucus and we’ve had discussions in caucus about it and indeed the party at conference and at all levels have discussed this and they’ve been pretty clear um and so you know that’s the stance um that that we’re taking.

I’ve made it very clear as leader the the approach I intend to take and that will no doubt be the subject of ongoing discussions but I’ve been very clear and I think that’s the approach we need to take.

Little has made it clear he wants to take a stance on defying or breaching the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement but has not made it clear to what extent he would take that, on the TPPA or potentially on any other international agreement.

And what seemed clear from his lack of clarity in that last response is that he may not have the full support of the Labour caucus and that expects discussions to be ongoing.

I’m not sure that Little or his advisers have thought through the implications of appearing to take a strong stance on a small part of the TPPA might have.

This has the potential to undo the dampening down of caucus dissent that Little appears to have achieved last year.

It also has implications for Little’s credibility as a potential Prime Minister, both on a national scale and particularly internationally.

Threatening to defy international agreements is no minor matter.