The Centre's analysis of the adjudication.
There are a number of obvious points about this complaint as well as some interesting indications of the apparent internalisation of power by those who constitute the New Zealand Press Council.
The most striking point of course is the fact that a press complaints body in a Western democracy is prepared to state publicly that the print media whose ethics it represents, have no obligation to print that which is in the public interest. This despite the fact that the Court of Appeal had stated that the media did have an obligation to so act. This apparent lack of principle on the part of the media in New Zealand is not however without precedent. Some years ago, at the request of the Government, the media agreed to withold from the people the fact that the country's oil companies were not adding, or were having difficulty with, the lubricant used in aviation fuel for turbo prop engines. The result of the lack of lubrication was that the fuel pumps were seizing in flight and aircraft were making emergency landings. The flying public were unaware of the situation.
This decision of the Council would appear to mean that the print media can now use their power as they see fit.
Given the influence of the New Zealand Business Round Table for example, it would seem that there is now no ethical conflict between the print media representing the interests of that group - by advocating their world view - and simultaneously withholding from the people of New Zealand the effects of such views on the society in which they live. Some apparently not well known effects, include the fact that New Zealand now has a higher murder rate than Britain, a higher burglary rate than the United States and a higher rate of motor vehicle related offences than Western Europe.
What is also of interest in the matter of crime is that the print media, along with the electronic media, continue to claim that the the increasing crime rate is simply part of a global trend. It would appear that such media views are either deliberately misleading or at best the result of what Serge Halimi writing in Le Monde, (April 1997) described as " . . . a press as self satisfied as it is mediocre." It is for example highly probable that twenty years ago the murder rate in Britain was higher than in New Zealand and that the burglary rate in the United States was also higher than in New Zealand.
The Centre is interested in obtaining the work of an American academic who has been studying the rise of crime in New Zealand as a function of the rise of the New Right.
It is also of interest to note that the media in New Zealand have not made public the fact that both Ruth Richardson, the ex Minister of Finance and Roger Kerr of the Business Round Table, are both members of the right wing Mont Pelerin Society founded by A F Hayek, the economist who advocated " . . . regenerating the ideas of classical
The Council directly quotes the Centre as saying that it claimed that the attitude of the Otago Daily Times was "tantamount to propaganda". The Centre can not find that statement anywhere in the correspondence.
As it appears that the Council is in error in this matter, the Centre suggests that if the New Zealand Press Council itself gives the impression of lacking intellectual rigour, then the standards of its decisions become open to question.
It may well be the case of course that the Centre did make that statement and simply cannot find it. If that is the case this observation will be retracted.
The Centre notes with interest the quotation marks around the term "depth psychology". In the view of the Centre this is either defensive behaviour, as a function of a threat to the internalisation of the importance the Council sees itself as having, (itself a function of inadequacy) or the Council is genuinely unaware of the work of Freud that gave rise to the field of psychoanalysis. The strictly Freudian method did of course give way to the generic term for talking cures; psychotherapy. If the Council was unaware of the work pioneered by Freud it calls into question the psychological makeup of those who decide the level of education necessary in those persons who hold seats on the Council. Further, the fact that it was not considered necessary to discover just what depth psychology is, is a further indication of a lack of intellectual rigour. This decision may also have a defensive component in that superiority was established by dismissing it as unimportant.
The Centre also notes with interest the comment of the Council in respect of the decision of the Centre to decline the offer of Mr Charteris to consider for publication a letter to the editor. To quote from its decision the Council said in part that such a letter, (had it been accepted for publication), " . . . may have provided the newspaper with a news tip worth inquiring into for a consequent news story". Either the cognitive processes of those who wrote the adjudication were impaired at the time or it is a further example of a psychological defence mechanism. After all, there was at least one occasion, possibly two, on which the newspaper was aware of the story. Why then should a letter to the editor, containing information of which the newspaper was already aware suddenly become a " . . . news tip . . ."? The Centre suggests that the psychological motivation for that comment was an attempt on the part of the writer(s) to establish once again the superiority of the newpaper and the Council over the Centre.
The reader may be interested to note the view of the Centre of an apparent tendency to identify, on the part of the writer(s), with the external global concept of the newspaper industry rather than their own identity. It is the threat to this global concept, represented by the intellectual nature of the Centre's complaint, which has caused an emotional rather than a reasoned response to that complaint.
The Centre also finds defensive the comment by the Council that the Centre is not well known.
It is a matter of record that the Centre was not giving psychological opinions in this matter but was quoting from both an agency of the United Nations - the International Labour Organisation - and from the New Zealand Department of Labour. It is curious that the newspaper claims and the Council accepts, that the Centre is not well known. Why should this be raised by the newspaper now when it had previously published a story (ODT 19.2.97) - under the headline "Dole scheme may breach ILO rules" - as the result of an earlier press release from the Centre? The Council was aware both, that the Centre was quoting recognised authorities and that the newspaper had previously published a story on this subject as a result of a press release from the Centre. The Centre suggests that this is further evidence of defensive behaviour.
In July of 1997 journalist Tom Frewen said that there was no need for the New Zealand Government to indulge in propaganda because Television New Zealand, the state owned broadcaster and the Broadcasting Standards Authority, the broadcasting watchdog, were doing it for them.
Is it possibly the case that the same kind of relationship might exist between the print media and the New Zealand Press Council?
What is certain is that in this complaint neither the newspaper nor the New Zealand Press Council ever countered any of the arguments made in the case presented by the Centre. They both relied on power.
It is suggested that the response of the New Zealand Press Council to the complaint of the Centre may give an interesting insight into how the personalities of those in positions of power in the Council influence the way the people of New Zealand - through the print media - arrive at social mores.
On the 12 August 1998 the Centre extended to the New Zealand Press Council the offer of the right of reply to this analysis. It is currently awaiting a response.