Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

23rd October 1998

Copyright © 1998 Russell Brown

The Web Version of The Hard News is made available
by NZ Now Net

HardNews Home

1998 Hard News


HARD NEWS is first broadcast in Auckland on 95bFM around 9.30am on Fridays and replayed around 5.15pm Friday and 10am Sunday on The Culture Bunker. You can listen to 95bFM live on the Internet. Point your web browser to You will need an MP3 player. Currently New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of GMT.

HARD NEWS is also available in MP3 form from and in text form at You can subscribe to the 95bFM Hard News mailing list at


or rather, gidday, and and what about that Labour Party Creative Industries white paper, eh? Yes, the would-be government-in-waiting has frightened the old grey mares by launching a proposal for rock n roll. Take me to the bridge!

Almost all the attention, of course, has focused on the proposal for local content quotas for the broadcast media, which is really but one element of an interesting package. The proposed change to benefit entitlements - allowing young musicians and artists to be paid an arts grant to the level of the unemployment benefit if they meet criteria established by industry representatives - looks to me more like a revolution than anything else.

There's barely a local ensemble, successful or otherwise, that hasn't already treated the dole as an arts grant at some time. It's just a reality of doing what they do in such a small market. We don't bat an eyelid at directly funding highbrow culture, so legitimising the longstanding informal funding system would simply clear the air. It makes more sense than sending them scrubcutting on the community wage, doesn't it?

The proposed change to parallel importing laws is a starter as well. Oddly enough, since the government spat on copyright by changing the paralleling laws overnight, the rights holders - including software and music companies - have been shielding New Zealanders from the drop in the dollar. There's no margin no more for most legitimate importers, so the bulk of parallel imports have been pirated. And even when they're not, they tend to come from territories where artists' rights fees don't get paid.

What Labour has come up with is a two-year exemption from parallel importing for new music and software titles. The idea being that we can still get the cheap car parts and tellies - and even those back catalogue CDs gems that Polygram won't import - but we won't see the Warehouse pillaging the industry by importing the Top 40 from some busted Asian economy where they're not too fussy about paying royalties. Quite clever, really.

Quotas will be a tougher sell, especially to the broadcast industry, but there's already been some tosh talked here. People who either don't know or should know better have screamed that it'd be bureaucratic and unworkable.

Actually there doesn't seem much evidence of that in Australia, South Africa, Ireland or France - and of course APRA (the Australian Performing Rights Association) already operates a sophisticated, efficient, low-cost reporting system. That's how publishers and artists get their broadcast rights money. Given that Mike Chunn, the NZ head of APRA, spoke at the Labour launch, I'm sure they'd share advice and possibly even resources.

I'd also expect about the same degree of compliance that APRA operates. They're not going to go and beat up some little iwi station - which would almost certainly meet the 10% quota anyway. The overseas experience seems to be that these things just become transparent.

That said, I was at the media launch and Helen Clark very clearly said it was not Labours' cultural affairs policy, or its broadcasting, or, indeed, any sort of policy. It's a white paper and I'm sure they'll be watching the response quite closely.

After all, it should be noted that like the police force, most commercial radio programmers aren't quite the boneheads they were a decade or two ago. Some of them are making an effort, and I don't think we'll ever revisit the days not long after the launch of the FM band when programmers wouldn't play Crowded House because it wasn't on the format sheets they bought from the US.

So - New Zealand notches up its first Ecstasy death, occasioning a front page lead in the Herald and all sorts of shock-horror reportage on TV. But woah ... People have been taking Ecstasy and partying in New Zealand for about 10 years. How many young New Zealanders have turned themselves to hamburger driving drunk in that time? How many rapes, assaults and murders as a result of alcohol intoxication? How many cases of paracetamol poisoning?

And double woah ... it turns out we aren't even sure it's Ecstasy. The poor woman who began convulsing at the Kase and died in hospital screened positive for some sort of amphetamine, but it'll be several weeks before anyone knows whether it was actually E in her system.

