The Spinoff and RNZ “sharing our journalism” – and also sponsors?

There were some heated exchanges on Twitter last night over a just announced arrangement between RNZ and The Spinoff to share news – “we’ll be sharing our journalism”, but there are issues over whether RNZ are also sharing The Spinoff’s sponsorship and advertising.

RNZ is a long serving non-commercial Government funded media organisation based on radio, but with a growing online presence.

The Spinoff is a a relatively new online media enterprise which relies on sponsorship for funding. They have just launched a premium prescription service – “the best stories from around the NZ media hitting your inbox at 7 am weekdays”. That sounds similar to a service Bryce Edwards has provided free for several years.

Yesterday (12 March) RNZ announced RNZ and The Spinoff announce content partnership:

RNZ and The Spinoff are delighted to announce we’ll be sharing our journalism.

Under the arrangement material from will appear on and vice versa.

The new arrangement maintains RNZ’s policy of sharing content with media partners and extends to 16 the number of agreements in place with a range of media organisations.

Glen Scanlon, RNZ’s head of digital, said The Spinoff team had blazed a path for independent websites and the partnership extended RNZ’s proactive approach to make news and information available to more New Zealanders.

“The Spinoff is the source of some of New Zealand’s wittiest, and well-thought, journalism and we’re very much looking forward to being able to feature it.

“Duncan Greive and his team are a creative force, and they have helped bring issues to the forefront of people’s minds in many new ways.”

Greive, The Spinoff’s managing editor, said he was “extremely stoked to be entering a partnership with RNZ”.

“It’s an organisation we admire immensely. The work it does feels thoughtful, urgent and agenda-setting, and we’re privileged to be able to share it with our audience.

“We’re particularly happy that we were able to design a pioneering relationship for RNZ – one which sees our work available for syndication on their sites, as well as theirs on ours. It’s our way of supporting a cultural and journalistic giant which does so much to sustain the rest of our media.”

The Spinoff made their own announcement, quoting from the media release and trying to add some humour: Spinoff and RNZ announce conscious coupling

The juggernaut of quality New Zealand journalism is teaming up with friendly local website The Spinoff, it was announced today to nil fanfare.

According to a media release from RNZ, both parties are delighted about the arrangement, which provides that “material from will appear on and vice versa” and “maintains RNZ’s policy of sharing content with media partners and extends to 16 the number of agreements in place with a range of media organisations”.

“Sixteen seems a lot,” said one unnamed source at The Spinoff. “Are there even 16 media organisations in New Zealand?”

According to Spinoff sources, staff were excited about adding more top RNZ content to their website, but more importantly they were motivated by the opportunity to get a mention from New Zealand’s most consistently funny parody Twitter account.

A story shared yesterday led to a heated exchange on Twitter last night.

The original article was posted on The Spinoff on 7 March: 30% cheaper to build and pre-consented: is this a solution to the housing crisis?

An old cigarette factory in Masterton, a remnant from the Think Big era, has been re-purposed to tackle our affordable housing crisis. Rebecca Stevenson caught up with builder Mike Fox to find out how a plant in the Wairarapa is producing modular, kitset homes on the cheap.

That is from Rebecca Stevenson, and looks almost like an advertorial for a house building company, but there is no suggestion it was paid for publicity. However like other Spinoff stories, it has a sponsorship message:

The Spinoff’s business content is brought to you by our friends at Kiwibank. Kiwibank backs small to medium businesses, social enterprises and Kiwis who innovate to make good things happen.

Check out how Kiwibank can help your business take the next step.

That’s how The Spinoff pay their wages and bills, and it is open disclosure – similar to commercial TV stations have sponsors associated with programmes or news segments like business news and the weather.

On 9 March RNZ republished this article – note that this is prior to them announcing their sharing arrangement with The Spinoff. They acknowledged at the end of the article:

This article was first published on The Spinoff

Bryce Edwards got suggested potential problems with this approach for RNZ, and was confronted by Duncan Grieve from The Spinoff:

Touchy from Grieve. I thought the Spinoff article read like an advetorial too, and that was before reading Edwards’ tweets.

