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Posts Tagged ‘Campbell Live’

TV3’s The Project – A Babyboomer lowers the boom

2 April 2017 2 comments

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“TV3 have attempted to make current affairs for people who listen to the Edge, the problem is that generation doesn’t watch TV. So TV3 have alienated Gen X and Boomers who want actual current affairs at 7pm to gain a generational audience who don’t bother with the platform TV3 are using.” Martyn Bradbury, 26 March 2017

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I don’t often comment on other bloggers who have contributed a piece for The Daily Blog. Ninety percent of the time, my ideals, values, and beliefs are  muchly similar to those expressed by others on this forum.

Martyn Bradbury’s piece on   “The Project meltdown raised a point that has been on my mind since I saw the very first ‘Project’ billboard in Kilbirnie, Wellington. Waiting patiently at the lights, my gaze wandered over to the billboard on my hard right (metaphor?);

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The Billboard was situated just above clothing bins where unwanted stuff is dumped by people. (Irony?)

At first, I was stumped. I couldn’t work out what ‘The Project’ or the logo, ‘+HR=E’ was supposed to signify. My first impressions were that it was promoting a new New Zealand comedy movie. Or a novel, upmarket chain of childcare centres was entering the country. ‘+HR=E’ would be a pretty nifty corporate logo for the latter. ‘+HR=E’. Three year olds. Geddit?

A few moments later, as the lights were still red,  I noticed the blurb “News delivered differently” and “Weeknights 7pm”, and then it dawned on me. It was Mediawork’s latest effort to wrest primacy of the 7pm timeslot from ‘Seven Sharp’ and ‘Shortland Street’.

The lights turned green, meaning my *facepalm* moment had gone and I kept both hands gripping the wheel as I mercifully left the scene of the Braindead Zone I had stopped in.

My thoughts turned to another image I remembered from Google Images;

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Oh, how times change.

From sombre anchormen (and they were all men during Phillip Sherry’s time at the NZBC), to… muppets.  Yes, really, muppets. ‘The Project’ has muppets on its set. Here’s the evidence, from an episode on 4 March 2017;

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Let’s play a game, children… see who can spot The Muppet.

Take…

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Your…

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Time…

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No?

Can’t pick it?

Ok, it’s probably this one;

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(But I could be wrong.)

Now, I’m not suggesting for one micro-second that we return to the era when our NZBC was practically an off-shoot of the 1950s-version of the BBC.

But Mediaworks already had a well-recognised, well-respected ‘brand’ in the form of TV3’s ‘Campbell Live‘. It was solid journalism covering a wide range of stories, from the sombre and thought-provoking to the occassionally light and frothy.

Its in-depth coverage the  GCSB Bill, and the Ian Fletcher scandal  in 2013 and 2014 were perhaps one of only two serious media  analysis (the other being Radio NZ) of National’s widening of the surveillance state in this country;

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Campbell Live’s‘ on-going investigation of  post-earthquake events in Christchurch also raised new standards of journalism, as well as nationwide consciousness of events and on-going problems in that stricken city.

Indeed, John Campbell and his talented team at TV3 were so successful at raising public awareness on the GCSB issue that it provoked our former-Dear Leader Key to respond in his usual trivialising, shoulder-shrugging, *meh*-sort of way;

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Jessica Wright: “How do you think that Kiwis feel about the bill?

John Key: “I think they’re much more interested in snapper quota.”

Jessica Wright: “But I’m not talking about snapper quota, I’m talking about the GCSB Bill. How do you think that they feel about the GCSB Bill?”

John Key: “Yeah, I think they’re much more interested in snapper quota.”

Jessica Wright: “Why?”

John Key: “Because they like catching fish.”

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Despite ‘Campbell Liverise in ratings, it was insufficient to save the programme from it’s apparently pre-determined doom.  It was soon followed by the jaw-droppingly  inane New Zealand-version of  ‘Come Dine With Me‘;

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Rivetting stuff. Almost as engaging as watching grass grow.

By sheer coincidence the producer of ‘Come Dine With Me‘ was  none other than Mediawork’s Board Member, and unReality TV porn-purveyor, Julie Christie.

When Mediaworks axed ‘Campbell Live‘ in May 2015 – most likely at the behest of corporate head-kicker Mark Weldon, aided by his trustee henchwoman, Julie Christie – they opened a can of worms.

There were (unsubstantiated) rumours that Key had contacted Weldon, demanding that Campbell be gotten rid off.

The short-lived garbage  that was ‘Come Dine With Me‘ was considered unappetising by the viewing public, and was quickly canned after only two months. It was followed by Story’  in August 2015 but seemed not to engage viewers. The last chapter of ‘Story’ was broadcast in December 2016.

Now we have ‘The Project‘.

Firstly, I have no idea where Mediaworks execs get their ideas from or why they think that something as vacuous as this programme would appeal to the public.

As “Bomber” Bradbury succinctly put it;

“TV3 have attempted to make current affairs for people who listen to the Edge, the problem is that generation doesn’t watch TV. So TV3 have alienated Gen X and Boomers who want actual current affairs at 7pm to gain a generational audience who don’t bother with the platform TV3 are using.”

We ‘boomers  are the generation that grew up on serious investigative journalism. We are the who watched as Muldoon was taken down by a younger Simon Walker and John Campbell took on Helen Clark. We’ve enjoyed the stellar talents of committed professionals like  Lindsay Perigo, Louise Wallace, Brian Edwards, Maggie Barry, Bill Ralston, Kim Hill, Ian Fraser, Mihingarangi Forbes, Liam Jeory, Kathryn Ryan, Carol Hirschfeld, Paul Holmes, Anita McNaught, Cameron Bennett, Melanie Reid, Guyon Espiner, Genevieve Westcott, Mike McRoberts, Lisa Owen,  and so many, many more. 

Regardless of their politics, these were dedicated journalists who we could rely on to ask the questions that we ordinary Citizens were rarely in a position to do. They were persistent. They asked the hard questions which demanded answers and in doing so, challenged those in authority.

That is the purpose of journalism.

Not to look like this;

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I can’t speak for all Babyboomers (of which I am a member of that privileged demographic), but I want my current affairs and news more like BBC/Al Jazeera/Radio NZ/CNN/etc instead of this;

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I want to see this;

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And most certainly not this;

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Next, the number one rule in business is;

#1 The customer is always right

The second rule is;

#2 If in doubt, refer to Rule One

That rule may not always apply. If a customer requests cyanide in their latte, that request can be rightly declined (or not, depending on what is clearly stated on the menu board).

Aside from issues of life and death, public morality, and physical/biological impossibilities, the customer (in the form of the Viewing Public) is always right when it clearly expressed a desire to keep ‘Campbell Live‘ very much alive. So, how right was the  customer?

Viewers:

Campbell Live – 23 May 2015: 330,830

According to comparative ratings, approximately 186,830 customers were very much right. They “walked” from TV3, en masse. Consider me one of them.

