There is a fascinating spat going on in Christchurch between the Earthquake Commission and The Press. The EQC briefed its staff in an effort to try to control comments to the media and warn them about The Press' coverage, and reporter Ben Heather in particular.
You can read the Press' version of it in EQC bosses point finger at Press and download the original internal EQC presentation PDF here. As some commenters on the Press website have noted, the reporters will probably see the attack as a backhanded compliment rather than something to worry about. Interestingly, the EQC was far more favourable about other media that were more sympathetic in their coverage, particularly TVNZ's Close Up.
The controversy over NZ On Air political interference is timely, given plans to overhaul the regulation of media to try and cope with the massive growth of the internet as a news source. Andrew Geddis has a comprehensive post in which he speculates that the reason NZOA might have reacted the way it did was self-interested concern that its own budget might be cut by a vengeful National Government, unimpressed by its funding of an 'unhelpful' documentary prior to the election. In a lengthy post, Geddis points out the difficulty of deciding which publicly funded programmes are politically sensitive and shouldn't be screened during an election campaign - see: Because politics is the LAST thing you need to see at election time!. Similarly TV3's James Murray puts forward his view in NZ On Air - don't avoid the issue.
Today's Dominion Post editorial argues that controversial political content should be made and screened during election campaigns. The editorial makes an important point about the overhaul of media regulation - specifically that any system that relies on government oversight and funding is inherently susceptible to political interference - see: Slings and arrows of a single regulator.
The Herald editorial asks whether the documentary should have been funded and screened at all if it was politically partisan - see: NZ On Air shoots itself in the foot. Such criteria would probably ensure that most of the great documentaries of the past 20 years could never have been publicly funded. Rightwing libertarian blogger Not PC has a simple solution for those not wanting political interference: 'take their funding out of the political trough'. He's obviously not a fan of public broadcasting - see: He who has the gold makes the rules.
Simon Collins reports that the Maritime Union and the CTU are launching a public campaign to build support across Auckland for the port workers - see: Unions call on public to rally against port plans. This seems to contradict the excuses being made for Labour not taking sides in the dispute. Labour has been making muted noises, the latest of which sees Phil Twyford focus almost exclusively on potential privatisation rather than the industrial dispute. Also, surprisingly Labour is publicly supporting rationalisation of the number of ports. The party must be hoping this gets resolved soon as it is hard to see them maintaining the current stance as both sides ramp up their campaigns to win public support. Greg Presland, who is the Auckland Regional Chairperson of the Labour Party and blogs at Waitakere News, says that Labour should be 'braver', and that it's time for them to condemn what is an attempt to deunionise the site - see: Which side are you on?
But the must-read item on the Labour Party today comes from Gordon Campbell who says it's Time for Shearer to take the lead. Campbell also discusses this in his interview today on Radio NZ - listen here.
Other items of note today include David Farrar's breakdown of the changes to Parliamentary funding as a result of the election. Political parties have come to rely on this taxpayer funding and, being exempt from the Official Information Act, it is effectively removed from public scrutiny, unlike almost all other public expenditure. Also, Amelia Wade and Wayne Thompson report that Auckland Health chiefs are seeking a ban on smoking in all public outdoor areas in the city - see: Ban smoking across Auckland: health chiefs.