At a select committee hearing earlier this year, National members of parliament charged Radio New Zealand with accusations of left-wing bias.

These sentiments in many ways mirror the views of social media users, who regularly refer to the broadcaster as 'Red Radio' in a derisory nod to a moniker used by National supporters in previous years.

The claims have until now been baseless perception backed by little concrete evidence, beyond tiresome references to the amount of airtime afforded to left-leaning ideas.

Even National MP Melissa Lee's claim during the committee meeting that an RNZ broadcast afforded 10 minutes of speaking time to a Labour MP and none to an opposing National MP smacked of partisan bickering more than actual evidence.

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For every example of RNZ being a biased news organisation, there was equal evidence of the media company telling balanced stories that lived up to the branding promise that it provided 'News not views'.

Listen to Guyon Espiner, Susie Ferguson and John Campbell interview any politician and it quickly becomes clear that no one – regardless of political leaning – gets an easy ride when stepping into the RNZ studio.

And herein lies the major problem RNZ faces as Carol Hirschfeld makes her abrupt departure from the news organisation.

The 'Red Radio' conspiracy theorists now have a foundation upon which to concretise the perception that the state broadcaster is biased.

RNZ chair Richard Griffin is adamant that Carol Hirschfeld (pictured) did not have the authority to meet with MP Clare Curran. Picture / Richard Robinson
RNZ chair Richard Griffin is adamant that Carol Hirschfeld (pictured) did not have the authority to meet with MP Clare Curran. Picture / Richard Robinson

This incident is more substantial than a few column inches on a website or minutes of airtime, and every accusation of bias now carries greater weight.

RNZ chair Richard Griffin has been adamant in saying that Hirschfeld did not have the authority to meet with MP Clare Curran, but this will do little to appease those who have some serious questions regarding what happened during that clandestine meeting between the pair.

The suggestion of bias may still be unfounded, but the fact that a Labour politician met covertly with the RNZ head of news isn't a good look and it poses quite a few questions about the nature of the discussion – particularly in light of Labour's promise of a $38 million injection of increased funding for public broadcasting and RNZ Plus.

Under policy plans announced during the election campaign, RNZ would share in the $38m of funding to become a multi-media platform, expanding into free-to-air television.

Curran's office is yet to respond to the Herald's request for comment on what was discussed during the meeting and whether or not it involved the topic of the $38m, but the calls for disclosure will only become louder.

And if this topic was addressed at all, then National – and the public for that matter – would be rightly outraged for not being given a fair 10-minute slot to dilute the red hue of the discussion.