Home > Media, The Body Politic > Friends, Kiwis, Countrymen! I come to praise John Campbell, not bury him

Friends, Kiwis, Countrymen! I come to praise John Campbell, not bury him


Campbell Live - GCSB - John Key




Whatever is slated to replace ‘Campbell Live‘, I care not one whit. Short of the second coming of Jesus Christ; time travellers from the future; the breakout of world peace, or some other vastly improbable event, our household will no longer be watching TV3 News and whatever follows.

Mark Weldon and Mark Jennings have badly underestimated that public backlash that will follow this incomprehensible decision.

Campbell Live‘ is a decade-long brand that media companies spend millions in advertising to promote and instill in the public’s consciousness – and at a stroke they have destroyed it.


There are rumours – unsubstantiated, I would emphasise – that the Prime Minister demanded from Mediaworks’ CEO, Mark Weldon;

“I want that leftie bastard gone”

The item referred to in The Standard blogpost refers to a piece in Mana News  (now deleted), and was itself based on a Facebook post;


save campbell live - facebook - I want that leftie bastard gone


As mentioned, there is no hard evidence that the alleged quote is factually correct, and could well be the result of a well-intentioned – albeit badly misguided – critic of this government. However, it would not be the first time Key has abused the media;


Herald - John Key calls media 'Knuckleheads'


Interestingly, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Key might have had that conversation (or something similar) with Mark Weldon. In a well-researched piece, Rex Widerstrom shone a spotlight on the link between Key and Weldon;

1: He’s the man John Key picked to chair the “Summit on Employment” in 2009(1)

2:He’s also the man John Key picked to lead The Christchurch Earthquake Appeal(2)

3: He’s also the man who used that position to breach the Bill of Rights Act and force “the advancement of religion” into the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust’s constitution(3)

4: And he’s the man Cameron Slater (Whaleoil) characterises as “allegedly a friend of John Key”(4)

5: Slater also asked on October 15 last year “Who will be the first (of many) casualties under Mark “I’m the boss” Weldon at Mediaworks?” with one commenter on that story saying “The man is a tyrant who doesn’t play nicely with others. Frankly, I love the idea of Weldon and John Campbell having to work together …”(5)

6: he’s also the man whom insiders were picking as a potential National Party candidate for the safe seat of Tamaki(6)

7: And he’s a man who praised John Key’s program of asset sales announced in 2011 as “bold, it was clear, it was early – and very positive…” and called those who were cautious about it “fearmongering”. That’s the same assets sales program that had to be drastically cut back and became something of an embarrassment to the government(7)

8: He’s the man who made a substantial personal gain ($6 million) as a result of Key’s asset sales announcement(8)

9: He’s also the man who, as CEO of the NZX, characterised those who voiced concerns about aspects of the Exchange’s operations as mentally ill(9)

10: He’s the man who’s already got rid of two of Mediaworks’s main financial watchdogs – chief financial officer Peter Crossan and company secretary and lawyer Claire Bradley(10)

11: He’s the man of whom blogger Cactus Kate (business lawyer and commentator Cathy Odgers) noted “Mediaworks currently does not employ anyone on your television or radio with a larger ego than Weldon, even Willie Jackson, Sean Plunket and Duncan Garner combined can’t compete” and that “NZX was the greatest reality soap opera in town under Weldon’s leadership, the casting couch of characters was enormous as disgruntled staff left and new bright eyed disciples were employed”(11)

12: He’s the man Odgers also described (in a blog post now deleted by referenced by another, also right wing, blogger) as a “weasel word corporate-welfared CEO…” and a “shallow self-promoting tool”(12)

13: He’s the man who said there was no conflict of interest in allowing the NZX to be the provider of NZX services, the supervisor of its members, a listed participant on its own exchange and the market regulator… a statement one broker described as “utter balderdash”(13)

Weldon was also appointed by Key, or one of his Ministers, the Capital Markets Development Taskforce in 2009/10; the Tax Working Group in 2009; and the Climate Change Leadership Forum in 2007.

Key gave him a QSO in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

[Note: numbers in parenthesis in above extract refers to sources given by Rex Widerstrom. Please refer to the full story for additional information.]

Is it a conspiracy between the National government and Mediaworks?

There is no evidence to prove such an allegation. National supporters will quickly dismiss any such suggestion with derision.

However, when Nicky Hager released his expose on National’s dirty tricks campaigns against it’s opponents, the reaction from many was either automatic derision, or, the casually dismissive, “So what? We all knew it was happening!

If it ever was proven that National had a hand in Campbell’s sacking, would National’s apologists respond in the same way? You bet.

