Media agreement on coverage of Tarrant trial

David posted this comment:

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/05/01/self-censorship-media-new-zealand-white-supremacist-2019-226766

Kiwiblog also covers this. Its an outrage that the press has self censored itself as a collective with the government complicit.

“The Kiwi editors don’t appear to trust their readers and viewers to handle the difficult and disturbing material that’s sure to billow out of the Tarrant trial. They regard New Zealanders as children who must be sheltered from the heinous and despicable lest they become tainted with its influence.”

Its worth reading the story from an outsiders point and shines a light on the paternalistic overview that our “betters” in the media exhibit. I would like to see full coverage without sensationalizing the bits that irresponsible media usually do, I want the different perspectives of a varied and uncensored free press usually give. And its appalling that the government and the press think that if we hear what this loon says we will see it as a call to arms. Bloody ridiculous.


Here are the “agreed editorial guidelines” – Reporting the Trial of Brenton Tarrant

MEDIA STATEMENT – NZ MEDIA FREEDOM COMMITTEE
REPORTING THE TRIAL OF BRENTON TARRANT
[1 May 2019]

Senior editors of the major accredited news media companies in New Zealand (TVNZ, Stuff, Mediaworks, NZME and RNZ) have committed to a united approach in reporting the trial of Brenton Tarrant following the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, 15 March, 2019. The group of editors, representing the New Zealand Media Freedom Committee, has agreed a set of protocols to ensure that the outlets they represent cover the upcoming trial comprehensively and responsibly.

A group statement and a copy of the agreed editorial guidelines is attached for your information.

Requests for further information or comment should be directed to the respective media organisations.

MEDIA STATEMENT – NZ MEDIA FREEDOM COMMITTEE

REPORTING THE TRIAL OF BRENTON TARRANT 

We are the senior editors representing the major accredited news media companies in New Zealand (TVNZ, Stuff, Mediaworks, NZME and RNZ).

As a group and as individual editors we are committed to ensuring the outlets we represent cover the upcoming trial of Brenton Tarrant comprehensively and responsibly.

We have agreed to abide by these guidelines throughout the trial.

BACKGROUND 
Brenton Harrison Tarrant is charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 charges of attempted murder relating to shootings carried out at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, 15 March, 2019.

Victims of the terror attack include citizens of twelve different countries.

We represent accredited New Zealand media organisations that plan to attend the trial and associated proceedings for the purposes of reportage.

As editors we are mindful of the public interest in the trial, in New Zealand and internationally.

We are also mindful of our role as the “eyes and ears of the public” in the context of court reporting. In this instance, we acknowledge the particular importance of this function, given the many victims’ friends and families outside New Zealand who may otherwise be unable to engage in the trial process.

We are aware that the accused may attempt to use the trial as a platform to amplify white supremacist and/or terrorist views or ideology.

GUIDELINES
We agree that the following Protocol will apply to our outlets’ coverage and reportage of the trial:

(a) We shall, to the extent that is compatible with the principles of open justice, limit any coverage of statements, that actively champion white supremacist or terrorist ideology.
(b) For the avoidance of doubt the commitment set out at (a) shall include the accused’s manifesto document “The Great Replacement”.
(c) We will not broadcast or report on any message, imagery, symbols or signals (including hand signals) made by the accused or his associates promoting or supporting white supremacist ideology.
(d) Where the inclusion of such signals in any images is unavoidable, the relevant parts of the image shall be pixellated.
(e) To the greatest extent possible, the journalists that are selected by each of the outlets to cover the trial will be experienced personnel.
(f) These guidelines may be varied at any time, subject to a variation signed by all parties.
(g) This Protocol shall continue in force indefinitely.

SIGNED:
Miriyana Alexander (NZME and chair of the Media Freedom Committee)
John Gillespie (TVNZ)
Shayne Currie (NZME)
Mark Stevens (Stuff)
Paul Thompson (RNZ)
Hal Crawford (Mediaworks)


This is an unusual approach for what is an extraordinary situation.

Media always make judgements about what court cases they will report on and what they will report. What is different here is agreement between all the major media organisations.

Thins could change if circumstances change – “These guidelines may be varied at any time, subject to a variation signed by all parties.”

