Friday, 18 November 2011

General Election 2011 - NZ Style

The woman on the left side of the coat of arms...Image via WikipediaI have just discovered that all of Mediacorp's radio stations now stream their programmes online so I have been enjoying the classical musical programme from the Singapore studios today; Symphony 92.4FM to be exact.

Yesterday I listened to Love972, the Chinese contemporary channel but today I was out of 'love' and more interested in soothing melodies.

The New Zealand election is next weekend and the shenanigans of the politicians and the media are less than edifying.

Much of the past week has been dominated by the Media trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, or more correctly "a mountain out of a teapot".

After a journalist has broken the law by hiding a tape recorder in a cloth bag and secretly recording the conversation between the Prime Minister and a candidate from another party, the media then got on its high horse when the PM refused to answer questions about the conversation.

To his credit he put the matter in the hands of the police which means that the contents cannot be revealed.  But frankly, who really cares about this sorry saga except for the media themselves?

Here we are in dire financial times, recovering from a major earthquake and all the media seem bent on covering are the so-called "illegal tapes". Even our Inland Revenue Department has resorted to issuing bad cheques so times must really be tough.

Such a load of rubbish would not be allowed to occur in Singapore and while there may be some who may decry the government control of media in the Republic, at least the larger issues confronting the country get air time.

The freedom of the press comes with responsibilities but too often in New Zealand the media gets caught up in its own hype and forgets that the public want substance, not dross.

In addition to the election next Saturday we also have the opportunity to vote on a referendum which will determine whether we wish to keep our proportional representation system, MMP, revert to the tried and true First Past The Post, or adopt a new system of  proportional representation.

Having observed in recent times how minor parties of little consequence can hold the country to ransom, I shall probably opt for a return to our older system of First Past The Post.  I stress that not all minor parties fall into this category, but a number do.  This election campaign the Greens have impressed me as have the Maori Party, although I will be voting for neither.

National will hold on to power with an increased majority if the polls are to be believed. The Labour Party will suffer even heavier losses that the last election and the Greens will capture their largest chunk of the vote ever.

Which all goes to explain how the soothing music from Singapore's classical music station will help bring my blood pressure down over the next seven days. Now if I could just get to walk down Orchard Road and view the Xmas Lights I would be even happier.
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Anonymous said...

As someone who is Singaporean and also lived in New Zealand for a time I was very interested to read this blog post.

I do agree with you that sometimes the media gets a little crazy (and when I was in NZ I did notice that sometimes the NZ media drags stuff out for ages, as if there were nothing else to talk about), but I have to disagree on the point of "this would never happen in Singapore".

I admit that I haven't read up that much about the tea tape, but from what I've gathered from the articles I have read and my friends still in NZ is that there has been a clampdown of sorts on media organisations, and that does raise questions of media freedom. Sure, this might be a relatively minor incident (although it appears that the tape could possibly be a "game changer"?) but it has a wider significance – if this can be done in this case, then where and when else can it be implemented.

As someone who is active in Singaporean civil society and campaigns on human rights issues in Singapore, I do believe I have a different perspective on the media control in Singapore from you. You say that "at least the larger issues confronting the country get air time". But from what I've seen, these "larger issues" are not really defined by what actually is an important issue, but from what the Powers That Be deem is an important issue. Articles seem to have a particular slant aimed at fostering a certain line of thought instead of allowing Singaporeans a range of views to make up their own minds. Crucial human rights abuses and issues raised by activists and NGOs go unreported - or are given lip service - because they might not be issues that the authorities want highlighted. Recently, the secretary-general of an alternative party received a Liberal International Award, whose past recipients have included Mary Robinson and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. A huge achievement, but there wasn't a word about it in the mainstream media.

It's a hard balance to strike, certainly, but there are plenty of issues with press and media freedom in Singapore, and no matter how frustrating NZ media might be I would never wish for NZ to have Singapore's media landscape.

Roger Smith said...

Yes, you too make a good point Kirsten about the powers that be determining what are the big issues in Singapore.

However let me clarify that there has been no clampdown on the Press although some in the media might wish to portray it as thus.

The privacy laws of New Zealand make it quite plain that one cannot record a private conversation without the permission of those who are conversing.

This did not happen when a cameraman resorted to subterfuge by leaving a recorder on the table between the two candidates, hidden inside a cloth bag.

But equally importantly the big issues, such as those that you are championing, received little or no air time as the media went into a defensive huddle about the teapot tapes - that to me is a disservice to the voters.

Anonymous said...

Such a thing will not happen in S'pore?


Go back a few years. The GE of 2006 saw the Minister who cannot sing heckling an opposition member when said member questioned an official about some forms he submitted. It was found eventually that said member missed out on submitting the forms, and he apologised.

The Minister who cannot sing was not satisfied, asking for an explanation. It lead to Mr Brown coming up with a hilarious show and a memorable quote - "Sorry also must explain!"

The whole fracas took up 6-7 days of the 11 days campaign.