Despite the unproven veracity of the claimed comment between Key and Weldon, there are proven links between the National Government and Mediaworks. In 2011, National bailed out Mediaworks facing a crippling $43 million debt;


Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks


Which was a story initially denied by National, only a month previously, and spun in a way that stretched credulity;


Government denies MediaWorks loan


The loan-that-was-not-a-loan was re-paid by Mediaworks two years ahead of time;

MediaWorks’ subsidiary RadioWorks has repaid the $32.28 million outstanding on a “loan” signed off by former Communications Minister Steven Joyce that allowed the media group to defer payments to the Crown for radio spectrum licences.

The balance of $32.28m of principal plus interest was paid on Wednesday – almost two years ahead of schedule, current minister Amy Adams said in a statement.

MediaWorks had originally owed $43.3m plus GST and had previously made two payments of $11.9m. The Crown charged the private equity-owned company interest of 11.2 percent.

Government officials had recommended against loaning RadioWorks the money, but Mr Joyce, a former owner of RadioWorks, then approved the loan.

Note the reference in the media report above; “[Minister] Joyce, a former owner of RadioWorks, then approved the loan“. Joyce was indeed owner of RadioWorks, until it was bought out by CanWest, in April 2001. CanWest was also former owner of TV3.

Also note the reference that Key discussed the bail-out of MediaWorks with then CEO, Brent Impey, at a “social event”. Key has conducted government business at other, similar, “social events“;

Earlier this week, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said Mr Key’s diary showed no scheduled meetings with Sky City representatives since July last year.

“Having said that, the Prime Minister attends numerous functions and is quite likely to have come across Sky City representatives at some stage.”

Mr Key was asked last July in a question for written answer from Green MP Sue Kedgley whether he or any of his ministers had met representatives from the casino to discuss changes to the Gambling Act.

He replied: “I attended a dinner with the Sky City board 4 November 2009 where we discussed a possible national convention centre and they raised issues relating to the Gambling Act 2003”.

Mr Key said he was unable to speak for other ministers as to whether they had met casino representatives.

Mr Key’s spokesman today refused to say what date Mr Key’s offer to make a deal with Sky City was made.


Mediaworks’ rationale for canning ‘Campbell Live‘ has rested solely on it’s supposed ratings.

Despite ‘Campbell Live‘ improving in ratings over the last few months, the company has “reviewed” the programme, and decided to ditch it, in favour of something else. According to MediaWorks’ Group Head of News, Mark Jennings, the new show is described thusly;

Campbell Live is to be replaced by a four-day-a-week programme presented by two people.


Mr Jennings said audience research suggests that people want more stories at a shorter length, and TV3 had already been trying to get more stories into Campbell Live.


He said people want a mix and a mix of personalities

Considering that ‘Campbell Live‘  already often presents three or four stories, of varying lengths, within it’s half-hour slot – even with advertising breaks  removed! – it is hard to see how much shorter a story can get. Are we talking about four-minutes-once-over-lightly?

Many issues and problems confronting our nation are deep and complex. It is hard to see how making a story shorter gives viewers the details  necessary to inform and enlighten.

In effect, it seems to be a continuing dumbing-down of the 7PM timeslot.

Radio NZ reported Jennings explaining why TV3 had not actively promotedCampbell Live‘;

Asked about criticism of the lack of promotion for the programme and Mr Campbell, Mr Jennings said Campbell Live was an established programme and he didn’t think that publicity campaigns would make much difference to the size of its audience.

Really? And yet TV3 heavily promotes entertain shows like “The GC“;  “X Factor“; “The Block“, and “The Bachelor” – programmes that are high in entertainment (questionable) but lacking in any informative value whatsoever. Like consuming a constant diet of sugar and carbs, but nothing else of a substantive, nutritional nature.

Even the ratings argument does not entirely stack up when we see the figures;


TV Ratings - All round rises at 7pm - Campbell Live - Seven Sharp - Throng - TV3 - TVNZ - Mediaworks - television


Acknowledgement: Throng.co.nz

Note the highs where ‘Campbell Live‘ (in green graph) outperforms ‘Seven Sharp‘ (though not often in the same evening) and note how viewing numbers are steadily increasing for ‘Campbell Live‘ but remain relatively static for ‘Seven Sharp‘.

For ‘Campbell Live‘, the numbers are moving in the right direction.

But if Mediaworks is looking at cancelling low rating shows on TV3, then perhaps it should be looking elsewhere, as Throng website reported on 22 May;

Most watched on TV3

  1. Campbell Live: 330,830 (7:00pm – 7:35pm)

  2. The Graham Norton Show: 298,660 (8:35pm – 9:35pm)

  3. Jono and Ben: 224,210 (7:35pm – 8:35pm)

  4. 3 News: 220,930 (6:00pm – 7:00pm)

  5. Live at the Apollo: 169,260 (9:35pm – 10:35pm)

If ratings are the sole determinant of what goes/stays, then TV3’s News at 6PM should be the first to face the chop. At 220,930 viewers, it 109,900 behind ‘Campbell Live‘. Even ‘Jono and Ben did better, with 3,280 more viewers.