Guyon Espiner leaving Morning Report

One can always quibble about political interviews, but I think generally Guyon Espiner on RNZ’s Morning Report has been one of the better interviewers – well prepared and as persistent as is possible with politicians trying to avoid giving straight or relevant answers.

This is Espiner’s last day on Morning Report (he is moving to another job in RNZ). Newsroom interviewed him about hos tenure – Guyon Espiner: What I won’t apologise for

… there are two major things people have complained about over the past five years and I am not sorry for either of them. I am not sorry for speaking te reo Māori on the radio and I am not sorry about interrupting politicians.

You might remember the backlash when about two years ago I started to use more te reo Māori on Morning Report. The messages streamed in. Diatribe, gibberish and rubbish were some of the less offensive descriptions. Listeners invited me on a daily basis to leave to a ‘Māori station’ and one texted to ask “when are you going to get a grass skirt and put shoe polish on your face”.

For a Pākehā from a privileged background it was a small insight into racism in New Zealand, a tiny sliver of what some people must put up with every day.

But slowly that receded and now the main complaint I get is that I speak te reo Māori too quickly. Slow down. We want to learn, they say. So thank you for that too.

While I had thousands of complaints from Pākehā, I’m not aware of one complaint from Māori. Not one. So to other Pākehā worried about how they’ll be received for using te reo Māori: from my experience, if you put the work in you will be rewarded and embraced. Karawhiua e hoa mā.

I find the use of te reo on RNZ (by Espiner and others) a bit of a distraction, and I largely ignore it, but I understand the importance of it to others. Our national broadcaster should cater for everyone.

The other thing I am not sorry for is interrupting politicians. I know some of you swear at the radio and have even thrown things. Admit it.

I’ll make a deal with you. The day politicians give straight answers to legitimate questions I’ll hear them out and move on to the next question. Until then, they need to be dragged back on track or they’ll just read out the talking points in a non-answer to a question you never asked. They will run down the clock until they are saved by the pips.

Getting decent answers out of politicians trained and practiced in avoiding answering questions, and diverting to spouting their own parrot points, is a very difficult task, but interviewers should persist, as Espiner has done.

What is he going to do now?

The satisfaction I got from doing The 9th Floor series of interviews with former prime ministers came to mind (yes I was probably the only person in the ward thinking about Mike Moore and Geoffrey Palmer at 2am). I want to get back to long form and investigative journalism.

I’m staying at RNZ so you can judge here on the website and on the radio whether I’ve been successful or not.

I think he has been successful on Morning Report, and I’m sure he will do a good job with whatever he does at RNZ from next week.

Dealing with trolling by Hopkins

Katie Hopkins is a bit like Cameron Slater – she seeks attention with controversial posts, seeks support from fringe radicals online, and she is being gradually rejected as too toxic by media who have given her views an airing in the past.

She tried to stir things up after the Christchurch mosque attacks, and again after the Sri Lankan bombings. Some New Zealand media chose to feed her trolling, which was disappointing but not surprising – media often stoop low to try to generate publicity for themselves.

This has been covered by RNZ’s mediawatch: Don’t feed the troll

After condemning social media platforms for hosting and spreading extremists’ content, many media here also took the online bait from a noted British troll who’s too toxic even for Fox News and the tabloids in the UK.

Last Tuesday the government’s plans to urge global social media companies to tighten up on extremist content filled the front page of the New Zealand Herald.

“PM Jacinda Ardern is pushing for global response that would make Twitter, Facebook and YouTube more responsible for the content they host,” said the Herald under the banner heading Social Media Crackdown.

“The will of governments to work together to tackle the potentially harmful impacts of social media would have only grown stronger in the wake of the terror attacks in Sri Lanka,” said the Herald the same day on page 5

But there was a very different Herald story on page 5 of the Herald’s regional stablemates the same day – including Hawke’s Bay Today, The Northern Advocate and Bay Of Plenty Times. 

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is ignoring a sarcastic swipe by a British columnist over the attacks in Sri Lanka which have left more than 200 dead,“ it began.

These papers weren’t the only media here reacting here to a single social media blurt from British far right provocateur Katie Hopkins.

He told both programmes she was a “publicity seeking idiot” whose name he didn’t want to repeat on TV.

