Phonemast and the Media

Part 4 of Stephanie’s summary of the phone mast issue.


(A) National Media

It has to be said that the national media appear to have entered into a conspiracy of silence on this issue.  When the NES was pushed through Parliament under urgency (in the last days of the Labour Government) neither the usually vociferous opposition nor the media had anything to say about it.  As the NES allows the telcos to install their cellphone transmitters on any lampost or public infrastructure completely unnotified and each of the three telcos intends to have a 3G mast every 800 metres across suburban New Zealand, this law affects everybody.  WHY weren’t we told?

Perhaps it is fear of loss of advertising revenue (from the cellphone companies) that makes the mainstream media reluctant to cover the phonemast issue.  However, this does not explain why the TV news shies away from this subject.  Augumented by a heavy private security guard presence, a squad of police in riot gear along with a paddywagon and police helicopter were employed to quell the peaceful protest of  about 36 people (including children and elderly) objecting to the installation of a 2Degree phonemast at Rowan Hegley’s home, (145 Clovelly Road, Howick), early this year.  The TV newsreader that night merely said “the police were called to a protest in Howick today.”  and that was the extent of  coverage on this event.  (That same night, much mention was made of two young girls shaving their heads for charity).

Whilst denying the public coverage of such items as the above-mentioned incident in Howick, The NZ Herald enthusiatically and uncritcally accepts information provided by the cellphone companies’ PR teams.   Recently the Herald trumpeted the results of a study pupportedly showing that phonemasts are safe.  Dr David Black was quoted extensively in this article.  Dr Black’s was the only ‘expert’ opinion sought and disturbingly,  the Herald made no mention whatsoever of the fact that he works for Telecom and Vodafone.

(B) Local Media

Radio Waiheke has interviewed Dr Stuart Reuben once and myself twice (these interviews are available on their website).

Both the Gulf News and Marketplace have given excellent and impartial coverage.  Suprisingly, given the Gulf News’  recent reputation as a “green” newspaper in some people’s eyes, the Marketplace has given this issue more a bit more coverage, particularly to do with the anomalies in the council’s planning consent and ex-mayor, John Banks’ support of the campaign for safer sites.

(C) Letters To The Editor(s)

Over the last two years both local papers have published a number of letters written by those espousing the precautionary principle in relation to the safer siting of phonemasts (eg not installing masts near  kindergartens, hospitals or schools, etc.) and others opposing such caution.  Many letters have been written (I know because I wrote most of them), but this correspondence cannot be called a debate as the defenders of the cellphone industry have refused to answer any  questions at all. Sometimes this correspondence has been quite acrimonious, even downright rancorous, therefore much more entertaining judging by the messages received and people stopping me in the street at these times.