Big Fat Greek Protest or Malaysians dancing in the rain

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I had read that there was going to be another protest against the privatisation of state assets in the Octagon.  I had a time, which was reported in the Otago Daily Times, but no details.

Before going I visited my flat at Manono House, and took my books to exchange at the library.  It was a successful visit: Mothstorm by Philip Reeve, a new David Brin, and Edgelands, a poetic meditation on the liminal spaces between urban and rural landscapes that proving to be rather cool.  I had four books in total so my bag was weighed down.

It was also raining, a rather heavy drizzle, quite dreich.

I got to the Octagon early.  There were no protestors there.  I did seem some interesting people in the lower Octagon.  The Otago University Malaysian Society were having a day out.  I gave them a penny to go to the Malaysian World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and one of the displays gave me a free notepad, which I have in my pocket, and a set of postcards.  I can’t complain about free stuff!  The second postcard displayed Malaysian food.  I understand from my friend John Roxborogh that food is important in Malaysia.  I appreciate that.

There were briefly some protestors in the gazebo in the upper Octagon.  I did not see them go.

I didn’t stay in the Octagon long.  I walked through the dental school cul-de-sac, a usual rallying place for protests.  No activity there.  I decided to walk back to my house-sitting in North-East Valley.  I see from the newspaper today that the protest did go ahead.  About one hundred people gathered in the Octagon to break plates as a symbolic Greek protest.  The paper also reported about the same number of people involved in the Malaysian celebration.

Talking about it at work we felt the whole protest had been poorly advertised or coordinated.  I still don’t know when the protest took place.  I read that it happened in the Octagon.  I was not there for it.


March to Stop Asset Sales

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I went to this because anyone who knows me knows I think left-wing socialism is on the side of the angels; and it pisses off a government that I do not like.  The government says that the election gave them a mandate to privatise the state-owned power companies in New Zealand.  Well, I’m sorry.  The government was not returned to power by an over-whelming majority; and while the electorate returned a popular government, there is anecdotal evidence that many voting for the John Key party did not endorse asset sales.  As a tax-payer and New Zealand citizen I already own the  state-owned power companies.  I do not need to buy them back  through shares that will not guarantee me any security for my retirement.  Thank you very much.  It’s a bad return.

By the time I reached the starting post about ten to eleven the cul-de-sac outside the dental school was already full of people.  For once the heavens proved to be on our side and provided us with a frosty clear blue sky after several days of rain.  The numbers were less than were on hand for the Save Neurosurgery in Dunedin March, in which just about everyone who was still middle-class in Dunedin, and points further south, turned out to defend Dunedin Hospitals services.

There were plenty of banners on hand, representing political parties and trade unions who were supporting the protest organised by Grey Power Otago.  To their shame rumour has it that the Otago University Students Association want to buy shares in the privatisation sales and did not attend as a body.  The next time I do one of these things I should get a stick of dowling to bear my Southland Spirit of a Nation flag.  Its blue-green-blue tricoleur will add a big more colour.

The archivist spotted me straight away and we joined forces.  The pipers and one of the protestors were keen to get us moving at eleven o’clock.  Grey Power took the lead and we all fell in.  We marched up George Street listening to the socialist liturgy around us.  I find that protest marches are a bit like being in some one else’s church, you never quite know what’s going to happen next.

We got to the Octagon in ten minutes for the speeches.  I looked back as the march came up the rise into the Octagon.  The procession did not go back to Frederick Street as it did in the Neurosurgery march, it was still several blocks long, which represents the strength of opinion.   Addresses were given from the unions and David Parker from the Labour Party gave us a good rark-up.  We were joined in the Octagon by another member of staff from the Archives.  After the protest was dismissed and everyone scattered a cameraman from TV3 collared us as protestors who were not members of the unions and the political parties.  My friend did a soundbite that made it onto their 6pm news bulletin.  I was quite chuffed to see it.

How long before this government listens to the public if it wants to retain its weakening grasp on power?

Save TVNZ7 in Dunedin

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Disclaimer: I live in a studio room at Manono House and I haven’t looked into getting  digital tv reception yet.  At this stage if I’m still here when analog goes off in Dunedin next year then I will probably not be watching tv for a while.  This means I haven’t considered the product that TVNZ7 broadcasts.  And probably might not get the opportunity…

This was an entertaining night out as the Colquhoun Theatre filled up at the Dunedin Hospital.  The numbers were ultimately close to the numbers that the Centre for Theology and Public Issues got for their discussion on euthanasia.  There was some overlap in attendance.  The atmosphere at times was angry.  Apparently it was not as angry as the Wellington meeting.

First Save TVNZ7 organiser Miles Thomas summarised a statement from Craig Foss, the minister who is instrumental in pulling the plug on TVNZ7:

  • It’s got a limited audience; and there’s only $220 million dollars for Radio and Television
  • TVNZ6 and 7 were established by the previous government with funding limited to 5 years
  • It is TVNZ which has decided to close them

After that statement no further representation from the government, whether ministers or local politicians was forth coming.