Our media could easily have ignored her crass blurt on Twitter – along with millions of other non-newsworthy tweets.

But TVNZ’s One News Now site and MediaWorks TV and radio and Newshub site turned it into a talking point.

Not just ‘a talking point’, they made news items about it.

Stuff and RNZ were the only major media outlets here that did not turn Katie Hopkins trite tweets into talking points or and news stories.

The NZME papers, TVNZ and Newshub also called Katie Hopkins “an outspoken columnist.”

But she isn’t.

She is a right-wing anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant provocateur who has been too toxic for mainstream media some time.

She used to used to write for The Sun and then the Daily Mail in the UK and host a show on London talk station LBC. Newstalk ZB used to have her on from time to time on British politics.

But she was dumped by the Daily Mail and fired by LBC in 2017 after calling for a “final solution” after the Manchester bombing in May 2017 – and then calling on Western men to “rise up.”

Even Fox news in the US doesn;t use her as a commentator anymore.

Another reason media should keep their distance is her fondness for fake news.

Hopkins has recently been spreading false claims Notre Dame cathedral was destroyed by arson.

Hopkins would be delighted with the exposure she’s had here this past week without getting up from her keyboard in the UK.

‘Don’t feed the troll’ is a much-repeated maxim these days. If ignored, many of them really would go away.

But in the online age, savvy trolls like Katie Hopkins also feed the mainstream media’s appetite for controversy.

I think that at times it is worth challenging crap and hate merchants like Hopkins, but the Herald and Newshub didn’t do that, they used her media bait to bait for clicks. It doesn’t do their credibility any good.

Maybe the Herald should hide that sort of in depth muck behind their premium subscription so most people don’t have to see it.

An irreverent review of the 2018 political year

The year of 2018 welcomed a Prime Ministerial baby, the collapse of two Ministerial careers and a kamikaze takedown of the Opposition. Political reporter Craig McCulloch takes an irreverent (by RNZ standards) look back on the biggest stories of 2018.

Audio (RNZ) – Focus on Politics: 2018 in Review

Slater threatened retribution for JLR, RNZ delivers

RNZ’s Checkpoint has gone alarmingly low in support of a campaign of retribution.

In the weekend Cameron Slater threatened to go public with dirt targeting people in the National Party, in a knee jerk reaction to the Jami-Lee Ross revelations of harassment of multiple women (at least four and as many as fifteen are numbers mentioned). See:

On Checkpoint yesterday afternoon RNZ delivered what looks like the first shot, publicising details of a text sent from a possible victim of Ross to Ross. This dumped on a National MP on behalf of ‘a supporter’ of Ross.

Whether the text (and reportedly other communications) were supplied to RNZ by Slater or someone else associated with Ross or Slater doesn’t make much difference.

For obvious reasons it has been assumed by a number of people as Slater (there is no evidence of this except for Slater’s threats and his claimed support of Ross over the weekend).

Slater and Whale Oil have a reputation for dishing out dirt. The over the top attacks on Len Brown just after the 2013 Auckland mayoral election is a prominent example, but there are many others.

Ross reacted badly under self inflicted pressure last week. Slater has a long record of acting poorly under pressure, lashing out. Both try to claim they are in fact the victims (they may actually feel they are victims, but their actions and especially their responses under pressure suggest otherwise).

RNZ publicised an “abusive text” “believed to have been sent to Jami-Lee Ross in August” by a woman who had aapparently just ended a relationship with Ross.  RNZ did not quote the text, nor could they give any context, but out of a claimed 61 words they quoted just four – “you deserve to die”.

The text includes a slew of abuse and personal insults about Mr Ross’ appearance and personality.

That doesn’t sound good, but one could presume there was a lot of angst and emotion involved, as there often is when relationships turn sour.

The text sent in August was 61 words long. The message – along with other texts – was provided to RNZ by a supporter of the Botany MP with his permission.

Questions have been asked on RNZ on this.

Like why they are dishing out dirt on behalf of someone who was committed to mental health care on Sunday (now reported to have been released in the care of ‘a friend’), regardless of permission being granted or not. RNZ don’t say what form this permission took. I hope they relied on something more substantial than the word of ‘a supporter’.

