If you needed another reason why we need a strong public service television network, then you only had to take a look at TV3's new stab at current affairs, The Nation.

Because its on at stupid times - 11am on a Saturday morning and repeated at 8am on a Sunday morning - I taped it to look at a time when I didn't have something else to do or was awake.

I thought I had dropped into a National Party talkfest.

There was Gerry Brownlee, the Minister of Energy, discussing the mining of precious conservation land with two panelists who also support the mining of precious conservation land. They were journalists Fran O'Sullivan - whose right wing views are familiar to most - and Mitch Harris.

Mitch Harris?

I suspect most people won't have struck Harris before. He used to be a talkback host on the now defunct Radio Pacific where he spent most of his time attacking the Clark Government and expounding his dreary neoliberal views.

In fact, when he was doing the midnight to dawn shift, Harris took to reading out entire right wing articles he had taken a fancy to.

How right wing is Harris? Very. He's so right wing that he has a close affinity with the views of Lindsay Perigo and the other Ayn Rand following fruitcakes.

He was also a fervent supporter of President George Bush. I recall one talkback caller asking him whether he had a part time job with the CIA such was Harris's pro-Bush jingoism.

Harris justified the American invasion of Iraq by claiming - like his beloved George Bush - that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. When even Mitch realised that Saddam had no such weapons, he simply switched tacks and said that Hussein had to go anyway and that good old George was ushering in a new era of capitalist freedom and the Iraqi people would soon be enjoying Big Macs and Fox TV.

Fortunately Harris rarely pops up on the radio these days because he's now the station manager at Radio Pacific's successor, the low rating Radio Live. The station has failed to attract listeners despite Harris's big claim that Radio Live would eventually out- rate its rival, Newstalk ZB.

I'm actually surprised he's still in the job given his failure to deliver the ratings that the Australian owners want. It's no coincidence that Harris thinks the Minister of Broadcasting should force 'changes' on Radio New Zealand because its continuing popularity highlights the failure of commercial radio stations like Radio Live to be anything other than cnnduits for commercials.

So Harris has now popped up on the TV and he seemed to think he was back on the radio. He just went on and on. And on. And on. No one could stop him. Presenter Stephen Parker seemed powerless to stop the torrent of words belching from the mouth of Harris.

Despite the near collapse of global capitalism and the complete failure of neoliberalism, Harris, if anything, is even more of an neoliberal zealot than he was when he was a gung ho talkback host.

To make matters worse, Stephen Parker used to be Gerry Brownlee's press secretary.

Parker owned up to his previous life as Brownlee's spin doctor but The Nation hardly inspires confidence about its political independence when its presenter used to work for the Minister being interviewed.

Unsurprisngly, both Brownlee and the mining industry got treated with kids gloves. Hard questions were avoided because no one wanted to ask them. I imagine Mitch Harris thinks it was a job well done.

I made an effort to watch The Nation this week but I won't be watching again if its going to continue to promote both the National Government and the failed creed of neoliberalism.


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