TV Review: Xenotype

By   /   October 14, 2013  /   3 Comments

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The newsroom as a whole – not just the presenters – are influenced by the proportion of migrant workers. What else but the pervasiveness of Britons in the workplace could explain the bizarre editorial fixation on minor, irrelevant British stories?

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With the picture off and listening to the audio it is impossible to know. With the sound and picture on it can still be confusing and misleading. It’s usually an English accent, sometimes an Australian or American or South African – and almost always a white person. They will refer to “us” and to “we” and to “the country”. And yet – without the visual prompts or key words – it will not be obvious who the “we” is and what country they are talking about. Are they talking about the UK? The US? Singapore? Where are they? Who are they? Clutching a microphone in front of a generic background with generic business-suited people generically going about their generic business it is damn difficult to know which country they are on about. Even after they throw back to the studio it may not be apparent it was all about NZ.

New Zealand must be one of the very few places in the world where foreigners are so readily accepted onto the national broadcast medium. This reflects the immigration basis of the NZ economy and society. It demonstrates that the deep colonial ideology persists here and that a full national identity has not been attained. How else can it be that the people telling us our stories are foreigners saying it in a foreign voice?

The English accents pop up everywhere on radio and television: the other night a new weather presenter got their five minutes of monologue on TV3 and she was an English woman. Other accents are harder for the white people who control the networks and newsrooms to countenance. Americans of any color will never be flavor of the week. That is not to say they are all Anglophiles or racists, per se. If they are good looking enough and have close to a Kiwi accent (Ali Mau for example has burred down the awfulness that is the Australian drawl) they may get through the gatekeepers. Most will not. It is interesting the ones who do.

The newsroom as a whole – not just the presenters – are influenced by the proportion of migrant workers. What else but the pervasiveness of Britons in the workplace could explain the bizarre editorial fixation on minor, irrelevant British stories? How many bullshit items about the Windsor whanau, about English sports, English weather, English whatever is due to Englishmen in the newsroom? Why should our nation be focussed on this rubbish when we have plenty of rubbish of our own? Is it that we don’t have any NZers left to find it?

In all of this we ought to consider the opportunity costs borne by the current generation. Not cultural costs and the incalculable social losses sustained by the daily imposition of British and American obsessions via the media – but the costs in more concrete terms to the career prospects of tomorrow’s communicators. Put simply: these migrants are displacing jobs for New Zealanders.

It is perhaps a worse circumstance than other professions because the media is mass communications and a large part of how the public and society understand their world. If this process is being determined by, interpreted by, and told by someone who never grew up here and who cannot possibly have the deeper knowledge of the complexities and history involved in issues then what of the value of their message? They may have the right letters after their name and worked for the right companies overseas, but what is their relative credibility compared to a NZer with intimate and institutional knowledge of the country and how it works? Through whose prism are we seeing the world? – not our own.

The migrants are not doing an additional job that someone else cannot do, they are taking the position that a NZer could just as well be doing. The EPMU may dispute this, but there is a high level of migrants working in the media from what I have observed. The scores – or even hundreds – of journalism and media graduates each year (as well as the thousands of other graduates in other fields) are more than enough of a pool of talent for the management to draw on… and yet they continue to hire people from elsewhere. What is the hope of a young aspiring journo or presenter making a living in this country when the employers would rather take all manner of people ahead of them in the queue. No wonder everyone is leaving – it seems having an overseas experience is the only way in.

Like they can’t even find a single NZer to read the weather? What sort of magnitude of cultural cringe is this when the powers at be think we prefer to listen to foreign accents ahead of our own? And if you think network TV is bad, tune in to National Radio where every second voice is from somewhere else – it is quite a joke. And of course these have to be white people’s voices too – naturally. Radio NZ looks set to continue to operate as Radio Rhodesia until the day they are thankfully abolished. If the state’s own radio broadcaster insists on marginalising non-whites and extolling Europeans then what pressure will there ever be on the commercial broadcasters to mend their ways?

If the goal of a colony is to make a place less like here – and more like somewhere else – then the broadcasters have achieved it – with Morris bells on.

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About the author

Tim Selwyn

Founder, Tumeke Blog


  1. MANA FORREAL? says:

    You are right that every second voice on Radio NZ is from the UK, that’s my experience, so I switch off. If i wanted to hear UK voices, i would find the BBC online.

    In ozzie, my experience is that all stations except SBS have Australian sounding presenters, without exception (by this i mean locally grown Aust accents).

    When TVNZ Breakfast presenters consist of three Pakeha and one from the UK, the opportunity lost is that could have been a nonwhite person.

    The ‘accent hierarchy’ you allude to puts NZ and Uk accents at the top – but when did you last have a distinct Pacific accent presenting the news. Cultural cringe this is.

  2. Ovicula says:

    Hi Winston. The Daily Blog is great. I am finding new groups to hate every day – baby boomers, Aucklanders and now those foreigners taking all our jobs. NZ First has sure won my vote by getting ahead of the times and mounting this blog.

    • fambo says:

      Ha ha – that’s quite funny – but even though I don’t always agree with Selwyn’s opinions on the media, I really like the way he attacks sacred cows like Country Calendar and the plethora of foreign accents when no one else does.

      What about Irish female pop singers who make sure you know they are Irish when the sing. This is actually quite an achievement as the sound of vowels actually changes a lot when a person sings and accents tend to get lost.