And why are RNZ involved in what looks like vexatious utu, after Slater had threatened to do just that in what looks like another attempt to destabilise and trash National. Slater has been running bitter attacks against National leaders, MPs and party officials for years – ever since he was shunned as a part of the Dirty Politics fallout in 2014.

I hope that Lisa Owen and Checkpoint producers and RNZ reflect on what they have become a willing party to, and revise their standards. It is probably too late to undo the damage they have aided and abetted, but they should give some indication that being a sock puppet of Ross and Slater is not a good look, especially for a public broadcaster.

Ross has gone just about as low as any MP has gone.

Slater has a long reputation for attacking and trying to trash people, he is probably widely considered to be the lowest of New Zealand bloggers (he has called himself a journalist but he is more of a agenda, money and hate driven arse).

Do RNZ really want to lower themselves to those standards?


UPDATE: Slater appears to confirm things. he posted yesterday…

It’s going to get worse for National.

…with a link to the RNZ story. Also:

Two sides to every story is what I am seeing here…and now the second side is being told.

The Slater side of any story should always be viewed with a lot of scepticism. He is a self confessed ’embellisher’ and is known to say the opposite of truth and reality.

 

Bridges on Woodhouse and Collins on Chelsea Manning

Simon Bridges was asked whether he backed Michael Woodhouse saying as Immigration Minister he would not let Chelsea Manning come to New Zealand to speak, and whether he backed Judith Collins promoting what some have claimed is fake news.

Morning report (RNZ):

Suzi Ferguson: On Chelsea Manning, Michael Woodhouse said he would have denied the visa if he was the minister. Do you back his comments that Chelsea Manning shouldn’t have been able to come to New Zealand?

Simon Bridges: He’s got strong views on that and he’s entitled to them. What I would say is pretty simple. Actually I don’t care where you are on the spectrum, whether you’re hard left, hard right, freedom of speech matters and you should be able to do that. Al of that said, I do think there’s an issue of the immigration rules here.

Now if Chelsea Manning is allowed too come to New Zealand on the rules, good for her. She should get out there and say what wants from the rooftop.

If though what the Government has done is bent the rules for her, I would like to understand why that is, I think it’s a slightly different issue to the free speech one, but look, I feel strongly about, um and I’ll stake my claim on.

Suzi Ferguson: What about Judith Colins comments that Chelsea Manning was a traitor whose actions led to people losing their lives or having them put in danger? That’s not actually true, so do you support her using fake news again?

Simon Bridges: Well I haven’t gone through and read Chelsea Manning’s Wikipedia page, I don’t know the ins and outs of everything that she done.

My basic sense of it is though, she was convicted of very serious crimes. Now President Obama commuted those sentences, but serious matters and that’s really my point.

Bridges trying to divert and seeming to avoid answering.

Free speech is incredibly important, but you also have to have rules…

Suzi Ferguson: Do you back her using fake news though, because it’s not the first time in the last few weeks?

Simon Bridges: I would argue it’s not fake news actually if you look at what Chelsea Manning’s history is and what has happened there. Judith Collins is entitled to say what she said.

Suzi Ferguson: Ok, that’s not actually what was every proven in court.

Ferguson moved on to another topic (identifying the leaker of Bridges’ expenses) and Bridges also left it at that and moved on.

That’s some fairly tame questioning and some vague and weak responses from Bridges.

 

 

Inside a youth justice residence

@JohnJCampbell : Do watch this if you have a spare 26 minutes this weekend. These are our kids, too. And making them safe is a challenge in the best interests of us all.

Young people tell their stories – Inside a youth justice residence

They come from violent homes, addiction homes, homes without safety and sometimes homes without food. Every single one of them has been exposed to gangs.

That was their normal. They followed in the only footsteps they knew. Stole cars, committed aggravated burglaries, and worse.

Now these 14 to 17-year-olds call youth justice residence Te Au rere a te Tonga home.

(A and production, shot and edited by )

Labour, Green MPs block holding Curran to account

The Government that promised more openness and transparency has taken another step backwards, with Labour and Green MPs on the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee voting against asking Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran to appear before it to clarify unanswered questions about her meeting with ex-RNZ employee Carol Hirschfeld and her communications with RNZ chairman Richard Griffin.

