Karl du Fresne on Radio NZ

Karl du Fresne hooks into the left wing jobsworths at Radio New Zealand. TVNZ returns a profit and a dividend to the taxpayer, Radio NZ is nothing but a cost centre.

It is funded by the taxpayer and generates no commercial revenue. Its funding has been frozen since 2009, which suggests it doesn’t rate highly in the Government’s priorities. In fact, if Wellington gossip is to be believed, there are influential figures in the Government who are at best indifferent, and possibly even hostile, to the state broadcaster.

Take Steven Joyce, for example. As the fourth-ranked minister in the Cabinet, he carries a lot of clout – probably more than his ranking suggests.

He is also a former broadcasting entrepreneur who built a small New Plymouth radio station into the RadioWorks network and pocketed $6 million when he sold his interest.

Mr Joyce is said to be less than sympathetic to arguments that RNZ deserves more money. And while there may be others in the Cabinet who don’t share his robust support for private enterprise (it would be interesting, for example, to know the attitude of the attorney-general, Chris Finlayson), the brutal reality is that National probably takes the view that there’s little electoral risk in upsetting RNZ listeners because most of them vote Labour anyway. 

I know of many MPs and Ministers who view RNZ as the broadcasting wing of the Labour party.

So what might the new RNZ chief executive do to enhance the organisation’s standing in a political climate that is less than favourable?

One obvious step is to take a tougher line against the editorial bias that still permeates some RNZ programmes.

Public broadcasting organisations, by their very nature, tend to be Left-leaning.

Australia’s ABC is perpetually under fire for partisan reporting and the prevalence of Left-wing views in current affairs programmes; Britain’s illustrious BBC only slightly less so.

It’s not hard to understand how this comes about. Journalists distrustful of capitalism naturally gravitate toward state-owned media organisations, seeing them as untainted by the profit motive.

This becomes self-perpetuating, since the more Left-leaning an organisation becomes, the more it attracts other people of the same persuasion.

The result is often an ideological mindset that permeates the entire organisation. But while this can be cosy for the employees, publicly funded broadcasters have an obligation to make programmes that reflect the views and interests of the entire community – not just those the broadcasters happen to favour.

I’m surprised that there isn’t a permanent carpark for the Labour party leader in their basement.

This is explicit in RNZ’s charter, which commits the organisation to impartial and balanced coverage of news and current affairs. It’s the duty of the chief executive, who also has the title of editor-in-chief, to ensure this happens.

But in this respect, Mr Cavanagh, an Australian who was recruited from the ABC in 2003, has been missing in action. Overall, RNZ presents a more balanced range of perspectives than it used to. But on some programmes, a stubborn Left-wing bias persists.

Kim Hill is the worst offender. This is a problem for whoever runs RNZ, because she’s also its biggest name. Chris Laidlaw lists to the Left too, as does Jeremy Rose, a journalist who frequently crops up on Laidlaw’s Sunday morning show.

Rose appears to be on a lifelong mission to convince people that there are humane alternatives to nasty, heartless capitalism. He’s perfectly entitled to believe that, of course, but he has no right to co-opt the resources of RNZ to pursue his fixation. It’s an abuse of power to use a taxpayer-funded medium to promote pet ideological causes.

And while I used to be an admirer of Nine to Noon host Kathryn Ryan, I’ve reluctantly been forced to file her under “L” too.

Heh, reminds me of a Harry Enfield sketch.

An editor-in-chief who was doing his job properly would crack down on such abuses, for two reasons. The first and most important is that they breach RNZ’s duty to the public to present information fairly and impartially. The second, more pragmatic, reason is that the Left-wing bias apparent in some of RNZ’s programmes is hardly likely to endear the organisation to the politicians who control its fate. In saying this, I’m not suggesting for a moment that RNZ should become a tame government puppet. That would be far worse than the status quo.

But we all have an interest in Radio New Zealand surviving, and a genuinely independent, non-partisan RNZ will be in a far stronger position to defend itself than one that consistently leaves itself exposed to allegations of bias.

I can’t fault his logic there. if they won’t change then expose them to the vagaries of the market and see where advertisers want to put their coin…that’ll sort them out very quickly indeed.


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  • Morrissey

    Poor old Karl Du Fresne has never forgiven Kim Hill for surgically exposing his hero, the former Australian prime minister John Howard, as a liar and a fraud. He was so incensed that he wrote a dyspeptic rant in the far right Australian Spectator magazine.

