A few days before the November 26 general election, TV3 aired Bryan Bruce’s documentary Inside Child Poverty, and I posted on the depressingly predictable response of the usual right-wing subjects.
And now NZ On Air board member Stephen McElrea (who, in Tom Frewen’s marvellously dry turn of phrase, “also happens to be John Keyâ€™s electorate chairman and the National Partyâ€™s northern region deputy chairman”) has used his dual position of authority to demand answers from the funding body and, simultaneously, make implicit but forceful statements about what constitutes “appropriate” policy material for such a funding body to support.
There has been some outrage on the tweets about the obvious propaganda imperative here — agenda-control is pretty crucial to a government, never more so than during election campaigns — and I agree with Sav that this shows a need for NZOA to be more independent, more clearly decoupled from the government, not less so. Stephen McElrea, after all, is not simply a disinterested member of a crown funding agency — he is a Key-government appointee to the NZOA board, a political actor in his own right, and has a history of advocating for broadcasting policies curiously similar to those being enacted by the present government, such as in a 2006 column titled “Scrap the charter and get TVNZ back to business”.
I may write more about this as it develops, although it seems likely that the ground will be better covered by people much more qualified than I am. But what I will do is return to my initial point, to wit:
a documentary about child poverty, covering the appalling housing, health and nutritional outcomes borne by children in our society, and the immediate response is to launch a ideological defence of the National party and deride the work as nothing but partisan propaganda. … I havenâ€™t heard a peep out of National about what they plan to do about the problems since it aired. Isnâ€™t it more telling that National and its proxies immediately and reflexively go on the defensive, rather than acknowledging the problems of child poverty and renewing its commitment to resolving them?
I still haven’t heard that peep. Given the fact that the National party leader feels at liberty to dismiss attempts by David Shearer and others to make child poverty alleviation a matter of bipartisan consensus, and that a senior National party official so close to the leader feels at liberty to throw his weight around in this professional capacity, I rather despair of hearing it.