GUEST BLOG – Myles Thomas: The media won it!



Make no mistake, John Key is a clever communicator – reasonable, authoritative and relaxed – but without the media he wouldn’t be PM.

Depending on your viewpoint, New Zealand’s news media are either a bunch of Grey Lynn lefties or right wing stooges. But on one point most reporters, journalists and pundits seem to agree – that Nicky Hager and Kim Dotcom ruined it for Labour. The common view on the right and the left is that the Dirty Politics book and The Moment of Truth sucked policy out of the election, leaving only National in the frame defending itself. Thus hurting Labour and benefitting National.

But the truth is that voters don’t choose a government based on policy. Look at the 2011 election where National’s policy to sell assets was hugely unpopular yet it won.

The reality is that people vote on personality, image and who they identify with. And two weeks out from the election John Key’s image was taking a battering. National were dropping in the polls as a result of Dirty Politics (the book) and Glenn Greenwald’s revelations.

What changed National’s slide was the inability (for want of a better word) of our news media to pursue John Key over XKeyscore and Speargun. Kim Dotcom’s ‘fake’ email gave National an opportunity to fight back by lumping all the scandals together into a failed narrative, and amazingly the media bought it.

Where were the journalists hounding the PM over Greenwald’s accusations, calling him to account and when he wouldn’t front, complaining loudly and strongly? None of the reporters raised an almighty stink about our PM’s audacious lack of accountability. Perhaps they feared being lumped in with Dotcom and his henchmen. Perhaps they feared being labeled a freak by the rest of the media pack.

While none of NZ’s media came out in favour of Cunliffe, plenty came out for Key. Mike Hosking obviously did his best for the PM, but also there were strident right-wing comments from Paul Henry, John Armstrong, Matthew Hooton, David Farrar, Rachel Glucina, Fran O’Sullivan, Rawdon Christie, Stephen Franks, Jane Clifton, the whole of NewstalkZB, the whole Seven Sharp team and so on. The overall effect turned the conversation, turned the focus and turned the election.

TDB Recommends

Amazingly it took a British newspaper to take a stand while all of New Zealand’s media were attacking Dotcom, praising John Key and reporting the latest polls. The stark contrast shown by a genuine left-wing editorial and New Zealand’s supposedly balanced news media shows exactly where their allegiances lie. And proves once and for all, that our news media is almost entirely right-wing.


Myles Thomas is Chief Executive of the Coalition for Better Broadcasting.


    • True. So encourage the more open minded journalists. Give them the scoops, the insights, the interviews, the best seat in the house. Take the creeps out to lunch and work on them. If you are confident of your analyses, be confident that you can show another side of questions which at present only receive right-wing answers.

  1. This is also why a leadership change won’t solve anything for Labour.

    Leadership and policy did not lose Labour/left the election.

    We shouldn’t capitulate to superficial US style electoral races, doing so we will permanently cement the ability of creeps like Patrick Gower and his hidden puppet masters to control the process.

    A good start would be resurrection of public service television.

    • I agree Richard .
      If Labour think that changing the leader is going to win them the next election they are dreaming.
      Bringing in Grant Robertson or the ‘green horn’ Stuart Nash would be foolhardy and won’t make a blind bit of difference.
      When the All Blacks had their worst ever Rugby World Cup defeat, did they get rid of Graham Henry ? No they didn’t. Instead they got smarter and more battle hardened, and the rest, as they say, is history.
      If Labour panics and brings in a new leader now(which is precisely what the media want them to do),then they will also be expected to announce a whole new set of policies to prove that they are now going in a new direction.(Whatever that might be.)
      Considering Labour already have the most wide rangeing , far reaching, well thought out policies of any of the political parties , what are they going to do? Bin a whole years work ,and start again .
      The media would have a field day!
      When I saw John Key bill boards every half kilometre no matter where I drove.
      When I walked into Whitcoulls and Paper plus stores and saw 100s of
      John Key autobiographies endlessly promoted in prime spot ,2 months out from the election.
      When I looked at the Herald on a daily basis and saw endless positive stories and photos of John Key by all the National Party journalists.
      When I turned on Radio Live , IZB , RNZ and listened to all the negative bile being spewed at David Cunliffe every day.
      When I turned on the television and saw the fawning stories of John Key and complete lack of investigative journalism when it was required .
      When I saw on a nightly basis Paul Henry and Mike Hosking continually abusing and taking cowardly cheap pot shots at David Cunliffe.
      When I heard National had the money to phone every land line in NZ and play a personal recorded message of John Key begging NZers to give him their vote.
      When I heard and saw all this , I thought ,this is impossible to defeat and this country is well on the road to being a one party state basket case.
      It is not David Cunliffe’s fault the election was lost.
      If Labour follow what the media want them to do, the result next time will be just same (possibly worse) , only with a less battle hardened, less experienced leader!
      Some serious, in depth critical thinking is required about ALL the reasons contributing to the election result. It’s way to simplistic to blame just one person!

