NZ On Air to remind news outlets of no-opinion rule after activist articles

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Dec 11, 2023 |

New Zealand On Air, which manages the Public Interest Journalism Fund using taxpayer funds says it will remind news outlets about adhering to its guidelines that prohibit the use of funds for opinion pieces by activists.

It follows the publication of opinion pieces by Professor Margaret Mutu in E-Tangata, an online Sunday magazine, and by Joel Maxwell from Stuff, which appear to conflict with these guidelines.

Professor Mutu’s article in E-Tangata, labelled as “comment and analysis,” asserts that the coalition government’s agreement violates numerous international laws and describes New Zealand’s political situation as a “dictatorship.”

Notably, this piece was marked as “made possible by the Public Interest Journalism Fund.”

In an article published in October titled “ “Māori are not freaking out’: Co-governance not going away any time soon” it reads “What do everyday Māori think about co-governance? Mixing his own personal opinion and a flying visit to an annual conference floor, reporter Joel Maxwell discovers what Te Tiriti means to real people.”

Similarly, Maxwell’s article in Stuff regarding karakia in meetings, published in March also funded by PIJF, is identified as an opinion piece, potentially contravening the fund’s no-opinion policy.

In a statement, NZ on Air Tumuaki o te Whakawhiti Kōrero me te Rangahau Head of Communications and Research Allanah Kalafatelis said NZ on Air “will remind Stuff of the guidelines.”

“The Public Interest Journalism Fund has created 96,000 pieces of content to date” Kalafatelis said.

“NZ On Air is not resourced to read every one of them.  Furthermore, to ensure editorial independence, bar ensuring the content output met the terms of individual contracts, (i.e. number of stories proposed was being produced) the PIJF team had no oversight of content produced by funded roles.

“On a handful of occasions over the past three years where we have become aware of an opinion piece being created by a funded role, we have reminded the media outlet of the guidelines and the piece has been removed or had the PIJF badge removed.

“Given we had no prior knowledge of articles or their content until after publication, we were only able to remind applicants of the guidelines in instances that were brought to our attention. 

“In August 2022 we provided all applicants with further clarification on the issue of Opinion V Analysis.”

In the clarification it said “a clear distinction should be drawn between factual information and comment or opinion.”

“The primary purpose of analysis (including live commentary) is to aid understanding and provide richer context and information, rather than to pass judgement or sway opinion. Analytical content attempts to offer the audience a deeper understanding of an issue, often through detailed examination of the facts, and by making connections between them which may not be immediately apparent. This includes providing context and background against which current events can be better understood” the report said.

“An article that is essentially comment or opinion should be clearly presented as such” Kalafatelis said.

Material facts on which an opinion is based should be accurate.

“The E-Tangata piece is analysis, and Joel Maxwell’s second piece on use of te reo is a first person account.”

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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