Thursday, May 03, 2007

Media smack

In a possibly unprecedented move, Prime Minister Helen Clark and Opposition Leader John Key held a joint press conference yesterday announcing a compromise on the anti-smacking bill currently before Parliament. The cross-party compromise (also involving smaller parties) means the bill is assured of passage.

Under current law, a parent who uses violence against a child can get off in court by claiming it’s “reasonable force”. The bill will eliminate that defence. However, far right Christian groups, including a prominent one from America, went into overdrive to claim that “good parents will be sent to jail!” and other lies and bullshit (I wrote about this here).

The compromise directs police to not pursue cases that aren’t in the public interest or that are “inconsequential” (in other words, the should only purse real child abuse). One far right NZ TV preacher claimed this was a “glorious victory”, even though the politicians weren’t paying any attention to him personally.

Now media pundits are bemoaning the fact that amended bill contains language directing the police, the old “slippery slope” argument. Since the NZ news media were pushing the controversy so hard in the first place, one wonders if it isn’t just the controversy that they were interested in.

Actually, if I were to make one criticism of the news media in New Zealand, it would be that all too often it promotes controversy and division where there’s none and, in so doing, they end up manufacturing the news. Clearly this is something that happens in all Western countries, where the “if it bleeds, it leads” negativity rules. In general, New Zealand journalists are at least paying attention to what Parliament and the Government is doing, unlike their American colleagues. That’s something, at least.

With peace breaking out over the anti-smacking bill, and possibly other issues, I wonder where the news media will look for their next conflict to form.


d said...

I was going to write a blog entry about my day trip to Auckland, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Anyway, while traveling from the airport to the office, we listened to the news - and the entire time, they were talking about a HUGE scandal/conspiracy theory: rugby jerseys.

That's right, the story was all about how the French team commissioned new dark blue jerseys from Nike. Was it a ploy to force the All Blacks to wear their silver jerseys? Just a marketing effort to promote Nike? Most people calling in went with the first theory. Hilarious and interesting.

Arthur Schenck said...

You're so right, d: The things the NZ media obsesses about are sometimes really funny, though I'm sure they didn't intend that. On the plus side, when it really matters, they can pull their socks up and do a good job covering politics and government. I just wish they realised that more often than not, it matters.