Continuing our series of interviews with prominent bloggers and pundits, News Editor Sam Bookman chatted to Martyn ”Bomber” Bradbury. Bomber is a former editor of Craccum, and made headlines a couple of years ago after being uninvited from Radio New Zealand’s ”panel” show after a scathing diatribe against John Key. Bomber now blogs at the left-wing blog www.thedailyblog.co.nz, and hosts Citizen A on Face TV (7:30pm Thursday, Sky Channel 89).
Sam: Thanks for joining us. What can blogs provide that the mainstream media are unable to?
BB: I think that there has been a lot of academic criticism of the mainstream media in terms of it serving corporate interests and corporate values. I think that the blogs are a response to that and a counterweight to that. Many blogs are [a response] in this country – Public Address, The Standard.
could you give us an example in the New Zealand context of how the mainstream media reflects corporate interests and values?
I think if you look at the New Zealand Herald it’s had a long history of attacking people on welfare, attacking Maori, attacking values that don’t fit within a certain view.
You’ve come into trouble at least once with your experience in the mainstream media with what happened on Radio New Zealand. Do you think that’s an example of some of the issues that plague the media?
I think that’s an example of self-censorship, which does exist in New Zealand and is certainly a feature of corporate media.
Lately you’ve also been dabbling in community television. Is that something you see taking off in New Zealand and becoming a bigger force?
I think that Citizen A on Face TV on Sky has been able to grow quite an audience due mostly to the abysmal offerings from the mainstream media. When I fronted the Save7 campaign around New Zealand and spoke in various cities to talk about the importance of public broadcasting, those meetings were generally packed. There was a real anger at the way public discourse in the mainstream has been allowed to be degraded to the Seven Sharp level.
Presumably you’re a strong supporter of public broadcasting. Do you think it’s the role of the government to provide that alternative voice, or do you think its better when something like Face TV can provide that?
I think that it’s exceptionally important for the government to provide funding for that. When it’s left to the corporates they tend to not do it.
And do you think on the whole that Radio New Zealand – our closest thing to a public broadcaster – provides a counterweight and voice for that kind of discourse?
It certainly does. I think that if you compare Radio New Zealand to Newstalk ZB or Radio Live there is a yawning chasm in the credibility factors there.
So there’s not too much bitterness about your experience on Radio New Zealand then…
No! I’m terribly saddened that they felt the need to self-censor and react as farcically as they did to my comments on the Prime Minister. But on the whole beyond my own issues with them I think that as a public broadcaster they are head and shoulders above any other broadcaster on the New Zealand radio spectrum.
You’re obviously a blogger from the left. Most blogging ratings suggest that it’s the right-wing blogs – Whaleoil and Kiwiblog – that get the most hits. Why do you think that is?
It’s certainly the truth in New Zealand – it’s not true overseas. I think what you’ve got in the New Zealand spectrum is two very well-known right-wing blogs who are very good at creating and generating hits to their sites. Whether or not people are coming to Whaleoil to read his [Cameron Slater’s] hate-filled far-right merchantry is a moot point. If you look at what gets the most amount of traffic on Cameron’s site it’s images of cats, guns and proverbs – he’s very big on the proverbs, that picks up a lot of traffic from America! So there’s a lot of external traffic to those sites. I think a lot of those stats are quite fluffed.
Are there any of the right-wing blogs that you enjoy reading?
I don’t really need to read the right wing blogs to see what their memes are. I think you can just read the New Zealand Herald editorials to pick up where it’s going.
Fair enough. What do you think of the state of the left side of New Zealand politics at the moment?
I think they’re going through an identity crisis. Particularly Labour – they’re not sure what they are, whether they’re trying to capture National Party voters, or the 800,000 enrolled voters who didn’t bother to vote in the last election, making the last election one of the lowest voter turnouts in a century. I think the politics of inspiration and providing political vision would be able to attract those voters. Labour seems to think that chasing people who are voting for John Key is the way to victory. I think that is a ridiculous political strategy.
The Greens continue to go from strength to strength. It won’t be difficult to see them getting 15% in the next election. Mana are certainly bringing some very strong left-wing values into the mix. Depending on how close the next election is, the Greens-Labour-Mana Party would be the most progressive government this country’s ever seen.
Could you see the Greens one day taking over from Labour as our most progressive force?
I think it’s a matter of time – it’s not an if game, it’s a when game. If you look at their social media strategy and the popularity of their online presence it’s such head and shoulders above what Labour are able to achieve. They have almost three times as many supporters online. So the Greens have tapped into where the future is going – Labour is drowning a little.
And what do you think of the state of student media at the moment? As a former Craccum editor, do you keep with what’s going on?
I think I had it very good in my day because the student media still had a national profile that people would follow and the mainstream would pick it up. These days I think there are so many more distractions, and certainly a lack of focus on campus in terms of culture and identity. User-pays has killed off any ounce of solidarity we once had. I think Craccum editors today have an incredibly tough job in holding students’ attention, and I salute their attempts because it must be much more difficult now!
Do you think there’s a way that student magazines can recreate that solidarity and relevance?
Well I think that the Voluntary Student Membership has killed off so much of the infrastructure and resource for students to be able to collectivise and use that asset to produce a voice. I think it’s very difficult for them to be the conscience of society now when membership is voluntary, the unions themselves have been effectively dismantled, and universities are taking over what once were core student association services for themselves. I think it would take some severe poverty to remind people that they have to get on the streets and fight for what they actually want.
Interesting – in some ways your answer is similar to [right wing blogger] David Farrar’s when we interviewed him a few weeks ago. On a personal level, do you think that student media is something that prepared you well for the real world?
Student media is the greatest place to cut your teeth in media. If you do a really good job it can provide a Launchpad. So many people I know started off in student media across the political spectrum – it’s a very important place. I think that the subsidy that they’re able to get from the students associations allows them a freedom where they don’t have to do what the advertiser wants. I think that’s a real freedom that you never really achieve once you leave.