TV Review: Hosking Henry

By   /   February 11, 2014  /   12 Comments

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What do Mike Hosking, Paul Henry, Sean Plunket and Guyon Espiner have in common with John Campbell?


What do Mike Hosking, Paul Henry, Sean Plunket and Guyon Espiner have in common with John Campbell?  They are the white guys who hold the other white guys (who run the the country) to public account in live interviews on the main networks in New Zealand.  The difference is Campbell will tell you he’s a Lefty and the others… well, they are still at the 25th Anniversay of the Backbone Club, or being schmoozed by Sky City, or driving sports cars over pedestrians and cyclists, or whatever.   Apart from the brazen partisan shennanigans of Henry, that group won’t be caught overtly displaying any party colours.  The politics however is reactionary and the orthodox right – so blue it is purple.  Anyone listening to their hostility to the marginalised and the unquestioned endorsement of capitalist enterprise will quickly grasp the yuppie credentials and their upper-middle class urban background and outlook.  So the main conduit – but more accurately described as a filter, choke-point or sphincter – between the small collection of individuals in power and the people of the country are these right wing white guys.
They are all part of the same establishment.  They are independent, their media organisations are independent – but, yeah, nah… not really.  Frequencies, subsidies, regulations, advertising, access to authority – the media organisations are entwined with cross-interests and conflicts with politicians and business because they are pillars in the same house.  Sure, they are free in a technical, legal sense – and they defend their right to publish whatever they want when they are attacked – but the basis of their news narrative and editorial critique of the system and of society is entirely in lockstep with the ideology of the state and its ruling elite, and to that extent they are not independent but rather co-dependent or inter-dependent.  They will not collapse their own house.  An interview in which a Minister in this National government is seriously challenged has been a rarity with the notable exception of Campbell.
These guys have relationships with their media bosses, with their subjects and with their audiences – not all of which is clear to the latter group.  It is an incestuous arrangement.  The audiences in their channels are relatively static compared to the fluidity of movement between the former groups.  Someone like Willie Jackson can be a broadcaster, a subject and a media owner.  Someone like Hosking (and Paul Holmes before him) can usually be heard on the talkhate ZB radio stations in the morning and on TVNZ One network in the evening attempting the same pat rednekkery on Seven Sharp with only Toni Street for balance.  Espiner has gone from TVNZ to TV3 to RNZ, Plunket was RNZ now Radio Live, Henry has been – like he is on air – all over the place.  Revolving doors for the right personnel across multiple platforms: think Bill Ralston and his trail of mongrelism from TV3, TVNZ news and Metro magazine; think the Espiner brothers.  Think parliamentary press gallery.  Think Duncan Garner’s Bellamy’s chin.  These are communes, clubs.  The hive inside the Escher cube.
All of which means I find myself with less and less inclination to devote any time to their predictable, pre-packaged programmes.  The only reason to watch Hosking on Seven Sharp and Henry on his own show is the novelty value – which after the first week has already worn off.
Hosking makes Henry look benign and open-minded, such is the gleefully unconcealed hate that runs rampant through his mind and out of his mouth.  Why put up with that abrasive delivery of toxic misogyny, racism and bigotry?  Bad enough this is all wildly populist.  Hosking has his blue eyes to commend him, but little else from what I have seen of him in this format.  Hosking can be a devastating interviewer (his demolition of Rodney Hide when he tried to front and defend his perk-taking was a high point on Close Up), but playing Mr Nice Guy and sharing the gig with another two is awwwwwwkwaaaaard.  Hosking lacks Henry’s impish charm and anarchic streak that would otherwise let him get away with his waspish behaviour – but out of Hosking’s mouth it is nasty rather than merely flippant.  Brusqueness and dismissive is second nature to Hosking, but he also does a mean turn in rude and cruel as well.
Henry has managed to kill off the institution that was Nightline whilst keeping it’s formula of leading in with straight news and then starting to get freaky.  It has a Nightline vibe which is why I have not mourned for a show that has been there as one of the network’s flagship shows since the start of TV3 in 1989.  Its spirit seems to have continued.
Henry and his cool, subdued set repose him in a favourable light.  We are hanging out in Paul’s groovy underground chill lounge.  So far, so hip.  All manner of transgressions and irreverences are already forgiven at that hour – we are more likely to hear his OCD rantings than we are to hear about OECD rankings and we are more likely to appreciate it what’s more.  At a point we share the madness – feel part of it.  All of which is acceptable on TV3 because of their latitude and their experience with the unconventional and the spontaneous.  TVNZ’s last attempt at anything approaching that latitude was of course Henry and his Dikshit diplomatic incident and his subsequent departure.  That was a round peg trying to squeeze onto a very square hole.  From what I have seen The Paul Henry Show is a late night variety show in the comedy genre rather than a current affairs programme and should be judged as such.  Trying to critique his fawning interview with the PM on his first show, for example, is not really worth the effort.  In the same way the PM’s appearance on the Letterman show wasn’t really worth the effort to review either.  It’s pure entertainment.
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About the author

Tim Selwyn

Founder, Tumeke Blog


  1. AceMcWicked says:

    Mike Hoskings is barely a journalist – he’s like a slightly camp version of Jeremy Clarkson: like Clarkson he’s a privileged school-boy who covers lightweight topics in a lightweight way where he becomes the centre of the story somehow.

