Prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, has canceled one of her most famous regular media appearances, shocking commentator, and sparking criticism that she is avoiding tough questions.
Newstalk ZB morning presenter Mike Hosking announced Monday that Ardern would no longer appear for weekly interviews: a regular segment that New Zealand’s prime ministers have watched for more than 30 years.
In a statement given to the media, Ardern’s office confirmed that the schedule for media appearances had been reviewed “and although not reduced overall, it has changed”. Ardern is no longer doing a special weekly slot at the Hosking event, but will continue to pop up “when problems arise”.
Ardern’s office did not provide a reason for the change, but Hosking said he was notified of the decision about a month ago. He said on today’s broadcast that he believed the prime minister found his interview too aggressive, and “too held to account”.
“Without being too rude to some of the other players in this market, the reality is that the prime minister enjoys a more friendly and obedient relationship,” he said. write on New Zealand Herald.
Hosking has previously supported the National Party, but has denied biased criticism in his journalism. Previously she hosted the Morning Report, the RNZ morning news program, and election debates.
Mike Hosking’s breakfast is the country’s most popular commercial morning show, while the New Zealand prime minister has had a regular segment on Newstalk since 1987, when the late broadcaster Paul Holmes would roast David Lange.
Last year one of Ardern’s ministers, Willie Jackson, said Hosking has been “quite harsh” in questioning Ardern, and taking the “most negative judgment” of his treatment of Covid-19.
Ardern’s decision to stay away from the platform has fueled his political opponents amid the weight oversight of his leadership and message through the recent Auckland coronavirus outbreak.
On Twitter, National party leader Judith Collins suggested Ardern dreaded Hosking’s “all the tough questions”.
Colin Peacock, host of Radio New Zealand Mediawatch, said while Hosking did provide an editorial line in his questions, the prime ministers never looked uncomfortable in their conversations.
He said he was surprised by Ardern’s decision: “It made him open to criticism that he was picking and choosing media.”
But that’s nothing new for politicians, Peacock added, noting that John Key and senior ministers in his National government routinely refuse to be interviewed on Radio New Zealand – where Ardern will continue to appear weekly.
“I can’t see a pattern in this government that is incompatible with the others in terms of access or willingness to answer questions,” Peacock said.
He also questions the value of the weekly slot, apart from being a “useful buffer” for an otherwise inaccessible prime minister, and instead a “slightly artificial” feature of the modern media landscape.
Ben Thomas, a political commentator and public relations consultant, said Ardern already has a strong platform to have on social media, with a direct address on Facebook and Instagram routinely reach hundreds of thousands of viewers.
“If you were a politician, of course you would prefer him over the interview, even if that is not hostility.
“There is nothing strange about politicians picking and choosing their places. What has changed is the balance between how much they feel they need media, in the era of social media. “
But he was surprised by Ardern’s decision to give up his Newstalk slot when it was a tool to reach out to National voters, many of whom had turned to Labor in the last election.
“It feels weird to let go of that channel unless you’ve cut it off, politically, it’s better for you to cut it off and face no questions.
“It shows strength, because you show ‘We don’t need the biggest commercial news channel in the country’, and it shows a weakness: ‘I don’t think I can get or keep a better voice by engaging with Mike Hosking and his audience’. “
But in reaching the decision to forgo his weekly meetings, Ardern will make a cost-benefit analysis, said Thomas.
He noted that the prime minister’s recent radio appearances have been on The Rock, the Breeze and Mai FM – stations that focus on music rather than current events.
“Maybe the calculation is, he has a better chance of keeping those voters if he continues to talk to them on Facebook, The Breeze, Country FM than to be interviewed by Mike Hosking.”
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