Is the issue really about Mike Hosking, or about televised election debates? PAT PILCHER weighs in on the topic of the moment.
The decision by TVNZ to use media personality Mike Hosking to moderate this year’s election debates has been met with howls of derision. A petition has been set up, and Winston Peters (whose uncanny ability to find the media spotlight is truly something to behold) has waded into the issue. “There’s no way that Mike Hosking can possibly be described as neutral. He’s spent most of his time attacking one line of political thought and that means he should rule himself out,” Peters is reported to have said.
Winnie and others may be right, but they may also be wrong. Either way it is good to see the issue is being taken seriously.
That the issue is being covered by the media and people are debating it is a great thing. This is what the media should do in a functioning democracy. The big concern however, is that the noise around this issue could obscure a larger one that must be addressed if there is to be a government elected on a rational basis in this coming election.
Here’s the thing. Televised political debates may have all the drama and fireworks that make for great ratings. Hell, they may even make for interesting TV. But the big question is do they help voters to make rational and informed voting decisions? No, they do the exact opposite.
Historically, political debates have been at best shouting matches. Winning is often more about which politician is the most charismatic in front of the camera than which is most capable of leading a country or which party’s policies align with the views of voters looking for more information to choose who they’re voting for.
When highlighted in a story like this, the issue is glaringly obvious, but amazingly hasn’t been aired publicly. It needs to be. Electing someone based on their ability to present in a televised debate is just wrong. Donald Trump may have been able to command a huge media presence, yet approval ratings show that within the US he was viewed at best as a loose cannon, and more realistically as a complete disaster for the US.
I worked with Mike Hosking for several years on Breakfast TV, and while I might not agree with his politics, I do respect him. That said, I think the real argument shouldn’t centre around Hosking fronting election debates, but should be about getting some rules in place to ensure that the media accurately report on the policies of all political parties running for government on an unbiased and factual basis.
This clearly isn’t going to happen in an electoral debate with politicians all shouting over each other in a bid to score points with viewers. That they are all egged on by a TV network whose eye is on advertising dollars and ratings rather than what is best for the nation is disgusting.
Wouldn’t it make a whole lot more sense to have the key policies of each party covered in plain English with expert analysis that the average Kiwi can understand, so they’re able to make an informed decision on who they’ll vote for? Maybe I’m just being far too logical.