Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: New Rules

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  • Craig Ranapia,

    No, I am not without sympathy for our MPs. The New Zealand news media's coverage of Parliament is often superficial. A sleeping-MP gotcha will lead the news while important legislative events go unexplained.

    Well, I'd only extend my sympathy up to a point, Lord Copper. If political coverage has become dumbed down (and I'd agree it has), then you've got ask whether politicians and their hired spin doctors aren't exactly unwilling victims. Sorry, but there were one or two small pieces of legislation that came into effect on Saturday. Breathless media coverage of a Labour Party rally more suited to the social pages than a serious news bulletin -- and which I doubt the media had to crash -- was exactly an intelligent or substantive hook.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    We all of us have the right to go to Parliament to watch proceedings. We also have the right to watch televised coverage, unmediated by the subjects. If dickheads like Ron Mark choose to behave like schoolchildren, then that should be their problem, not the broadcaster's. We, the voters, have a right to see what is happening.

    If media want to use the broadcast footage to satirise or ridicule MPs, that is their right as well. It is called free speech.

    Broadcasters should simply boycott this bowdlerised coverage.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Good satire is worth it's weight in gold. Ridicule I'm not so fond of.

    Why not insist that if broadcaster spends 5 minutes on satire or ridicule then they need to spend 5 minutes on considered analysis of the proceedings.

    I don't believe being an MP is necessarily an easy job, but the pay is good and being answerable to the public is kind of in the job description, if not the KPIs.

    With that in mind I think perhaps the MPs ought to show the same respect for the debating chamber as they are now asking the braodcasters to show them.

    And if they don't display the respect for the chamber themselves then they ought to expect to see their behaviour on the 6 pm news. Followed of course by serious analysis of legislative events that day - yeah right.

    cheers
    Bart

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I concur Paul. Once laws start talking about limiting the use of images/material for valid news purposes, then it starts to set off warning bells.

    There are a reasonable number of people who when they're at work, are always on camera, and don't get to set limits on what ends up on the TV. You don't hear Jerry Collins bitching that the TV shouldn't have put his little toilet episode on the TV.

    MPs should either behave like adults, deal with the fact that we get to see them behaving like children, or find a different job.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    They're just trying to stop the reality TV series, Big Brother - The Politician. Ron Mark voted off in first election episode for giving finger to public.
    Yeah Right.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I *am* without sympathy. When you choose a public life you have to get over the fact that a lot of it will be public, especially what you do in your actual place of work, especially when that is meant to be representing your electorate.

    Not that I'm the least bit interested in what they do there. Like most of the population, I can barely summon interest in the actual legislation itself, much less visual representations of the process in glorious slow motion technicolor inaction. They could be shagging each other rotten and I still wouldn't watch it.

    Why shouldn't the media call a circus a circus, and show the clowns? Parliament is all for show anyway, it's not like any actual decisions are ever made in there. It would be the rarest of occasions when anything happened there of more interest than an MP scratching their balls.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10654 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    I think there are a few unpleasant realities that tend to explain these restrictions, whether or not they are a good idea.

    The first reality is that television news coverage is brief and of a low quality. "One News gives you a full report" often translates as 5 or 10 seconds of context-free soundbites.

    The second reality is the conflict is news, wheras quiet deliberation and collaboration are not. The result is that Ron Mark goes out on digital high-rotation while more worthy legislative developments do not receive media attention.

    The third is that news companies have a profit motive, which means they are attracted to matters of broader public fascination, such as Paris Hilton, rather than matters of actual public interest, such as Parliament.

    The result is that the television news cannot be relied upon to provide worthwhile coverage of what happens in Parliament.

    Since Nov 2006 • 797 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Nichol,

    This is enabling our representatives to continue behaving badly - and quite frankly I'm disgusted by it. I'm very proud of our democratic history, and this appears to me to be against fundamental principles of democracy. (Voting without free access to information about what and who you're voting on is like being forced to sign a contract without being allowed to read it.)

    Do the politicians really want to get the media offside? So what happens come election time? I really hope they're all held over the fire.

    Wouldn't it have been easier to make rules against sleeping or behaving like a child in the house and just enforce them? How would that be more contentious than this? It is, after all, so very much more difficult to satirise or ridicule people who behave with sober dignity.