NZH: National members blocked from getting Clare Curran to appear before committee over meeting with RNZ Carol Hirschfeld

National was blocked from asking Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran to appear at a select committee to clear up unanswered questions around her communications with former RNZ executive Carol Hirschfeld, a report says.

The Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee released its report
today on a briefing in which the committee was inadvertently misled by RNZ chairman Richard Griffin and chief executive Paul Thompson about a meeting between Curran and Hirschfeld last December.

A minority report by the five National Party members of the select committee said questions remained unanswered regarding the appropriateness of communications initiated by Curran, with Hirschfeld and Griffin.

Curran’s behaviour was potentially in breach of parliamentary standing orders covering “intimidating, preventing, or hindering a witness from giving evidence, or giving evidence in full, to the House or a committee”, the National members said.

The National members also sought to invite Curran to the committee to give her the opportunity to clear up the unanswered questions.

“Regretfully, this resolution was not supported by other members of the committee, once again leaving the matter unresolved.”

The National members of the committee – chairman Jonathan Young, Andrew Falloon, Paul Goldsmith, Melissa Lee and Parmjeet Parmar – said they felt Parliament itself had been impugned by the inadvertent misleading of the committee by RNZ and actions of the minister.

The MPs who blocked holding Curran to account:

  • Paul Eagle (Labour, Rongotai)
  • Tamati Coffey (Labour, Waiariki)
  • Michael Wood (Labour, Mt Roskill)
  • Deborah Russell (Labour, New Lynn)
  • Gareth Hughes (Greens, list)

Coffey had a surprise win against Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell in last year’s election.

Eagle, Wood and Russell scored fairly safe Labour electorates – Wood got into Parliament in a by-election in 2016 after Phil Goff resigned, while Eagle and Russell are first term MPs. Russell was rated as a good prospect as an MP, but she is putting party before principles here.

Hughes keeps a low profile in Parliament these days – Greens are also supposed to be strong supporters of open and transparent government and of holding the government to account (going by James Shaw’s comments in handing Parliamentary questions over to National) but joining the blocking of holding Curran to account suggests big talk, walk away from responsibilities.

Tn the whole scheme of things this isn’t a big deal, but it leaves a cloud over Curran’s ambitions to significantly boost RNZ, and she is likely to be reminded of this embarrassment whenever she tries to do anything on open government.

The final commitment in the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

20. Strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information.

Labour and Greens have weakened democracy through their weasel blocking in the committee.

Newsroom: When ‘open government’ becomes a joke

Curran isn’t just the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media but the Minster of Government Digital Services and Associate Minister for ACC and Open Government (via a State Services portfolio).

Open Government now becomes something of a joke under Curran at a time when we need it to be the very opposite.

What’s important now is RNZ and the many other initiatives Curran is involved with don’t keep on paying the price for her mistake. Curran’s copybook may well be blotted but she presides over portfolios that are far too important for us to allow that stain to spread.

That was on 2 April. Labour and Green MPs on the committee have spread the stain further.

Most of the public won’t know or care about this festering, but it remains hovering over Curran, and it is a confirmation that Labour and the Greens are in Government more for themselves than for integrity.

Griffin had offered to resign, doesn’t want to stay at RNZ

As soon as Clare Curran was appointed Minister of Broadcasting chairman of RNZ Richard Griffin offered to resign, but she asked him to stay on ‘during the transition’.

Griffin has been chairman for nine years, three three year terms, but does not want to have a fourth. It is unlikely he would be offered another term anyway.

ODT (NZME): RNZ chairman offered resignation to Clare Curran

“I proffered my resignation to her the day she was appointed. I think it was the honourable thing to do,” Griffin told the Weekend Herald.

Curran, he said, was gracious and asked him to stay on during the transition to the new Labour Government.

“It’s no secret Clare and I aren’t exactly bosom buddies but I thought it was a reasonable thing to ask and I was happy to do so given that it was going to be a difficult time for all of us.

“But not quite as difficult as it has turned out to be.”

Griffin’s third term as chairman of the RNZ board finishes at the end of April, nine years in all. He doesn’t anticipate an invitation for a fourth, nor would he want one.

“No I would not,” he said emphatically. “I think I’ve run my course and I’m sure they do too.”

