I find myself in the improbable position of coming to the defence of broadcaster Mike Hosking. Winston Peters has called Hosking “a National Party stooge whose jowls are up the Prime Minister’s cheeks”. I take this as some bizarre rephrasing of the common term “cheek by jowl” intended, I presume, to mean that the broadcaster and the PM are close buddies. Winnie will no doubt correct me if I’m wrong. Meanwhile the Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Little, has accused Hosking of “making no attempt at objectivity”. One might have expected a more robust critique.
I’m told the words “right wing little prick” have been simply flying down the corridors of the Opposition Wing to describe Mr Hosking. I think this critique rather misses the point. While I’d be surprised to discover that Hosking is a closet member of the Parnell, Remuera or Epsom branches of the Labour Party – total membership five! – I’d also risk my bottom dollar that he isn’t a member of any political party. This is, or should be the default position for any broadcaster working in the field of news or current affairs. What Hosking betrays on Seven Sharp, on commercial radio and in his writing is not political bias but social conservatism. The two may overlap from time to time, but are inherently different. It’s entirely possible and even commonplace to be left wing and socially conservative.
Another way of putting it might be to say that Hosking is somewhat “old fashioned” or “old world” in his approach to many issues. This is reflected in his relationship to Toni Street whom, his manner suggests, he respects as a woman (meaning because she is a woman), but less, it seems to me, as a broadcaster of equal ability and status. He “talks down” to her in a somewhat paternal manner. So I entirely disagree that Hosking is “a National Party stooge” or that he makes “no attempt at objectivity”. I’m sure he does his very best. But two things make objectivity a challenge for him. The first I’ve referred to before – Hosking is perhaps the most personally opinionated broadcaster I’ve come across in half a century in the business. The second is the social conservatism I’ve described above. Hosking’s values are “old school”. Sometimes being “old school” can be really good. Sometimes it can be really, really bad.