Hard News by Russell Brown


Media Take: Heavy topics

We take on a weighty trio of topics on Media Take tonight: family violence, the mooted Fairfax-NZME merger and its likely impact, and reporting about climate change.

Our guests on the domestic violence panel are Jeremy Eparaima and Kyle Macdonald. Jeremy is a former violent abuser who has been working with the It's Not OK campaign since 2011 and is now contracted by the police to talk to recruits and frontline officers. He was the subject of an unflinching profile by senior police reporter Anna Leask as part of the Herald's week-long #betterthanthis campaign.

Kyle is a psychotherapist who contributed a column to the campaign noting that family violence is a male problem and that addressing it "is the work of all men". He stirred some inevitable indigation in doing so, but was in part motivated by a more controversial column that appeared on the second day of the campaign – the one by Tony Veitch.

The problems with Veitch's self-serving column have been well addressed by Emma Hart on Public Address, Delaney Mes on The Spinoff and others. It makes for a stark contrast with Jeremy's comprehensive ownership of his own violent behaviour. But how the hell did it end up in the Herald on Sunday?

We sent the NZME the following list of questions last week:

Whose decision was it to include Tony Veitch in the Herald’s domestic violence campaign?

Were domestic violence organisations consulted on that decision?

Was his victim consulted in advance? Has there been any contact since?

Did anyone assist Mr Veitch with the writing of his column?

Who signed off on the column? Was there sign-off at corporate level, or editorial only?

I had actually drawn up those questions before we were told last week that Veitch had  been assisted in writing his column by NZME communications staff, and that editorial staff were told it could not be altered before publication. But I think the questions as submitted serve well enough as an inquiry about that.

Yesterday, we received this reply from acting managing editor Murray Kirkness (Shayne Currie is overseas), who has overall responsibility for all Herald mastheads, including the Weekend Herald and the Herald on Sunday, which are edited by Miriyana Alexander:

Dear Brioni Gray,

I reply to your email of May 13.

Tony Veitch’s opinion piece was considered and discussed at length by senior editorial staff before publication. The decision to publish was an editorial call. 

I trust you have seen the other work produced as part of the anti-domestic violence #betterthanthis campaign. Encouragingly, we had reports of a spike in calls to refuges and police last week. We hope this will continue -- and that shows such as your own will join us to help try to reduce the levels of domestic violence in our communities.

It is indeed encouraging to hear that the Herald's series has prompted people to seek help. That's a tribute to Anna Leask, who guided the admirable campaign and wrote most of the stories. We invited Anna on the show, but she was unable to join us.

But it's a crying shame that the story about the campaign became the entirely misconceived Veitch column. (It's notable that although it appeared under the #betterthanthis banner in print, it now doesn't on the website.) It always looked like a clumsy corporate attempt to rehabilitate a radio asset by inserting him into an important newspaper campaign – one which damaged that campaign. And nothing we've learned has changed my mind on that.

In the second part of tonight's show, Merja Myllylahti, project manager at AUT's Research Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy, and former Herald managing editor Tim Murphy discuss the mooted merger of Fairfax New Zealand NZME – which may or may not put both businesses on a stronger long-term footing and might embody a return to local media ownership, but will inevitably end up in more jobs lost in journalism and less choice for news consumers.

And in the third part, Tagata Pasifika reporter John Utanga and Rod Oram talk about reporting on climate change – especially with respect to the Pacific, where issue is more acute than it is here in New Zealand.

There's also a lively and wide-ranging online-only bonus Q&A where we assembled all the panelists to respond to questions from our studio audience.

So, yes, I think we've provided plenty of substance this week.

You can watch Media Take at on demand here.

And don't forget the online-only session with audience questions to all the panelists here.


Friday Music: Got Knox?

You may recall a project launched a while ago to compile the illustrative work of Chris Knox into a definitive, high-quality book. It didn't hit a fairly ambitious crowdfunding target, but the plan hasn't gone away and Beatnik Publishing's Chris Mousdale and Sally Greer are working with Chris and Barbara Ward on compiling material for Grafix Knox. Ian Dalziel, well-known in this parish, is, as he always does, helping out with things.

The publishers are very interested in hearing from any readers who have  unique pieces of Knox artwork or paraphernalia that could be included in the book – personal artworks, cards or whatever. They're digitising work as it comes to them and the hope is for the book to be published next year. They'd also be interested in hearing from anyone who can offer access to an A2 or even A3 scanner.