    Auckland CBD • Since Nov 2006 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Gary Hutchings,

    As Peter Bromhead noted on Agenda, Farce is not included in their guidelines :)

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 108 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    The result is that the television news cannot be relied upon to provide worthwhile coverage of what happens in Parliament

    Well, Weston, with all due disrespect to the great and the good, I think I'm capable of deciding for myself what constitutes 'worthwhile coverage' of politics, and adjusting my viewing/reading accordingly. The only "reality" I'm seeing here is precious and thin-skinned politicians (and I'm not the first to point out the self-parody of Michael Cullen getting Miss Manners on anyone's arse), who don't like being laughed at. And to he honest, I'm more than a little creeped out my the patronising elitism on display from some media commentators (such as Phil Wallington, Finlay McDonald and Tom Frewen) who seem to think the peasants are really far too thick to make up their own minds about the quality, or otherwise, of what they see.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    Do Lolcats count as "satire, ridicule or denigration"? If so, we're in trouble.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Weston

    "The result is that the television news cannot be relied upon to provide worthwhile coverage of what happens in Parliament."

    That doesn't mean it should be stopped. I personally think coverage of Paris Hilton *is* more worthwhile than Parliamentary footage, but the conclusion of that is not that Parliamentary footage should be curtailed. Those who care to watch such dull stuff certainly should be allowed, and if they can spice it up with something actually interesting happening, like a nose-picking, or perhaps, horrors, someone falling asleep, great. They might crack 1% viewership, good on them.

    That it trivializes what is already trivial is merely honesty. Which should *always* be allowed. Parliament has been a ridiculous circus full of bad clowns playacting for a long time, and for the public to see it is important.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10654 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    Well, Weston, with all due disrespect to the great and the good, I think I'm capable of deciding for myself what constitutes 'worthwhile coverage' of politics, and adjusting my viewing/reading accordingly

    If what I said strikes you as patronising elitism, I guess I'm guilty. Its all about who will guard the guardians, mate.

    http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2005/3953/

    For Political background and analysis of events in New Zealand ‘Free-to-air’ TV (42%) is the most important source of information, followed by Newspapers (24%), Radio (12%) and Internet (9%).

    Since Nov 2006 • 797 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    the new provisions were passed with only the Greens objecting.

    The new provisions passed unanimously.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3207 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    That it trivializes what is already trivial is merely honesty. Which should *always* be allowed. Parliament has been a ridiculous circus full of bad clowns playacting for a long time, and for the public to see it is important.

    Well, your view is not an uncommon one, and MPs have themselves to blame for that in part. But how much of that perspective has been shaped by the fact that almost the only time Parliament is actually news is when bad clowns playact? Do you pay attention at any other time?

    The ban on the use of TV pictures for denigration and satire is simply inappropriate in a democracy, but it would be nice to have a little more Today in Parliament and No Right Turn and a lot less of, say, 3 News leading with "exclusive" reports that "the Parliamentary prayer is under attack" etc, etc.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Thing that that worries me aboput the 'satire etc' thing (aside from making my actual job more fraught with terror) is the way it extends the rules from the content (eg it's contempt if you say he's corrupt) to the form (not using the feed) and, in that area, dramitically lowering the bar and upping the penalty.

    I'm used to the idea of the filming rules, even if I don't agree. I don't want to turn parliament into a zoo, for similar reasons that I don't want free reign on MPs private lives - it would scare even more good people away. But I note the media deals with the latter fairly well without even the threat of rules.

    But once the coverage comes out of the house in an acceptable form, it's my damn business what I do with it. Apart from the transparency, democractic and rights issues, that's just the way information works these days. Especially if it's webcast, though I note nobody has notably ripped off One's stream (perhaps their best protection is widespread lack of interest).

    I also don't see any sensible reason for still cameras to be treated differently.

    Judging by the debate MPs' other big concern about being misrepresented. Apart from saying, welcome to life, I have to say if that's what they were worried about they could just have said so. Some of them also seem to have the idea they can raise people's opinion of the house by suppressing bad coverage. They also seem to generally think

    I noticed Mr Edgeler on Mr Espiner's blog saying the order actually passed unopposed. Perhaps the vote everyone quoted was the one for Nandor's amendment? And either way I have to ask - where was Rodney "people should be able to film what they want" Hide? (it sounded like he actually said that in the debate).

    hansard is up

    Scanning the report earlier I got the impression from the phrasing that the threat of the privileges committee was for the benefit of people who couldn't be hurt by withdrawing access to the feed - that is, for non-broadcasters.