Instead of telling us, the viewers what we want to watch, perhaps Mediaworks should have listened to us in the first place. Businesses that turn a deaf ear to their customers usually end up like this;

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If Mediaworks is attempting to cater to Babyboomers, then shite offerings such as ‘The Project‘ will not cut the mustard. It is a pale, immature, sickly parody of professional journalism. What else can you call something that is fronted by people whose day-jobs are comedians? (Though, to be fair, Jesse Mulligan and Josh Thompson are pretty damned good comedians. I’ve enjoyed watching their gigs on ‘7 Days‘.)

It is an insult to my intelligence.

It is an insult to the intelligence of every person who has grown up (or not) watching real journalism, covering real stories, in a real, professional manner.

To be blunt, Mediawork Execs, if you can’t cobble together credible meaningful journalism for your 7pm timeslot, just repeat F.R.I.E.N.D.S or M*A*S*H* or anything else with excessive punctuation marks in the title.

Or just show this;

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Add a bit of background elevator-music and you’re sorted.

Or, you could try something Different/Not Different. Hire a bunch of the most respected, experienced, capable journalists; resource them properly; and give them sufficient editorial-independence to do their jobs properly.

Guarantee them security from interference by the Mark Weldons and Julie Christies of the world.

Spend money on promoting the product. If Mediaworks can spend millions promoting ‘The Block‘, ‘The Batchelor‘, ‘The Project‘, and other programmes of dubious value – then it should be able to promote a serious, flagship current affairs programme.

Treat the viewing public with respect.

That is how a business succeeds.

It’s not that hard. Does it really have to be explained?

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References

Radio NZ: Labour calls for inquiry over GCSB appointment

Scoop media: The GCSB Bill – We at least have to try

Fairfax media: Come Dine with Me to replace Campbell Live

Fairfax media: John Campbell bows out of Campbell Live show

NZ Herald: Political roundup – Who killed Campbell Live?

Wikipedia: Story

NZ On Screen: Tonight – Robert Muldoon interview

NZ On Screen: 3 News – ‘Corngate’ interview with Helen Clark

Throng: TV Ratings – 22 May 2015

Fairfax media: MediaWorks boss – Project is here to stay and will win the ratings war

Other Bloggers

The Daily Blog: The Project meltdown – when Executives come out to support your 7pm Show, that’s when you know you are in trouble

The Standard: I want that left wing bastard gone

Previous related blogposts

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

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

Mediawork’s Julie Christie at war with NZ on Air – Possible conflict of interest as first reported last year on TDB

Blogger threatened with lawsuit over questions of conflict-of-interest regarding Mediaworks

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 March 2017.

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The slow starvation of Radio NZ – the final nail in the coffin of the Fourth Estate?

26 November 2015 4 comments
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save radio new zealand - facebook
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The chilling of the mainstream media

Whether by machiavellian, subtle and covert political pressuring from on-high; bad management decision-making,  or an inevitable process of  dumbing-down brought on by the never-ending need for advertising revenue and rapacious returns to share-holders, news media in this country continues to suffer at the on-going impacts of “market forces”.

The demise of Campbell Live and the loss of Mihingarangi Forbes from Maori TV’s Native Affairs and Dita De Boni from the NZ Herald should give all thinking New Zealanders cause for concern. Those three were amongst the most talented and critical voices from the mainstream media, and their dumping no doubt had a chilling effect throughout the media in this country.

With few exceptions, journos have mortgages and  bills to pay; mouths to feed; and careers they are passionate about. The constant possibility  of sudden termination of their contract is a sword of damocles that probably weighs on their minds when considering how critical of the Establishment they really want to be.

The may be risking their jobs if they stick their heads too far above the parapets.

The only people whose jobs are apparently safe are Mike Hosking and Paul Henry (who seems to bounce from company to company without any deleterious effects to his credibility).

Interestingly,  each has been ’embedded’ with  the two major television networks, TVNZ and Mediaworks’ TV3. Neither are journalists and  both Hosking and Henry  are unashamedly  linked to National.

This is “independepent media freedom” in New Zealand, circa 2015AD.

Who watches the Watchmen?

The last bastion of an independent  freedom, free from commercial imperatives and political interference (hopefully) is, Radio NZ. Despite an incident three years ago, where blogger Martyn Bradbury was banned from Radio NZ for making comments highly critical of our esteemed Dear Leader, the broadcaster maintains a strong ability to project itself as a serious, credible news and current affairs medium.

It continues to carry out strong investigative reporting; interviewing government ministers; State sector leaders;  and other public figures; and offering political analysis from both the Left and the Right.

One of Radio NZ’s most insightful (and often under-valued) programmes is  Mediawatch, which scrutinises, analysis, and holds to account, New Zealand’s mainstream media in a way that is not matched anywhere else by any other MSM outlet. As the Radio NZ promo-blurb states;

“Mediawatch looks critically at the New Zealand media – television, radio, newspapers and magazines as well as the ‘new’ electronic media. It also examines the performance of the agencies, corporations and institutions that regulate them. It looks into the impact the media has on the nation, highlighting good practice as well as bad along the way – and it also enquires into overseas trends and technological developments which New Zealanders need to know about.

It aims to enlighten everyone with an interest in the media about how it all works, how quickly things are changing – and how certain significant stories and issues are being covered. It’s also intended to be essential listening for those who work in the industry itself – as well as those who simply enjoy well-produced and lively radio.”

A recent prime example was on 9 August, when TV3 reporter, Tova O’Brien was taken to task for attributing a quote to someone who never actually said what she claimed;

@ 2:50 –

Colin Peacock: In New York, Tova O’Brien also got a second opinion on Murray McCully’s lofty dream of reforming the veto powers of the so-called Big Five at the UN. And 3 News introduced that story like this;

TV3 News: Former Prime Minister Helen Clark thinks Murray Clark is dreaming if he thinks New Zealand can rid the UN Security Council veto. Russia used the veto yesterday during… [fade-out]

Colin Peacock: Though Helen Clark had actually applauded Murray McCully for his ambition. It was Tova O’Brien who used the word ‘dreaming’ in a question to Helen Clark.

Helen Clark: It [New Zealand] should go for it. It [New Zealand] should follow it’s [New Zealand’s] dream.

Tova O’Brien: But in this case he’s dreaming.

Helen Clark: It’s not a short-term objective.

That was downright dishonest reporting.  Only Radio NZ’s Mediawatch picked up on it.

Last year, on 7 July, Mediawatch was the only  mainstream media team that questioned and criticised the NZ Herald’s dubious stories surrounding unsubstantiated claims of large donations made by migrant businessman, Donghua Liu, to the Labour Party. (Those claims were later “clarified”  with a half-hearted  retraction by the Herald.)

No other mainstream media questioned any of the astounding and unsupported claims made by Donghua Liu, and reported uncritically by the Herald.

It is a sobering thought that aside from the toothless “watch dog” of the Press Council, and only marginally more effective Broadcasting Standards Authority,  there is no real scrutiny of  mistakes, omissions, and mis-reporting made by our media.