Toby Manhire (from The Spinoff) also seemed aggrieved:

It may have not been paid content on The Spinoff (just openly sponsored), but it is odd content for RNZ to choose to share.

Remember that The Spinoff has just launched a subscription service that sounds similar to Edwards’ free daily round up.

Another Twitter exchange on the topic:

@GeoffMillerNZ – and have announced content-sharing deal. Seems fairly dodgy from RNZ’s perspective, given much of Spinoff’s content sponsored by corporates/PR. You can’t spell “Spinoff” without “spin”

@DCohenNZ – I support what RNZ is doing with content sharing. It’s one of a number of impressive decisions that have been taken on the watch of . Whether other participating media have a “spin” (or political tilt) isn’t important as long as the RNZ content is used extant.

@fundypost (Paul Litterick) – My concern is the problems arising from RNZ taking The Spinoff’s content. The Spinoff runs on sponsorship. It also has an ideological slant.

@GeoffMillerNZ – What’s different about this deal is that RNZ for the first time is reproducing another outlet’s content. Other content-sharing deals were one-way, i.e. other outlets paid a nominal fee to use RNZ content, but the arrangement was not reciprocal.

@DCohenNZ – So the question will be what content is used. Presumably, there will be vetting. The concern you raise is reasonable, but my point is about the need for new ways of thinking about the ongoing good health of media (which I’m sure we both agree is important).

@GeoffMillerNZ – Agree on your last point David, the question is how we get there. As it stands we have RNZ republishing sponsored content without even the disclosure that the Spinoff provides (e.g. see the housing article today, sponsored by Kiwibank but no mention of this on RNZ).

@zigzagger2 (John Drinnan) – In which case RNZ was smart enough to remove the mention because it would undermine the story, but loose enough that it did not see the sponsorshp an issue for the state broadcaster,

@GeoffMillerNZ – Exactly – they are in an unsolvable bind here. Provide disclosure and it’s free advertising for sponsors on RNZ, don’t provide it and it’s arguably even worse. Hence why the deal should not have been agreed to in the first place.

@fundypost – RNZ does not need to trade. It produces high-quality stuff that other broadcasters want. Why should RNZ want anything from the Spinoff; what does it do that RNZ cannot do?

@GeoffMillerNZ – Exactly. Content needs to be paid for somehow, so I am not totally against the sponsorship models The Spinoff and Newsroom are pursuing (although still problematic). But RNZ gets public money (& more under Labour) precisely to stay out of this murky area. So why go there?

I suspect that RNZ will be somewhat more careful about what content they share from The Spinoff – the housing article was a very strange choice and I think poor choice, republished before the sharing arrangement was announced.

It appears to be the only article republished at RNZ so far (as indicated by a site search of ‘The Spinoff’).

But the links to sponsored news publications (along with advertising) remains a problem for RNZ.



RNZ soft sop on political conflicts of interest

RNZ were embarrassed on Thursday when it was revealed in Parliament that ‘contractor’ Tracey Bridges, who was engaged by Ministerial Services in Jacinda Ardern’s office, had commented on ‘The Panel’ without disclosure. RNZ made a soft concession that it didn’t look good:

“It is a timely reminder for RNZ that we need to be fully transparent about any potential conflicts of interest. We are reviewing our processes around The Panel to make this sure this doesn’t happen again.”

– see Labour and RNZ exposed using ministerial staffer “as an independent commentator”.

Yesterday RNZ followed up with a sop to Bridges and to another political lobbyist who had come under scrutiny for potential conflicts of interest, Gordon Jon Thompson.

Jane Patterson at RNZ: Commentator welcomes conflict of interest debate

A PR contractor, whose position in the Prime Minister’s office prompted questions in Parliament, says discussions about conflicts of interest are important, and she welcomes questions about how they are handled.

National MP Melissa Lee raised questions about Tracey Bridges appearing on RNZ as a commentator, without it being made clear she had a contract to work in the office of Jacinda Ardern at the time.