Interestingly, TV3 gains viewers after it’s 6PM News.

Note how TVNZ loses viewers after the TV1 News;

Most watched on TV ONE

  1. One News: 700,220 (6:00pm – 7:00pm)

  2. Seven Sharp: 429,510 (7:00pm – 7:30pm)

  3. Millionaire Hot Seat: 386,220 (5:30pm – 6:00pm)

  4. Location Location Location: 382,170 (7:30pm – 8:30pm)

  5. Coronation Street: 255,130 (8:30pm – 9:25pm)

TV1 loses 270,710 viewers after their 6PM News.

The upshot of this should be blatantly obvious to the dullest TV executive (take note please, Mark Weldon); Mediaworks has hot property in the form of  ‘Campbell Live‘.

Seven Sharp’ – not doing quite so well in viewer retention.

Campbell Live‘ should be promoted by Mediaworks – not dumped and replaced by some lowly imitation of TV1’s execrable ‘Seven Sharp’ .

Has Mediaworks  actually taken the time and effort to conduct a focus group on how ‘Campbell Live‘ is perceived? This is important because one of the most important commercial factors in a product or service is branding.

If ‘Campbell Live‘ has a more positive branding than, say, ‘Seven Sharp‘, then Mediaworks is being foolish and short-sighted in not capitalising on it.

If whatever replaces ‘Campbell Live‘ fails to attract numbers, then those responsible should – and must – fall on their corporate swords and resign.

If the leaders of Labour and ACT could take responsibility for their parties dismal results at the last election, then so should the entire Board of Mediaworks, starting with Mark Weldon.


Companies  expect hard work and dedication from their employees, and fair enough. But to then shaft employees who have given that hard work and dedication, and put their heart and soul into their profession – is a poor reward.

For those  executives at Mediaworks who made the decision to axe ‘Campbell Live‘, I have a clear and simple message for them. They may expect the same loyalty from viewers toward TV3, as they themselves have shown to John Campbell, his team, sponsors, advertisers, audience,  and loyal fans.

I look forward to repaying in kind.






The team at Campbell Live thanked Action Stations for the petition mounted to save the programme;


Action stations logo - campbell live


A personal message from the team at Campbell Live to each and everyone of you…

From everyone on Campbell Live, your support and kindness has saved us during these past seven weeks. Not only did it lift us personally, it reminded us why we’re here and that what we do matters and can make a difference. To the 86,000 people who so kindly signed the petition, and even marched for us, thank you – very much. We’re so proud to have you as viewers.

Pip Keane, John Campbell, Ali Ikram, Anna Burns Francis, Sarah Stewart, Tory Evans, Chris Jones, Jayne Devine, Julian Lee, Lachlan Forsyth, Marise Hurley, Michael Hardcastle, Mike Wesley-Smith, Sarah Rowan, Claire Eastham-Farrelly, Tristram Clayton, Vanessa Forrest, Billy Weepu, Dan Parker, Whena Owen, Lee Thomson, Emily Samonta, Jendy Harper, John Sellwood, Kate McCallum, Graeme Mulholland.


From Hilary Barry, one of John Campbell’s closest colleague and friend, shared her feelings with a audience of hundreds of thousands of viewers;


How many of us felt the same? For many of us, John  Campbell was like the Conscience of the Nation; the person we could most trust to tell a story that held authority to account; truth to power; and spoke for the ‘ordinary Kiwi battler’.

Someone in  mainstream media recently asked me, in a roundabout way, if we would feel the same if Mike Hosking left NewstalkZB.

I suggest not.

Hosking does not engender the same empathy and respect that Campbell does.

Not even close.



The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones…

– Julius Caesar, ActIII, scene ii







NZ Herald: John Key calls media ‘Knuckleheads’

TV1 News: Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks

Fairfax media: Government denies MediaWorks loan

TV3 News: Mediaworks pays off ‘loan’ 2 years early

Fairfax media/Website: Key’s six million dollar man – Steven Joyce

NZ Herald:  SkyCity deal was PM’s own offer

Radio NZ: TV3 – New show won’t be ‘light and fluffy’

Throng: Ratings – All round rises at 7pm

Throng: TV Ratings – 22 May 2015

Youtube:  Hilary Barry’s tears for John Campbell during 3news

Other bloggers

The Daily Blog: Martyn Bradbury – And then they came for Campbell Live – the end of political journalism on NZ television

The Daily Blog: Rex Widerstrom – Thirteen things you (probably) didn’t know about Mark Weldon (CEO of Mediaworks)

The Standard: I want that left wing bastard gone

Previous related blogposts

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Rua)

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Toru)

The Curious World of the Main Stream Media

Producer of ‘The Nation’ hits back at “interference” allegations over ‘Campbell Live’

Campbell still Live, not gone




media sensationalism and laziness - Jon Stewart


This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 May 2015.



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