top of page
  • rmacculloch

The NZ Herald has made assertions that appear to be refuted by scientific evidence

We recently heard about a deal between the government and the "Shortland Street" show related to promoting the recruitment of nurses. The Otago Daily Times reported (below), "Government spending on boosting nurse recruitment through TV soap Shortland Street & TVNZ is commercially sensitive and will not be made public, a spokesperson says".

Why is it in the public interest to know about advertising deals between media outlets & governments? Because the media has been shown to bias content in ways favorable to the government in exchange for advertising revenues - at least according to Harvard Business School Professor Rafael Di Tella. He finds that higher government advertising in a newspaper results in the paper being less likely to engage in "adverse coverage" of it (see the link below to his paper in the American Economic Journal).

On this note, a few months ago there was an extraordinary exchange between the Editors of the NZ Herald & their readers, a number of whom alleged bias. It was held under the title, "Q&A: Media, 'bias' & the $55m Govt fund - NZ Herald editors Shayne Currie, Murray Kirkness and Miriyana Alexander answer your questions". For example:

Louis H asked:

Government departments are spending more than ever on advertising, the latest obvious example being the 'Road to Zero' road safety campaign. Can you quantify the extent of revenue the Herald receives from the Government via advertising? The Taxpayers' Union has been unable to obtain this information via the Official Information Act because it is held across dozens of different departments.

Murray Kirkness (NZ Herald Editor) In reply to Louis H Hi Louis. I don't know the answer to this question. The figure is irrelevant to us, because it has no influence over our decision-making or editorial direction.

"Irrelevant"? Why say so when the published scientific evidence in a world-class journal has shown, at least using data from overseas, that it is highly relevant and does influence decision-making & editorial direction? I wanted to check whether similar results are found in NZ. However, as Louis H. notes, it has proved impossible to discover how much government advertising is being done (and where) using Official Information Requests. At the other end of the deal, the response of the Herald is "don't know"!?



bottom of page