Pacific Scoop

Warner Bros takes out Roger Award for ‘worst transnational’ in NZ

The Hobbit

Warner Bros shamed by "worst transnational" award over the Hobbit affair.

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Alex Perrottet of the Pacific Media Centre

An industrial dispute over the Hobbit affair bitterly divided public opinion in New Zealand last year. But at last night’s Roger Awards ceremony for the worst transnational corporation operating in New Zealand the verdict was unanimously in favour of the “Saurons of cinema”.

Warner Bros Entertainment blitzed the competition to take out the award, which has been running since 1996.

As expected, the company’s executives were not present to collect their award – but a “Bugs Bunny” accepted it on their behalf, quipping “Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam are much easier to deal with”.

Chief judge Dr Christine Dann said no other company had been able to “wield such a ring of power over the New Zealand government that it has had legislation rewritten in its favour”.

John Key

Prime Minister John key ... "accomplice" award for his government's role. Photo: NZ Parliament

Dann quoted another of the judges who warned against the precedent set by the government.

“Such interference in New Zealand politics sets precedence for all future negotiations between the New Zealand government and transnational corporations.”

She attacked the government for making ordinary New Zealanders pay for foreign “fat cats”.

“The $100 million tax break and publicity subsidy going to Warner Bros represents around $25 for every man, woman and child in New Zealand,” she said.

Giant subsidies
“Isn’t it amazing that the Key government thinks that this little country can and should afford to pay these subsidies to a giant foreign corporation – whose market capitalisation is the same as that of 90 percent of the domestic companies listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange, added together.”

Murray Horton, organiser of the award and national coordinator of the Christchurch-based Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA), attacked what he called New Zealand’s “obsessive compulsive disorder” with free trade and foreign investment and called for New Zealand to hold transnational corporations to account.

“They are the most important players in our economy and we need to hold them publicly accountable for the massively negative impact on our country,” he said.

The winners of the awards corporations judged to have caused most damage to the economy, people, the environment and politics. The simple criteria was that the company be more than 25 percent foreign-owned and that it be judged only for its activities in New Zealand.

“That ruled out BP of course,” said Horton. “As well as companies like Fonterra and Slingshot.”

Horton defended the credibility of the award, saying that in the recent past recipients would hound him to remove them from the “hall of shame”. This year, Vodafone was a finalist and Horton received “pages of PR saying how good they were”.

“We are not a joke, or a spoof. We say it straight – and we take it very seriously indeed,” Horton.

The judges for this year’s awards were trade unionist Paul Corliss, communication studies academic associate professor Wayne Hope, education academic Dr Joce Jesson, former Green Party MP Sue Bradford and chief judge Dann, a Banks Peninsula writer and researcher.

‘Corporate sewer’
Horton praised the judges, who had given up their summer to “trawl through the corporate sewer in a glass bottom boat”.

It is only the third time in the history of the award that a media conglomerate has been a finalist. In 2007, Australian company APN News and Media was a finalist, for its outsourcing of subediting on New Zealand’s biggest newspaper, the New Zealand Herald causing a 20 percent loss in salary for those affected.

An “Accomplice Award”, for an organisation that aids and abets the winner, went to the New Zealand government, for its “caving in” to Warner Bros.

Peter Jackson

Film maker Peter Jackson ... special "quisling award". Photo: Musicrooms

Film director Sir Peter Jackson did not escape without  a mention, receiving a “Special Quisling Award” for being the New Zealander who “did the most to facilitate foreign control” during 2010 for his role in the Hobbit affair.

Vidkun Quisling was the notorious Norwegian President who served under Nazi occupation during the Second World War and is a symbol of power pandering to foreign interests.

BUPA, a British-owned “couldn’t care less” retirement home company exposed for shabby treatment of staff and residents, was awarded second prize, and Imperial Tobacco came third for its infamous “third party techniques” in promoting products detrimental to health.

Westpac, Telco’s Vodafone and a former winner, Telecom, were also nominees.

Horton embarked on a national speaking tour his week  and will address a public meeting at AUT University tomorrow night on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement free trade negotiations.

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