Saturday, March 15, 2014

John Tamihere and Roast Busters Case: When cheque books of big business determine our moral standards and editorial policy

Tamihere and Roast Busters: Disturbing emergence of “Financial Clout” Journalism –Cheque books seem to determine our moral standards

Thakur Ranjit Singh

John Tamihere - Roast Busters controversy shows a worrying trend where powerful corporate and organisations tend to use their financial clout as a bargaining power in determining journalistic standards. Do they use their cheque books to shape out editorial policy of media organisations and moral breadth and scope of New Zealand?

JOHN TAMIHERE: Is he the fall-guy in Roast busters saga?
In August 2012, while sitting in Sacramento, the capital of California in the most powerful democracy of the world, I posted some home truths on my Facebook about the largest democracy in the world - India. These, among others, included rampant corruption, rapes and mistreatment of women.

These facts upset some Indian leaders, budding politicians and Indian media in Auckland. It appears they wished to take a political and business opportunity to win community support by forming a lynch mob and shooting the messenger who was merely echoing India’s national motto: Satyamev Jayate - truth shall prevail.

As I was the Vice President of Waitakere Indian Association (WIA), the vested leaders pressured WIA that if I remained its executive, the Association would be ostracized by the Indian community. Some corporate sponsors of WIA and some sections of Indian media threatened that all funding would cease unless yours truly (Thakur) was removed. Succumbing to such pressures, I was suspended

The so-called villains behind the Roast Busters scandal who allegedly exploited young girls

Therefore I can very well appreciate the predicament of John Tamihere when he was abandoned by his employers Media Works following the Roast Busters saga and threat by its advertisers to pull up Radio Live’s lifeblood - the lucrative advertisements.

Willy Jacson and John Tamihere: The partnership that became a casualty of Roast busters talk-back saga on Radio Live that apparently did not breach any broadcasting standards. The matter had now been taken to court by Tamihere (Right)
If Tamihere had studied media and communications instead of Law, he may have better appreciated his predicament. Therefore, I as a postgraduate media and communications scholar from AUT was better able to understand mine. He would have read about A.J Liebling (1904-1963), who was a celebrated American journalist from New York, working for an American magazine, The New Yorker. He stated a bitter truth that applies to situations of print media that extends to overall media: He said: "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one”  Sorry, John, you do not own Media Works, so you had to be the fall guy and perhaps the scapegoat, and the one who was seen as dispensable. So you got the marching orders.

Media is there to spread the propaganda for those who finance them-their advertisers. Public and social responsibility are something that remain myth.
Media scholars would have also read Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s book Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media (2008). They would have read about their Propaganda Model which sees  the private media as businesses interested in the sale of a product - sale of readers and audience to other businesses who are advertisers. Quality of news to the public is least of their interest.  Media is not a free agent that the public has been made to believe. The media operates within restricted assumptions.  While being dependent on the elite, it also remains uncritical on elite information sources and participates in propaganda campaigns helpful to elite interests. Through this propaganda, media defends the economic, social and political agendas of the privileged elite groups that dominate domestic society, the government and the corporate sector. Effectively what they say, through Propaganda Model, is that the media serves and propagandizes on behalf of those who control and finance them. What Herman says is that the dominant media is firmly grounded in the market system which is profit-seeking businesses, owned by very wealthy people (or other companies); and they are funded largely by advertisers who are also profit –seeking entities, and who want their ads to appear in a supportive selling environment. (Herman, 1998).

Herman and Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent: Media is business owned by wealthy people and are only interested in looking after the interest of its advertisers and those who get them business. 
In this equation, Media Works is the dominant media and profit seeking advertisers are ANZ, Vodafone, Countdown, Briscoe Group and Telecom, among others who pulled their advertisement, protesting at Tamihere interview with one Amy, which has subsequently being ruled not to have breached any broadcasting standard. Neither could any of these corporate produce any company policy which substantiated or supported their interference in being arbiters of morals and media standards of Aotearoa. Media Woks is hence sued by Tamihere who is seeking damages for $620,000 for failing to publish findings of internal complaints review that absolved him and Willy Jackson from any wrongdoing, among others.


Big corporate advertisers: Do big and powerful corporate tend to use their financial clout as a bargaining power in determining journalistic standards and moral breadth of New Zealand?
According to NZ Herald reports, Tamihere claims that in absence of reports clearing him, people would think he was fired for misconduct. The dismissal, if it could be said so, was prompted by display of financial clout of large advertisers who pulled their advertisements. This supports Herman’s claims above that such advertisers wanted their ads to appear in supportive selling environment, and were swayed by pressure exerted by certain people who jumped the bandwagon to shoot the messenger. Media Works is poorer now with departure of celebrated Tamihere who was seen as the brains behind their joint talkback show. I now see no juice and have moved over to Newstalk ZB and Danny Watson is the winner. I wonder if an audience poll has been done subsequent to unceremonious dumping of Tamihere.

John Tamihere and Willy Jacson in their former famous talk back show in Media Works's Radio Live. Since the removal of John Tamihere from Radio Live's talk back program, it appears to have lost much glamour after departure of the brains behind the show. I personally have switched stations. What Tamihere's removal also did is to further 'Whiten' an already very White mainstream New Zealand media whose newsrooms do not reflect the demographic makeup of the country.
Another casualty of Tamihere’s departure is that while the mainstream media has been dubbed as a White one in a fast browning Aotearoa, Tamihere’s exit further whitens the already white media. New Zealand is a loser in losing Tamihere, who I feel did nothing wrong, but was a victim of Propaganda Model played out by media and their financiers -the advertisers.

Big corporate advertisers: Do big and powerful corporate tend to use their financial clout as a bargaining power in determining journalistic standards and moral breadth of New Zealand?

The tragedy of a free press in New Zealand is that cheque books of large corporate appear to determine our moral standards and editorial policy.

Do cheque books of large and powerful corporate determine our moral standards and editorial policy? Does not removal of John Tamihere from Media Works on pressure from powerful advertisers appear to prove this hypothesis?


(Thakur Ranjit Singh is an ethnic media personnel who feels that the mainstream media in New Zealand is still too white in a browning country. He is Masters Scholar in communications (with honours) from AUT and runs his blog sites KIWI PUNDIT, FIJI PUNDIT.

This article was initially given to New Zealand Herald, which did not show much interest in it)



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