When you give politicians and their cronies a bit of a say over broadcasts, it's surprising how often their perception of fair and balanced coincides with their grasp of how the content makes them look.
Or to put it another way, politicians like to get what you pay for.
Back in the early days of broadcasting, the Government of the day took over ownership of the radio stations and the prime minister used to personally edit the single daily evening news bulletin. Naturally, the headlines delighted in his fabulous achievements.
When TV news started up it had a bit more distance, but I still recall one early evening TV news story where Prime Minister Rob Muldoon grumped at a reporter for bringing too many cameras to an interview. TV was virtually a government department, with its bosses responsible to ministers. What could possibly go wrong?
The rules were changed about the time TV3 started up and broadcasters began to proliferate.
These days NZ On Air gets a gob of taxpayers' money each year and dishes it out to producers to make TV shows about All Blacks learning to dance the conga in Tonga.
How one programme gets funded, and another misses out, is a turbid process. TV production houses swear the people making decisions are blithering fools, until decision-makers mysteriously come to their senses and fund their idea for a new show, Does my butt look big in this?, in Coro Street's old slot.
One of the chaps on the NZ On Air board, Steven McElrea, has quite a long history as a broadcast executive.
Just before the election he complained that one of the programmes they were paying to screen on TV3 was about poverty.
Now stop me if you've heard this one before, but Mr McElrea is John Key's electorate chairman. And his objection was to the politics of the broadcast - the timing of screening that content.
Do you think I'm oversensitive if I tell you that his intervention stinks of cronyism? It smells like an old fashioned political rort, like crooked banana republic village politics, for the prime minister's personal henchman to be swinging his hook into decisions about TV current affairs during the election.
Decisions about political balance on the tele are not even any of his business.
We have an outfit whose job is to decide issues of balance - the Broadcasting Standards Authority (and even it couldn't even see anything wrong with Mr Key getting his own hour-long advertisement on Radio Live in the middle of the election campaign, so it's not as if the BSA is unfavourable to the Nats.)
The more NZ On Air attempts to defend itself by arguing there is a legitimate question about when the show should air, the more vividly it reveals its misunderstanding of its role and of propriety.
So we have a battalion of blue cronies, with their little blue paws grasping a purse of your money, double-checking broadcasts to make sure they are quite blue enough.
It's dodgy as.
This morning I heard shadow finance minister Steven Joyce defaming the documentary on Mike Hosking's radio programme - calling it left wing. By this he means it discussed poverty and solutions to it. Now let's see if we can think why a senior National Party minister thinks a documentary about poverty is implicitly against his government? Hang on, if you give me a moment, I'm sure I can think of a reason.
Confronted with the shabbiness of political interference, the Minister's response was not to be appalled by indefensible behaviour, but to smear the documentary.
There is only one way they are going to repair confidence after this jack up. The board of NZ On Air have to go. They are impossibly compromised now. Not just Mr McElrea, but also his weak and compromised colleagues who failed to do the right thing when the moment called for courage.
We are too small, we have too much to do, to have political cronies misusing the power of the state to get broadcasts that favour their side.
John Pagani is a former senior adviser to past Labour leader Phil Goff and before that was a key player in Jim Anderton's Alliance team.
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