Self-criticism does not come easily to the Fourth Estate.

Gutting by slow starvation?

Funding for Radio NZ is channelled through New Zealand on Air – a body described on Wikipedia, as “…an independent New Zealand broadcast funding agency” and  “autonomous crown entity separate from central Government and governed by a Board of six appointed by the Minister of Broadcasting. NZ on Air is responsible for the funding of public-good broadcasting content across television, radio and new media platforms“.

The funding figure of $31.816 million is an easy one to remember – it has remained unchanged since 2009-10, when National assumed the reins of government. The figure has been maintained until next year.Using the Reserve Bank inflation calculator, Radio NZ’s funding should have risen to $35.26 million. In effect, by not keeping pace with inflation, Radio NZ’s funding has been cut by around 10%.

By contrast, Budget data showing increases to the Prime Minister’s Department makes for sobering reading.

  • Michael Cullen’s last budget,  2008/09, allocated $25,470,000 to Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet.
  • In the same 2008/2009 Budget, Radio NZ was allocated $31,718,000 through NZ on Air, an increase of $2,644,000 (approx 8%) from the previous year.
  • In National’s first Budget, 2009/10, Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet was allocated $33,021,000 – an increase of $7,551,000 – or just under 25%!
  • In the same 2009/2010 Budget, Radio NZ’s allocation went up by $98,000 to $31,816,000 – not even a 1% increase.

For the first time, the Prime Minister’s Departmental budget exceeded that of Radio NZ. Furthermore;

  • Since 2009/10, Radio NZ’s allocation has stayed the same; $31,816,000.
  • By contrast, the amounts allocated to the Prime Minister’s Department has increased, and in the 2015/16 Budget was allocated  $49,298,000 – an increase of $24,476,000 since 2008 and  a near-doubling of John Key’s department and Cabinet expenditure since Michael Cullen’s last budget, seven years ago.
  • In the 2015/16 Budget, Radio NZ was allocated  $31,816,000 – a nil increase.

Framed another way, a news media organisation – dedicated to informing the public about government activities – has had no increase in resourcing since John Key’s administration came to power in late 2008.

By contrast, the Prime Minister’s Department – dedicated to promoting the power of the Government and more specifically, pursuing National’s political agenda – has had a doubling of taxpayer funding.

Where to for funding Radio NZ?

On 17 August, I wrote to NZ on Air’s Chief Executive, Jane Wrightson and asked;

“In your Annual reports, NZ on Air’s income from  Crown revenue went from $109,813,000 (for the year ended 30 June 2008 ) to  $128,726,000 (for the year ended 30 June 2015) – an increase of nearly $19 million.

Can you explain why none of that increase, according to your Annual Reports,  was directed at Radio NZ?”

On 21 August, Ms Wrightson responded;

“NZ On Air does not set Radio New Zealand’s Crown funding. This is done by Ministers. I am not aware of any government-funded entity that has an automatic inflation provision to increase funding.”

When questioned whether “Radio NZ’s funding has been frozen (effectively reduced, after inflation is factored in) because it is considered to be politically “inconvenient” or “embarrassing”  to the government”, Ms Wrightson replied;

“NZ On Air is a funding agency independent of Government in terms of our content funding strategy and decisions. Radio New Zealand’s funding has been static in the same way that all publicly funded agencies in the cultural sector have been static, during a time of fiscal constraint.”

Fiscal constraint” does not appear to be a limiting factor when the Prime Minister’s Department is funded from the tax-payer’s purse/wallet.

Questions for the Broadcasting Minister

On 6 September, I asked the Minister of Broadcasting, Amy Adams;

It is my understanding that Radio New Zealand’s funding has not increased since 2009, when it’s budget was set at $31,816,000.

With it’s funding frozen, and no means of other revenue, it has effectively had a funding cut after inflation and salary increases are taken into account.

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has not, at the very least,  been inflation-indexed?

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has been frozen whilst at the same time, the Prime Ministers Department has had a budget increase since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16 – a near doubling in just seven years?

Are you committed to increasing Radio NZ’s budget next year? If not, why not?

How do you expect Radio NZ to deliver excellent service  when it has effectively had a cut in funding?

On 20 May this year, you were enthusiastic about Radio NZ’s growth in market-share;

“While there has been a decline in listenership across traditional platforms, over the last twelve months RNZ’s online audience has grown significantly as their multi-media strategy is implemented.”

For example:

  • In 2013/14, 3.5 million podcasts were downloaded.
  • In 2013/14, radionz.co.nz page views reached 21 million and over 2014 unique users of the website grew by over 50 per cent.
  • In 2013/14, regular user of the RNZ mobile app grew by almost 62 per cent.

Ref: https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/bill-update-radio-nz-charter-passes-second-reading

Whilst this is evidence that Radio NZ is a prudent manager of it’s funding, it is unreasonable to expect that this situation is  sustainable for the foreseeable future.

If the Prime Minister’s Department required a 100% increase from 2008, then why has Radio NZ not been accorded the same benefit?

There have been suggestions that Radio NZ’s frozen funding is a covert attack on the broadcaster and an attempt to reduce it’s effectiveness. What is your response to this assertion?

On 17 September 〈¹〉,Minister Adams replied to my questions;

“I have been pleased to see the steps RNZ is taking to ensure its success in the
changing media environment and the ways it has expanded to reach new audiences,
such as The Wireless, an online service for young people. Although operating
within a static funding environment, RNZ continues to meet it’s objectives and
has become an established multi-platform broadcaster with the annual funding of
$35 million it receives.

While I share your concern about the funding constraints RNZ has faced over
recent years, this is common across all public services. In a time of fiscal
constraint, it is especially important that the Government manages the public
finances in a prudent and responsible manner and makes sustainable choices about
the prioritisation of public funds. I welcome the approach RNZ has taken to
ensure the business is run as efficiently as possible and that public funds
are utilised as effectively as they can be to maximise the public value of content.”

Adams went on to state;

“While I recognise your concern about the funding constraints RNZ has faced over
recent years, this is common across all public services. In a time of fiscal
constraint, it is especially important that the Government manages the public
finances in a prudent and responsible manner and makes sustainable choices about
the prioritisation of public funds. I welcome the approach RNZ has taken to ensure
the businrss is run as efficiently as possible and that public funds are utilised
as effectively as they can be to maximise the public value of content.”

To put it mildly, her response was utterly unsatisfactory, and in no way offered any sensible answers. Her comments also did not appear to reflect realities surrounding Radio NZ and required clarification.

Awkward Questions and Questionable Answers

On the same day, I wrote back to the Minister, seeking new answers;

As I pointed out to you in my 6 September email,

It is my understanding that Radio New Zealand’s funding has not increased since 2009, when it’s budget was set at $31,816,000.

With it’s funding frozen, and no means of other revenue, it has effectively had a funding cut after inflation and salary increases are taken into account.

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has not, at the very least,  been inflation-indexed?

