How About Less Election Bullshittery In The Media?

September 5, 2017
2 mins read

PAT PILCHER is angry that – just out from an important election which will decide the immediate future for all of us – mass media is happily raking in the dollars while ignoring their civic duty to tell us the truth about policy.


Sigh… yet another leaders debate and even less clarity around party policies and issues. Watching the leaders debate and the media circus following it, I couldn’t convince myself that it had achieved anything. At all.

One media outlet dared ask who had won. Predictably, the story itself was short on naming anything approaching a definitive winner. I am happy to report, however, that there was indeed a winner: the TV networks

Yep, that’s right, advertising in and around the debates was selling for huge sums of money. Ratings were also at record levels as many of us who wouldn’t give our local broadcasters the time of day dropped our habitual fix of Netflix/Neon/Lightbox to tune in this one time.


The sad thing is that no one seems to care who the losers are. We should though, as the real losers of this are Joe and Joanne public. That’s you and I.

Throughout both debates there was lots of feigned politeness, interjections and point scoring. What there was not so much of was any useful insight or analysis around what each party actually stood for.

This is sad, as the intentions underlying the airing of a leader’s debate should be to help voters make an informed voting decision. Sadly, this isn’t happening, and the prevailing political environment remains a toxic mix of sloganized party rhetoric and voter ignorance.


It’s a lethal combination. Most of us are busy. Running a normal life in 2017 is full-on. This equates to what is perhaps best known as the ‘TLDR’ (too long don’t read) mentality.

If it isn’t in bullet points, or broken down into short paragraphed summaries, most of us don’t read it as there simply isn’t the free time between juggling jobs, kids, pets and Facebook/Twitter/text messages and so on.

This probably hasn’t escaped the attentions of all the major parties, either. Garnering votes seems to be more about crafting a slogan and rhetoric that sticks. Too bad if the facts underlying the rhetoric don’t add up. Most readers/viewers/listeners simply don’t have the time (or the inclination) to fact- check or apply critical thinking.

So what needs to be done? The massive role of social media, comments sections and online communities seems to be largely ignored by the media (or exploited by political parties). Political party leader personalities are sadly becoming a major determinant of election outcomes. Clearly this isn’t a good thing, as not so small issues such as the ethics of leaders tend to get trampled in the media stampede to run stories. In short, there is no way to fully know a leader’s ethics, morals and personality based on a 30-minute televised political extravaganza.

Voting on personalities is also a very dangerous thing. What is needed is a structured way of impartially communicating party policies based on fact, not supposition and opinion. Doing this would probably see more people making informed decisions about how they vote.

Sadly, about the only media outlet even bothering to attempt this is The Spinoff, whose policy tool provides an at-a-glance view of the key policies of all political parties.

Shouldn’t this sort of thing be enshrined in law? Surely an independent body could do this. Surely media could be actively encouraged to see factual rather than sensationalist election coverage as a civic duty as well as an advertising revenue gathering exercise. Is that too much to ask in a so-called democracy?

So much for NZ’s supposedly enlightened democracy. There’s little that is truly democratic about such a toxic election environment.


Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.


  1. You meantion Spinoff’s policy tool but fail to mention TVNZ’s Votecompass which I know is the one my friends are talking about….

  2. Hi Peter – I was aware of the votecompass but it is frankly next to useless when it comes to actually informing you of party politics. In fact the votecompass seems to be more of a survey for providing TVNZ nz with voter trend information than a tool like Spinoff’s policy tool. For these reasons I decided not to include it.

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