In response to that story, Ms Bridges said she had told RNZ she was an independent contractor, but the news organisation had not asked for any details about individual clients, nor had she offered them.

While it should be standard practice for RNZ to insist on full disclosure Bridges also had a responsibility to disclose any possible conflict of interest.

RNZ went back to Ms Bridges and asked her for details about how her potential conflicts of interest are managed more broadly.

She said she identified and declared any of her other clients who could potentially pose a conflict of interest to the Prime Minister’s office, and then managed any conflicts if and when they arose from there on.

Ms Bridges said she did the same with her other clients.

Her work focussed on strategy, leadership and mentoring, she said, and her work in the PM’s office was “consistent with that space”.

It was very important to her to respect the confidentiality of all of her clients and so there was “no flow of information” between the different groups, Ms Bridges said.

Bridges stated “she welcomes questions” but has not faced any questions here, she has been given a free PR platform. This sounds like a sop to Bridges by Patterson, RNZ’s political editor.

Gordon Jon Thompson worked in the PM’s office as Chief of Staff immediately after the election, and has since returned to his corporate affairs consultancy company, Thompson Lewis, that specialises in government relations.

He said the day he signed his contract to work in the PM’s office he declared his interest in his company to Ministerial Services.

Mr Thompson said that in recognition of potential conflicts of interest, he had signed a document saying he would be taking a leave of absence from his company while Chief of Staff and he would not receive any money from Thompson Lewis during that time.

The situation relating to conflicts of interest was “handled well”, he said.

Another PR sop, this time to Thompson. He has been allowed to claim he “handled well” the situation relating to conflicts of interest without question.

I think that it’s fair to question what Patterson’s historic and current relationship with bridges and Thompson is.

And it’s fair to question the way she and RNZ have handled this issue. It raises more questions about conflicts of interest than it answers.

NOTE: This is on matters of principle, but it seems that Bridges did not talk politics on The Panel, she talked about what a big deal it is to her that her daughter is going away to University for the year, about Bob Jones’ controversial Waitangi Day column (she said he had a right to waffle), and allergies in movies – Audio of The Panel on 12 February.

However she did close with:

“I’m probably sitting in a position where I’m feeling a little bit sick of racist old men having platforms”.

Update: there’s more audio of The Panel scattered across RNZ:

I haven’t got time to listen to all that right now.

Inconclusive report on income/wealth gap

Oxfam are releasing a report today on the wealth gap in New Zealand. but it’s not clear what point they are trying to make.

RNZ: One percent of the population, 30 percent of the wealth

New Oxfam research shows the richest one percent of New Zealanders earned 28 percent of all the wealth created last year.

The research shows that the 1.4 million people who make up the poorest 30 percent of the population barely got one percent of the national growth in wealth.

The interview of Rachel le Mesurier didn’t really clear up confusion over income and wealth in the interview:

It’s worth listening to the interview to see how headline grabbing but vague this publicity is. Guyon Espiner asked le Mesurier what point they were trying to make and what solutions they were suggesting, but all she really did was intimate having a lot of wealth was bad and poor people were poor. She did talk vaguely about the tax working group doing something about things.

The charity’s executive director, Rachel le Mesurier, said the level of inequality in the past two years had remained the same.

“All around the world there has been a significant shift [of] wealth, particularly around property, and that’s something that many New Zealanders will be familiar with.

“In many cases … people have become wealthier with actually not having to work very hard for it … This is not fair, we should be rewarding work and not wealth.”

Ms le Mesurier told Morning Report the gap between the extremely rich and the rest of the population was unacceptable.

“The poorest proportion of our society really gained no extra benefit from that new wealth last year.”

“One of the reasons [the gap has increased] is property prices … but there are others.”

So forcing property prices down would close the ‘gap’, but how could it actually help poorer people?

Espiner asked her what would change if the wealth of the wealthiest New Zealander was redistributed and she diidn’t have much to say about it.

“We’ve got a tax working group. We’re very keen for New Zealand to have a conversation about tax – what is fair tax, what is balanced tax?