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has been frozen whilst at the same time, the Prime Ministers Department has had a budget increase since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16 – a near doubling in just seven years?

In your response to me, dated 17 September, you stated in-part;

“While I share your concern about the funding constraints RNZ has faced over
recent years, this is common across all public services. In a time of fiscal constraint, it is
especially important that the Government manages the public finances in a prudent and
responsible manner and makes sustainable choices about the prioritisation of public
funds. I welcome the approach RNZ has taken to ensure the business is run as
efficiently as possible and that public funds are utilised as effectively as they can be to
maximise the public value of content.”

This response does not address the questions and issues I raised in my email.

Namely; why has Radio NZ’s funding been frozen since 2009 – whilst funding for the Prime Minister’s Department has doubled  since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16.

 The next point I raised was;

Why has Radio NZ’s funding been frozen since 2009 – whilst funding for the Prime Minister’s Department has doubled  since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16.

You state that “In a time of fiscal constraint, it is especially important that the Government manages the public finances in a prudent and responsible manner and makes sustainable choices about the prioritisation of public funds” – yet this constraint does not seem to have been applied to the Prime Minister’s Department, with funding increases every year since 2008.

Can you shed light on  why Radio NZ’s funding has been frozen, but the Prime Minister’s Department has not?

And the last point I raised;

Secondly,  you write that “ it is especially important that the Government manages the public finances in a prudent and responsible manner and makes sustainable choices about the prioritisation of public funds“.

Can you explain the meaning of term, “sustainable choices” in the context of your letter? What, precisely, do you mean by “sustainable choices“?

Lastly, you refer to Radio NZ as a “business”. Considering that RNZ is non-commercial; has very little revenue; does not return a dividend; and has no profit-making capability – can you explain in what sense the broadcaster is a “business”?
This time, the Minister’s response was not so promptly forthcoming, and after sending a reminder on 1 October to her office, I was advised on 15 October;

The section of your email relating to the budget of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has been transferred to the Department, as it is better able to respond to your query.

Minister Adams will respond to your questions regarding the funding of RNZ.

It was now apparent that I was asking awkward questions that could not be fobbed off with a three-paragraph letter written in bland political jargon-speak.

Having transferred part of my OIA to the Prime Minister’s Department, I suspected it would be a long wait for a response.

On 13 November, Minister Adams responded to my request for clarification to her statement on 17 September. She first said;

“With regards to the first matter you raise, no government agency’s budget is inflation
linked. Ministers make decisions on an annual basis about potential funding increases
based on the requirements of the agencies. As you will be aware, these decisions involve
prioritisation across the entire public sector to ensure that any additional funding is
focused on the areas of most need.”

The Minister’s claim that “no government agency’s budget is inflation linked”appears to be at variance with the fact that the Prime Minister’s Department’s budget has doubled since 2008. This is an area which she obviously has no answer to, hence “transferring” my query to the PM’s Department.

However, Adams’ assertion that “ministers make decisions on an annual basis about potential funding increases” is actually at the nub of this problem. It is precisely the fact that Radio NZ’s budget has been frozen by a decision at a  ministerial level, that Minister Adams herself admits.

In effect, by deciding that Radio NZ’s budget is not to be increased, it is a form of political interference in an otherwise independent agency’s affairs.

National has long since abandoned Muldoonist-style direct interference in state sector departments and agencies. The more subtle – but just as destructive technique – is to quietly starve a recalcitrant independent body of funding.

When Minister Adams insists that “Ministers make decisions on an annual basis about potential funding increases based on the requirements of the agencies“, she is being duplicitous.

No one could sensibly suggest that a nationwide broadcaster could operate on a long-term basis without an increase to it’s funding.

Executives warn Parliamentary Select Committee of dire financial situation for RadioNZ

Radio NZ’s growing financial problems was raised during the 2012/13 financial review of Radio New Zealand,  by the Parliamentary Commerce Committee. The Committee referred to the issue at the beginning of their Report;

“Crown funding for Radio New Zealand has not increased in six years; we asked how this had affected staff and services.”

Labour’s Kris Faafoi was direct when he asked RadioNZ’s, Deputy Chief Executive, Ken Law;

“…you’ve been under a pretty difficult financial situation for 5 or 6 years now. I notice in the questions that you gave back to us that you’ve managed to make some savings of around $2 million in the last year, but how much longer can you cut your cloth until there is no more cloth to cut?”

Law, responded;

“I would suggest that that funding will have to be externally generated. But we have been very successful. We’ve made a number of
savings, particularly in production systems. We have some excellent expert staff in audio production. They’ve made some major savings in audio production systems and procedures. We’ve taken out some of the resilience or some of the duplication in transmission networks. That’s been a very calculated risk, but one that we think we’ve been able to manage and we can manage into the future. But really your question—how much longer? Not much longer.”

That was review was held around 8 May 2014. Despite putting on a brave face to the Parliamentary Committee and voicing up-beat comments, Radio NZ’s executives are clearly concerned that they are fast running out of cost-saving options.

Also noteworthy is that, in an attempt to cut costs, managerial decisions have been implemented to cut “some of the resilience or some of the duplication in transmission networks“.

Law described  cut-backs to “resilience” as “a very calculated risk”. This can be taken as to mean that Radio NZ’s technical infrastructure has been undermined and compromised for cost-saving purposes.

“Sustainability” and job losses looming

Minister Adams’ also explained what she meant by the term, “sustainable choices” and  in what sense was the broadcaster  a “business”, considering it is non-commercial, and has no revenue-income to speak of;

“With regards to the term ‘sustainable choices’ as used in my previous
correspondence, I meant choices about fiscal policy that keep government debt at
prudent levels and manage fiscal risks. As mentioned above, when Ministers make
decisions about agency funding they have to prioritise initiatives from across the
state sector to achieve this.

[…]

Although RNZ is not a commercial business, the Crown expects commercial disciplines
to be applied to the use of public funds and for RNZ to act in a professional and
business-like manner.”

Minister Adams’ candour was startling. She was admitting that her use of the phrase “sustainable choices” referred not to Radio NZ – but to National’s own attempts to balance it’s Budget and post a surplus.

Like other areas of the State sector – health, education, housing, police, etc – National has been cutting budgets to meet Budgetary demands. Those demands were exacerbated by National’s tax cuts of 2009 and 2010. Using the Minister’s phraseology, those tax cuts were ultimately “unsustainable choices“.

A year and a half  after  Ken Law’s fateful words to the Commerce Committee, Radio NZ’s chief executive, Paul Thompson, announced that the broadcaster would be shedding jobs;

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson confirmed staff had been sent memo outlining the proposed changes at the state-owned broadcaster on Tuesday.

Newsreaders and producers at Radio New Zealand are in the gun, with the national broadcaster planning to shed jobs in their push into digital.

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson confirmed staff had been sent memo outlining the proposed changes at the state-owned broadcaster on Tuesday.

