Paul Henry, TVNZ & Apologies As ApologiaPosted: October 5, 2010
It’d be remiss of me to go without saying anything about Paul Henry’s latest ratings ploy and TVNZ’s bizarre attempt at damage control. But on this occasion maybe it’d be better to let the players speak for themselves.
Paul Henry to John Key on the country’s next Governor-General: “Are you going to choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time … Are we going to go for someone who is more like a New Zealander this time?”
Paul Henry yesterday: “The comments that I made were perfectly clear, and I have no particular interest in discussing them any further….some people are very easily offended.”
Paul Henry today: “I am sincerely sorry if I seemed disrespectful to him (Sir Anand), that was not what I intended and I certainly didn’t intend to sound racist.”
TVNZ yesterday: “The audience tell us over and over again that one of the things they love about Paul Henry is that he’s prepared to say the things we quietly think but are scared to say out loud…. The question of John Key is the same, we want the answer but are too scared to ask.”
Paul Henry’s statement today (no doubt prepared by TVNZ): “It was wrong for me to ask the questions that I did.”
The reaction to Henry’s comments typically devolves into two debates: whether (a) he really means the things he says, and (b) whether TVNZ tacitly endorses them for the sake of ratings. The first one is and always has been immaterial but TVNZ really tipped its hand yesterday with their publicist’s stunning assertion that “it’s what we’re all thinking”.
When I first read that I was convinced that Danyl at the Dim-Post was trying to pull a fast one, because it was inconceivable that such a blatantly offensive statement could be issued on behalf of a state broadcaster. I say offensive not just because it explicitly endorsed Henry’s comments, but also because it blithely assumed “we” the viewing public are all as white, upper-middle-class and heteronormative as Henry. Presumably everyone else has switched over to Prime, then.
It’s good to see that Henry has been suspended for the time being, but TVNZ CEO Rick Ellis’ statement on the matter is no mea culpa: there’s no mention of their own role in fostering Henry’s behaviour and it only slightly retreats from yesterday’s astonishing apologia:
“We give Paul a lot of freedom with the Breakfast programme and he does a magnificent job. But as we have said before, with that freedom comes responsibility.
“He is a provocative host who speaks his mind and that is what many New Zealanders like about him.”
I’d be very surprised and not a little disappointed if that’s enough to satisfy the public. As Stuff’s nifty little interactive timeline shows, this has been a long time coming and TVNZ really needs to issue its own earnest apology for endorsing Henry’s behaviour over the years. This isn’t about sackcloth and ashes and claiming our pound of flesh, mind you; this is about a renewed commitment to the values that befit a state broadcaster.