    Ridicule, incidentally, appears in the Britannica definition as a method of satire. It's particularly useful if you wish to satirise people for displays of arrogance and demands for unearned respect.

    Speaking of which, time for some self-promotion:

    Scoop Satire: Open Letter to Closed Parliament

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Russell,
    "But how much of that perspective has been shaped by the fact that almost the only time Parliament is actually news is when bad clowns playact? Do you pay attention at any other time?"

    Should I? What's actually happening in there that is more important or interesting than bad clowning? Does it actually affect me any more than exclusive interviews with Paris Hilton? It's certainly a lot less interesting.

    If I really wanted to know what was going on in a boring geeky kind of way, I'd read Hansard. That way I skip the irrelevant a lot quicker. Which would probably be the whole thing, since only the votes on legislation count for anything, and all of the voters have made up their minds well before they walked in.

    The only value in televised Parliament that I could see *is* the bad clowning. And I don't personally want to see it, but like most things in life I think it should be allowed for me to see it, if it harms no-one who wasn't already harming themselves.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10654 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Ah. Here's an angle that's gone missing. From Toby Miller's backgrounder at museum.tv. The Aussies got there a long time ago on the "satire and ridicule" thing:

    For the most part, parliaments want to control coverage. Guidelines on the use of file footage of proceedings issued by Australia's Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, for example, are concerned about the unruly gazes of directors and publics. They insist on maintaining continuity, avoiding freeze frames, and receiving guarantees that material will not "be used for the purposes of satire or ridicule." After the first day of Question Time TV in Britain, a Conservative Member stated that "some of the men--I happen to know--are carrying powder-puffs in their pockets to beautify their sallow complexions." And who can forget former US House Speaker Tip O'Neill's sensational findings on TV coverage of Democratic and Republican Party Conventions: "If a delegate was picking his nose, that's what you'd see.... No wonder so many of us were skittish"? Satire can never be kept far-distant from pomposity.

    And almost the exact wording appears to have been lifted from the rules of the NSW Parliament.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    There was a thing on 3(?) last(?) night making the australia comparision.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Well, your view is not an uncommon one, and MPs have themselves to blame for that in part. But how much of that perspective has been shaped by the fact that almost the only time Parliament is actually news is when bad clowns playact? Do you pay attention at any other time?

    Well, that's a chicken and egg argument isn't it? I'm all for putting the boot into the Press Gallery, when a kicking is due but I also have some sympathy with the counter argument that they've got to work with what they've got, and there's a lot of "playacting" (and outright sleaze being peddled around the Gallery off the record) that will never see the light of day.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • InternationalObserver,

    A sleeping-MP gotcha will lead the news while important legislative events go unexplained.

    I think that's the key point people. Maybe if we had more substantive reporting then they'd tolerate the 'lite' stuff, but as RB points out most of it is just cheapshots.

    But then again ... we all know the place is a kindergarten most of the time.

    Since Jun 2007 • 909 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Should I? What's actually happening in there that is more important or interesting than bad clowning? Does it actually affect me any more than exclusive interviews with Paris Hilton? It's certainly a lot less interesting.

    So it's completely trivial and the only thing worth televising? Do you bother voting, Ben?

    Tom Frewen is a curmudgeonly old bugger (and I say that affectionately) but Today in Parliament was (and is, in its weekly version on Radio Live) a useful broadcast guide to what's happened and what it means -- that doesn't make me want to scream. Ironically, it is there solely because the Clerk of the House gave up on the press doing it themselves, and started bankrolling it himself.

    If all you want is broadcast coverage that depicts Parliament as a meaningless pit of personalities, I would think you're quite well served elsewhere.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Oh, and I was toying with the idea of organising a boycott.

    Anywhere where you would have used footage of parliament, you instead re-enact the scene with figerpuppets and silly voices.

    This would continue until politicians realise allowing free use of the feed is not the worst option.

    I would be prepare to supply the 'talent' side of this operation at or near cost.

    Of course they'd probably miss the point and, y'know, take it personally (The hanging "They also seem to generally think" was going to refer to the ideas expressed in the debate that the sleepy-pictures thing was an indication of what the media was really after - I considered it a protest against the rules and the pomposity).

    Who's with me?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    As Peter Bromhead noted on Agenda, Farce is not included in their guidelines :)

    Or indeed bathos.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Darlington,

    The result is that Ron Mark goes out on digital high-rotation

    Always with the finger jokes...

    Nelson • Since Nov 2006 • 949 posts Report Reply

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