Public airwaves talkback

datePosted on 17:15, May 4th, 2010 by Lew


Normally Radio NZ National’s The Panel is a pretty sound — if somewhat fluffy — current affairs show, in which the panelists are ideologically fairly diverse (though not occupationally diverse; mostly celebrities, PR flacks, or newspaper columnists). They tend to leave aside their more extravagant views to engage in a fairly civil and reasoned manner.

But when The Panel happens to have two people of similar ideological views or a common background, it tends to turn into an echo-chamber of congratulatory backslapping. Today it’s nothing more than talkback for self-righteous wealthy middle-aged people who — since they’re listening to National Radio — think talkback is beneath them, but like to have a good whinge about how society’s going to the dogs anyway. The guests are private investigator Julia Hartley Moore and former cop and current Police Ten-7 presenter Graham Bell, and the topics for discussion (and general timbre) are as follows (From memory, so I may omit some, but you get the idea):

  • TV harmful for very young children: “We never had TV in my day, we went outside! Parents are using TV as a babysitter! Never did that in my day! TV is rotting childrens’ brains! There’s no excuse for ever doing anything other than what’s perfect, we always did!”
  • Cellphones used to arrange and record fights: “I told you cellphones were bad, never come to any good, those things. We never had cellphones in my day, and even if we had them we’d never have gotten into fights. And even when we got into fights, it was all posturing, really, and nobody ever actually got hurt. It’s the parents’ fault, letting their kids watch TV.”
  • Kent State massacre 40th anniversary: “Yeah, that was pretty bad.”
  • People throwing litter from cars: “I can’t believe people do that, and people with flash cars as well! Never would have happened in my day.”
  • Young people should be allowed to drink because they can vote and fight for their country: “I don’t think they should be allowed to do any of those things! In my day we got a bit pissed, and some of us still do, but that was different. These new alco-pops are ruining society! I blame the parents, what are they doing about this? Disgraceful.”
  • No service at service stations: “PC OSH nanny state gone mad! Old ladies having to check their own oil and water? Total bollocks! Teenaged attendants who only take your money, was never like that in my day. And don’t get me started on pre-pay pumps…”
  • Hypochondria: “I blame the internet, and the expectation that the medical profession can just provide a magical pill which will fix everything!”
  • Roman Polanski reckons he’s done his time for drugging and raping a 13 year-old girl: “No way, he’s been living the good life. Throw the book at him — hang him high!”

Well, I sort of agree with the last one. But this is the sort of reactionary love-fest we expect from the rest of the opinion media, not from Radio NZ. It’s not the conservatism I can’t stand; it’s the absence of reflection and the naïve belief that the world really is that simple.

Update: To demonstrate the extent to which I’m not exaggerating, you can listen here.

L

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10 Responses to “Public airwaves talkback”

  1. Cnr Joe on May 5th, 2010 at 07:43

    Good on you for picking this up Lew.
    Sometimes it can be execrable and that was one.

  2. jcuknz on May 5th, 2010 at 08:06

    Yes Good One Lew :-)
    Something I never listen to, Commercial or National talkfests, because I’m listening to Concert or my own CDs. I bought a five disk player for Christmas .. it is wonderful to cover an evening without having to change disks.

  3. nads on May 5th, 2010 at 11:52

    I heard some of that as well. They usually have at least one guest with the ‘in my day things were different’ attitude but this time it was both guests.

    How about getting some young people on to stick up for themselves and give these baby-boomers a good kick in the nads?

    It seems that no matter what issue they are talking about it eventually boils down to ‘in my day things were different, i don’t understand the kids of today etc. etc.’ – but they never examine this over-riding issue.

  4. Lew on May 5th, 2010 at 12:13

    I don’t so much object to the fact that the panelists sometimes agree, or that they hold positions which differ from mine, or that they’re mostly self-satisfied boomers with attitudes to match — that just goes with the territory. And besides, there’s considerable value in the experience they tend to bring. And the stable does hold some generational diversity.

    What I object to is the fact that the panelists were not expected to critically examine the issues, to consider or discuss diverse positions which might reasonably be taken, or even to reflect on their own positions.

    In my view, the failure is due to weak control of the show by the compere — Jim Mora — part of whose job (if he’s to be useful) is to challenge his guests rather than permitting them to engage in self-indulgent bloviation. To require them to explicate their positions in terms other than those employed by the Four Yorkshiremen, the generational irony of which would hopefully not be entirely lost on those in question.