      • I had a ring on election eve from Cunliffe. The Nation programme had a university academic who studied the coverage of the election saying his analysis showed the coverage to be evenly based

  2. “The overall effect turned the conversation, turned the focus and turned the election.”

    More than that, it is paving the way for tacit acceptance of what lies ahead. Laws being passed right now in Aus allow the “entire Australian web to be monitored and whistleblowers to be jailed”.

    “The bill, the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014, will now be sent to the House of Representatives, where passage is all but guaranteed on Tuesday at the earliest. The senate votes on the bill on Thursday night.

    “Anyone — including journalists, whistleblowers and bloggers — who “recklessly” discloses “information … [that] relates to a special intelligence operation” faces up to 10 years’ jail.

    “Any operation can be declared “special” and doing so gives ASIO criminal and civil immunity. ”

    As well, a single warrant will now allow access to “a limitless number of computers on a computer network… They said this would effectively allow the entire internet to be monitored”

  3. I completely agree! Was not surprising to me though! The media in this country actually have a long history of creating the news & directing fickle public opinion! Think foreshore & seabed, repeal of section 59 etc all generated hysteria based on media scaremongering & misrepresentation!

    Looking at the bored, disinterested faces of the media contingent while watching the moment of truth I could see where we were heading!

    It was disappoInting that not one reporter picked up the Tppa issue which had no media coverage throughout the whole election campaign!

    I suggest key hoped at the start of the campaign to get everyone distracted with flag ruminations and when the Kdc stuff emerged went into damage control which worked for him! kiwis were likely to get riled up over Judith Collins but they hate to see their beloved Pm attacked by “foreigners” perfect the way it worked out for him and also totally deflected any conversation about The Tppa! Bonus!

    The fact that people with such arrogance and ignorance as Hosking, Henry, Plunket etc have their prime time platforms is a clue to what is driving Key and was absolutely laughable that Hosking got to host multiple leader debates and Henry turned up on the panel of commentators on 3’s election coverage!

    Only in New Zealand ay!
    Where the hell are all the real journalists hiding?

  4. This is perhaps largely true, but not entirely.
    Many media voices and presenters are less attached to a party than they are complacent and unaware. Or they are seduced by an easy story. Or they chase the easy prey.
    Moreover, journalists of National Radio are, by their very position, likely to be sympathetic to public service broadcasting.
    Did anyone else notice, at the very beginning of the campaign, when it looked for a (brief) moment that the tide was turning left, that the MSM started to report in slightly more balanced way. Of course it couldn’t last.
    Why were there good numbers at the time of the leadership vote? In my view because first the press had something easy to talk about. Secondly, it was because overall, despite the battle context, the tone was unrelentingly civil and the messages collegial and positive.
    There are simple ways to improve our media image. Politicians, as well as Left sympathizers in a position to do so should actively romance the individual members of the media and seek to promote a new, more constructive view of a future with a more interventionist, imaginative regime. Those in the media with more congenial views: people like Rod Oram, Bernard Hickey, John Campbell, many in National Radio and Rachel Smalley, need to be supported and given assistance and insights to help them consolidate their views and advance their careers.
    For the majority of us who are not in so fortunate a position there is talk radio.
    I know it can be crass, usually is, but it commands a massive audience and can easily be used to promote a new image for the Left. An image which is constructive. One where trenchant critisism appears “more in sorrow than in anger” reserving genuine anger for harm do to those in society who can’t defend themselves.
    I am a little concerned about the – understandable – impotent rage sometimes expressed here.
    It may be valid, but those of you who feel that way are probably not quite ready for primetime. Sorry, that’s a bit patronising. I mean you may not be best place to head out on the battle for hearts minds wallets and votes.
    Direct action will also counter media bias. Talk to people. It won’t just be you. There should be hundreds.
    And don’t overlook letters to the Editor. It all helps.
    But to say what?
    If we imagine the our only job is to stand up for the disadvantaged, we are selling ourselves short.
    It is hard to find any area of the national life that does not need reform. To produce a better outcome, not for its own sake. Sometimes we miss the wood for the trees. Capital gains was aimed at channelling investment into more job-rich areas. If this is the intention, then business-focussed capital gains should be exempted – you see it isn’t so much about some kind of level playing field, it is about tipping the playing field to the national advantage. There may be better, simpler ways to get the same, or a better outcome, I don’t know.
    Fortunately, I don’t need to know because being in opposition gives us time to take stock, forge alliance, observe failures and learn from successes.
    If we work hard, we can neutralise a negative media. If we work smartwe can turn them into allies.

