Council's "Even-Handed" Media Policy
Friday, November 30, 2012 at 9:37AM
Bill Barclay

We had the perfect example this week of the effect of the so-called "even-handed" media policy when the media release on the Moanataiari situation was put out a 6am on Thursday - clearly in an attempt to ensure that the first print news on the matter would be in the Hauraki Herald rather than the Peninsula Press.

The net result was the publication of the this totally uncritical story this am in the HH.

The story is a disgrace to journalistic standards inasmuch as it totally ignores the arguments put forward by the Waikato Regional Authority and Ministry of the Environment representatives, and creates a dangerously one-sided view of what was included in the actual press release. This is typical of the manner in which the HH handles all press releases from this Council, and should be good reason for a re-think of Council's media policies. 

It is equally disturbing that TCDC continues to boycott the Peninsula Press when it comes to expending its substantial advertising budget. it is understood that this boycott is imposed as a result of the direct intervention of the Mayor, who has indicated in the past his unhappiness with the PP editorial policies, and in particular, the content of my particular column. If you require further evidence, take a look at the following process for consultattion on fluoride retention in Thames, and note the absence of the PP from the media that is to be used. Bloody disgraceful. 

With the powers of mayor's being extended to almost dictatorial levels under the new Local Government legislation that passed final reading in Parliament this week, one has to query just what other means will be used by this particular Mayor in the future to manipulate the press to his own will.

If my understanding of this situation is incorrect then let him deny it. The proprietor of the Peninsula Press was assured at the outset that there would be an even-handed policy on the part of TCDC in regard to advertising, as should be the expectation of every rate-payer. Mayors are well aware that in small towns across New Zealand, the survival of newspapers, often swings on access to a fair share of local body advertising.

The refusal to use the facilities offered by the PP can be regarded as a direct attack on the right of every ratepayer to have fair access to a range of views, and in particular, fair and accurate reproduction of vital information. Such is the case with the Moanataiari story - residents and rate-payers have again been badly served by the Fairfax owned Herald, and the PP has been left with the unpalatable task of having to publish the full story a week late. 

The Governance Committee will meet on Wednesday afternoon 5 December to discuss content of the report, and make decisions on the next course of action - too late for any information to be available for the Thursday PP. Don't expect to read a full and fair account of the proceedings on Friday - you will need to wait for the next edition of the PP for that.




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