24 Mar 2021

Midweek Mediawatch - mean streets, mean tunes

From Mediawatch, 10:43 am on 24 March 2021

Mediawatch's weekly catchup with Lately. This week Colin Peacock talks to Karyn Hay about reports that the streets of the capital are increasingly unsafe and unpleasant- especially for women. Also - doubling down on political polls and an RNZ stalwart cops it for straying out of his lane on K-Pop. 

Poll dancing

TVNZ political reporters on the Inside Parliament podcast.

TVNZ political reporters on the Inside Parliament podcast. Photo: screenshot TVNZ

Last weekend Mediawatch looked at reporting of TVNZ’s Colmar Brunton opinion poll released last week. 

TVNZ and others reported big falls in public support for the PM and leader of the National Party as the “preferred prime minister”.

The real story was a huge jump in the number of people declining or refusing to answer the question. 

We weren't the only ones pointing this out. For example, UMR pollster Steven Mills - the pundit ‘from the left’ in Nine to Noon’s weekly politics slot on Monday had a big go at the misreporting too. 

Since then Colmar Brunton has released a fuller report of results from the poll which shows more than one in three people surveyed didn’t engage with the question - and the proportion was already high in previous polls. Take out the don’t knows / don't cares and the support for both leaders was proactically unchanged. 

But in TVNZ’s Inside Parliament podcast last weekend there was no mention of the huge rise in people not answering the question.

If they are serious about improving the polls - the reason Colmar Brunton have stopped calling landlines for half of the sample -  they should get rid of the ‘preferred PM question’ from political polls.

Asking people which MP they want as PM doesn’t help much. 

TVNZ's Jessica Mutch McKay presenting the results of the latest poll.

TVNZ's Jessica Mutch McKay presenting the results of the latest poll. Photo: screenshot / TVNZ News

Not only is a substantial and growing proportion of the sample rejecting the question itself, the fact so many people back the PM of the day  - whoever it may be  - skews the rest of the sample. 

Journalists end up creating stories about low-polling candidates being under pressure and comparing the paltry percentages other candidates attract and using them as a barometer of support they might have within their own party. 

In the same podcast, political reporter Maiki Sherman discussed ended up discussing the prospects of MP Christopher Luxton - describing his "strong showing" in the past two polls (1% and 2%) as a base to build a leadership bid later in the year.   

TVNZ's political reporters agreed his Air New Zealand experience meant he would handle the rigours of high office. Maybe he would. Perhaps they didn’t see Jehan Casinader’s Sunday Star Times interview with former leader and Fonterra executive Todd Muller about the toll the 53-day stint in leadership took on him . . . .  

The topical question in the Colmar Brunton poll was the one they really should have focused on: is the Government doing enough to make housing more affordable?

70 per cent said ‘no’ - a much more interesting finding for most people, especially with the government poised to make a policy announcement on Tuesday. 

TVNZ political reporter Maiki Sherman asked politicians from Labour and National how many homes they own - got and tellingly hesitant answers from MPs. 

Inner city pressure 

Reading car park to be demolished due to damage from the 7.8 earthquake.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Wellington-based opposition MP Nicola Willis MP got into a political row with Green co-leader and associate housing minister Marama Davidson last week after Willis said she didn't feel safe walking the streets of central Wellington at night. 

In Parliament she accused the government and the minister of doing nothing about the problem of people recently installed in social housing in the central city - including gang members - creating problems at night. 

Davidson hit back by accusing Willis of being “racist and classist” - stigmatising poorer people without proof they are a problem. 

Violence is a building issue in the capital. A recent fatal assault in Te Papa’s car park recently was in court this week.

And on Monday The Dominion Post reported staff at the Police HQ got special on-street parking outside because they were afraid to walk to cars at night after late shifts. (Lots of skepticism about that though. The US embassy is right across the road, and just one block down is one of Wellington busiest supermarkets open til 11 pm each night)

There have been several stories about increased aggro and bad behaviour in the CBD’s streets in the recent past but many didn't make much of a mark because of all the other troubles Wellington has had lately (pipes, munted buildings, Council ructions etc)

However a recent opinion piece by Herald journalist Katie Harris did cut through: Why I no longer feel safe walking at night.