If you can help, please contact the publishers Beatnik c/o kyle@beatnikpublishing.com


I'm under pressure of time today, but I could do no better than commend to you Pop Lib's one-track-a-day New Zealand Music Month project. It's a really nice bit of curation that features tracks from artists you might not have heard, along with a Street Chant album out-take and a whole live set from Dunedin's Birdation.


Over on Audioculture, John Dix writes about the lesser-known (but legendary) Ponsonby bar The Alhambra.

And Matt Goody covers the little gem that was Robert Scott's comic and cassette label Every Secret Thing.

And for The SpinOff's Throwback Thursday, Gareth Shute recalls the notorious 1978 Eyewitness report that alerted New Zealanders to the presence of punk rock in their midst.  Related: there's a fundraiser for medical treatment for former Suburban Reptile and Swinger Buster Stiggs, who needs kidney treatment as a consequence of cancer.



New Chelsea Jade! I'm not sure whether it was recorded in New Zealand or in her new base in LA, but it's nice:

Loop Recordings artist MIloux has had a couple of her tracks remixed by Suren Unka and Katana respectively. I really like Suren's moody effort – and it's a free download.

On a completely different tip, the unofficial Flying Nun vault has come up with a Goblin Mix song recorded live at The Cricketers in Wellington in 1985. It's a Phil Moore tune I don't think was ever properly recorded or released:


The Hard News Friday Music Post is kindly sponsored by:

The Audio Consultant


Forgetting what we didn't know

The Panama Papers have been a "big, fat, flop" which has "told us nothing new" writes Duncan Garner in a column today. This might come as news to the former Prime Minister of Iceland, who vacated his post last month in response to public anger at the revelation that his family had been hiding assets offshore.

But even if we narrow the point to just New Zealand's role in the story, let's not forget what we didn't know in March. As far as can be told, no senior New Zealand poltiicians have money in secret offshore trusts (and if they did, you'd assume they have taken swift steps to remedy that situation). But New Zealand is one of 21 jurisdictions identified in Mossack Fonseca's documents as tax havens.

Garner points out that a 60 Minutes investigation in 2012 – fronted by Guyon Espiner! – revealed that New Zealand had become a host for trusts holding money for foreign interests in places like Peru. Then-Revenue minister Peter Dunne might want to cringe a bit now at his stout defence of "legitimate tax avoidance".

But we didn't know the scale of the business here, and more especially about the rapid increase in the flow of money into New Zealand-based entities in the last three years, which Dunne is now describing as an "explosion". Dunne says he was never alerted to this increase. (One might observe that Dunne could have asked, especially after the 60 Minutes report.) Importantly, other countries, including our trading partners, know that New Zealand may be helping people hide money from their taxation systems, and actually trading on its clean reputation in doing so.

We also know important things that have been derived from reporting on the papers, rather than directly from the Panama Papers themselves. Most notably (thanks to an OIA request by the Green Party) that IRD dropped a proposal to review New Zealand's foreign trust regulations. And that it did so after the then Revenue minister Todd McClay was lobbied by an industry group that included Ken Whitney, who is John Key's personal legal advisor. We know that Whitney cited a conversation with the Prime Minister in doing so. And that the lobby group was desperate to avoid a public review, suggesting the establishment of a register of interests in trusts instead. We know that the government didn't even bother to do that.

For that matter, we know about Ken Whitney himself, enough to think that it might be handy to know more.

Garner ventured on Twitter that Whitney was the only real story so far from the papers. But that happened nearly a month after the Panama Papers first broke. To declare, as Garner's colleague Patrick Gower did yesterday, that the investigations of RNZ, TVNZ and Nicky Hager on the Panama Papers, had failed to "land a punch" on the government was rather missing the point. It was the way two Press Gallery reporters would see things. And possibly the kind of thing employees of a company that has shed most of its investigative capacity would say.

On the other hand, it's true that there was no showstopping scandal in yesterday's reports. And, to be honest, the reporters have also had trouble  clearly telling their stories. Not quite as much trouble as the Prime Minister, who has given  contradictory accounts of his interactions with Whitney, but trouble nonetheless. It's a story in need of an overview and some infographics.

But the urge for journalists and the expectation of their audience is always for a smash hit, as if typing a few characters into the Panama Papers database was going to write tomorrow's headline. It's worth a try, but it won't.

