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  • rmacculloch

Can TV One Sided News Stop Misleading the Public on Vital Matters of State affecting our economic futures

OneNews strikes again - breaking the law by reporting biased news when it has a statutory obligation not to do so. Time it's sold off or broken up. The news team aren't worth the celluloid their faces appear on. Today they're screaming the headline, "Aucklanders are sceptical of the Mayors Ambitious Plans". Mayor Brown wants to sell Auckland Council's small minority holding of 10% of publicly listed company, Auckland Airport Ltd, and lease the port's business operations. It's a no-brainer for most economists. The city is desperately short of funds. Compared to hiking up your rates, letting waste go into the harbor when it rains (which runs the risk of swimmers, like my Dad's friend off North Head, catching polio) and being stuck in congested traffic half your day, who wouldn't support Brown's plans?

But no - TV One Sided News says you and me are "sceptical". They quote a Talbot Mills poll saying we don't support selling the Airport shares. Here's its survey question:

"There is a proposal for Auckland Council to sell off its shares in Auckland Airport. How strongly do you support or oppose the privatisation of Auckland airport shares?"

OneNews says 38% oppose selling, 34% support and 28% are unsure. But if you ask folks what "privatization" means, most will tell you that the government is giving up ownership & control of an asset and selling it off so that it becomes privately owned, maybe even by a single big business tycoon. So for many, "privatization" is a pejorative. It comes with bad connotations. However the Council doesn't have ownership control over the Airport. Our government already privatized it, back in 1998. Today the Council holds just 10% of the shares. I could not think of a more biased way to ask that question. Had it been worded:

"There's a proposal for Auckland Council to sell its 10% shareholding in Auckland Airport so the Mayor can clean up the sewerage going into Auckland Harbor, cut congestion so you don't take forever going to work & lower your rates. Do you support or oppose this sale?"

.. then don't you suspect the answers may have been different? Similarly Talbot Mills asks,

"There is a proposal to sell off the Auckland Port operating business which is currently 100% owned by Auckland Council and Aucklanders, via a lease. How strongly do you support or oppose the sale of the port operations?"

Why muddy the waters by asking whether you "support or oppose the sale" of port operations when most people consider leasing versus buying or selling to be very different things. If you buy / sell a house or car then you get / give up ownership title; if you lease then you don't. The question is biased - people who find selling the port to be offensive would answer no, even though the Mayor has not proposed selling it. OneNews writes, "Nearly half of voters - 45% - opposed leasing the port operating business, with 31% in favor, while 23% were unsure". Why say so many "opposed leasing" when the question actually asked whether they "oppose the sale"? Question wording is of huge importance when designing surveys, which is one of my main fields in economics.

Struck by the questions OneNews quoted to mislead its viewers by not reporting their loaded nature, I looked up Talbot Mills website which says, "We work with leading businesses both sides of the Tasman, run the research program of NZ Prime Minister Chris Hipkins .." Stop. Say no more. That explains it. Maybe this Blog is futile because the game is stacked against us with connections every way you look. Can TV One-Sided News please clarify whether it is in cahoots with Hipkins to destabilize Mayor Brown?



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