This included cutting the overall headcount at RNZ from 283 to 270 by July next year, with 20 jobs disestablished and seven new digital roles created.

“We are having to find some savings which is no surprise.”

National’s on-going refusal to adequately  fund Radio NZ  has  predictably been  “un-sustainable“.

The Prime Minister’s Office confirms doubling of their Budget

Having heard nothing since 15 October, when the Broadcasting Minister’s office transferred part of my OIA request to the Prime Minister’s Department, follow-up enquiries were made on 23 October as to what progress they were making;

“It is my understanding that Radio New Zealand’s funding has not increased since 2009,
when it’s budget was set at $31,816,000.

With it’s funding frozen, and no means of other revenue, it has effectively had a funding
cut after inflation and salary increases are taken into account.

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has not, at the very least, been inflation-indexed?

Can you explain why Radio NZ’s budget has been frozen whilst at the same time, the Prime
Ministers Department has had a budget increase since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000
in 2015/16 – a near doubling in just seven years?”

By 12 November, a month after Minister Adams’ office had transferred part of my OIA request to the Prime Minister, no reply had been forthcoming and I asked again whether I could expect a reply.

A little over twentyfour hours later, I received a two-page response from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. (The full text of the document is available for viewing here.)

In response to my questions;

“Why has Radio NZ’s funding been frozen since 2009 – whilst funding for the Prime Minister’s Department has doubled  since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16?”

“This [funding] constraint does not seem to have been applied to the Prime Minister’s Department, with funding increases every year since 2008. Can you shed light on  why Radio NZ’s funding has been frozen, but the Prime Minister’s Department has not?”

– the answers were “interesting” to say the least.

Anne Shaw, Director of the Office of the Chief Executive, confirmed that the budget for the DPMC had doubled  since 2008 from $25,470,000 to $49,298,000 in 2015/16.

She described the doubling of the Prime Minister’s Department as taking on “new responsibilities“;

“The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) serves the Executive (the
Governor-General, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet) through the provision of high
quality impartial advice and support services. DPMC is comprised of five business
units: Cabinet Office, Government House, Policy Advisory Group, Security & Intelligence
Group, and Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management. The functions of DPMC
have changed significantly over the period of time covered by your request with taking
on new responsibilities. The changes in funding largely reflect this.”

Interestingly, Shaw refered to political management  and the Civil Defence  bureacracy as “business units”. Are those “business units” run with the  expectation of  commercial disciplines  to be applied to the use of public funds and to act in a professional and business-like manner” – as Minister Adams demanded of Radio NZ?

Shaw then provided alleged examples which appeared to justify the doubling of funding for the Prime Minister’s office.

However, Budget documents are not always clear as to what “additional fundings” were made from the Prime Ministers Department (DPMC), as purported by Shaw. In several instances, there was no apparent reference to any increase for a given purpose;

(1) “Additional funding” for the  “conservation of Government House in Wellington” between 2009/10 and 2010/11:

Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet 2009/10 Budget: $20.1 million

Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet 2010/11 Budget: $17.4 million

Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet 2011/12 Budget: $1.1 million

Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet 2012/13 Budget: $1 million

(2) “Payments made as a result of the September 2010 and February 2011 Canterbury Earthquakes, including support for response and recovery as a result  of the 22 February 2011 Canterbury Earthquake“. There were no payments found  for “support for response and recovery activities”  relating to the earthquakes within the 2010/11, 2011/12, or 2012/13 Budgets.

(3)  “Relocating the intelligence and security functions to a new purpose-built facility for the New Zealand intelligence community” 2010/11.  There were no payments found  for any such “relocation” within the DPMC Budget.

However, the Budget for Vote Communications Security and Intelligence increased massively during the 2010/11 period which Shaw claimed as justification for the DPMC’s budget increase:

Vote Communications Security and Intelligence 2008/09:  $49.368 million

Vote Communications Security and Intelligence 2009/10:  $59.142 million

Vote Communications Security and Intelligence 2010/11:  $73.926 million

Any increase for “relocating the intelligence and security functions to a new purpose-built facility for the New Zealand intelligence community” appears to have come from Vote Communications Security and Intelligence, not Vote Prime Minister’s Department.

(4) There is no reference to expenditure for “Cabnet”  or establishment of the National Cyber Policy Office within the 2012/13 Budget for Vote Prime Minister’s Department. If it exists, it was “buried” under one or another classication.

(5)  Shaw also referred to costs incurred for “depreciation funding for the refurbished Government House“. These entries do exist in each DPMC Budget.

“Funded depreciation” is described as “… a fixed asset management method that helps a company set aside funds to renew machinery and equipment that it uses in operating activities“.

It is highly unlikely that any government will be building a new Government House any time soon.

(6) Shaw gave another explanation to the ballooning Prime Minister’s Department’s budget; “In April 2014, the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM) became part of the DPMC. This meant an additional funding increase in 2013/14 with the transfer of civil defence and emergency management functions from Vote Internal Affairs and an additional 39 staff“.

Ms Shaw is correct, and the cost of transitioning – according the the 2013/14 Budget – $1.354 million.

Even with three related costings included, the sum reaches only $3.6 million. This hardly explains why the PM’s Department’s budget has doubled since 2008.

(7)  Ms Shaw’s final explanation for the budgetary increases for the DPMC was perhaps the most galling, citing “an increase in 2015/16 reflecting the expected costs of supporting the process to consider changing the New Zealand Flag“.

However, Shaw’s explanation is not convincing. The 2015/16 Budget reveals a figure of $4.4 million for the DPMC’s “Supporting Flag Consideration Process” – not the full estimated costing of $26 million.

Even so, considering that Ministers have consistantly fetishsised  the “need for fiscal restraint”, it is hard to see that funding the flag referendum is a necessity that excuses the need for on-going “fiscal restraint”.

Especially when agencies such as Radio NZ have not had funding increases for seven years.

It appears that money can be readily found when John Key needs it.

Solutions?

On 17 September, broadcasting spokespeople for Labour, the Greens, and NZ First were approached for comment on Radio NZ’s funding.

The Greens and NZ First did not provide any response.

Labour’s Clare Curran responded and said;

In October I released a private member’s bill to put to an end Radio New Zealand’s punishing
six­year funding freeze that matches funding to inflation and population growth and assists
the broadcaster’s transition to a multimedia public service network

The Radio NZ (Catch­Up Funding) Amendment Bill, which has been placed in the private
member’s bill ballot, provides for an 11 per cent increase based on total inflation and an
overall population increase of 6.7 per cent from June 2009 to June 2015.

Current NZ on Air funding for Radio New Zealand for the 2015/16 year is $31,816,000. The
one­off ‘catch up’ for the 2015/16 year would be an increase of around $6.5 million.

The Bill provides for the catch­up funding to be sustained and for inflation and population
adjustments to occur annually. It is the first step in a broad strategy by Labour to improve the
quantity and quality of New Zealand voices in broadcasting.