But the database already tells us some more subtle things. For instance, while it lists only 47 Mossack Fonseca-connected offshore entities in New Zealand, there are 547 in the Cook Islands, 9611 in Niue and 13,418 in Samoa. As Jason Brown points out in tonight's Media Take, the structures of the South Pacific's secret financial systems have generally been built by New Zealanders. We can tut about the Pacific, but it's really us. Given the sanctions places like the Cooks place on local reporting, it's actually incumbent on New Zealand journalists to look there too.

So, let's see. And in the meantime, try not to forget what we didn't know before.

UPDATE: Reader Tom Dale accepted the challenge of finding the 2012 60 Minutes report on the TV3 website. He found the video, but it has been set to private. And that seems clearly related to this extraordinary statement in the show's blog. It appears that even saying the words "tax haven" was legally perilous four years ago. It looks like the Panama Papers have made a bigger difference than we realised.


Jason Brown and Gavin Ellis discuss the story so far in tonight's Media Take, at 10pm on Maori Television. The show was recorded lat night, so we didn't have the benefit of knowing what the database has revealed, but I think it's a worthwhile chat.

The show also features a report on MediaWorks' own reality show and a discussion of the forthcoming Bravo channel's prospects with Gavin and Alex Casey of The SpinOff. It's Alex's first TV appearance. I can say with the utmost confidence it will not be her last.


Friday Music: Good News

Many years ago, a man came to the place I had been cast, and he saved me.

That sounds more exciting than "In 1983 Murray Cammick travelled to Timaru, where I was working in the branch office of the Christchurch Star, and hired me," but the effect is basically the same.

As it did for many other people, my contact with Rip It Up, then New Zealand's free monthly music magazine, changed my life. I was deputy editor for only three years, but it ruined me for the straight life. You can read my memories of the experience here.

Back then, 30,000 copies of Rip It Up were distributed nationwide and picked for free off piles on the floors of record shops every month. It seemed that everyone read it and and working there felt like being part of the culture.

But like many others who've been through the place, I've fretted about Rip It Up's heritage sometimes. It was owned by Satellite Media from 2001 to 2013 and had a particularly notable spell as a paid title under the editorship of Leonie Hayden. But Satellite sold the mag to music industry figure Grant Hislop, Leonie (now the editor of Mana magazine) was let go and  things went downhill. Back in the day, Murray was prepared to wear it if a bad review prompted a record company to pull an ad – under Hislop, Rip It Up was basically selling good reviews. Last year, Leonie wrote a Spinoff column hoping it would just die.

Last month, it was put up for sale in an odd listing on Trade Me, in which it was characterised as a "gold mine".  Hislop apparently sold it to a new owner, Leanne Frisbee of Passion PR, in November, but her plans to relaunch it had been scuttled and he was helping with the sale. Or something. It just seemed weird.

But after the ad appeared, Simon Grigg began negotiating with Hislop. He was able to strike a price for the purchase of Rip It Up's written and visual archives, artwork and published magazines. The right to publish the magazine remains for sale and Hislop believes there is still value there, but I think most people would believe that Simon got the treasure. It's the social history.

Simon is, of course, currently the creative director of the music legacy site Audioculture and his ownership of the archives will clearly be a boon there. But it clears the way for other things to happen with this taonga too.  This really is good news.


The arrival of New Zealand Music Month has brought the usual rumblings about, well, New Zealand music. Hussein Moses has written a balanced and thorough story on the local audience's drift away from local music for The Wireless. Grant Smithies discovers that many of the people who make New Zealand music are making it elsewhere this month.

And Music Month manager Simon Woods runs down the month's activities on the official website. But let me be blunt: that website needs to die – it would be better to have a placeholder and sort out a listings page with someone like Eventfinda or one of the newspaper websites. The Facebook page, on the other hand, is quite lively and well worth a look to get an idea of what the month actually consists of.

But the deep read is this blog post published yesterday by Ben Howe, who is a partner in Flying Nun, Flying Out and Arch Hill Records, among other things. It's pretty dense, but it's about the money. Ben's estimate is that around 90% of the annual $74 million in recorded music revenue goes overseas and he outlines the reasons why that is so. It's inevitable in some respects and unsatisfactory in others – but it's amenable to change, which is what Ben is proposing as he seeks election to RMNZ's governing board.

This is his most interesting suggestion:

2. Allow One Music licensees to nominate where/to whom their fee payments go.

One Music is a good initiative where RMNZ and APRA have banded together so that venue music licensees (shops, café’s, etc) only need to get one music license rather than two from the two different music providers (APRA, RMNZ). In 2015 Recorded Music reports this is worth $3.8million.