    L

  5. Scott on May 5th, 2010 at 13:51

    What I object to is the fact that the panelists were not expected to critically examine the issues, to consider or discuss diverse positions which might reasonably be taken, or even to reflect on their own positions.

    In my view, the failure is due to weak control of the show by the compere — Jim Mora — part of whose job (if he’s to be useful) is to challenge his guests rather than permitting them to engage in self-indulgent bloviation. To require them to explicate their positions in terms other than those employed by the Four Yorkshiremen, the generational irony of which would hopefully not be entirely lost on those in question.

    Lew, I wonder if you’re missing the point of what the Panel is about. The show doesn’t pretend to be anything other than an amiable “after dinner” style discussion on the events of the moment. It doesn’t aspire to be hard-hitting current affairs. Jim Mora takes the part of the polite dinner host. He may well be tempted to attack some of the things guests say, but that’s just part of the job.

    Bear in mind also that the panelists only get a couple of hours’ notice of the issues to be discussed. The day’s topics are often extremely varied, and it is impossible for most people to talk authoritatively on every subject. I’ve been on the Panel twice, and I struggled to come up with anything beyond platitudes in relation to some of the matters that were discussed, because I knew so little about them.

    And not all the Panelists are of the “in my day” sort. It was just unfortunate that on this particular day both of them were.

  6. Lew on May 5th, 2010 at 14:13

    Scott, I do listen to it most days. As I say, it’s usually pretty good, and this is an odd example.

    But I do find that Mora’s compereship — if that’s a word — is generally a bit soft and frequently overrun by his guests. I’m all for an amiable chat, and I think that tone and format is particularly conducive to the show’s quality and the ability to get such a pair as — say — Bell and Bomber Bradbury discussing things like the war on drugs quite reasonably with one another despite their deep differences on the topic (not to mention many others). Even the most polite host has a responsibility to aid their guests in the tricky task of Not Being A Bore.

    I also get that a lot of it’s off-the-cuff, but honestly — guests chosen on the basis of their general erudition and awareness of the society in which they live ought to be able to do better.

    L

  7. marty mars on May 5th, 2010 at 20:00

    I often hear this show and I do also find myself sometimes yelling at the radio in frustration at some terrible comment that doesn’t get challenged or questioned. It is what it is and I listen because i like to know what people that are not like me think – even if little thought appears to have gone into their thoughts. The contrasts are great – bomber and bell was a hit.

    I wish they would get a wider sampling of our society as part of the panel. Same with their guest commenters very much same old same old. The good ones stand out but you never know how you’re going to go until you do it. I cetainly think in general it is pretty right wing slanted. It is interesting to wonder why that is.

    I’m used to jim and have listened to him since he was in dunedin. He does irritate me but I cannot imagine him changing. He does have the luxury of having mary following and she definately winds it up. He is in a good spot. It’s a 7 out of 10 from me, generally I enjoy the chitchat, often I learn alot, and it helps my stress relief. :)

  8. Tom Semmens on May 6th, 2010 at 08:06

    Jesus Christ, who takes that God squadder Mora and his procession of “proper” people with the “right” opinions seriously? It’s talkback Taliban for those who think they are above the hoi pilloi.

    The panel is just evidence that RNZ is looking for cheap fillers, another example of the substitution of expensive reporting with risable (largely) right wing opinion.

    Mora occassionaly includes a token left winger, included in the same way Republicans parade their token blacks, but the guy is a soft Tory and a hardline social conservative.

    I never listen to Mora – I prefer to send a signal via tuning out.

  9. Joseph P on May 7th, 2010 at 10:26

    The show doesn’t pretend to be anything other than an amiable “after dinner” style discussion on the events of the moment.

    I have just been through the RNZ Charter to see where “after dinner style discussion” occurs. One must assume it comes under the “entertainment” section of article 1(b):

    A range of New Zealand programmes, including information, special interest, and entertainment programmes, and programmes which reflect New Zealand’s cultural diversity, including Maori language and culture

    As the Charter also calls for RNZ to take account of “The broadcasting services provided by other broadcasters” (by which I assume they mean avoiding those services that are already well catered for by commercial radio) I would have thought that trivia of the sort that Mora specialises in runs dangerously close to a breach of said charter.

  10. nads on May 7th, 2010 at 11:25

    2 other things that annoy me:

    1. Mora is too nice.

    2. The way they introduce an issue:
    First – the panelists provide their uninformed opinions.
    Second – have an expert on to provide an informed view making said panelists look stupid.
    Third – Panelists and Expert discuss the issue from an informed perspective.
    Why can’t they just start with the expert?

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