Thought for the day: Bank Economists as media expert commentators.

This may sound mean but having bank economists talk about global macro-and political economics on major NZ news outlets is like having pedophiles talking about childcare. Having them speak authoritatively on the “news” skews public perceptions of economic matters towards the preferred constructs of finance capital. Leaving aside the matter of finance capital’s interest in deregulation of capital flows and currency manipulation, using bank economists may be fine when discussing banking take-overs or interest rates in local markets. But there are many other economic interests at play that deserve mention when it comes to issues of political and macro economy and bank economists are ill-suited for a robust discussion of them. To the contrary, their “expert”opinions masquerading as informed commentary in the news media are often poisonous to the integrity of public debate on economic matters.

Is there not a single non-banker economist in NZ who could be used instead? Are all the Economics, Business and Management departments in local universities full of useless PBRF worshippers devoid of real world experience? Are there no economists in research centers, institutes or government agencies who could present a dispassionate and non-vested perspective on the state of global economic play? I find it hard to believe that is the case.

Just saying…

12 thoughts on “Thought for the day: Bank Economists as media expert commentators.

  1. Well, one hates to make assumptions, but presumably our universities won’t pay as much as ASB/BNZ(?) will to get their branding slapped all over primetime.

  2. QoT:

    That is certainly true but my question is more directed at NZ media outlets that prefer to use these patently vested and biased commentators rather than neutral experts. Product or brand placement notwithstanding, they are appearing as “objective” commentators on “news” shows.

    Although I do not have much regard for the ideology of most academic economists (save the occasional and increasingly rare neo-Keyensian), I would prefer to hear them rather than people who make money off of interest and debt and then pontificate about how “markets” should dictate the policy decisions of public and private actors.

  3. I think that to myself every single time I see one of those segments. I always assumed that those segments just advertorials that aren’t marked as such. I say that because the company’s logo is emblazoned on the screen and they never have someone from a different company, so I just assumed the segments were sponsored/paid for by the bank or investment company, in the same way that TV One’s morning business broadcast was sponsored/paid for.

    Whatever the case, I’ve always found those segments far more annoying than enlightening!

  4. Arthur:

    An ad is an ad and expert commentary is supposedly news. If the program cut away to an ad in which the bank economists give their views, well fine. But to have the bank economists insert their branded commentary in the middle of a news item about, say, the impact of recent elections on the Euro is simply deceitful. And to be honest, much of what they say is so devoid of context and a real understanding of the political aspect of “political economy” that they are actually mis-informing the audience as to the realities involved.

    As a contrast here is an alternative take on the recent European elections:

  5. Todd Bridgman of Vic has written about this:

    Bridgman, T. (2010). Empty talk? University voices on the Global Financial Crisis’, Policy Quarterly, 6(4), 40-45.
    See the pdf here

    As economists know, it all comes down to incentives. For university economists, who are promoted on the basis of their pbrf and international journal articles, the incentives to get involved in public debate in NZ is next to zero.

  6. You ask, are there any non-bank economists who can give commentary?

    The NZIER does and often has a slightly different perspective to the banks/govt. Trade union economists are sometimes also heard, but they are just as much vested interests as bank economists. Gareth Morgan and his economists have a vested interest too, but often comment on issues that have nothing to do with their investment company. And then there are journalists like Bernard Hickey, who is not an economists but is able to explain things in a publicly accessible way (a feat many university economists, in my experience, would struggle to meet).

  7. At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, Pablo, let me relate the explanation I heard from a trusted source within Radio NZ back in the early 1990s.

    I was told that the word had gone forth that there was to be a change in the way economic news was reported. The previous practice of approaching academic economists for their expert opinions on the economy was to cease. Instead, RNZ journalists should approach the professional economists employed by the banks and finance houses.

    My informant even described a photocopied list of those who were “Out” and those who were “In”. The marginalised were nearly all Keynesians, the In group were all Neoliberals.

    I have tried to verify this story many times. Officially, the story is denied. Unofficially, I’ve been told “Yes, it happened, but you’ll never prove it.”

    Here endeth the tale.

  8. Chris:

    That is interesting. And here I was thinking that the media were just lazy when using corporate shills.

  9. Bill Rosenberg and Peter Conway from the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions have long beavered away putting out an alternative well researched social democratic economic analysis, line by lining that of the banksters, but the CTU rarely gets a decent run in the media that seems to have conjoined with the Auckland Savings Bank Bank and all the rest of finance capital.

    Ever since ‘Cur’ Rodger Douglas hijacked the joint, stock market results and exchange rates have been reported in this country as if they are akin to sports results and should be of interest to those of us that are not in the least capitalist swine. The banks generally bespectacled, rumple suited dicks have great predictive powers so far–should, might, could, third quarter could see, ‘confidence’ and suchlike.

  10. The charade by which the female presenter “asks” her scripted question of the male economic flunky and his equally well scripted reply to be somewhat like a Punch and Judy show. Since its obviously an act, shouldn’t they be members of the appropriate actors union?

  11. ‘The marginalised were nearly all Keynesians, the In group were all Neoliberals.’

    As Samuel Johnson put it: Truth, Sir, is a cow, and so they are gone to milk the bull.

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