Oh Henry! Breakfast and the PH Factor

09Oct10

 “Something that…may have started as humour has now ended up as a reasonably serious matter in terms of our relationship with India and the way that New Zealand is portrayed around the world…. “  PM  John Key 

As TVNZ’s unholy host on Breakfast, is Paul Henry’s pH Factor too acidic or too bland?  Despite initial TVNZ approbation, his early Indian summer on the talkriddled adfest was suddenly curtailed last week with his two week’s suspension without pay.

In the Youtube clip* from the show at the heart of the first controversy,  Henry plays an hysterical hyena as he deliberately mispronounces the name of Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit and throws in some ethnic slurs for bad measure.  

The lavatory humour is straight from junior school, beyond which Henry seems not to have progressed very far in his own education journey. It may, of course, be perfectly suited to the target audience of what has always been a bit of a dog’s breakfast of a show.

His sidelining may not be the end of the affair. Indian High Commissioner Sureesh Mehta has warned that the swelling disquiet  abroad over Henry’s cheap ethnic shots, especially in India, could damage the lucrative education market between the two countries. Mr Mehta said widespread publicity of Henry working himself into a lather of laughter could deter fee-paying students from coming to New Zealand.  Prime Minister Key also concedes it had embarrassed New Zealand internationally.

However much deserved, New Zealand’s reputation as a tolerant country had been tarnished.  Export education is our fifth biggest overseas earner and NZTE has helped our education organisations make big global strides in recent years.  Henry’s  salvo is 100% Pure embarrassment for New Zealand, especially at a time when well publicized (and more serious but less media replicable) incidents involving the Indian student population in Australia, not to mention the declining relative value of the Kiwi dollar, were helping our offshore education recruitment push.

There are other domestic repercussions. New Zealand’s Indian population is now well over 100,000, the fifth largest group by ethnic origin. It was always hard for new arrivals from India or Fiji to overcome stereotyping and make their way in this country. Narrow browed bigotry masquerading as humour makes it that much harder for native born kiwis of Indian extraction.*

To compound things, the October 1 piece was followed the following Monday by Henry asking the Prime Minister if Auckland-born Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand was “even a New Zealander” and if his successor would “look and sound like a New Zealander”.  At least one large business organization is reviewing its TVNZ advertising account as a result.

The GG, after doing a good job dishing out the medals in New Delhi- and no doubt fielding tricky questions on the side-  could on his return arrange a private investiture to award Henry a dross medal for disservices to TVNZ and his country. The inscription would read For Simultaneously Inserting Both Feet In Own Mouth While Shooting Self In Each Of Them

In his time off  Paul could  take up a bit of the education supply side slack and do some extramural multicultural studies, though I doubt whether either improving his mind or his level of cultural understanding is high up on the Henry bucket list.*

Meanwhile, at a teambuilding singalong in the boardroom at TVNZ HQ: “There’s a hole in the bucket dear Liza dear Liza-there’s a hole in the bucket dear Liza a hole.….. Well fix it dear Henry…fix it-and  Dixit!”*

*Blinks

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uR4a3v61o9E     Vid The  start of Paul Henry’s Indian Summer 

http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/tv/4215154/Paul-Henry-opponents-complain-of-abuse 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yD-ffhvefsw  Vid   Harry Belafonte and Odetta   There’s a Hole in the Bucket  

 #Lyall Lukey 9 Oct 2010
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz

https://lukeytraining.wordpress.com/    My other blog

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