Mike Hosking as moderator betrays network's thirst for political game show
EDITORIAL: If the result of the New Zealand General Election is hinged to the casting of the immoderate Mike Hosking to moderate three TV leaders' debates, then God help us all.
Anyone expecting robust discourse and repartee, putting policy under acid, or probing secondary questions that challenge the contenders to back it up or backpedal, should familiarise themselves with TV debates of elections past to avoid disappointment.
Do not stack your vote on a TV show.
NZ First leader Winston Peters has expressed outrage at the Hosking appointment, saying there's no way he could be described as neutral.
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Hosking does have a track record for fawning over former prime minister John Key and rubbishing the Labour Party. But given the vast majority of viewers will be attuned to this, does it really matter?
Hosking's irritable swagger is an apt fit for a debate fashioned to be entertainment as much as it is a public service.
Prime Minister Bill English and Opposition leader Jacinda Ardern will trawl the party lines, trade jibes and hopefully not talk over the top of each other too much.
Their poise under pressure and ability to articulate clear messages will come under close inspection by political commentators and the public.
Though it is preferable for our country's leader to possess these qualities, and a dab of charisma, one hopes they are not the deciding factor on election day.
The TV debates provide a platform geared around personality rather than policy, style over substance. It's bubblegum politics and the media often hasn't helped, poring over clever quips and minor gaffs in their coverage.
This is the arena that once embraced the mercurial "worm", which inched across the TV screen, gyrating up and down on the whim of a small group of undecided voters. A pointless, exaggerated exercise, but arguably good tele.
If TVNZ wanted something more from its debates it would have assigned one of their best journalists to be the ringmaster, not a polarising broadcaster with a penchant for theatrics.
He may not be apolitical, but Hosking is a professional. His selection to moderate the 2014 TV debates caused a similar stir in the lead-up, but nothing scandalous or memorable transpired. He won't do anything to damage his chances in 2020.
Rather than any perceived agenda from Hosking, voters should be more concerned about ensuring their local candidates are accessible and informative in conveying their parties' policies, and understanding of key issues in their own patch.