On the one hand, it is pretty easy to define political:
po·lit·i·cal [puh-lit-i-kuhl] adjective
1. of, pertaining to, or concerned with politics: political writers.
2. of, pertaining to, or connected with a political party: a political campaign.
3. exercising or seeking power in the governmental or public affairs of a state, municipality, etc.: a political machine; a political boss.
4. of, pertaining to, or involving the state or its government: a political offense.
5. having a definite policy or system of government: a political community.
On the other hand, how do you define what is political and what is merely topical? That is the question behind NZ on Air’s desire to stop broadcasters screening documentaries on political issues in the lead-up to an election. The spark for this was the documentary on Child Poverty by Bryan Bruce screened by TV3 four days before the last election. The MacDoctor has not seen the documentary, but apparently it was emotive and heavily slanted towards the sorts of solutions favoured by the Left (i.e. Lots of Other Peoples Money). NZ on Air consider that the program may have compromised their “apolitical” stance – whatever that it.
For once, the MacDoctor actually agrees with the likes of Bomber Bradbury and the Denizens of the Standard in that any further form of censorship of political expression at elections is anathema to decent political debate and should be avoided at all costs. However, it should be observed that the stance of the Left is somewhat hypocritical at this juncture, given their near terminal frenzying over a little harmless DJing by John Key. It is also the Green’s stated policy to bring the heavy hand of government regulation (code-word for censorship) down upon media content.
One also wonders whether the Left would have been quite so upset about NZ on Air’s stance if the documentary in question had been one documenting the practices of NZ unions in an uncomplimentary manner.
Be that as it may, the MacDoctor finds the NZ political discourse to be ridiculously stifled already, without adding to the problem. Already parties are unable to spend whatever they want on advertising or media slots, despite all the evidence pointing to the fact that you cannot “buy” elections (except, of course, in the time-honoured way of electoral bribes and promises). It is practically impossible to mount any parallel campaign to get people to vote for your preferred party (unless, of course, you are a labour-affiliated union). You can’t even use your own blog-space to shill for your candidate on election day.
Having a quango going through media broadcasts, trying to define what is political and what is not will just add to the already poor quality of political debate in this country. The Broadcasting Standards Authority already has the powers to censure any broadcasting media that publishes in an overtly biased fashion, there should not be any necessity for something more. Besides, at election time almost anything will have some sort of political charge to it.
Perhaps we should ban all news broadcasts in the month before the election…
(NZ on Air: that last sentence was sarcasm, not a suggestion)