First speaker was Clare Curran from Labour.  So far 1600 people around the country have attended Save TVNZ7 meetings.  TVNZ has never marketed TVNZ7.  It got around by word of mouth.  TVNZ considered that channel’s audience was elitist, old, and irrelevant (yes, really).  The government has spent more on preparing privatising state assets for sale than on public broadcasting.

  • It’s the Nats who are axing TVNZ7
  • It’s the Nats who are opposed to public broadcasting
  • It’s Labour, among others, who believes in public broadcasting

Next up was Julie Anne Genter, the Green party Spokesman on broadcasting  (I wrote it down as Spokeswoman and then struck it out as I’m sure that’s what she said).

Public broadcasting is:

  • about entertainment
  • about education
  • about information  (together all three are the Reithian mandate)

Public broadcasting should be independent of government and corporations.  Creativity and beauty is not about commercial consumption nor corporate interest.

There is economic value in having our own public service television that we can present on a world stage.

The Greens’ Policy was that TVNZ should be a non-commercial public broadcaster, now they are considering that public broadcasting should be independant of TVNZ which has chosen to be a commercial broadcaster.

Pete George is a regular commenter on political blogs in New Zealand.  I know a few of the ones that I frequent where I’ve seen him on.  He was the United Future candidate for Dunedin North at the last national election and is associated with that party.  He runs the website Your NZ and its associated blogs (aha!)

It’s too late to rescue TVNZ7.  This raised some contention during questions as United Future Leader and Sole MP Peter Dunne made public broadcasting a bottom line in his agreement to support the government.

  • Money is needed for broadcasting costs
  • Our efforts for public broadcasting should not be focused on one channel
  • Diversity of media could make public broadcasting a part of a wider multi-media experience including the internet

Next up was Aaron Hawkins from Radio One with the experience of five years in student radio.

  • Public broadcasting creates a culture of asking hard questions to which no one knows the answer (that’s intended as a good thing)
  • New Zealand has a reputation of a low level of corruption.  It’s also cultivating a low level of political engagement (that’s not intended as a good thing)
  • If TVNZ7 is watched by cardigan-wearing liberals then this should be a boom time for the woollens industry!
  • Is it necessary for public broadcasting to be completely commercial free?
  • How much infrastructure can Radio and Television share?

At this stage our host for the evening Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury arrived from the airport.  A nickname like Bomber doesn’t get a person through airports quickly.  I seem to remember that I read years ago that it’s short for ‘bombastic’.

Some thoughts from him:

  • TVNZ is to public broadcasting what drinking is to driving
  • The rise in crime on the news coincided with the rise of the Sensible Sentencing Trust
  • If The GC is a documentary (it was promoted a doco on Maori tikanga in Australia) then a drunk one night stand is a cultural experience.

Unfortunately Bradbury’s late arrival meant that the last speaker on the floor was introduced only as ‘Erika’.  Fortunately afterwards I managed to grab a songsheet off Pete George and discovered it was Erika Pearson, senior lecturer of Media Film and Communication at the university.

As for funding her observation was that TVNZ7 with its current structure costs $16million.  In comparison a season of Outrageous Fortune cost $10million, and the first season of Game of Thrones on Sky cost $66million.

New Zealand on Air funds production, not distribution or transmission.  That’s like a dairy industry without roads.  People won’t stop telling these stories, to whom and where?  Our creators will tell their story in and to another country.  We need to speak New Zild to New Zild (my words, not hers).  There is a divide between those who have access to digital communication and the havenots.

Finally Question Time from the audience.  I like question time.  More often than not it’s like ice cream after a meal.

Sky made $120million in profit from New Zealand.  That’s paying a lot more than we ever paid for a tv licence.

Maori Television is not a public broadcaster.  It broadcasts in Maori from a Maori perspective.  I like what I watch on Maori TV, but I am tauiwi.  I am not their target audience.

Australia legislated against subscription sports broadcasting; they kept it free to air.

This government includes one minister who accused the Labour Party in opposition for wanting to ‘spend more money on dopey things like Radio New Zealand’ (despite being our most popular radio broadcaster!)

TVNZ7 could still be saved.  We have seen this government back down before, including today when they backed down on increasing class sizes.  The people have spoken.  Make them listen!

If we want to save TVNZ7 we need to put pressure on Labour, especially, and the Greens.  That means their representatives tonight: Clare Curran and Julie Anne Genter.

The charter for public television that the last Labour-led government posed on TVNZ was conflicted.  TVNZ7 should not be.  It wasn’t the government that failed, t was Television New Zealand that failed.

The capacity to re-establish public television in New Zealand needs to locked out from TVNZ NOW!  Commercial television should not monopolise our communication.  Otherwise it will cost $30million dollars to rebuild that infrastructure.  Another good reason for saving TVNZ7.  There is no good reason to pay twice the price for what we already have in working condition.

Last word to educator Pr. Jim Flynn.  Whoever controls the present controls 90% of young New Zealand who are simply ignorant of any history, including 20th century, up to and including university level young people.  The question he asked on the level of their ignorance is ‘What’s a Bishop?’  This is an ignorance of history that is approaching Orwellian levels.  That is why we need public broadcasting.