    • Slime around the slimey right wing media … to win?
      They, with the exceptions of less fingers on one hand, were absolutely hideous, biased, imbalanced, a disgrace, bought puppets by Shonkey – and he being another puppet manipulated by the US. If that is the recipe for winning – well, many of us will be looking to emigrate – but where? Actually fond of this country – but the easily manipulated populace to the right dead end – holy defecation, we should all be embarrassed.

  5. Exactly Myles, and now the MSM are telling Labour they must change leader for the 4th time in 3 years, further reinforcing the illusion of “stability” on the right……..and the Labour Party can’t see through this? I prefer a leader who can see past popularity polls thanks.

  6. Psuedo left reporting with a tidy sting in the tail “with more than a £1m of his personal fortune – more than all the other parties have spent on the campaign put together. ” Colin Craig spent how much of his personal fortune setting up the Conservative party? National spent how much from their private and public subscibers?

  7. I also whole-heartedly agree. The manner in which those in the media failed to ask the most relevant and pointed questions on the issues at hand was staggering. That they instead chose to repeat the character assassinations of the Right without thinking independently was severely disappointing. I find that some continue to call themselves journalists is astounding, I’m not sure how they can look at themselves in the mirror each morning.

    Relying on the weight of authority from John Key and his appointees on issues that question that authority is the equivalent of asking the fox if he ate the chickens. Of course he’ll say no.

    • But is this wicked or is it dumb and barely competent? Both can be worked on. When I hear a tele-“journalist” asking another parroted, partisan or patsy question, I can’t tell which it is. But I do know that if they can expect a smart, funny, relaxed, provocative response from a politician or commentator – Left or Right – they will take their pitcher to that particular well over and over again. The first law of media is that entertainment is King. And that trumps partisan BS every time.

      • I take your point Nick , but Key is neither smart ,(smart arse yes), funny, or provocative and yet the media will always go to him whether talking about National or Labour issues. You would need to be Bill Bailey or the late Robin Williams to counter that problem.

        • Quite true, but we are talking about finding a way to reverse the media’s love affair with John Key.
          Contrary to popular belief, it is a pity the Hager book came out so close to the election.
          Many people developed a massive case of bunker mentality.
          Put that together with the mishandled Snowdon/dotCom reveal, then add in that overblown “terror bust” in Australia to demonstrate the importance of Big Brother-style surveillance and you are well down the path to transforming a close-run thing to a landslide.
          But it would be wrong to imagine that the Left did not contribute to their misfortune.
          It is hard to find anyone who would have felt personally enthusiastic about the programme.
          Getting a bit more dosh is great, but if those small handouts actually matter to you, it will still be a pittance. Much more is needed than money to give you control of your life, your environment and your future. But the Greens, who tried to talk coherently still got caned.
          I’m not sure that policy alone can trump confidence, humour and vision if you hope to convince voter that you deserve their support.

  8. Nationals control of the media extends well beyond TV , print , and radio . The recent shut down of the video site with John Keys banking history and the the pulling down of the” don’t like John Key ” facebook site with 16,000 visitors shows sinister invisible influence .

    You know your getting somewhere when the sites go down , as this truth looks to be genuinely damaging to brand Keys .