    Du Fresne is an occasional guest on National Radio’s “The Panel”. His contributions are invariably dull and uninteresting. Now, to cap off the lack of talent, it appears he is a traitor and a backstabber as well.


    • Mediaan

      Piffle. “Far right Australian” and “magazine” are contradictions in term. There would only be about 500 far right Australians at most, and three quarters of those would not read political magazines.

      • Morrissey

        You obviously haven’t read the Australian Spectator.

  • Michael

    I don’t really care about the left wing bias of Radio NZ, it’s more that I am funding a radio station – with Newstalk ZB, Radio Live, and a plethora of music based stations catering to all tastes can someone explain the need for a Government radio station? It should either stand on it’s own two feet or close.

  • Grizz30

    What are the ratings for radio NZ. Honestly, who actually listens to them. You can either believe in your own misery and think the world is a horrible place and listen to this diatribe all day. Or, you can behave like the rest of us and just get on with it.

    • StupidDisqus

      Everyone in wellington who works in the bureaucracy listens to it.

      Nobody else does.

  • minarchist_kiwi

    What disappoints me is this is not made more political by the likes of Stephen Joyce, or even Mr Key; they should openly say “if you dont stop your left wing extremism we will shut you down”; to accusations of political interference Mr Key should respond “too bloody right! they are not taking tax dollars from decent National folk and spending it promoting marxism”

    • johnbronkhorst

      Nice thought, but freedom of speech is still something we enjoy here. I use the freedom to no listen paragraph in that belief!

      • cows4me

        you have the freedom not to listen you don’t have the freedom not to pay for that privilege.

    • StupidDisqus

      Politicians – especially in government – should never threaten.

      They should simply act: close the fucker down

  • kiwiinamerica

    Your own bias is showing. Kim Hill fawns all over darlings of the left and goes for the juggular of anyone not tilting her way. She had a real crack at Tony Blair over the war in Iraq (since his support for that was an unforgivable heresy for many on the left) and he acquitted himself excellently. Her interview of John Howard was a partisan hit piece. As a dreaded capitalist and conservative leaning, I often listen to Radio NZ podcasts with amazement at the constant blatant almost unashamed leftward bias of many reporters and presenters on Radio NZ National. Kim Hill’s guests come from a dream list of lefty leaning progressive cultural elites and anyone ever brought on about the business world it is always to represent a socialist anti capitalist world view. Its fine for Radio NZ to allow her to be like that – but because all tax payers and not just Labour or left voting ones pay for Radio NZ, the management ought to give equal time to someone who tilts to the right to give balance. After all they cannot be worried about ratings (results of which they never publish) since they are oh so pure and above that nasty messy world of commercialism, if God forbid they gave someone like Bob Jones his own show.
    I used to think that Kathryn Ryan was a straight non partisan shooter although likely voted pink/red and did an excellent job of hiding her bias – until the awful Burrows interview on pinging the partners of welfare cheats. She allowed her welfare state bias to influence how she handled the various guests giving full and virtually an unchallenged platform to the lawyer who acts for welfare cheats.
    Du Fresne hit the nail smack dab on the head with this column.

    • Morrissey

      Kim Hill “fawns over darlings of the left”? Could you give us an example please? She is certainly one of the best and most intelligent interviewers in this country, but to imagine she is sympathetic to “the left” is just not a tenable statement.

      She several times interviewed the darling of the far right Christopher Hitchens and hardly challenged him at all when he went off on his ranting anti-liberal fugues.

      She proffered no such kid-glove treatment for the “leftist” John Pilger. In 2003 she (unwisely) had a go at Pilger on her television show. He keel-hauled her horribly, criticizing her lack of seriousness and her failure to prepare for the interview….


      Her interview of John Howard, far from being a “partisan hit piece” was a polite but firm confrontation, where she refused to let that notorious liar slither away from answering her questions. Howard was not clever enough to lie his way out of it and still maintain a façade of authority; Du Fresne, for all of his obtuseness, was bright enough to see that and gallantly but misguidedly rode to the defence of the old criminal.

      • Kimbo

        You are wrong. Morrissey, with your spin on the Hill-Pilger interview. On the contrary, it highlights Hill’s intractable left-wing bias.

        It went shit-bag because Pilger’s ego and paranoia interpreted any attempt to analyse and dialogue other than through his hard-left prism of understanding as a lack of “preparation” :-


        “Pilger salvo leaves Kim Hill reeling”

        “Hill said she had spoken to the award-winning journalist before the interview.