Public service broadcasting is gradually being eroded in New Zealand. Despite the population
of New Zealand growing ever larger and more diverse, the range of voices in broadcasting is
narrowing.

This bill is a stake in the ground on the importance of public interest media.

Ms Curran also replied to several specific questions I put to her,  if Labour was to be part of the next government, post­-2017;

Frank Macskasy: Will you make an immediate capital-injection into Radio NZ, to take into account inflation since 2008?

Clare Curran: Labour’s broadcasting policy for 2017 is yet to be announced. However I draw your attention
to the private member’s bill in my name which provides for an immediate funding increase
for RNZ based on inflation since 2008 and population increase.

FM: Will you inflation-index any subsequent funding for Radio NZ?

CC: Bearing in mind we haven’t announced formal policy I think you take that as a yes.

FM: What strategy do you have, if any, to entrench regular funding increases for Radio NZ to take such funding  decisions away from ministers and eliminate/reduce potential covert political interference by chronic under-funding?

CC:  This is an excellent question and one that Labour takes very seriously. We are undertaking
community engagement as we speak about these very matters. As Broadcasting
spokesperson, and as a former journalist, I believe editorial independence from ministerial
interference is a fundamental tenet of democracy. Recent events inside Maori TV have raised
serious questions about the ability of a Minister to influence programming decisions which he
doesn’t like. Political party That’s deeply concerning no matter which political party is
involved.

I don’t believe our publicly ­funded media is arms­-length enough from government. What’s
happening in Australia with the ABC and even in the UK with the BBC is testament to that.

In order for true democracy to flourish, commercial –free public interest media is an essential
pillar. Just as we have established and entrenched the watchdogs of government in the
Ombudsman, Auditor General, Human Rights Commission, Privacy Commissioner etc.. so
must we ensure that our public media entities are given a public mandate to operate
independently from state influence, overtly or surreptitiously. As you rightly point out,
removing funding decisions from ministers may be an important mechanism to do that.

However, I make the point that it must be a political policy decision to move in that direction.
I signal that Labour will move in that direction.

FM: Would an independent decision-making body, such as the Remuneration Authority which rules over MP’s salaries, be a practical solution to this problem?

CC: This is a matter for further discussion which I welcome and will participate in, in any forum.

Clare Curran’s response was appreciated.

It also gives hope that a future progressive government will not only restore Radio NZ’s funding – but will implement a policy that will entrench and safeguard this taonga from covert under-mining by unsympathetic governments.

The job of media is not to serve up infantilised ‘pap’ for an increasingly disconnected audience. The job of media is to hold truth to power, full-stop.

A democracy simply cannot function without a flourishing, well-resourced, critical media.

Governments without a watchful media is authority without brakes. It is political power without independent over-sight. It is dangerous.

At a time when print media is “down-sizing” (ie, sacking) skilled, experienced staff, and electronic media serves up a daily evening diet of superficial “current affairs” and even more vacuous “news”; gormless formulaic “reality shows”; and a never-ending stream of stomach-churning crime “drama” – Radio NZ is the last bastion of serious, professional media.

It is the last institution left standing. It is holding the line.

But only barely.

Note1 – Minister Adams responded to my OIA in one and a half weeks. This is an outstanding achievement for any National Minister’s office. Most National Ministers take weeks, if not months, to respond.

NZ Treasury: Budget 2015 – Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet

Additional References

NZ on Air: The Board

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2008

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2009

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2010

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2012

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2013

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2014

NZ on Air Annual Report: 2015

Additional

The Daily Blog: CBB supports Private Members Bill to increase funding to Radio NZ

Labour: Labour bill to stop stealth cuts to Radio NZ

The Standard:  David Cunliffe on the state of the media in New Zealand

Parliament: Radio New Zealand (Catch-up Funding) Amendment Bill

Previous related blogposts

TVNZ7, Radio New Zealand, and distracting trinkets.

State Media Bans Dissident!

Karl Du Fresne has a public baby waa-waa cry-session

Karl Du Fresne has a public baby waa-waa cry-session – part rua

Talkback Radio, Public Radio, and related matters

NZ media; the Good, the Bad, and the Very, Very, Ugly

Campbell Live, No More

The Donghua Liu Affair: One Year On

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charlie hebdo

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 November 2015.

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Campbell Live, No More

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77wNkZgE_400x400

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Campbell Live‘ was more than just current affairs.

It was more than just a vehicle for advertising.

It was the heart and soul of the nation, and epitomised those values which we Kiwis profess to hold dear; fairness, tolerance, and giving others a fair go.

Perhaps in this day and age of bottom-lines; stakeholders; shareholders; mission statements; unbridled consumerism; value-for-money; and all the other faddish buzz-words of this Corporate Age – a show like ‘Campbell Live‘ was an anachronism, reminding us of another New Zealand.

John Campbell and his hard-working team of professionals reminded us that we are better than just consumers chasing, en masse, the cheapest bargains. He reminded us that we are still citizens, and that we should still care about the country we live in.

Friday 29 May 2015 will be a sad day for many. Today, we have lost a little bit more of our spirit. (To those who don’t ‘get’ it – don’t worry. You’ll never understand.)

Today, we lost another small piece of what it means to be a Kiwi.

Today, we lost a little more of our soul.

Today, we lost a friend.

Thank you, John and your team. And my apologies that we could not help you, as you’ve helped us, over the years.

That is my deepest regret.

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He aha te mea nui? He tangata. He tangata. He tangata

(What is the most important thing? It is people. It is people. It is people)

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Previous related blogposts

Radio NZ – Mediawatch for 24 May 2015 – TV3’s Mark Jennings interviewed re Campbell Live

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

Related

NZ Herald: Political roundup – Who killed Campbell Live?

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 29 May 2015.

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Categories: Media Tags:

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

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Campbell Live - GCSB - John Key

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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.

Conspiracy?

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;

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

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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;

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Herald - John Key calls media 'Knuckleheads'

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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;

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Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks

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

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Government denies MediaWorks loan

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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.

Commercialism?

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;

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

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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.

Conclusion

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.

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Addendum1

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

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Action stations logo - campbell live

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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.

Addendum2

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

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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.

 

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

– Julius Caesar, ActIII, scene ii

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#boycottTV3

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References

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

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media sensationalism and laziness - Jon Stewart

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

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Radio NZ – Mediawatch for 24 May 2015 – TV3’s Mark Jennings interviewed re Campbell Live

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Radio NZ logo -  media watch

 

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Originally aired on Mediawatch, Sunday 24 May 2015

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Mediaworks Head of News and Current Affair, Mark Jennings, answers questions on the planned  cancellation of  TV3’s ‘Campbell Live‘…

Jennings’ responses to Colin Peacock are at times contradictory, and at others, raise more questions still.  The listener is left wondering if there is indeed more to the demise of ‘Campbell Live‘ than Mediaworks has been letting on.

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Play AUDIO

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Play AUDIO(Alt. link)

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The number one question has to be why Mediaworks did not promote ‘Campbell Live‘ more heavily. Jennings’ comment that the show “had been drifting down in ratings” simply does not stack up when the rating numbers are looked at.

