Radio NZ “bias” – the Coddington connection

An opinion piece by Finlay Macdonald in today’s Sunday Star-Times discusses a survey of New Zealand journalists which apparently found they lean more to the left than right.

Are journalists biased? It’s a bit like asking how long a piece of string is you need more information. Nevertheless, the authors of a recent survey of New Zealand newsrooms bravely posed the question of political “orientation” to a self-selected sample of hacks who were asked to rate themselves on a scale from hard left to hard right. The fact that most considered themselves very mildly left or just “neutral” possibly also explains why the headline Kiwi Media Hot Bed of Right Wing Extremism Shock! never made it to print.

I can’t find where the raw survey comes from (if anyone knows, please tell me), but the Mediawatch programme was also to discuss the survey today (I haven’t listened to the programme, but is available here). How does this all relate to ACT? Macdonald goes on:

The perennial bugbear of National MPs, National Radio (sorry, Radio New Zealand National), got a sound thrashing, too. It had become a “cosy little haven of sad lefties and politically correct Treaty separatists,” according to McCully.

In 2003, Deborah Coddington, then an ACT MP, published a report called “Saving Public Radio : A report on bias at National Radio”. To give some flavour, here is an extract from page 43:

National Radio lacks organisational diversity

Radio New Zealand is a politically narrow, non-diverse organisation which is
unrepresentative and skewed clearly toward pro-interventionism. National Radio lacks a single presenter with clear, pro-market views. There is a lack of diversity among regular guests selected by the company. It is in breach of several Charter requirements, including the overarching obligation to provide “comprehensive” services of a high quality, and requirements to meet the needs of “varied interests” in the community.

Regardless of one’s point of view, the report is an interesting read and Coddington does some good empirical work which is so often lacking (such as in Macdonald’s above-quoted piece). But as anyone who has ever looked into “media bias” knows, the subject is a minefield. My criticism of National Radio is more on the level and style of its news coverage than its political-leanings. News coverage at Radio NZ at weekends is virtually non-existent, with no dedicated news programme all weekend, regardless of what events happen at home and abroad. A case in point today was the state of emergency declared in Pakistan – a big international story. At the very least, it should be rebroadcasting some programmes from the BBC World Service. Another frustration I have is that Radio NZ never reinstated its “Today in Parliament” and “This Week in Parliament” programmes after a spat with presenter Tom Frewen some years back.

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