It seems that whatever was in the woman's bloodstream she put it there herself - in which case, the police should never have been talking about homicide. There was a suggestion, enthusiastically canvassed by the media, that the woman's drink was spiked with whatever killed her - but quite why someone would pay $80 for a little white tablet and then drop it in someone else's drink I'm not sure.

The sad and somewhat unnerving fact about E is that traumatic and fatal toxic reactions to it are very rare - but almost wholly unpredictable. It could happen to you. In all overwhelming probability it won't - but there's no way of telling.

How overwhelming? Well, in the UK for example, there have been about five deaths a year since the 1988 Summer of Love. But that's out of a million doses necked every weekend. And some of those people - including the cause celebre Leah Betts and, on the evidence, the young woman at the Kase - died of drinking too much water. To put it another way, more people have died taking Viagra this year than Ecstasy.

On the other hand, the the jury is back in on long-term E use and the verdict isn't good. Brain cells take a bit of a beating - and in spider monkeys they only partly recover. I'll leave you to picture a whole lot of spider monkeys on E.

Speaking of drugs, there's a highly organised new distribution organisation on the ground in Auckland - pushing its uppers to the well-heeled wankers of Parnell. Yes, Starbucks is here. But don't get your hopes up. The average Auckland cafe serves a brew that canes Starbucks. Our coffee is really very good - and we're not used to having a short black served in a tall paper cup either. The Americans' best niche might be the cold summer coffees they serve in LA, but don't hold your breath.

And hot on the heels of the new American caffeine phenomenon comes the beast that threatens the very lives of our nation's children - the half-man half makeup creature they call Marilyn Manson.

Graham Capill of the Christian heritage Party wants Mazza barred from entering the country, because he encourages youth suicide and deviant behaviour. Oh, for goodness sake. He's a pop star. He's made quite a good pop album with a few freaky trimmings. He actually seems like quite a nice bloke. Does Graham Capill really have nothing better to worry about in this country?

Meanwhile, in the same week that Labour went rock 'n' roll, the National government has been revealed as a bunch of social inadequates. Christ, at least the Young Nats used to know how to throw a do - now they're full of spinny-eyed youngsters who want to be John Luxton. Any, the news is that we won't be partying like it's 1999 unless the Millennium Commission gets its act together.

Already Denis O'Reilly, who actually seemed to have it going on, has resigned from the job of Millennium Commissioner. And the rather trifling $10 million in grants is in the half-witted hands of Murray McCully, who hasn't got around to distributing any of it yet. But he assured everyone this week that grants would be available to anyone who could come up with a project which would attract international media attention or pull the tourists.

What the hell sort of attitude is that? How about the locals? Isn't the idea for all us just to have a nice party or two and face the future together as New Zealanders? If we needed any further proof that this is a government that's lost its soul, this is it. This is piss-up in a brewery writ large. I really cannot believe how pathetic this is.

Because, folks, there's every chance we're going to need some cheering up come January 1, when the power's down, the water treatment plant's on the blink and the ATMs don't work. Okay, maybe not all of those things a once, but the stone cold fact about the Year 2000 bug is that something's going to go wrong.

It'll make for an interesting addition to the compulsory elements of a New Year's Eve - not just intoxicants, money, friends and a party - but a Prime, some tinned food, candles and a week's supply of cash. Crazy. And how long, preay tell will we have to go without espressos?


    ==  ==      Russell Brown
  [ @ / @  ]                      
     /        ________________________________________
    (_)         "The views expressed on this programme
    ____)       are bloody good ones." Fred Dagg, 197?

[ HardNews Home ] [ 1998 Hard News ] [ Subscribe ]

NZ Now Net Ltd NZ News Net
Search NZ News Net
Write to NZ News Net
Last update: 23 October 1998

Text Copyright © 1998 Russell Brown.
Formatting Copyright © 1998 NZ News Net