Jennings admitted that the recent “burst of publicity has helped” ratings. So, one is left wondering why Mediaworks has not done it’s own promotional activity if the “burst of publicity” helped.

Listen to the interview. Come to your own conclusion.

 

 

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 May 2015.

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

25 April 2015 4 comments

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campbell live header

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Current affairs programme producer, Tim Watkin, has vigorously denied any outside interference in his weekend show,  ‘The Nation‘ .

In an email, to this blogger, dated 18 April, Tim asserted his editorial independence,

“Let me reassure you, most importantly, that not a single ounce of pressure was brought to bear on me or anyone in my team. It was our decision alone (and some felt strongly it would be a waste of our time)…

[…]

What was most frustrating about your blog was the utterly unfounded assertion that we would give in to pressure from management to not cover that, or any, story. “

On 9 April, news broke on the announcement that the last remaining  investigative/advocacy, current affairs show on free-to-air TV, Campbell Live‘, was facing a “review”. In commercial media parlance, “review” is often  a euphemism for staff to prepare to pack their bags and vacate their desks by lunch-time.

Strangely, announcing an impending “review” is hardly ever a precursor to a 20% salary increase for staff; more allocation of resources for the producers; and a more favourable time-slot for the show.

On 14 April, this blogger reported in The Daily Blog that neither TVNZ’s ‘Q+A’ nor TV3’s ‘The Nation’ that weekend (Saturday/Sunday, 11/12 April) had mentioned this story which had featured in every other main-stream media;

As well as the msm, most of the top blogs in the country covered the story, one way or another (see: Other blogs)

So I was looking forward to see some serious analysis on ‘The Nation‘ and/or ‘Q+A‘, on this issue.

Incredibly, and alarmingly, none was forthcoming, except for a brief throw-away-line by comedians Jeremy Corbett and Paul Ego, during their sixty-second satirical-slot on ‘The Nation‘ (though without any actual direct reference to John Campbell), to “being replaced by Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce“.

TV1’s ‘Q+A‘ was also strangely silent on an issue that had been a nationwide talking point.

Instead, on Saturday’s ‘The Nation‘, we had stories on;

  • Legal highs, with interviews with Peter Dunne and Matt Bowden
  • the booming Auckland Property market, with interviews with Mayor Len Brown; Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse; Kate Healy from Ngati Whatua Orakei Whai Rawa Ltd, and property developer David Whitburn

Sunday’s ‘Q+A‘ on TV1  gave us;

  • an interview with HSBC economist, Paul Bloxham, who coined the phrase “rock star economy”
  • urban-designer, Charles Montgomery, on how to improve our cities

Considering that ‘Campbell Live‘ is one of the last serious current affairs programme remaining on free-to-air television, one would have thought that this was worthy of scrutiny by either ‘Q+A’ or ‘The Nation‘.

Understandably, perhaps, TV3’s executives Julie Christie and Group Chief Executive Officer Mark Weldon – who have allegedly expressed a dislike for  ‘Campbell Live‘ – may have dissuaded ‘The Nation‘ from enquiring further into the matter.

On the weekend of 18/19 April, TV3’s ‘The Nation’s‘ stories focused on;

On 19 April, TV1’s ‘Q+A focused on;

  • water ownership rights & Iwi claims
  • an interview with Lt Gen Tim Keating, on our troop deployment to Iraq
  • historian, Dr Vincent O’Malley, on our own land wars

Again, it was left to the satirical componant of ‘The Nation‘ (on Saturday 18 April) to refer obliquely to the issue, when ‘Animation Nation‘ poked fun at “the entertainment value of Campbell Live“. (More on the repeat broadcast of ‘The Nation‘ on Sunday 19 April, below.)

On 18 April, I asked Tim Watkin why there was no mention during the body of the programme regarding ‘Campbell Live‘. Considering the national interest involved in this story, I found it strange that ‘The Nation‘ has not looked into the issue. Could he shed any light on whether or not  the issue had been discussed by ‘The Nation’s‘ Producers, for possible inclusion?

Tim’s reply;

“Journalism struggling is not new  and, to be honest, many journalists shy away from such stories because it looks self-indulgent and the public appetite for us navel gazing (and the political appetite for public service broadcasting, for that matter) is not high in my view. Programmes like The Nation and Q+A have no history of reporting media stories, beyond coverage of Dirty Politics etc (which we did extensively), so why start now? We didn’t cover the end of Close Up. Or the rise of Paul Henry. Or Tim Murphy’s resignation… I could go on. There are lots of media stories that matter, but it’s not our core business.”

Tim did admit though;

“Having said that I accept this is bigger than most, which is why we made sure we did discuss it both weeks, on our Sunday panel…”

Tim’s reference to “Sunday panel” repeats an earlier statement in his 14 April email where he asserts “you must have missed the fact that we talked about Campbell Live in our extra Sunday panel“.

The Sunday edition of ‘The Nation‘ is a few minutes longer because of a lack of commercial advertisements on Sunday mornings. Hence, more of the panel discussion is broadcast on Sunday than it’s original airing on the previous day, Saturday morning.

So if the viewer watches the Saturday morning broadcast, but not the Sunday morning, extended version, she/he will miss a few extra minutes of chit-chat.

Hence Tim Watkin’s reference  to the “extended panel”.

The question for the reader is threefold;

(a) is a panel discussion sufficient coverage of an issue that Tim himself concedes is “bigger than most”?

(b) is a panel discussion a suitable alternative to an actual interview and story by trained journalists?

(c) how many viewers are aware that the Sunday version of ‘The Nation‘ is extended by a few minutes, because of a lack of commercial advertising, and therefore a need exists to fill in a gap that would otherwise be left, if the original Saturday version were broadcast? Unless a viewer was aware of the extended version on Sunday mornings, why would anyone watch the same show twice?

Given Point C, most viewers, having watched the early morning Saturday version of ‘The Nation‘, would miss the repeat (albeit extended) broadcast on Sunday, and any additional material therein.

This blogger will raise his hand and say he was unaware of the extended panel version, and would have been oblivious to this situation had Tim not referred to it, and a close friend (hat-tip, Freda) not alerted me to having heard the panel discussion on Sunday morning.

Tim further stated;

…Our kind of programme is not made in a few hours. Sure, we can dump everything when major news breaks, but that’s a big ask of my already over-worked team (which is currently preparing for six hours of ANZAC Day coverage on top of their day jobs). So you pick your battles. While the CLive story matters it’s hardly 9/11 or Dirty Politics. Next, you have to think about what talent you can get to talk to and what you can add to the public debate. The newspapers were all over CLive, so what new could we add? Who would talk in a studio programme that would be useful and wouldn’t look indulgent? .”

No one is suggesting that the ‘Campbell Live‘ story is “ 9/11 or Dirty Politics“, and we can dismiss that strawman/woman reference right here and now.

