The Human Rights Commission has spent $200,000 on its "That's Us" anti-racism digital campaign, to promote "the kind of people we want to be and the kind of country we want our kids growing up in".

It's part of a wider push to tell people about their rights.

If $200,000 seems likes small fry, advertising people say it is a lot for a digital campaign and that it has been effective.

But I can't help wondering if the Government's approach is back to front.


Publicity and profile for the commission is useful, and it's good that people know their rights. But I would argue that the most important aspect of human rights is timely justice, delivered through the separately funded Human Rights Review Tribunal.

A Herald article recently revealed that the tribunal is so underfunded and under-resourced that complainants are waiting three years for a decision.

I wonder if the commission's editorial interventions and tellings-off make things better, or just increase disagreement between those who believe we should be able to say whatever we like, and those who think we should never offend.

Human Rights Commission legal adviser Janet Anderson-Bidois says that when events do not fit within the commission's mediation process, it sometimes makes press releases to the media to promote issues.

On January 7, commission spokeswoman Christine Ammunson got the year rolling with an article provided to media that raised concerns about a Waiheke shop selling golliwogs. It's an old issue, and the commission reminded the shopkeeper that golliwogs were no longer appropriate.

And the Race Relations Commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy, ticked off Christchurch restaurant Bamboozled, which made a joke out of Asian words on its menu. The resulting publicity rewarded the restaurant with a full house next night.

In both cases there was a debate, with mixed opinion about whether the claimed offence was an outrage or a non-event.

In September 2016, the commission's approach to raising human rights issues went awry over an utterance on the Real Housewives of Auckland TV show, when one of the women used the "N-word".


There was no excuse for that, and the woman apologised profusely during filming, but the commission publicised the incident, thus exacerbating any offence that might have been caused.

Radio ructions

Radio NZ will be wary, and weary, about facing another employment dispute with a former senior news executive.

This time, it is understood that a complaint is linked to the departure of the former editorial development director Gael Woods, who was made redundant last year. After that, and other redundancies, news director and former political editor Brent Edwards resigned in protest.

Previously, RNZ had been involved in a high-profile, decade-long battle with former head of news Lynne Snowdon, who had challenged her dismissal by RNZ and claimed she was bullied.

Radio NZ eventually won, but the case caused major disruption, as the broadcaster had to be prepared for a potential payout.

The two cases are not connected, but the Woods case — set to appear before the Employment Relations Authority in April — comes at a significant juncture for RNZ as it plans to work with the Government to establish a new free to air television channel, called RNZ+, to run in tandem with its radio and digital operations.

Woods had previously questioned the financial commitment to things such as John Campbell's Checkpoint programme and the televising of news bulletins, and the effect that would have on news gathering and the radio product.

Under chief executive Paul Thompson and head of content Carol Hirschfeld, RNZ has made big effort to change its culture, and that has led to tension, especially between the Wellington and Auckland offices.

Thompson has insisted that the Government policy to introduce RNZ+ will not dampen RNZ's commitment to radio or digital, both of which have been enjoying strong ratings.

Meanwhile, RNZ has faced a row with Maoridom over its commitment to Maori content and presenters.

In 2016, RNZ was attacked by former Maori broadcasting supremo Willie Jackson, over its commitment to Maori broadcasting. That led RNZ to take initiatives such as promoting Maori greetings.

Jackson is now a key figure in Labour's Maori caucus.

It will be interesting to see how RNZ radio and the new TV station handle Maori content, and how RNZ manages its relationship with a new, more hands-on Broadcasting Minister, Clare Curran.

Radio NZ chairman Richard Griffin's term ends in May and he is expected to be replaced by former commercial broadcaster Bill Francis.