    The personal work history of Keys in relation to the TPPA needs a full 60 mins investigative documentary .Even ” centrist NZ ” will get this one .

    “US corporations now control NZ parliament to make new laws as they see fit to maintain and enhance the private wealth of the worlds richest 1% at the expense of the powerless 99%.”

    We now control your your labour laws , your environment , your preventative health reforms , your financial reforms and legally control anything else which might possibly compromise our ability to maximize profits for wall street and the super rich . Ha Ha, we own you .

    What National is about to do to this country by promoting ” Global Corporate governance” over a proud independent sovereign nation is appalling . Who is Keys really working for ?

    Awake sleepy hobbits before your kiwi dream becomes a nightmare .

  9. Yes well….we’ve all established that the media is pro neo liberalism , pro TTPA , and pro National.

    We all have said this a thousand times before.

    In some ways it is starting to annoy me seeing it.

    NOW is the time to get past that fact. Any situation where you have these conditions will mean such things of magnitude are easily going to be ignored ,downplayed and masked.

    So what? …there’s no surprises there.

    Sooooooo……..what are we going to do about it?

    Well…somehow , some way…we need to kickstart two things.

    1) I believe , …a cross party biannual meeting whereby strategic planning is carried out to coordinate a full frontal attack by a united Left bloc. Policies , and the form of that strategy to be simplified and broken down into core elements , to avoid working at cross purposes.

    Analysis of tactics used by the Right ,- including its media – to be carried out and the counter to that implemented. With the current state of flux of Labour…this would have to wait until some semblance of stability is resumed. Which will happen eventually.

    This would also have the affect of bypassing /isolating the ABC’s….whereby they are either for it- or against it- and run the risk of going against mass public opinion. If they aren’t going to play the game- they can be forced to , or else leave.

    2) Media … is the time for consensus and practical plans to be developed to form media capable of reaching a large audience base. We already have blogs but that doesn’t reach the thousands who DON’T use social media , it is good – but not nearly far reaching enough.

    I suggest radio to begin with – the radio can be listened to on the way to work , at work , – whereas visual media like TV cannot. This radio can be used as a forum type mode using guest speakers, political leaders , to disseminate info regarding events , current issues, along with music , weather , sports.

    It would create a valuable forum for normalizing in everyday conversation topics that have been deliberately marginalized by the Right…….such as serious issues like the TTPA. This perspective would peculate out into MSM circles and create exposure and dialogue- something the Right fears.

    Another advantage is it can be controlled by and for the Left ,…and not suffer the intrusions of biased propaganda agents from the MSM.

    As funding , political pressure is applied for a true unbiased media…then mediums such as TV can be brought online.

    It would be a step by step process , but eventually play the Right at their own game.

    It is now we all need to think in practical terms to effectively counter the Right.

    • Wild Katipo,

      We fully agree 1000%

      Can’t someone ask KDC to bankroll an independent media for all left centre parties, as his way to get some traction again?

      We could have international guests come and release sordid documentaries of the Neo Lib right wing Elitists globally wrecking our global economy so they can plunder all now before its to late.

      The media can also use the video link KC engineered that was unable to be jammed by our Security.

      Myles please go & talk to KDC please?

  10. The truth is that sensible people do vote with their heads after considering all the ramifications. The belief that they don’t and prefer to be told what to do is why the left is dragging the chain. Trying to convince yourselves that the right has the media in their pocket and that is why the left is so far down the gurgler that they are irrelevant is delusional.

    • The power of the media is incontrovertible. The question is open if they create opinion or simply frame the intellectual parameters.
      There is no doubt that the reasons for our failure are many, but Gonzo, your characterisation of the voter as thoughtful and considered is a little ambitious. Hard to find anyone. present company included, who deserves that handle.

    • Then you are deliberately ignoring the most basic tenets of any autocratic / totalitarian state which is to FIRST take control of the media.

      I do not think you can ignore the fundamentals of the teaching of history. Many movements with adherence to a simple ideological dogma devoid of ‘policy’ per se’ bear this out.

      A most simple example is illiteracy and a sense of distance from the seat of power such as Czarist Russia. The peasants were so inured to the same old , same old it bred apathy. The same principles apply in any society.

      Thusly – mass media AND the slant it puts on an event DOES have a massive affect on public perception. To think otherwise is pure folly.