  2. Waldo says:

    With a different host the Paul Henry show could work.

  3. AceMcWicked says:

    What, find another bloke called ‘Paul Henry’ who isn’t a nasty little toad and let him front it?

  4. Pete says:

    Hosking showed how in touch he is recently. In a radio ‘editorial’ he said paying the kids’ school fees was a good investment and certainly implied that the ‘donation’ should be paid.
    The ‘voluntary’ donations for two of his kids were $1000 each. Of course he was kind enough to let us know that is only $2.76 a kid per day.
    Bastards like Hosking, Henry and Key are really good at talking about the ‘real world’. They are indeed part of the small collection of individuals in power, the right wing white guys. The real, real world needs to rise up and bite them on the bum.

  5. Marc says:

    I demand the abolition of the now predominant status of “media personality”, and the reintroduction and enforcement of the true professional standards that should apply to all journalists!

    What we have is not journalism anymore, and it is certainly NOT INDEPENDENT! It is a farce rather than anything else.

    I do not tune in to watch Paul Henry and his show, I saw the first two in bits only, and that proved what I feared. While he tries (like most) to pretend he is not political and “independent”, we all know what the reality is, what the topic above is about!

    Henry was even a National Party candidate once, I read. And while he and others may say, they are not members of a political party, that alone does not mean they are independent.

    They all have their personal views, are rather successful, well to do, high earning “personalities”, who use their experience and status that comes with it, to ensure they continue being high and good earners. They are part of the upper middle class and better off establishment, and hence they have a very strong interest in keeping the status quo. That is why they are fond of Key and his government, as it will ensure things will continue to be good for them and their associates.

    And the mainstream media is predominantly privately owned, and certainly controlled by the forces that finance the various players. Advertising revenue is the prime feeder of the mouths, so they mouths will never bit the hand that feeds them.

    Advertising is commercial and paid for by commercial enterprises and their owners. That tells it all, and with public broadcasting having been almost totally hollowed out or destroyed, forced to also follow the same trends as private media, we have no alternative to use.

    It is time to bring back solid, well resourced, more balance public broadcasting with also online services, to bring back a balance in the MSM. Also we need to allow community broadcasters to get space and air, so we have more diversity.

    These are prime tasks for the next Labour led and Green supported government, and they will have a duty to sort this out!

  6. Phil Toms says:

    Really outstanding but fizzled out at the end. No, it is not pure entertainment. It is propaganda, indoctrination, and such a one eyed media renders democracy unworkable. Elections become pointless. Perhaps the odd brick through a window here and there?

  7. YogiBare says:

    “These guys have relationships with their media bosses… It is an incestuous arrangement.”
    A major problem David Cromwell & David Edwards have been banging on about for years at

  8. In the 1980s, TV3 had “Nightline” with Belinda Todd and Joanna Paul. That, truly, was anarchic and original. But without the smarmy nastiness. It was one of our viewing highlights in our household at the time, with the equally-strange “Twin Peaks” following on.

    Tim is made of sterner stuff than I, if he gave Henry a week. I got bored after the second night.

    And yet… I’ve said this before… I’ve seen Henry in serious hosting roles, where he exhibited impressive gravitas. He has talent, but it is subsumed by un-disciplined schoolboy behaviour. That might suit an immature bogan-type audience, but for the rest of us… *yawn*

    In case anyone doubts how far down we’ve gone (Campbell Live and Radio NZ being notable exceptions), it is worth pointing out that few of us can remember any incisive interview with Key except for Stephen Sackur’s interview on 9 May 2011. And Sackur was British, working for the BBC.

    The upshot? The consumerist society we now live in has turned the electronic media (in the main) into a “McDonald’s TV”. Light; unchallenging; with little nutritional value (for the mind); and quickly dismissed as irrelevant. Our media is pornography, but without the sex.

    Welcome to the mass media of the 21st Century – at a time when communications technology is so advanced, pervasive, and accessible as to make “Star Trek” primitive by comparison.

    We have seen the future, and it is banal.

  9. fambo says:

    Paul Henry reminded me of Brother Justin Crowe, the crowd controlling methodist minister/demon/mind controller with his own radio show from the television series Carnival (set in the 1930s) when he tried to skewer Len Brown by saying “So Len Brown is going to contribute $40,000 to the inquiry. Not good enough Len.” T

  10. Joe Public says:

    This has helped me understand why I don’t like watching Hosking: his “pat redneckery” doesn’t sit well with his “gleefully unconcealed hate”. Henry is more simple: he just exudes “hit me, it’s the only thing that might work” 🙂

  11. markmywords says:

    funny all the right wingers are the ones that have made it into good jobs,that have the highest ratings,that have there own shows
    Left wing jurnos just don’t get listened too..
    Right wingers look after their children, no poverty on the right, funny that ah