John Drinnan 's Opinion

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan: Ear pick clip timing couldn't be worse

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John Banks listens to evidence from the witness stand, at the High Court in Auckland. Photo / NZ Herald
John Banks listens to evidence from the witness stand, at the High Court in Auckland. Photo / NZ Herald

TV3's gratuitous clip of John Banks picking his ear was a bad call and the timing couldn't have been worse.

As TV3 now endeavours to cover the trial without pictures, editors and lawyers are finalising submissions for a judicial review of the rules for allowing cameras to film in courts.

The final date for submissions is June 1.

Banks is facing a charge of filing a false electoral return for his failed 2010 tilt at the Auckland mayoralty.

Yesterday High Court judge Ed Wylie banned TV3 from filming the remainder of the trial.

TV3 has since apologised on air to the Court and to Banks for what it admitted was "a bad judgement call"

It was a significant breach of rules - rules that have been under scrutiny since questions were raised about 2012 TV coverage of the Scott Guy trial in which Justice Minister Judith Collins described the coverage as "sensationalised."

Making things worse for TV3, the clip was approved by two senior executives at Mediaworks - company lawyer Clare Bradley and deputy news and current boss Richard Sutherland - not just an errant producer.

A senior lawyer - Chen Palmer Palmer partner Nick Russell - was quoted as saying that theTV3 incident will strengthen the hand of lawyers who oppose wider right of the media.

Individual media companies including TV3 are now making individual submissions to the Ministry of Justice but there will also be a media-wide submission from the Media Freedom Committee.

The committee chairman - editor of the Press newspaper Joanna Norris - said that media opposed a reduction of access on the grounds of media freedom but also because cameras in court were good for justice.

The fact that Judge Wylie had acted and imposed the ban showed that the system was working.

Editors believe that cameras are just part of a technological shift in coverage and that cameras in court are a case of media representing the public and ensuring transparency of the system.

Once the preserve of TV stations, cameras in court have become an issue for all media.

News now is all about on online coverage and increasingly focused on video content.

The ear clip and Justice Wylie's ban have made international news in the UK Daily Mail and The Times websites, adding further embarrassment to Banks as he seeks acquittal on the charge of filing an incorrect return.

In September 2012 Justice Minister Judith Collins said she was appalled by reality television-like coverage of trials like the Scott Guy murder case and would look at restricting cameras in courts.

"It was sensationalised to the extent that it was almost like reality television and I don't think that does justice any good.

At the same token we do need to be aware that justice needs to be seen to be done," Collins said at the time.

Law Society president Jonathan Temm called for cameras to be banned in court to prevent misrepresentation of evidence.

- NZ Herald

John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan is the media writer for the New Zealand Herald. A business journalist for twenty years, he has been editor of the specialist film and television title "Screen Finance" in London, focussing on the European TV and film industry. He has been writing about media in New Zealand since the deregulation of the television industry in the late 1980s. He is focused on the business side of the digital revolution in media.

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