“A good number of [global] billionaires don’t necessarily work hard … Two-thirds of them have either been to build on their inheritance, they’ve actually got a monopoly.”

I’m not sure how the tax working group can recommend changes that will ensure those who work the hardest are taxed the least.

RNZ “should receive a rocket”

I’m not the only one who has noticed the sparsity of news provided by RNZ over the holiday period.

Perhaps if Curran gives RNZ more funding they will improve their holiday news coverage,

RNZ, te reo Māori and Brash

Ki te tangata?

An increased use of te reo Māori on Radio NZ has been a talking point for some time.

It doesn’t bother me, but I think it is overdone at times.

But it has bothered Don Brash. Late last month:

There was a response by Emma Espiner at Newsroom: The threat of Te Reo

It’s become a running joke among friends and family that my husband, vampire-like, feeds on and grows stronger with each criticism of his use of Te Reo in his role as co-presenter of RNZ’s Morning Report. What’s less of a joke is the sustained attempts by some, who agree with Brash, who are fighting against the use of Te Reo and against Guyon and RNZ in the form of BSA complaints and letters to RNZ’s managers, CEO and Board.

I dislike the ‘old white men’ argument where one simply says those three words and the offending viewpoint is rejected because of its provenance without any further need for debate.

It’s good to see her saying this.

What’s interesting to me as a Māori woman, is the way that my Pākēhā husband has been able to champion Te Reo into the mainstream in a way that it would be impossible for me to do, were I in his position. As a Pākēhā man with a powerful role in the New Zealand media he has a position of extraordinary privilege from which to challenge the status quo. He has strong support in this endeavour among the leadership of RNZ, most importantly from other noted Pākeha man, CEO Paul Thompson.

Over at TVNZ Jack Tame is cutting a similarly admirable path on the flagship Breakfast show.

The complaints about Te Reo being used in mainstream media give me great heart looking to the future. This positive response might surprise some, but I believe we can view these people (and they’re always the same people) as the rearguard of progress.

As society shifts, they will continue to yap at our heels and protest, but the trend for Aotearoa is against bland mono-culturalism and fearful mono-lingualism.

A decade ago it was Māori Television. Today, it’s using Te Reo on Morning Report and Breakfast TV and putting macrons in newspapers.

In ten years time these things will be completely normal and there will be another battle, which the rearguard will again resist and lose.

There is definitely a trend. In the main I am fine with this. But not so Brash – and Kim Hill wasn’t fine with Brash over it.

She interviewed him on 2 December, if ‘it can be called an ‘interview’: Don Brash – Ragging on Te Reo

He has weighed into the debate about the use of Te Reo in the past few weeks, saying he’s “utterly sick” of the use of the language by RNZ reporters and presenters.

I haven’t listened to that, but I saw a lot of comment about it. It is still being talked about.

Karl du Fresne: Don Brash didn’t stand a chance against Kim Hill

The first was to think he could criticise a high-profile Radio New Zealand presenter on Facebook and get away with it. The second and much bigger mistake was to accept an invitation to explain himself on Kim Hill’s Saturday morning radio show.

Inevitably, Brash was savaged. It was as close as RNZ will ever get to blood sport as entertainment.

Brash described Espiner’s flaunting of his fluency in te reo as “virtue signalling” – in other words, displaying one’s superior moral values.

For this offence against the spirit of biculturalism, the former National and ACT leader was summoned for a discipline session with Radio NZ’s resident dominatrix.

The result was entirely predictable. Hill was acerbic and sneering from the outset.

She didn’t bother to conceal her contempt for Brash and neither did she bother to maintain any pretence that this was a routine interview, conducted for the purpose of eliciting information or expanding public understanding of the issue.

It was a demolition job, pure and simple – utu, if you prefer – and I doubt that it was ever intended to be anything else. Its purpose was to expose Brash as a political and cultural dinosaur and to punish him for criticising Hill’s colleague.

Perhaps, but it could have been more than that. Hill may have also thought that Brash was a political and cultural dinosaur.

Then du Fresne gets to the crux of his complaint.

Here’s where we get down to the real issue. RNZ is a public institution.  It belongs to us.

