Media employees’ right to voice personal opinions

The BBC’s suspension of Gary Lineker over a social media comment raises a question that is wider than the shambles it created: Do people in the media have a right to voice a personal opinion?

Last Tuesday Lineker, the BBC’s highest paid star and presenter of Match of the Day, posted a tweet about the UK Conservative government’s plan to stop refugees crossing the English Channel. He described it as “an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s.”

By Friday an extraordinary meltdown had occurred, with the corporation announcing Lineker would “step back” from Match of the Day. In plain English, the director-general Tim Davie had suspended him because ‘a red line has been crossed’ on BBC neutrality. Several colleagues walked out in support of the former professional footballer. There was no Match of the Day last weekend and football coverage on the BBC was reduced to a pallid 20-minute substitute.

The Times reported Davie taking the moral high ground on Friday: “(as) editor in chief of the BBC, I think one of our founding principles is impartiality and that’s what I’m delivering on.” However, over the weekend, support within the corporation rank-and-file seemed to move toward Lineker. Davie, who had been in Washington, flew back to London for crisis meetings to head off what was rapidly becoming an internal revolt. Continue reading “Media employees’ right to voice personal opinions”

Free speech at its best stirring people to anger

I feel like I am about to walk in no-man’s-land on the Eastern Front in Ukraine, knowing that both sides have planted minefields.

The anxiety is due to this week’s topic, in which I endeavour to discuss transgender and politicians who think journalists are something nasty on their shoe. I just know that what I am about to say will annoy one group or the other, or possibly both.

The transgender matter arises from a Broadcasting Standards Authority decision over an interview RNZ’s Kim Hill had with British academic Dr Kathleen Stock, an outspoken critic of gender transition.

The politicians with what look like excremental views on journalists are probably too great to number but two come to mind: Auckland mayor Wayne Brown and Florida governor Ron DeSantis.

How do these disparate topics come together in a Tuesday Commentary? Both involve a clash of rights. Continue reading “Free speech at its best stirring people to anger”

Planning in fine detail for the Christchurch mosque terrorist’s court appearance

The man accused of the Christchurch mosque attacks initially pleaded not guilty to all charges. What followed was an extraordinary level of planning by the judiciary, court officials, security services, and a wide range of interests including the media.

Fair trial rights had to be balanced with a need to avoid re-traumatising victims, their families, and the wider community. There was also a determination to prevent the court becoming a stage for white extremist propaganda.

The accused changed his plea but the imperatives in the planning did not change. His sentencing hearing was conducted with unprecedented levels of control over media coverage.

In the second part of a paper, co-authored with Dr Denis Muller of Melbourne University and published by the New Zealand Law Journal,  we detail the pre-trial planning, the efforts to keep victims and families informed, and the part played by media executives.

The paper has been subject to a six-month copyright stand-down period required by the New Zealand Law Journal’s publisher. Part 1 was posted here at the beginning of February. Part 2 can be accessed below. The remaining parts will be posted on The Knightly Views at the beginning of April and May.

Justice, the media, and the Christchurch mosque terrorist Part 2

Our media keep buggering on (apologies to Winston Churchill)

I have just read a brilliant essay by Irish journalist and intellectual Fintan O’Toole about the decline of the British identity. I see strong parallels with what is happening to New Zealand media.

In the essay, published by Foreign Affairs magazine, O’Toole puts context around the decline of Britain as a world power, the rising nationalism of the non-English elements of the United Kingdom, and the effects of Brexit. All of this has contributed to ‘Britishness’ losing its lustre.

“The United Kingdom created a beta version of democracy in the eighteenth century: innovative and progressive in its day but long since surpassed by newer models,” O’Toole wrote. “The country has, however, been extremely reluctant to abandon even the most egregious anachronisms. The biggest transformation in its governance was joining the European Union, and that has been reversed. It now has to make a momentous and existential choice—between a radically reimagined United Kingdom and a stubborn adherence to KBO [a Churchillian phrase: ‘keep buggering on’]. If it chooses the latter, it will muddle on toward its own extinction. Continue reading “Our media keep buggering on (apologies to Winston Churchill)”