The news media serves as a window to events that we cannot encounter, acting as our eyes and ears when our own eyes and ears are occupied.
It is absolutely imperative then that this window is kept clean; that the news media is as objective as possible. However, often this window-to-the-world is dirty, covered with grime that ensures that the events represented are cloudy. It is precisely because this dirty window exists that we must ‘watch’, or question, the news media.
The grime on the window is mainly the result of the fact that mainstream media is big business, dominated by a few huge multi-national corporations with the sole aim of making profit. In NZ our media is led by four companies: CanWest which owns TV3, TV4, RadioWorks (which includes The Edge and Solid Gold), Channel Z, and More FM; the State which owns TV1, TV2, Radio NZ, and Concert FM; Fairfax Holdings which owns 47.3% of the daily newspaper circulation in NZ – including the Dominion Post and the Press; and Tony O’Reilly’s ANM which owns 43.8% of the daily newspaper circulation – including the NZ Herald – and the 53 stations which make up the NZ Radio Network. Except for the NZ Government, these companies are all foreign-owned with no real interest in the day-to-day events of New Zealand.
This small number of companies choose who gets heard, how often, and when. I believe that they favourably present views that are good for them, that is, good for business. This has been evident in the case of Don Brash. I can’t help but wonder, if Brash and National’s policies were not so pro-business, would Brash be receiving such frequent and positive coverage? The Dom Post has consistently and disproportionaly aired Brash’s views over opposing stances. When it does present opposing views, most of the time they are made to seem radical or inferior to Brash’s ideas. For example, on the 28th January the Dom Post published a large extract of Brash’s speech; yet the few dissenting views in the newspaper were given sound-bite space and did nothing to refute Brash’s claims – despite the fact that there are many logical arguments against Brash deserving of coverage.
In order to make an argument seem new or credible, the news media often take stories out of their historical context – present the event as almost-stand-alone. Brash’s ideas are continually represented without reference to the extreme disadvantages that Maori have been forced to encounter in the past. There has been no mention of the 1863 New Zealand Settlement Act, which enabled the confiscation of huge amounts of Maori land and consequently derided Maori livelihood; or of the 1871 Government stipulation that instruction in Native Schools had to be in English. The only mention of the past events that have contributed to the unequal position that Maori hold in NZ has been in the letters pages! The extensive positive media coverage of Don Brash’s views has been immensely instrumental in his increasing popularity.
The news media is the most powerful force in the world. It has the ability to make-or-break politicians, to promote certain ideas, and to demote others. It is because of this power that we must constantly question what we hear and read, and we must demand greater objectivity in the press. Keep watching.