The public who fund the organisation are entitled to criticise it. But can we now expect that anyone who has the temerity to do so will be subjected to a mauling by RNZ’s in-house attack dog? Or is this treatment reserved for despised white conservative males such as Brash, to make an example of them and deter others from similar foolishness?

Either way, Hill’s dismemberment of Brash was a brazen abuse of the state broadcaster’s power and showed contemptuous disregard for RNZ’s charter obligation to be impartial and balanced.

I presume Brash was given some sort of right of reply in the interview. I don’t know if he was given a decent chance to defend himself.

This is nothing new, of course. The quaint notion that RNZ exists for all New Zealanders was quietly jettisoned years ago. Without any mandate, the state broadcaster has refashioned itself as a platform for the promotion of favoured causes.

I often listen to Morning Report, it looks at a wide range of topical issues in far more depth than most other media, and generally seems reasonably fair and balanced.

Interviewers do sometimes push their guests hard – but this is essential, in politics in particular. It is a sign of a healthy democracy.

But Brash has a perfectly valid point. Whatever the benefits of learning te reo, it is not the function of the state broadcaster to engage in social engineering projects for our collective betterment – for example, by implying we should all emulate RNZ reporters and start referring to Auckland as Tāmaki Makaurau and Christchurch as Ōtautahi.

Social engineering? That seems over the top. RNZ is not making me use te reo Māori, and I generally don’t. Also, I learn something from their use if it. That’s a good thing.

There’s quite a bit on RNZ I don’t want to listen to. If so I turn it off (increasingly frequently when John Campbell gushes over the top in another crusade).

RNZ does many things very well and my quality of life would be greatly diminished without it, but no one will ever die wondering about the political leanings of many of its presenters and producers.

RNZ is often referred to as ‘Red Radio’.

Some of the RNZ presenters have fairly obvious political leanings, to varying degrees. That’s normal in any media. I can make no judgement of their producers, I don’t listen to them.

But te reo Māori is cultural, not political, so du Fresne seems to be confused.

Brash criticised Guyon Espiner in particular, someone who seems more balanced and non-politically leaning than most journalists in politics.

Du Fresne’s article has morphed from a grizzle about the use of te reo Māori, to a grizzle about Kim Hill doing a tough interview on the poor Don Brash, to a grizzle about some radio presenters appearing to favour one side of the political spectrum.

I could go to The Daily Blog or The Standard and find plenty of claims that media is far too right wing. This is just lame ad hominum from them, and that is what du Fresne resorted to in trying to conclude his argument against the use of te reo Māori on RNZ.

Perhaps that should be ad hominum/ad feminum (Latin seems to be a sexist language).

Or should it be ki te tangata? What about ki te wahine? (Māori seems to be a sexist language)

But at least du Fresne is talking about it. RNZ successfully getting a point across. You will inevitably annoy some people when you try and make cultural progress.

The James Shaw interview

It is James Shaw’s turn to be interviewed by Guyon Espiner on RNZ this morning. It is a big contrast to yesterday’s with Peters.

Greens will have been encouraged to be uop a bit (to 7%) in the latest Colmar Brunton poll, but it has been a hard campaign for Shaw since Metiria Turei left him leading alone with a big mess to recover from.

The Peters-Espiner interview

Guyon Espiner interviewed Winston Peters on RNZ this morning. It was widely regarded as not very flattering of Peters. Perhaps staunch supporters still think he’s got what it takes but it raises serious doubts of his capabilities.

RNZ link: The Leader Interview – Winston Peters

A $3 billion costing for New Zealand First’s policy to remove GST from basic food was a mistake, Winston Peters has told Morning Report.

Mr Peters said his party’s policies were costed at $10bn over seven or eight years, he said.

Taking GST off basic food would be $600-700 million, he said, and the mention of $3bn on the party’s website was a mistake by someone in his team.

“In fact I had a discussion with my team just about two days ago about correcting that,” he said. “Parties make mistakes and in this case it’s been corrected, it should have been corrected.”