He said he was very embarrassed and at times was noticeably annoyed when questioned at the select committee meeting on Thursday, and his annoyance also comes through in an interview with the Sunday Herald.

His biggest regret of his nine years with RNZ? “The last few weeks.”

“I really regret that a great talent and an interesting woman is now having to suffer the slings and arrows. I’m sorry for her. I believe that Carol thought her loyalty to the Minister checkmated her loyalty to the company and I can understand how that could happen.

“I don’t know what possessed her and I don’t know what possessed the Minister. It’s such a pity.”

He has seemed reluctant to criticise but lets a bit out here, suggesting that Hirschfeld’s loyalty to Curran was why she kept lying. On Curran – “I don’t know what possessed the Minister”.

Griffin seems undecided on whether to hand over the recording of a phone call from Curran to him. This would clarify who is being straight on what Curran said to Griffin, and whether Curran tried to encourage Griffin not to appear before the committee.

The recording either clears Curran of trying to block Griffin’s appearance at the select committee to set the record straight on her meeting with Carol Hirschfeld or it could damn her if, as Griffin claims, she suggested it would be better for him not to appear and that a letter would suffice.

Griffin will spend this weekend at his home in Ruby Bay, west of Nelson, deciding whether to voluntarily hand over the voicemail on his mobile phone.

He had asked RNZ to retrieve the voicemail after it was requested by the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Select Committee following his and RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson’s appearance on Thursday.

But even as efforts were being made to extract the voicemail, Griffin was reconsidering. He worried that refusing to hand over the recording could further damage RNZ but said there was nothing to be achieved by releasing it.

“I will decide over the weekend,” he said.

He seems torn between protecting RNZ’s reputation and causing more of a ruckus, but there is guaranteed to be more attention given to this tomorrow as media will wanting to know if he is going to voluntarily comply with the request to hand over the recording.

On Friday:

If Griffin doesn’t decide to hand it over he could be compelled to by the Speaker. Trevor Mallard has been involved in controversial situations involving Curran in the past:

Stuff: Whistleblower wins defamation appeal

The woman who accused Labour MP Trevor Mallard and a top public servant of destroying her reputation has won an appeal to the Supreme Court.

In 2007, whistleblower Erin Leigh accused Mallard, then Environment Minister, of defamation.

This was after she raised questions about political interference and alleged former minister David Parker pushed for Clare Curran to be appointed to a communications role with the Ministry.

All three Labour members involved are currently sitting Members of Parliament.

At the time Mallard was asked an oral question on the matter in Parliament and spoke negatively about Leigh.

He told the House she had “repeated competence issues” and said Curran had been appointed to “fix up the mess”.

That’s a long time ago, but is somewhat ironic in the present situation.

In its decision released today, the Supreme Court found Gow’s interaction to be covered by qualified privilege but said he could not face a defamation claim unless Leigh could prove he acted with ill-will.

“The issue is whether the public servant, or whoever else communicates information to the Minister, needs more than qualified privilege in order to enable the Minister, and the House as a whole, properly and efficiently to deal with parliamentary questions.”

The Court found that was not necessary and said it was a “no bad thing” that public servants were prevented from acting with ill-will when advising a minister.

“It is very much in the interests of the proper functioning of the House that those communicating with a Minister in present circumstances, whoever they are, have a disincentive against giving vent to ill will or improper purpose.”

Also ironic.

Curran’s future may depend on phone call

RNZ chairman Richard Griffin and chief executive Paul Thompson appeared before a select committee in Parliament yesterday to correct inadvertent erroneous assurances made to the committee last month that resulted in RNZ news manager Carol Hirschfeld.

Minister of Broadcasting Clare Curran was already under fire for her part in organising a meeting with Hirschfeld and subsequently appearing to avoid disclosing that the meeting had taken place. It also appears that Curran threw Hirschfeld under  bus to protect her own (political) career, and she added to Jacinda Ardern’s difficulties as Prime Minister. Ardern still backs Curran, but she must be getting exasperated with apparent ineptitude.

More was revealed at yesterdau’s meeting, but perhaps the career killer blow wasn’t reevealed – the contents of a phone call Curran made to Griffin. Their descriptions differ.