    • You also conveniently forget the huge impact the ABC neo liberals have had in consistently weakening any and all initiatives that any Labour leader wishes to initiate.

      Evidence of this is borne out by the pressure brought to bear on Cunliffe this election campaign. These ABC ‘s act as fifth columnists as neo liberals within Labour, consisting of the old guard – these individuals have consistently had an inordinate power base to dictate policy and leadership against the democratic vote of members and affiliates.

      They are a corrosive element that must be rooted out and ejected before the divided house of Labour can progress.

  11. The herald and DomPost are right wing rags and always have been.

    They give voice to con artists like “the taxpayers union” or do not label their commentators like David farrar honestly even though most people wouldn’t know what a ‘blogging henchman’ was anyway.

    The media reports misinformation from national party crony appointments and gives them the status of experts. A good example of this was the reporting on the Labor & Greens single buyer electricity plan to stop price gouging electricity market rorts.

    So apart from unmerited crony appointments by the nats being at the low end of corruption with Katherine rich and co being good examples of this, they also pump out the govt spin and bullshit to the media who serve it up as fact.

    Speed up the demise of our news papers by never buying or supporting them.

    See if their circulation can stand up when those who dont support national stop buying them.

  12. Totally agree 100% and what i have been banging on about to anyone that will listen ( not many ) throughout Key’s entire leadership – through all the terms, for years in fact. What is it about NZ’ers that they fail to see how the main stream media grooms them. I think its an absolute indictment on our education system that so many people have been fooled so badly because they haven’t looked beyond/behind the spin in their newspaper or on their TV screen each night…. They literally cannot see how they have been played. In fact they trumpeted loudly up and down the country that it is the leftwing who have been fooled by “wanted criminals’ such as Snowden, Assange and Kim Dotcom.

  13. so all we can do is stop buying Herald and Dom Post and other right wing print media and stop watching TV1 and TV3 news, seven sharp, paul henry (i dont watch this buffoon anyway he makes my skin creep as he is so uuggghh) – if everyone on the left stopped supporting these main stream media they would probably go broke ha ha
    There is nothing to watch on TV these days anyway except lowest common denominator crap reality shows

    • Well, I won’t look at those wipe arse rags nor watch TV1 and 3 …. but hey, it made zero difference, my dedication to bring the trash media to its knees …. achieved nothing …. but some one else supports them!! What to do? I like the excellent suggestion by Cleargreen that KDC (if he is not too disheartened by the stupid/brutal Natz reactions) set up alternative left/middle/intelligent media, sort of like Amy Goodman; and he is hated so much by the boorish right that even those turkeys would be checking in just to feed their hate diet. Can’t fail, eh Kim?

  14. Monday after the election I cancelled my subscription to the Timaru Herald, and started a subscription to the Otago Daily Times: I was told it was the only independently owned newspaper in New Zealand. I’m going to encourage others around this area to switch to the Otago Daily Times newspaper also. I don’t have a television, but during the election I watched some of the news shows online. And I was wondering about some of the interviewers.

  15. I agree that the media influenced the election and helped National in. But I don’t agree with the analysis of TMOT. It was only the media message supported by Labour and the Greens undermining TMOT message that swung the election. 1 million did not vote and I think that TMOT is an issue that concerns younger people in particular. They know Internet and understand about surveillance. By Labour and Greens showing their IT ignorance by dismissing this as not relevant they did not mobilize this vote and became irrelevant to that voter. It should have been spun by the left as a Nuclear Free NZ issue i.e. a TTPA Free NZ and this position would have mobilized the middle classes. They could have won on that. Instead of KDC foreigner taking over the elections (right wing message) it should have been Foreigners(US) taking over NZ (left wing message). That message keep David Lange in government for many years and Foreign ownership and having Nukes and foreign espionage is still a big fear of middle NZ.

    A poll around that time showed many more people believed KDC.

    MSM was the the one who told everyone TMOT did not work – but polls on individuals showed that it did. I think that younger voters were disgusted with the response from Labour and Greens and did not vote.

  16. I just joined

    I suggest you do too and offer your services, everyone.

    Had a gutsful of Fairfax/MediaWorks etc owning most of the news sources and the advertisers dictating the content of the rest.

    Getting some real investigative journalism happening is well past due.

Comments are closed.