The NZ First website had clearly showed GST would come off food with no mention of ‘basic food’.

The party would leave it to a group of ordinary men and women to decide what foods would be considered basic, though Mr Peters said bread would be on the list, but chips and biscuits would not.

This flatters Peters.

The best coverage is from The Spinoff with transcripts: ‘Words do mean things’: Highlights from Guyon Espiner’s brutal interview with Winston Peters

Morning Report’s Guyon Espiner had been reading NZ First’s website, apparently a lot more than Winston Peters. He asked, mostly, what its content would cost. He did it over and over and Peters almost never had an answer. For a man who was, until recently, subject of semi-plausible speculation about his potential to be prime minister, he appeared astoundingly ill-informed.

Over and over Espiner honed in on what these big, blustering populisms would cost, over and over Winston dissembled and guessed (almost always incorrectly, sometimes by upwards of a $1b on a single policy).

But the interview became an instant classic less for what Winston didn’t know and more for the pure entertainment value it contained.

I wouldn’t call it entertainment when that is how someone who could decide who runs the next government performs. Peters was embarrassing.

Mission Metiria continued

Metiria Turei has been in interviewed on RNZ this morning, and was pressed on a number of questions about her past benefit and electoral frauds.

This interview will get some scrutiny.

One comment that stood out was when Turei was pushed on her own circumstances where she wasn’t exactly unsupported by family and in extreme poverty.

She said something like ‘I made a decision to have as much financial stability as possible’.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei has hit out at opponents outside the party, after the party reached a compromise with two dissenting MPs.

Kennedy Graham and David Clendon had threatened to resign unless she stepped down as co-leader, saying they objected to her stance on benefit fraud.

Mrs Turei has admitted lying to Work and Income as a solo mother in the 1990s and, while acknowledging what she did was wrong, she has refused to condemn others forced into the same position.

Dr Graham and Mr Clendon have withdrawn from the party’s caucus and, while they will stay as MPs for now, they will not seek re-election in September.

Metiria Turei joined Morning Report‘s Susie Ferguson in the Wellington studio:

VIDEO: Metiria Turei on Morning Report

It is legitimate to question how ‘forced to lie to feed her child’ Turei was, or whether it was more if a lifestyle choice at the expense of taxpayers.


‘Poll of polls’ of little use now

RNZ have updated their ‘poll of polls’:  Can Ardern lift Labour’s polling?

Three polls in late July dragged Labour down to a 24.0 percent average in RNZ’s Poll of Polls. This was from 26.5 percent in June and 29.4 percent in May.

At 24 percent just two MPs would come in off the list if electorate MPs all held their seats.

In March, after Ardern was elected deputy, Labour’s average lifted from 27.8 percent in four polls taken in February to 30.6 percent.

If she can double that lift as leader, Labour and the Greens might be back in the game.

There’s no way of knowing what effect Ardern will have on then polls. All we can do is guess.

It is interesting to see past trends and movements, but that is all polls and ‘poll of polls’ can tell us. They are good through the middle of a term, but they become useless at the business end of the term, during an election campaign.

Single polls, or clusters of polls as we have just had, can be more informative than a poll average over a longer timeframe, which is what we get from ‘poll of polls’.

As recent elections in the US and UK have shown, and as poll results here in the last week have shown, there can be significant shifts in measured voter preferences during an election campaign.

It isn’t new. Every election in New Zealand this century has featured late swings. Remember the surge of United Future in 2002 after Peter Dunne turned the worm? NZ First typically attracts late support, and Greens tend to do worse than polls suggest.

Even single polls can only tell us what some people thought a week or two ago. Opinion can react to polls, so as soon as they are published they can be out of date.

‘Poll of polls’ are more out of date because they average back over a longer period. And now that New Zealand has few polls there isn’t much for them to work with.

So making predictions based on ‘poll of polls’ is not a good idea, as much as poll aggregators and media like to try to do.

They tell us what has happened in public opinion up until recently, approximately.

They can’t tell us what people will think tomorrow, let alone on September 23.

They are interesting, but are hopeless at predicting the future.

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.