The main problem with this kind of license has always been measuring what actual music a licensee (shops, cafés etc) plays and then paying that money through to the correct recipient. At the moment payment is calculated using radio airplay statistics, though everyone is aware that isn’t probably what those shops, cafés etc actually play and this heavily favours big international artists with a lot of radio airplay.

As a whole, the industry acknowledges this system is not very satisfactory, but has been unable to come up with a cost effective alternative.

My idea to solve this issue is to allow licensees to nominate the music style that best describes the music they play, and then use existing genre based airplay charts to actually remunerate the artists/labels/publishers. Included among the styles/genres licensees could nominate “New Zealand Music” and if they nominated that then payment would be measured against NZ artist airplay.

I strongly believe that many small businesses/retailers and so on would like to know their music license fee was going to local artists, and local artists would also get behind the scheme encouraging licensees to select the “NZ Music” playlist. It is an idea I have already floated with both RMNZ and APRA and so far, aside from the work involved in implementing it, it has met with a positive response as a possible solution. Hopefully this system would mean more money in the pockets of New Zealand artists and labels, rather than the current unsatisfactory system.

Best of luck Ben. If you can sort this there's a gong in it next time Labour's in government. Sure, it might be a while, but I'll have a word with Prime Minister Ardern.


One of the New Zealand musicians who's somewhere else for Music Month is Marlon Williams. Here he is playing last week on the BBC's Later with Jools Holland:

Nailed it


On a rather different note, The End of Now is a $10 rave at the King's Arms tonight. It's one of a series of parties put on by Suren Unka and Bob Frisbee, tracking towards a festival next summer. They're promising to transform the old KA and the lineup includes this guy: Alphabethead.


The new James Blake album, The Colour in Anything, drops about lunchtime today. Sounds like this:



A new cut from local groove supergroup Leisure dropped last night and already has 30,000 plays on Soundcloud. It's their best yet (and it's actually available for purchase on iTunes, grandpa):

And now, a lazy handful of classic reworks ... 

The mighty Situation take on 'Gypsy Woman' (old-fashioned free download from Soundcloud):

A cool ghetto funk remix of the Zapp track (mildly annoying Hypeddit download palaver):

A dope take on 'Back to Life' (click through for a download link):

A silly but very enjoyable Run DMC rave-up (click through for a download link):

And oh sweet baby Jesus, John Morales has spread joy upon the land. As he notes, he's mixed Teddy Pendergrass's 'The More I Get the More I Want' a few times over the years, but he's calling this 'The Ultimate", so you'd best get your mouse clicking on that download button:

If you're not dancing in your kitchen tonight, I'll want to know why. Righto.


The Hard News Friday Music Post is kindly sponsored by:

The Audio Consultant


UNGASS 2016: No one believes in your consensus any more

Last night's Media Take features my report from the UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem: UNGASS 2016. It raises the question of whether the ultimate victory of this UNGASS lies in its failure.

The "outcome document" adopted by UNGASS was deficient; grievously so. A handful of hardline countries had held out a month earlier to enforce a "consensus" that failed to condemn the death penalty for drug offences, or even include the dread words "harm reduction". Even as the consensus document was adopted in the meeting's frst hour, one signatory nation after another rose to emphasise the document had been accepted only "as a start". It was the opposite of an end to the matter.

The feeling of brokenness was futher emphasised by what appeared to be a  political move at the event itself to frustrate the many NGOs present – who were supposed to have played a full and useful role this time. I got caught up in that as a journalist. By the last day of the meeting, my week-long media pass did not gain me entry to even listen to the speeches. (Tip: learn where the back stairs are.)

The victory is that reforming countries will now no longer feel bound to the idea of consensus. They will take their own paths to drug law reform, and many have already begun to do so – with the more or less explicit support of multiple UN agencies. New Zealand's associate Health minister Peter Dunne will properly come under pressure to demonstrate the "boldness" he called for in his speech to the assembly.

Dunne's speech went down well with reformers, but for me the most remarkable address was that by another New Zealander: Tuari Potiki, director of Maori development at the University of Otago, chair of the New Zealand Drug Foundation and a beneficiary of the judicial compassion that directed him to treatment for his hard drug addiction and not prison, when he was 27. In a week when a good deal of bullshit was spoken, Tuari's speech was perfectly direct.

I think you'll see a good deal happen in the next five years. Unfortunately, as Sanho Tree notes in my report, people live in the hardline countries, and those people will continue to have their human rights impaired. We shouldn't give up on them either.

You can watch Media Take here on demand.

And you can see the whole of Tuari Potiki's speech here: