Posts tagged ‘Fairfax Press’


How a car accident makes you grateful

04.05.2015

The trouble with all the yellow-peril reporting that’s far more prevalent than it should be in Aotearoa is when something happens to you that may get people thinking about a stereotype.
   Back in March, of course, we had one writer justifying racism toward (east) Asian tourist drivers in the Fairfax Press, when the facts show that Aussies are the worst of the tourists when it comes to causing accidents on our roads. That’s no surprise, since there are simply more Aussie tourists driving on our roads; yet, as I pointed out in March, no one really seemed to mind how many accidents tourists were causing when the bulk of them were Aussies, Brits and continental Europeans.
   Then we had another one a few weeks later from the same newspaper group that suggested the increase in corrupt practices among New Zealand companies was due to immigration from countries such as China, tying in the story to a Deloitte report to give it legitimacy—except the report makes no such claim.
   With the exception of journalists like Dave Moore of The Press (part of the same newspaper group) who prefers to cite motoring facts and back them up rather than rely on hearsay from their grandfathers, it seems pretty easy for some in the media to draw a stereotype of the corrupt, incompetent Chinese driver. Those who think that we have completely moved past drawing pigtails (I said pigtails, not ponytails) on Chinese caricatures are wrong; while there aren’t such negative portrayals in our media, it seems incredibly easy, almost a default position, for some less responsible types to fall back on unrealistic conclusions. After all, The Dominion Post said my accent is hard to understand on its p. 1 some years back, and as many of you pointed out to them via the social networks, no one in the real world knows that they are talking about. (Note: I received a Twitter apology from the editor-in-chief.)
   The trouble comes when the fantasyland concocted by some starts impacting on everyday life, which is, of course, some of the discussions that US residents are having right now over how black Americans are portrayed. The peaceful protesters don’t get covered, because they are less newsworthy; the violent looters do, and it becomes dreadfully easy for the less cosmopolitan to equate being black with being violent.
   After a car accident on Friday, where everyone was exemplary, I couldn’t help but have these thoughts go through my mind. I found myself telling friends, ‘I had an accident, but the other driver was at fault,’ even though my friends know of my love of cars, and my above-average abilities with them. I double-checked with the police officer that he clearly understood me, when I should never have doubted his objectivity. My radar was alert for anyone who might fall back on the stereotype, even though I live in a city, with an urban population that generally has more contact with minority cultures and know that the fantasyland concocted by certain people is designed only to appeal to the ever-shrinking market of xenophobes in society.
   The ages of most of the people involved were under 30, so I really had nothing to fear: the other driver, the police officer, the witnesses, and the schoolboy who, as a responsible young New Zealander, called the emergency services for us. One witness offered her lounge for us to rest and get over the shock. The officer was scrupulously professional, not letting on any emotion (the Dieter Bonrath poker face school of policing, for the Cobra 11 fans out there) as he gathered his facts; he became friendlier after it was established we were both decent folks willing to help, and there was no booze involved. The ambulance staff were ultra-friendly and we had to assure them that we were all right and they should head off to the next gig where there may be a greater need for them. The other driver was honest, considerate and took responsibility, although she was in shock (as was I for some time, though I probably hid it better), yet her first utterance was to ask if I was all right. That says volumes about her character. Not only was this an urban population, this was a young urban population for whom skin colour is far down the list of priorities. Ditto with me: I can’t tell you what races people were. I just remembered everyone sounded like me. You know, like Sir Anand Satyanand.
   But it is a worry when your thoughts go toward defending yourself from the stereotype, because years of living in a place where you are the minority have taught you to be alert. Granted, no one shoots at us, since our cops are unarmed for the most part, but I began to get an appreciation for the hands-up gesture among black Americans in their country. It’s a symbol of so much, including ensuring that no one ever mistakes you for being armed, because of the negative associations that are portrayed. You nevertheless worry if anyone around you bought into fantasyland, because you know the less intelligent do: you’ve seen it. (I hasten to add that this is not a criticism of any particular people, because I am well aware that if you go to a place where my race is the majority, there will be a certain segment of the population there that holds negative and false stereotypes of others.)
   Race relations in this country have improved markedly since my arrival in 1976, so this is heartening. I don’t see things like refusal of service to people of my colour (yes, it has happened in the last four decades), and the stories of my great-uncle and others, of having stones and rocks thrown at you by fellow Kiwis because of their colour, seem foreign and distant. Last Friday was a reminder that most New Zealanders look at others fairly, regardless of their origins. That was a silver lining. Lucy Knight’s instincts kicked in to defend a Chinese New Zealander whose handbag was being stolen by a young man, and Mrs Knight got a serious head injury for her intervention, requiring months of surgery and rehabilitation. I doubt she evaluated the race of thief or victim before stepping in, and, rightly, The New Zealand Herald didn’t care, either. Go to your social media feeds, and by and large, racism is frowned upon. Last Friday was a fantastic reminder of the good of the place I have proudly called home most of my life. A place where xenophobia is virtually dead.
   We’ve come a long way, and we just need to weed out the last little bits of this strange fantasy where it’s apparently desirous that Aotearoa looks something like Midsomer but without the deaths. The reality is that the Midsomers of this world (by that I mean any society that adopts a Luddite position in part through having its head in the sand) are terrible at trading and stagnate. We’re in a global society, we’ve a lot to gain from working with others in different nations, and we’re really not that different across the planet. As someone once pointed out to me, the Palestinian Dream looks an awful lot like the American Dream.
   And, if you’re truly proud of your country, you’d naturally want to share, secure enough in your belief about the place to know that the fundamental things about it will never change. New Zealand will always be New Zealand, with an independent, determined outlook, and those who come get it. The more we share, the more we all get it. That’s a good thing.

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Posted in cars, China, culture, media, New Zealand, USA, Wellington | 1 Comment »


Read the report: Deloitte actually doesn’t blame migrants for increased corruption

26.03.2015

Deloitte has published a report on the increasing corruption in Australia and New Zealand, which Fairfax’s Stuff website reported on today.
   Its opening paragraph: ‘An increase in bribery and corruption tarnishing New Zealand’s ethical image may be due to an influx of migrants from countries where such practices are normal.’
   The problem: I’m struggling to find any such link in Deloitte’s report.
   The article paraphrases Deloitte’s Ian Tuke perhaps to justify that opening paragraph: ‘Tuke said one working theory explaining the rise was the influx of migrants from countries such as China, which are in the red zone on Transparency International’s index of perceived corruption,’ but otherwise, the report makes no such connection.
   The real culprit, based on my own reading of the report, is the lack of knowledge by Australians and New Zealanders over what is acceptable under our laws.
   Yet again I see the Chinese become a far bigger target of blame than the source suggests, when we should be cleaning our own doorstep first.
   The Deloitte report acknowledges that there is indeed a high level of corruption in China, Indonesia, India and other countries, making this a big warning for those of us who choose to extend our businesses there. It’s not migration to New Zealand that’s an issue: it’s our choosing to go into these countries with our own operations.
   It would be foolhardy, however, for an article in the business section to tell Kiwis to stop exporting.
   But equally foolhardy is shifting the blame for a problem that New Zealand really needs to tackle—and which we are more than capable of tackling.
   The fact is: if we Kiwis were so clean, we’d uphold our own standards, regardless of what foreign practices were. Our political leaders also wouldn’t confuse the issue with, say, what happened at Oravida.
   When faced with a choice of paying a kickback or not in the mid-2000s when dealing in eastern Europe, our people chose to stay clean—and we lost a lot of money in the process.
   To me they did the right thing, and I credit less my own intervention and more the culture we had instilled.
   Hong Kong cleaned up its act in the 1970s with the ICAC, and I have said for decades (since the Labour asset sales of the 1980s) that New Zealand would do well in following such an example. Why haven’t we?
   Perhaps if we stopped shifting the blame and followed the recommendations in the Deloitte report, including shifting corporate cultures and instigating more rigorous checks, we can restore our top ranking in those Transparency International reports. But this has to be our choice, not a case where we are blaming migrants, for which there is little support in this very reasonable report.

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Posted in business, China, culture, Hong Kong, India, leadership, media, New Zealand, publishing | No Comments »


When the media advocate racism to hide the real culprits behind bad driving

07.03.2015

This op–ed in the Fairfax Press smacks of typical yellow peril journalism that has come to typify what passes for some media coverage of late.
   Yes, some Chinese drivers are awful in their home country and they will bring those bad habits here. But I’d be interested to get some hard stats. For instance, Chris Roberts, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association, tells us that 5 per cent of accidents are caused by tourists, and 3 per cent of fatalities are caused by them. That has been the case for years. The only difference is the mix of tourists. We were never that concerned when Aussies, Brits and continental Europeans were causing that 3 per cent. All of a sudden, we are concerned when Chinese tourists are causing part of that 3 per cent.
   Roberts also notes that Australian tourists are the worst culprits when it comes to accidents here—no surprise, since more Aussies travel here.
   In the last three years, 240 were killed on our roads by drunk drivers. None were killed by a drunk visitor.
   So what a shame when a writer cannot uncover some basic facts and advocates ‘benevolent racism’, citing a book written by an American about Chinese drivers in China in support.
   I wouldn’t have a problem if we were up in arms in earlier years about all the accidents caused by tourists, and the media, especially talkback radio, were filled with calls to make sure the many Aussies and Brits were tested before they got behind the wheel of a rental car here.
   But to devote so much time and column inches now smacks of hypocrisy.
   There’s a difference between the everyday Chinese driver in China and a more educated tourist who has the means and smarts to go abroad—just as there is between an everyday Kiwi driver in New Zealand and those of us who opt to drive and travel in countries where they drive on the other side of the road. I’d be surprised if you told me you were as relaxed as you normally are in New Zealand when you drive abroad.
   I have done my own study on this—a tiny sample to be sure—where the incidents of bad driving in this country are—surprise, surprise—exactly in proportion to the racial mix. It is always troubling when we buy into a stereotype.
   You can easily argue that we drive more kilometres over a year in our country than a tourist might over a small period of time. However, I understand from my friend Nadine Isler, whose father is the expert in this area, that even when you factor this in, we Kiwis still fare poorly. The xenophobia, then, that I see in our country is disturbing, especially when it relates to the yellow peril.
   Many of my friends who visit here comment on the appalling behaviour of local drivers, and they notice a marked decline in the driving ability they witness after they arrive. As Dave Moore—also of the Fairfax Press, but a journalist who prefers to research and cite facts—has rightly pointed out, our road toll per capita is substantially higher than the UK’s. He has said so for years, consistently, warning us about our own low standards. This should tell you something about where we stand, and just how appalling the average Kiwi motorist is. As I say to British friends who bemoan their own driving standards: you need to kill another 1,400 Britons each year to get an idea of where New Zealand is. (I am using a mix of 2012 and 2013 figures for that number.)
   His solution, which also appeared on Fairfax’s Stuff website, has merit, but, of course, it forces us to take a long, hard look at ourselves—something we’re not happy doing when there is an easily identified group to blame. And blame, and blame.
   As I said in an earlier status update on Facebook: if we want to target the driving habits of tourists (and it is not a bad idea), then let’s get the 95 per cent of trouble-makers—Kiwis on Kiwi roads, and predominantly white—up to speed as well. If we are going to do any profiling of who the dangerous drivers are on our roads, it’s not Chinese tourists we should be concerned about.

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Posted in cars, China, culture, media, New Zealand | 5 Comments »


A familiar call after two mayoral campaigns on Wellington’s knowledge economy

01.08.2014

The latest Victoria University study, expressing that there is a shortage of creative people, sounds very familiar.
   Dr Richard Norman highlights in a Fairfax Press editorial that knowledge economy companies are ‘struggling to capitalise on opportunities for growth because of limited local talent …
   ‘Many of these companies are well-seasoned and high-earning—a third of those interviewed had total sales of over $50 million for the most recent financial year and about half had been here for more than two decades.’
   The study also revealed, ‘Views varied widely about the effectiveness of current promotion of Wellington. The strongest recurring idea for promotion of Wellington’s attributes was to focus on its potential as a digital city.’
   In other words, had people been listening to this sector—as I had for many years—this comes as no surprise.
   In both my mayoral campaigns, I expressed that Wellington needed to be open for business for tech and the knowledge economy, and last year I made it very clear that I would find ways to bridge the training at the tertiary level with these very companies seeking talented graduates. Not only would there be a city-supported internship programme modelled on that of Dunedin, but specifically geared to this sector, but there would be another that would connect graduates directly to these firms, which told me that they knew these young people were there, but their sits vac weren’t known to them.
   Wellington is a haven for companies operating in the knowledge economy, whether it’s down to our creativity thanks to the highest-profile firms being based here (Xero, Trade Me) or our work–life balance, and it has been heading that way for all of my career, since I began developing digital fonts in the 1980s and digital publications as the 1990s unfolded.
   Frictionless exports form part of a productive, profitable future for our city and yet they have often been ignored by some of the same-again politicians and business “leaders” who have a Life on Mars mindset to our economy.
   To this end I approached the Chancellor at Victoria University last week, and formally in writing earlier this week, to see if I could still create something that would help today’s students find the jobs that they want.
   Already I had signed up to the Alumni as Mentors programme (on to my second “mentee” now), and was part of the pilot programme for Vic internships late last year, to help enhance the employment prospects of final-year students. But that’s just in one company. I can do more.
   After a discussion with a senior Victoria University professor last year, I was very keen, had I been elected as mayor, to get Wellington to a level of critical mass when it came to R&D and technology. I have similarly been talking to representatives at other tertiary institutions such as Weltec, and of course, I still serve on one advisory board at Whitireia.
   My hands are more tied as a private citizen, and things will take longer, but they are still worth doing.
   As Dr Norman’s study was developed in partnership with the Greater Wellington Regional Council, with support from Grow Wellington and the Wellington City Council, there will be others who are thinking along the same lines. I’m sure that all these efforts will intersect, but we have to act.
   I only wish such a study was released a year earlier, as I don’t recall anything of the sort in The Dominion Post during the election cycle.

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Posted in business, culture, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


Upset about needing Google Plus to comment on YouTube? Here’s a radical idea: don’t

18.01.2014

There were a few upset people in November because Google compelled everyone who wanted to comment on YouTube to have a Google Plus profile. Even a co-founder of YouTube, Jawed Karim, objected.
   But it’s been a long time coming.
   In 2011, Google combined, as is its prerogative, YouTube accounts with its own. While prior to that you could maintain separate YouTube and Google accounts, by 2011 you couldn’t. That helped Google sell more advertising, since YouTube is one of the most visited sites in the world and 2011 figures show that 96 per cent of Google’s $37,000 million annual revenue comes from advertising. If it could get your YouTube browsing data mixed with your other preferences (when you saw a Doubleclick ad, or when you used your Gmail), then their targeting could be pretty potent. As we also saw, it didn’t matter if you had asked Google not to track you, either through its own Ads Preferences Manager or through an Iphone setting, Google would hack you to get these data—at least till it gets busted, by me to the NAI or by the Murdoch Press to a much larger audience.
   Will it try it again? You bet. It’s had a record of such behaviour and since the fines are tiny—they were penalized $17 million over the Apple hack, which is one two-thousandths of what they made, or about four hours’ revenue—there’s not a huge disincentive. Getting effectively a speeding ticket is worth the risk in their corporate culture.
   In 2011, already incensed by the annual battles I had with Google, although I was yet to discover their deception over Ads Preferences Manager, I thought: I won’t connect the two accounts. In fact, I might even stop using my YouTube account.
   My reasons for doing so were outlined exactly three years ago. They weren’t so much about Google’s advertising business but about the very real privacy issues that a friend had uncovered first-hand. He had asked me, however, to report it as a hypothetical, since he had discovered this very situation with a client. (I’m only revealing this now since a commenter confirmed that this scenario was real.)
   I’ve covered other YouTube privacy problems, so I won’t elaborate here, but once the Ads Preferences Manager con was discovered later that year, I did two things: (a) blocked all Doubleclick cookies, since opting out of their Manager actually did nothing after a day; (b) blocked all YouTube cookies, since going to YouTube was one way Google could alter its opt-out cookie into one that began tracking you again.
   From that day on, I could no longer comment on YouTube and the great news: after three years, I don’t miss it.
   And to make it even better, Google changed the commenting system recently, so that if you don’t have a YouTube cookie, you see no comments at all.
   That means my YouTube browsing is more intelligent since I don’t have to put up with the idiots that seem to outnumber the few smart ones on the website. (You can, incidentally, do the same with Fairfax’s Stuff.)
   If I find myself desperately needing to comment on a video, I simply embed it on a blog or on Facebook and write my remarks there for my own limited audience to enjoy. Those friends who comment don’t wind up making it all about Barack Obama’s birth certificate in the thread. Unlike YouTube.
   Since Google will not reverse its decision to force every YouTube account holder to have a Plus account—after all, the protests in 2011 came to nought, and since then, most people just came to accept the new status quo—then those who really dislike it might have to change their online habits. Google’s betting on users eventually giving up the fight—and, realistically, most of you will.
   And yet, not being able to comment on YouTube is no bad thing. I’ve done it for three years, and if your blog even carries advertising, then why not make a few bob for yourself for taking the time to write? Just try not to use Google ads.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, USA | 2 Comments »


Steve Guttenberg shows us how a Kiwi accent is done

27.12.2013

Back in September, The Dominion Post claimed on its front page that I have an ‘accent’ that is holding me back. It was a statement which the editor-in-chief subsequently apologized for, and which she had removed from the online edition—you can judge for yourself here if the claim was a falsehood. Still, despite having lived here for 37 years and having grown up here, I thought I had better take lessons from the great actor, Steve Guttenberg, on what a New Zealander sounds like, since evidently I was still too foreign for a newspaper reporter.
   Head to around 49 minutes for Steve in the persona of Lobo Marunga, from Auckland, in The Boyfriend School, which aired in New Zealand as Don’t Tell Her It’s Me. Forget Sir Ben Kingsley in Ender’s Game.

   My thanks to all those on Twitter and Facebook who complained to the newspaper back in September. The plus side is turning fictions like this into what they should be: a source of humour and entertainment.

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Posted in humour, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, TV, USA, Wellington | 4 Comments »


The Murdoch apology does not let us off the hook

16.07.2011

News International full-page apology

Above is Rupert Murdoch’s apology for the actions of the News of the World, to run in the UK in the wake of the resignations of Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton.
   They’re great words, and they’re straight out of the PR 101 playbook.
   Some might say they’re a trifle too late, as was Mr Murdoch’s meeting with the parents and sister of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
   Some might question whether this apology would even have been issued if the Murdoch Press could have kept a lid on the scandal, if the Metropolitan Police had not rediscovered its bottle, and if The Guardian had not been persistent.
   More telling about this apology’s sincerity is whether real steps will be taken to change the culture within the Murdoch Press.
   We still have an organization with nearly half a century’s worth of bullying tactics, skirting the boundaries of the law and allegedly breaking them, and a culture of the ends justify the means.
   Shifting that culture is going to be a tough call, not while so much of the behaviour has been institutionalized.
   It is going to take some effort on Rupert Murdoch’s own behalf, because, like all organizations where the boss’s personality is so strong, it’s going to rest on him to lead a cultural change. Allowing an insider who has always tolerated such behaviour to take the helm is not going to do an awful lot: you don’t get change by reinventing the past.
   I remain sceptical when I think back to all the scandals that the Murdoch Press not only uncovered, but had a hand in generating.
   I remain sceptical when I think back to the victories Murdoch has had over earlier controversies, and whether he believes he can weather this one simply with the passage of time.
   The world is a different place, and he may just be compelled to see this out.
   He may be 80, but he still has young kids by his third wife. Let’s hope he understands that he needs to do right by the 21st century, when people in the occident are more alert to corporate moves and their unsavoury hand in our daily lives. Given that his youngest children won’t have him around for as long as his oldest ones, what he has is his legacy—and unlike Prudence, Elisabeth, Lachlan and James, Grace and Chloe will spend more of their lives hearing about their Dad second-hand than first-hand.
   I think back to when we wrote Beyond Branding, and how we forecast that consumers would drive integrity and transparency through their demand. It looks like this is being played out now.
   The question I have is this: is this merely the first salvo in everyday people taking back their power, and will we sink back into disinterest in a month or two?
   Rupert Murdoch would not be in this position if we didn’t have a love of the gossip in The Sun and News of the World. We, the people, made this man rich.
   If the Murdoch that critics write about is the real man, he’s betting the farm on disinterest being the order of the day come the autumn.
   In my own world, I recall that last September, when the Fairfax Press reported on the possibility of the resurrection of the Wellywood sign, the silence on even the anti-sign Facebook group was deafening. One person even said he would vote for my rival and eventual winner, Celia Wade-Brown, because I did not do enough to fight the sign.
   All it took was five months for one man to forget that I was the only mayoral candidate who actively fought it. I am not picking on him alone, because I don’t believe he was the only one to suffer from a short memory. We all do it.
   Instead, this one issue alone, trivial by the standards of the Murdoch story, took 14 months before anger subsided enough for it to resurface in force with a new news report.
   This is the defence of the bully boss and the pompous politician: the hope people forget, thanks to our lives being harder during a recession. The tougher the economy gets, the more they think they can get away with, since they hope our attention will be swayed. Without a comfortable life, will we have the luxury of monitoring those in power?
   It’s up to us to get wiser and realize there’s more important news than what the tabloid press tells us is interesting.
   It’s up to us to realize that celebrity news really does not affect us, unless it’s truly inspirational. And 99 per cent of it isn’t.
   It’s up to us to understand that ‘sources close to’ do not constitute the truth, nor are those sources capable of the mind-reading of their subjects.
   And it’s up to us to remember the past, rather than look fondly on it with rose-coloured glasses.
   Corporate misbehaviour alone can fill a newspaper, as can the incompetence of our leaders. Yet we see little of either since advertising is affected by blowing the lid on the first, and a power base is affected by blowing the lid on the second.
   The first is what killed the News of the World, not a sudden crisis of confidence by James Murdoch, who put his name to the announcement of its closure.
   The second contributed to the delay in a Murdoch apology, in the hope that the Murdoch Press’s close ties to the Conservative government would be sufficient to weather it through the scandal.
   Look around, especially in this election year in New Zealand, and you see very similar forces at work.
   Regardless of what Murdoch does, real change starts with us.

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Posted in business, culture, leadership, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, UK, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


Privacy Commissioner agrees with my 2009 thoughts: New Zealand Post breached your privacy

20.06.2011

A Fairfax Press headline today: ‘“Large-scale breach” of privacy rules by NZ Post’. The Privacy Commissioner has found New Zealand Post breached privacy rules in a promotion in July 2009, which I thought would have been a juicy story back then.
   The reporters write:

The 2009 survey asked participants 57 multi-choice questions, ranging from their names, addresses, preferred petrol station and favourite magazine to their mortgage rate, credit card limit and partner’s income.
   It also offered participants the chance to win cash, home entertainment and travel vouchers worth thousands of dollars if they completed the survey.
   Once collected, the names and addressees of participants were rented out to “trusted, contracted commercial partners”, both in New Zealand and overseas.

   I thought all this sounded very familiar, so I went back on to this blog to discover this post. I wasn’t alone in thinking that the survey was extremely dodgy, as there was a comment in agreement, and the Fairfax report indicates that numerous Kiwis went to the New Zealand Post blog to complain. (Unfortunately, with the demise of Vox, the image on my page has been permanently deleted.)
   I wrote at the time:

Essentially, this is a form requesting your details so you can be added to spam lists.
   Ironical that in a country with anti-spam legislation, another government department is prepared to sell our personal information to spammers (including foreign spammers which our law enforcement agencies cannot pursue readily), and believes one’s identity is only worth a maximum of $15,000.

   The pertinent clause, printed in 7 pt type, was this:

By undertaking the New Zealand Post survey, your and your partner’s name, address and other information you supply (including your email and telephone numbers if you tick the boxes below), may be provided to companies and other organisations from New Zealand and overseas to enable them to provide you and/or your partner, with information about products and services relevant to your responses to this survey. New Zealand Post may also use this information for the same purpose.

On the back was 5 pt type, saying New Zealand Post disclaims liability for:

any claims, losses, damages, injuries, costs and expenses suffered or sustained or incurred (including but not limited to indirect or consequential loss), arising out of or in any way connected with the competition and/or its prizes except for liability that cannot be excluded by law

   I concluded then: ‘it can’t really be found guilty of passing on information that a consumer submits voluntarily, and based on this term it won’t be found guilty of contributing to the spam problem that we are all trying to fight.’ I advised that the promotion should be reported to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the Consumers’ Institute—and if I was on form then, I would have done so myself.
   A professor quoted by Fairfax for its story today concluded, ‘the survey appeared to have breached “each of the four information privacy principles that relate to the collection of personal information”.’
   A lecturer said, in the words of the journalists, ‘the survey’s collection of personal information were unfair in terms of the market research code of practice and industry standards.’
   I’m glad to know the Privacy Commissioner was on to it enough to investigate New Zealand Post. But as my friends in Dunedin are finding over its actions to save the Dunedin Metro branch of Post, this government department is led by some very arrogant types who think they are above everyday New Zealanders. To ‘utterly rebut every conclusion’ indicates that Post believes it exists in a dream-land: it was as clear in 2009, as it is today, that it had messed up. Issuing such impassioned, exaggerated statements indicates that it is yet another outfit that has got too comfortable for its own good, like some others in this city that I can name.

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Posted in business, culture, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | No Comments »


It’s about content, especially when reality is more appealing than reality TV

10.04.2011

The Apprentice logo
It’s shows like The Apprentice that have kept me away from watching TV.

I was surprised to learn, in conversation last week, that TV viewership is up, while print is down.
   Shows you can’t base too much of what the general public does on your own experience.
   I estimate my magazine and book consumption is roughly where it was for the last half-decade, but I watch around seven hours of broadcast television (not online stuff) per month at the top end.
   The reason I have a television set is to show DVDs, and little more. If I had a more advanced unit, I might consider sticking USB sticks containing short films from friends into it, but it’s little more than a display unit for other media.
   It surprises me, because I would say I watched a lot of telly in the 1970s and 1980s.
   As to newspapers, the last time I bought or subscribed to one was 1993.
   My attention does seem to be on the computer, and that’s been growing since the 1990s.
   Part of it came from the business—getting news from Reuter Textline, for instance—but when a lot of this stuff became mainstream and everyone could get it, I joined in.
   I don’t think it’s down to the fact that a lot of it is free—though having said that I do not miss the Murdoch Press’s paywalled (sic) publications one iota—but the fact that everything can be tailored to my tastes. As much as I rip into Google, I have always said Google News was a fine product that allows me to do just that. (I use the UK one, ever since the US one turned into something unusable.)
   What it boils down to is the long shift from top–down media to participatory media, something that’s not new, by any means.
   At the core, it’s all driven by content.
   My dissatisfaction with, say, the newspapers, was due to the small amount of international coverage we were getting in the early 1990s. The Dominion had cut its coverage down to less than a page a day. The last time I saw a copy of The Dominion Post was at the airport on a flight—I collected it from the gate—and spent more time on the crosswords than I did on the world news. It’s not as bad as a single page, but it could be better. (Don’t get me started on the wasted opportunity of not reducing the page size with its last redesign, especially as I only seem to read it on the plane.)
   And telly is much the same. I simply found shows of yesteryear more appealing—but it’s not as though shows of a similar ilk aren’t being made. They just aren’t shown by the terrestrial channels.
   With my apologies to those friends who like these shows, I just cannot find competitive cookery shows, the various Idols or Simon Cowell’s X Factors terribly interesting. Even when I appeared on TV regularly here, I didn’t watch the show. I have not watched a single episode of Survivor, and if the Donald gets his way and The Apprentice is set from the Oval Office, I still wouldn’t find it terribly interesting.
   I was one of those idiots who stayed up to watch Hustle or Daybreak, and these days, about the only things I do watch are Top Gear and Doctor Who. (Lucky for Prime.)
   Shows cut from everyday experiences bore me, especially this genre called ‘reality TV’, especially when there’s something more interesting. It’s called ‘reality’.
   In a city like Wellington, there’s always something to do, and everything’s so close by, it wouldn’t surprise me if that particular genre of television was more dead here than in some other cities. And, if you really wanted to emulate television, you can even see roughly the same people each week.
   While there is some truth in saying that a lot of content has become a commodity—check out some of the sites that Google News has let in occasionally—the good stuff, content that is differentiated and smart, is still prized. (Strangely, that’s the Murdoch Press argument for its paywall—but I guess we all have different ideas over the definition of prized.)
   So upping my television watching or even newspaper-reading is dead easy. Customized printing is already here, or will it be down to tablet apps? Either way, that’s one way to deliver a decent newspaper experience that I might subscribe to.
   However, I can’t see television exactly catering for my whims in the near future, not while more people watched Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Masterchef for Sweatshop Kids—or whatever the heck that has diversified to—than Life on Mars (the original) down here. Bringing up the percentage of drama to where it once was would work for me and the tiny minority that I represent, and commercially, it looks like we aren’t worth it.
   Anyway, I am hooked on this ‘reality’ at the moment, and it’s in part thanks to reality TV breaking me out of my old habits. I didn’t think I’d be grateful for reality TV, but, there you go, I am: it got me away from the box.

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Posted in business, culture, interests, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, TV, UK, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Taranaki food shop must be a front for international finance

02.02.2011

In the Fairfax Press today, this story: ‘Food shop protest “racist”’.
   From what I can make out from this story, New Plymouth District Councillor Sherril George (her address, telephone number and email are here) has been urging people to boycott a Waitara food outlet run by some folks of Cambodian ethnicity.
   This business, Town & Country Foods, says it has employed New Zealanders to get it up and running, some neighbouring businesses say it has brought extra custom to the street (though the Hot Bread Shop has seen its sales dip 50 per cent), yet Councillor George claims that it does not support ‘the local community’.
   Most Taranaki residents support the business, which is heartening. One person in the article says Councillor George has a personal vendetta and it’s to do with the extra competition her own food business faces.
   My concern is this quote which she provided to John Anthony:

This is nothing to do with my shop. This is to do with the health of our town and the economy. I’m trying to make other small communities aware of what happens when these people move in. There are 14 food stores here in Waitara and one comes in here and kills it for everyone else.

   Now, I’m sure she knows that the owner is a gentleman called Hoyt Khuon, so what’s with that third sentence?
   Who are ‘these people’?
   Would the Councillor care to elaborate? She is, after all, getting called out and being labelled a racist by one person in the article, and I’m sure she’d like to deny that charge.
   From what I read in the article, Mr Khuon employed locals to set up his business and is employing locals to work in the business. I only know the story second-hand, but how is this ‘bleeding the town dry’ when it’s a local business, owned locally, and paying taxes locally? It’s not as though the profits are all being siphoned offshore.
   If that’s her problem, there are plenty of other businesses she needs to stand outside. Will she monitor the fruit juice aisles at New World and demand that no one buys Just Juice because it is Japanese-owned? Will she stop deliveries of Wattie’s products to Waitara because of its ownership by H. J. Heinz of Pennsylvania? Will she stop giving quotes to the Fairfax Press because it is Australian-owned? There are bigger businesses she needs to take on if she is truly concerned about the health of her ‘town and the economy’.
   For years, I’ve been voting with my dollar on how I spend, so the argument about supporting New Zealand businesses resonates with me—and Town & Country appears to be a legitimate New Zealand-registered, tax-paying business.
   Unless she provides the Taranaki and, now, the New Zealand public with how Mr Khuon’s business is a front for international financial traffic, her arguments appear deeply unconvincing—and only lend weight to the charge of racism that one resident has levelled at her.

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Posted in business, culture, media, New Zealand, politics | 4 Comments »