        “He said, ‘You ask me anything you like’, but he said, ‘Don’t play media games with me’.

        “I don’t know [what he meant by that] but clearly he is sensitive to
        what he would regard as some kind of (and note this well, Morrissey!) right-wing domination of the media.”

        The reality, Morrissey, is that Hill went in preparing to fawn and slobber all over Pilger, and tried to set things up with what she intended were puff-ball questions he was going to hit out of the park. As she said during the interview:

        “Hill: It’s a pity you wasted a lot of your time tonight, Mr Pilger. (note carefully, Morrissey) I was looking forward to…

        What was she looking forward to, Morrissey? The mess it turned into?! No, she was looking forward to laying out a red carpet for her hero to come prancing down, like a left-wing king in state, dispensing wisdom and bon-mots, with Kim Hill throwing rose petals to festoon his way.

        However, such was Pilger’s ego and arrogance, and because he obviously had not been briefed on her background, nor discerned her intent, he treated even that initial attempt to commence the questioning with the veneer of objectivity as a personal attack upon his political belief system.

        Given your posting track-record, I know you will struggle to comprehend what that means, Morrissey, but for the moment just accept, like most adults do, that Pilger’s view of the world ain’t necessarily so. As such, if you are going to conduct a charade of an interview, which is really hero-worship, then if you are in Hill’s shoes you have to try and disguise your real intent. To do so, you at least commence the by initially questioning Pilger from what appears to be an unbiased and objective perspective.

        Don’t believe me that that was the intial intent of the line of questioning in the Pilger interview? Then why would Hill and her producer have run the following damage control? :-

        “Hill and producer Maryanne Ahern both expressed disappointment (why, Morrissey?) in the interview, saying they (note the telling phrase, Morrisey) never expected the reaction from Pilger, well known as a left-wing journalist (What difference should Pilger’s politics have made to the matter, Morrissey?)

        “That was not a good thing (Why not, Morrissey?). It was not what I wanted (Why not, Morrissey?). I was aghast, really (Why, Morissey?),” said Hill”

        Really?! Simon Walker and Ian Fraser dined out for years, and boosted their reputations immensely by getting a rise out of the old tusker, Rob Muldoon. Since when do REAL TV journalists care about an interview subject spluttering or acting emotively on screen? Paul Holmes launched his TV career on doing precisely that to Dennis Conner.

        Instead, Hill realised her credibility as a cashed-up member of the left-wing chattering-classes was forever suspect because their great white god, John Pilger had thrown his teddy out of the cotwhen he misunderstood her disguised attempt to act as his political groupie. Now, whenever she is with her mates at dinner parties, she’s aware everyone questions her faithfulness to left-wing orthodoxy because the prophet John Pilger called her out as a heretic and right-wing stooge. No wonder the poor woman was aghast! Her credibility amongst those who matter to her was irreparably damaged forever! No wonder the sub-editor described her as “reeling”!

        Hang around with the left long enough, Morrissey, and you’ll learn the lesson – they all eat their own eventually.

  • peterwn

    Interestingly RNZ found Brian Edwards too much of a mouthful in the 1990’s and effectively dumped him from 9 to Noon at end of 1999 – did not know what had hit him when he went in to renew his contract. Even Helen Clark would not save the day for him.

    • Michael

      Yes she did, she hired him (and his wife) for media training. For him, Marion Hobbs was like winning the lottery.

  • StupidDisqus

    Radio NZ like “public broadcasting” everywhere is irredeemably communist

    Simple economics explains why: because it’s run by the government out of peoples taxes!

    Close it down & sell it off.

  • cows4me

    If the left really had anything worthwhile to say people would be happy to pay to hear, they do not have this luxury and the cowards know it. Of course the left will have you believe they believe in egalitarianism, this belief doesn’t seem to extend to letting alternate views been expressed, the alternate message may offer a better deal.

  • Rogue Trooper

    because there isn’t already enough capitalist, right-wing propaganda assaulting people’s senses already, is that it? However, even the rider finds RNZ too freakin slow to listen to most of the time; sooner read the international papers or a book!

  • AnonWgtn

    I never listen to Sunday morning with failed ex Labour MP, failed Ambassador to somewhere in Africa, and Taxi expert. When forced to listen just before the Noon news,all you to hear is a dreary old socialist, reading out his (possibly sent em’s) with his left wing pet theories. I am told he has a full grey beard so nobody will recognise him.
    I assume that RNZ cannot find anybody with more intelligence.