Naomi Klein says that media pundits "should have fixed terms" in order that they are made accountable for what they write or say. But it won't lead to a creation of a genuinely free and democratic media - and Klein herself recognises that. A much bigger battle will have to be fought to achieve that.

ON THE BBC'S Newsnight a fortnight or so ago writer and activist Naomi Klein addressed the seemingly perennial problem of the same old faces dominating the mainstream media's opinion and commentary galaxy.

She told the BBC that pundits "should have fixed terms" in order that they are made accountable for what they write or say. At the present time professional pundits basically have a job for life. It doesn't matter how disastrously wrong they about anything, they are seemingly untouchable. While many of them promote the rigours of market capitalism for everyone else, it apparently doesn't apply to them.

It was an issue that Jeremy Rose responded to on RNZ's Mediawatch show on Sunday. Given that we are now heading into an election campaign with the same old faces dominating The Commentariat yet again, Rose asked if Klein's suggestion was an idea whose time had come in New Zealand.

As evidence he pointed to Mike Hosking and Matthew Hooton, seemingly omnipresent in the New Zealand media galaxy. Hosking, for example, can be heard offering his right wing and pro-National Party opinions both in the morning on his Newstalk ZB breakfast show and on TVNZ's Seven Sharp at night. And he writes a regular column for the New Zealand Herald which, like Newstalk ZB, is also owned by New Zealand Media and Entertainment (NZME).

TVNZ, ostensibly a public broadcaster but which now behaves like any other commercial media operator, has a cosy relationship with NZME. As well as Hosking, other members of the NZME punditry stable pop up - or have popped up - on TVNZ. They include Tim Wilson, Rachel Smalley, Bernadine Oliver-Kirby, Jack Tame, Tim Beveridge and Kate Hawkesby - Mike Hosking's wife.

Meanwhile, the other main New Zealand commercial media operator, Mediaworks, uses its 'pundits' across both its radio stations and TV3. Some, like Alison Mau and Duncan Gamer, also write regular newspaper columns.

Cross media ownership has contributed to the same opinions appearing on several different media platforms - radio, television and the Internet.

While its not wall-to-wall conservative opinion, its rare that members of The Commentariat depart from the neoliberal script. Such is the conservative nature of what passes for opinion in this country is that someone so stridently anti-socialist as Chris Trotter is regularly hauled out by the corporate media to present a supposedly 'left wing' perspective. That he actually doesn't provide a left wing perspective is not the point - he provides a degree of ideological camouflage for the corporate media and help give the impression of "balance". He has always been happy to play that role. That his views are disliked by the most of the New Zealand left that isn't beholden to the Labour Party hardly seems to matter.

The corporate media has contributed to the degeneration of New Zealand's democracy and the ferocity in which it has attacked Green party co-leader Metiria Turei has demonstrated once again that it will accept no challenge to the economic and political status quo - and especially from a parliamentary politician.

It wasn't so long ago that I was defending the NZ Herald's Rachel Stewart who, like Turei, had the temerity to break from the political 'consensus', and suggest that there wasn't much either 'representative' or 'democratic' about New Zealand's representative democracy. It was 'left wing' Chris Trotter who led the charge against her.

Naomi Klein, if some of her other work is any guide, knows too well that the problems presented by a corporate controlled mass media will not be solved by merely replacing hopeless members of The Commentariat. I suspect though she has raised this issue to provoke discussion about the reactionary role the mainstream media play  and why it is intractably opposed to anything that even smells of genuine political and economic change.

In her new book No Is Not Enough she constantly returns to the theme that the power to make real change lies with the popular will.

Of course this presses on how we overcome a system that is rigged against the majority in favour of a minority. The elite fear real democracy and an open and genuinely free media and they know they would not win a fair fight. As many have said, we need a revolution to achieve such a genuine democracy - and a genuinely free media.


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