AN ARTICLE BY ROSANNA MOIR AND JO MOIR, pointedly headlined 'Had Enough of Mike Hosking?', observes that he has access to three media outlets to parade his political views:
"In the past month, broadcaster Mike Hosking has been given a platform to voice his views 70 times across his Newstalk ZB show, his NZ Herald column and the television show Seven Sharp. He's been at the centre of programmes on the air for about 65 hours."
And his views are, of course, not only uniformly supportive of the National Government but Hosking also uses his prominence in the media to attack the Government's opponents.
Hosking gets away with it because he has permission to do so. When the media approached TVNZ for comment on Winston Peter's attack on Hosking, TVNZ drew up the drawbridge and refused to comment. And, despite the controversy swirling around Hosking, Newstalk ZB has kept the story out of its news broadcasts. This from the station that boasts in its advertising that "we keep pushing, asking the hard questions seeking clarity and ultimately resolution."
Although Hosking is the most prominent of government cheerleaders there are others. While we might dislike Hosking's pro-government sermons on Seven Sharp, over on TV3 the views of Duncan Garner and Heather Du Plessis Allan are not a million light years away from that of the Prime Minister.
It was Du Plessis-Allan who helped Hosking to do a hatchet job on Kim Dotcom's 'Moment of Truth' meeting featuring whistleblower Edward Snowden and Pulitzer-winning journalist Glen Greenwald. Shortly before the last election Garner gave John Key and his government his 'big tick' for their management of the economy.
And on Newstalk ZB Hosking is followed by a succession of right wing commentators including drivetime host Larry Williams who has Cameron Slater in the studio for a chat every week.
While many of us would like to see the back of Hosking, odds are someone with similar political views would take his place. Let's not forget that Hosking himself took over from the late Paul Holmes, another conservative commentator who had a cosy relationship with John Key.
The concentration of media power in this country in fewer and fewer hands combined with the increased commercialisation of media outlets has spawned an environment where people like Hosking can prosper and legitimate journalists like John Campbell get dumped.
If the media is central to the formation of an politically informed and active population, then we have been failed by successive governments, both Labour and National. They have created the conditions which have allowed the media to be captured by entrenched political power. Its handmaidens are Mike Hosking and a cabal of other prominent commentators, many of whom Nicky Hager talked about in Dirty Politics.
Robert McChesney, Professor of Journalism at Illinois University, has commented:
'Democracy requires a media system that provides people with a wide range of opinion and analysis and debate on important issues, reflects the diversity of citizens, and promotes public accountability of the powers-that-be and the powers-that-want-to-be. In short, the media in a democracy must foster deliberation and diversity, and ensure accountability.'
To do that, we need , among other things, a strong media that performs a public service function. Other than what is provided by the underfunded Radio New Zealand, we lack that. Instead we have a media dominated by a few corporate entities.
Ideally we would create an environment that would prevent a handful of corporates and advertisers to dominate the media culture. A good start would be to turn TVNZ, once again, into a non commercial public broadcaster.
A powerful public radio and television system could have a profound effect on our entire media culture. It could lead the way in providing the type of public service journalism that the free market is killing off and allowing corporate propagandists like Mike Hosking to prosper.