Andrew Geddis at RNZ: Politicians seek different narratives at RNZ hearing

This hearing ostensibly was to allow the chair of Radio NZ’s board, Richard Griffin, and chief executive Paul Thompson to correct their previous inaccurate statements about the now-infamous breakfast meeting between Radio NZ’s head of content Carol Hirschfeld and new Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran.

Back at the start of March, Mr Griffin and Mr Thompson informed the committee that Ms Hirschfeld had assured them this meeting was an inconsequential coincidence; nothing more than a chance encounter following a gym workout. They subsequently found out that Ms Hirschfeld had misled them and the meeting was a prearranged discussion about the state of New Zealand’s media.

Correcting the record then becomes necessary because misleading a select committee is potentially a contempt of Parliament, in theory punishable by a fine or imprisonment. And even if Parliament chose not to pursue the matter as contempt, public bodies simply should not lie to their political overseers, intentionally or otherwise.

National did possibly draw some blood with its questions regarding Minister Curran’s subsequent communications with Mr Griffin. She left him a voicemail last week which he characterised as containing a “strong suggestion” that rather than turn up before the Committee in person to answer questions, he just provide it with a written statement.

This is important, because Minister Curran has told both the public and the Prime Minister that her message to Mr Griffin simply advised him that providing a written statement for the Committee’s meeting last week would be a quicker way of correcting the record. If she in fact went beyond this and actually counselled him not to attend in person, then she will be in real trouble.

National MP Melissa Lee’s last action at the Committee meeting was to request a copy of the relevant voicemail. Minister Curran’s political future may well rest upon what it says.

Curran was quick to release texts between her and Hirschfeld that left no doubt that Hirschfeld had lied to her bosses about the meeting – it is still not known whether she was trying to protect herself or Curran.

Curran’s future may rest on whether Griffin releases a recording or transcript of the phone call.

NZH: Richard Griffin says he was told not to comment on Hirschfeld, Curran meeting

Griffin told the committee today that on March 22, about five minutes before Curran was due in Parliament to answer questions, he received a call from her office.

Griffin said he was “gobsmacked” to receive the call to say the December 5 meeting could come up in the questions.

“The staffer’s attitude was ‘we will handle this appropriately but we’d like you basically to stay out of it’. I was gobsmacked quite honestly.”

In a timeline provided to the committee, Griffin said: “I was told that, if the matter was raised, the Minister and her staff would be responding as they felt appropriate and that they expected there would be “no comment” from RNZ”.

It was reported on Tuesday that Curran had phoned Griffin on March 29 to suggest it would be better for him to write a letter rather than appear in person.

Both Curran and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have denied that, saying Curran left a phone message to pass on advice from the Office of the Leader of the House that a letter would be faster to correct the record if Griffin was unable to make it to the select committee in person.

Today Griffin said: “She made it very clear that she wanted me to write a letter to the chair of the select committee to be on his desk before one o’clock that day which would then ensure that there wasn’t a public hearing involving either of us.”

NZH: PM Jacinda Ardern reiterates support for embattled minister Clare Curran

Their appearance in Wellington was pre-empted by reports yesterday that the Broadcasting Minister had phoned Griffin to suggest it would be better for him to write a letter rather than appear in person at Parliament.

Both Curran and Ardern earlier denied that, saying Curran left a phone message to pass on advice from the Office of the Leader of the House that a letter would be faster to correct the record if he was unable to make it to the select committee in person.

After opening a science block at Waitaki Boys’ High School, Ardern today stated eight times there was no new information over the Carol Hirschfeld affair involving Curran, or the phone call she made to Griffin about his appearance at the select committee.

Ardern confirmed she had spoken to Curran about her recollection of the voicemail and it matched up with what had been recollected at select committee today.

“The minister has clearly made mistakes, she has apologised for them.

“I certainly advised her that the call to Richard Griffin should not have been made, but as I say there’s nothing new that we have learned from today that we didn’t already know.

“From what I hear has come of today’s meeting, there is no new information, I have reprimanded the minister for making that call she shouldn’t have, but I don’t think we’ve learned anything new from today that we didn’t already know.”

Ardern’s credibility as leader is also at stake over this.

This may all fizzle out now, but will flare up again if the phone call is handed over.

RNZ: