While happily fronting a weekly slot on TVNZ’s Breakfast programme, and on Radio Sports, and a one hour special on Radio Live, he has refused virtually all requests for interviews on Radio New Zealand.
He has declined 174 requests for interviews on Morning Report and has been interviewed on Checkpoint only five times this year. He has also turned down a request to appear on an election debate on Radio New Zealand.
This begs the question, what is going on here? Does the Prime Minister have an aversion to public service radio and a bias in favour of commercial radio? Or is it just that he wants to avoid in-depth news interviews in favour of soft lifestyle interviews.
Certainly his government has shown unrestrained hostility to Radio New Zealand. It has frozen its budget indefinitely, and Radio New Zealand is limping along, with its funding contracting every year (thanks to inflation), having to sell off its grand pianos to survive.
On the other hand, the Government has treated commercial radio generously, and given a $45 million bail out to Mediaworks.
But the Prime Minister’s bias in favour of commercial radio, and against public service radio, raises other troubling questions of accountability. The fourth estate has an important role in holding governments to account. But if the Prime Minister turns down over a hundred requests for interviews from our public service radio station, which is listened to by hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders every morning, how is the government to be held properly to account?