The Human Rights Commission has been pumping up the”race row” in Real Housewives of Auckland. It reminds me of its unorthodox action back in 2012. Then Equal Opportunities Commissioner Judy McGregor, a former tabloid newspaper editor, went undercover as an aged care worker, and publicised how aged workers are underpaid. It was a worthy cause, but an unusual approach
I said in the NZ Herald media column:
The former Sunday News editor’s report comes across as a ripping yarn about the life and devotion of staff.
But did anybody else think it was a bit odd for a commissioner to go undercover like this? And would the elderly patients mind if they had known they had been showered by the EEO commissioner.
We asked the former editor and member of the Broadcasting Standards Authority if she had used a false name and whether she had access to personal medical records on her undercover stint. We asked what physical tasks she performed but got no answer.
We also wonder if the Privacy Commissioner was involved. After several attempts to get details of the undercover arrangement, the Human Rights Commission refused to comment.
That was four years ago. There seem to be similarities with Real Housewives of Auckland racial incident wherever Julia Sloane used the N word about Michelle Blanchard, who is black, and who was understandably furious. It seems like the Human Rights Commission was pre-warned by producers and knew there would be a broadcast of a bleeped racial comment. It does not appear to have tried to prevent the show going ahead, Instead it seems to have been taking the producers view that it would be helpful to race relations
The Human Rights Commission was approached for comment but declined while it was awaiting legal advice.
The Commission was advised by RHOAKL broadcaster Bravo on June 23 about the incident but the Commission chose to say nothing about the broadcast until after it ran last Tuesday. On September 1 the Commission launched “Thats Us” digital ad campaign against racism and in a tweet Race Relations conciliator Dame Susan Devoy singled out the use of the N word. The theme for Real Housewives is about bitchiness and meanness.
I’m not backing Sloane, whose comment was clearly foolish and hurtful to fellow housewife Michelle Blanchard. I question the Commission hyping a tabloid TV and contorted a foolish statement by an individual represents the state of race relations.
Why has a government agency aligned itself with tabloid “reality” TV channel?
Meanwhile, The Spinoff website had been giving extensive publicity to the reality series and heavily supporting Bravo and the RHOAKL production team from NBC Universal. A podcast published on September 21 examines that looks at the episode and makes it clear its supports the decision to highlight the slur and criticises people who do not hold that view. In my opinion More information needs to be made available by the Commission for its approach. Turning on an individual three months after the event, does not seem to be more about publicity than fighting racism.