“I've lived in the capital for more than a year, and during that time I've been followed, harassed, catcalled, touched by strangers and accosted too many times to count.”

“In the year that's passed I find myself increasingly reluctant to leave the house once the sun goes down. Maybe it is just me, maybe it is just poor luck, or maybe we have a major problem.”

She was applauded for opening up debate on the problem. The following week she published a story about police data showing sexual assaults in Wellington have increased by nearly 50 per cent in the past five years - “acts intended to cause injury” have grown by 35 per cent over the same period.

But when Katie was later interviewed by Jesse Mulligan on RNZ National - and asked if it was "new people in the CBD," she she was reluctant to say if that might be making the CBD unsafe and unpleasant.

But when Nicola Willis MP said \out loud that it was people in social housing, she was accused of racism, dog-whistling and scapegoating the vulnerable. 

Something similar happened a couple of years ago when Wellignton city councilor Nicola Young highlighted “freedom campers” living in cars in free carparking spots on Oriental Bay who mostly turned out to be homeless people. 

She was also accused of vicitimising the vulnerable and reporters responded by going to talk to them and find out more about them.

That same hasn't really happened in this latest round of stories about the CBD and social housing - which is a shame. 

But it's interesting that the Herald is making a real push with Wellington stories. Website users can foreground the Wellington content on the homepage and there will be more stories like this. 

BTS 1, RNZ 0  

BTS in their music video 'Idol'.

BTS in their music video 'Idol'. Photo: YouTube / BigHit Entertainment

Last weekend BTS became the first K-pop act to perform one of their own songs at the Grammy Awards. It got a mention just before the early Business News on Morning Report after which host Corin Dann asked Gyles Beckford for an opinion: 

“They’re a boy band. They look pretty. They sing well. They’re mass produced, they’re highly successful, and they’ll be replaced next month.”

Unfortunately for Gyles, longtime journalist Gordon Campbell - who was writing the rock column for The Listener back in the 1970’s - was up early and listening in. 

He didn't hold back in his Scoop column:

“Good grief. Keep in mind that 90 % of Beckford’s working day is devoted to tracking the hourly ups and downs of the US share-market , whose investors have the attention span of a demented butterfly. On the fickleness spectrum, Beckford and his audience make BTS fans look like pillars of stability and critical independence.”

“The Morning Report stance is worth a rebuttal, if only because it is so typical. BTS made their smash debut over seven years ago, and they’ve been the most popular band in the world for the past four years, and their fandom now has outreach. 

“Highly organised armies of Korean pop fans have successfully weaponised their online power and thrown it in behind the Black Lives Matter movement. First, the fans raided the Dallas police protest surveillance app and filled it with K-pop idol chat and videos. Then they raided and occupied the racist White Lives Matter website and similarly flooded it with memes and videos of favourite K-pop idols. Then – famously – some of the estimated 90 million K-pop fans worldwide flooded the website for Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa with fake registration requests that lulled Team Trump into bragging that there’d been a million requests for tickets  . . . before reality struck in the shape of a half empty arena."

But it also turns out there's a good business story in BTS, as Campbell went on to point out - "an underdog story of a South Korean band successfully taking on the world." 

"In 2019, BTS reportedly brought $4.65 billion into the South Korean economy through physical album sales, concert tickets, and branded merchandise. The band is currently worth 0.3 percent of the country’s entire gross domestic product and by 2023, it is projected to have contributed $48 billion to the South Korean economy." 

By the way, Gordon’s  columns on Scoop are well worth checking out on Scoop if you like music. In each one he writes about and links to fascinating songs which somehow echo the newsy topic he’s focused on.

Come for the current affairs commentary - stay for the tunes.   

(Wonder if Gordon would approve of Guyon Espiner’s suggestion on Morning Report last week - after the Rod Stewart fiasco the next America’s Cup song should be by Alien Weaponry . . . )