However, considering the very nature of ‘Campbell Live‘; it’s reputation for investigative journalism; it’s reputation for advocacy journalism; and John Campbell’s outstanding, impeccable reputation – this blogger believes that it does matter. It matters very much.

Referring to coverage of any story on ‘Campbell Live‘ as “self indulgent” seems an exceedingly weak excuse to ignore it.

Tim’s question as to who “you can get to talk to and what you can add to the public debate. The newspapers were all over CLive, so what new could we add? Who would talk in a studio programme that would be useful and wouldn’t look indulgent” is a question for a current affairs producer to answer. S/he is paid to come up with such names.

But off the top of my head, I can think of  Kim Hill, Brian Edwards, Bill Ralston, Andrea Vance, Fran O’Sullivan, to name a few. Or ex tv company executives. Perhaps even staff willing to talk, off the record, under a guarantee of anonymity.

Critiquing and scrutinising media events that impact on our country and the way investigative journalism is carried out is hardly “indulgent”. For one thing, it addresses the ages-old question; Who Watches The Watchmen?

On the issue of  “Who Watches the Watchmen”, I asked Tim; in your experience, do media outlets (eg; TV3) ever investigate themselves when they are the focus of public attention?

Tim responded;

Yes, many do investigate themselves. Look at the BBC on Clarkson. Indeed our host Lisa Owen, when at TVNZ, was often used to stories on TVNZ.

So, it’s not “indulgent” when Lisa Owen did stories on TVNZ?

Tim added;

“It’s always delicate reporting on yourself, but it’s important to be able to do (arguably more so at TVNZ than at TV3 because there is public money involved there while Mediaworks is just a private business).”

Mediaworks is just a private business“?

I leave the reader to draw his/her own conclusions to that one single sentence. To this blogger, it raise more questions than it answers – especially when Tim described how “it’s always delicate reporting on yourself”.

Indeed.

I then referred Tim to a recent story  by Matt Nippert in the ‘NZ Herald‘ on 18 April; “Campbell’s sponsor cut months ago“. I asked if he thought Nippert’s claims warranted further investigation on ‘The Nation‘, and if not, why not?

Tim was categorical;

“No. By this time next week, I’m sure that angle will have been fully investigated and played out one way or another. It also might be useful to consider the differences between the strengths and weaknesses of print vs studio-based TV programmes. That’s a great print story, but how would you cover it on TV now that it’s broken? It’s a newsworthy reported fact, but doesn’t suggest a compelling 10 minute interview or 10 minute track, which is what we do.”

I am intrigued that Tim asks, “but how would you cover it on TV now that it’s broken?

If a blogger – untrained in media or journalism – has to advise a TV producer “how to cover it on TV now that it’s broken“, then one of us is in the wrong job. I would assume, just for arguments sake, that Nippert’s story would be covered in the same way that Nicky Hager’s story on ‘Dirty Politics‘ was covered.

To determine whether Nippert’s story is “compelling” or not, I refer the reader to the full article;

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campbell live - Campbell's sponsor cut months ago - nz herald - matt nippert - john campbell - TV3 - mediaworks

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On one point in  Nippert’s story, I will add my own observation. Reference Bill Ralson’s comment;

Bill Ralston, a former TVNZ head of current affairs, said the short-term deal was highly unusual and only made sense if a decision about the future of the show had already been made…

[…]

Mr Ralston said longer-term sponsorships made more financial sense for broadcasters.

“If you’re a cash-strapped TV channel like they are, you’d want that cash booked in for at least a year.”

In the 1990s, this blogger worked for a community newspaper, in the advertising department. When seeking clients to advertise, we were told to encourage clients to book advertisements for long periods – the longer the better. It meant guaranteed income for the paper.

Given a choice between a three month contract and a year-long contract, any advertising rep would have pushed for the latter. No advertising manager in his/her right mind would willingly give a client only a three month contract when a twelve month version was available.

Otherwise, you would be throwing potential revenue away.

This point alone warrants a full investigation by any current affairs team worthy of the name. It raises questions. I suggest to Tim  Watkin that might be a valid starting point; why was a cash-strapped TV channel that has just come out of liquidation turning down year-long sponsorship contract

On 14 April, Tim strenuously also rejected any executive interference in his show, and  expressed umbrage at impugning the integrity of his team;

“…you suggest that we “may” have been “dissuaded” from covering the story by Weldon or Christie. Clearly given my first point, that’s wrong. But what has prompted me to drop you this personal note is that it also impugns the integrity of my team without any supporting evidence. Let me assure you that it is entirely incorrect.

[…]

That I’m always happy to debate, but I get very protective when people make stuff up, make lazy assumptions or get personal, especially if it reflects on the integrity of my hard-working team of journalists, who more than most have put their skin in the game and chosen to work on a NZOA funded programme trying to make the type of television that is thorough and thoughtful and holds power to account without fear or favour.”

Two points require addressing here.

1.  The point made in my previous blogpost (The Curious World of the Main Stream Media) stated;

“Understandably, perhaps, TV3’s executives Julie Christie and Group Chief Executive Officer Mark Weldon – who have allegedly expressed a dislike for  ‘Campbell Live‘ – may have dissuaded ‘The Nation‘ from enquiring further into the matter.

Note the two words I have highlighted; “allegedly” and “may“.

I have no evidence except other media reports which have carried this suggestion. (Hopefully Tim will be contacting them, seeking a “correction”?) Indeed, I purposely left out a damning allegation which had first been reported on social media (and since published on another website)  simply because I could find no corroborating evidence to support it.

However, let me make this point. Tim refers to Nicki Hager’s investigative book, ‘Dirty Politics‘.

When ‘Dirty Politics‘ was released and the contents of National’s dealings with a far-right blogger became public knowledge, several individuals, from the Prime Minister up, were quick to shrug and respond;

So what? We all knew this was happening. There’s nothing new here.

I make no claim what influence – if any – Mediawork’s executives Julie Christie and  Mark Weldon made to keep the ‘Campbell Live‘ issue out of their current affairs programmes.

We simply don’t know for certain. There have been unsubstantiated claims, but no evidence.

But – if evidence does surface that pressure has been exerted from MediaWork’s lofty towers, or further afield, from a certain Ninth Floor, will we be hearing the same cynics dismissively protesting;

So what? We all knew this was happening. There’s nothing new here.

2. This blogger rejects any suggestion that Tim’s Team has been insulted or in any way had their integrity impugned.

If legitimate questions cannot be asked of politicians by the media; and of the media by the public – then someone is holding themselves above any form of accountability.

For the record, this blogger does not question the hard work or integrity of the workers involved in ‘Q+A‘ and ‘The Nation‘. Nothing I have written comes close to suggesting otherwise, regardless of Tim’s long bow which seems to stretch from Bluff to Kaitaia.

Also for the record,  despite not questioning the dedication and integrity of workers involved in both shows; my question remains; why was the ‘Campbell Live‘ issue not considered worthy of scrutiny by either/both ‘Q+A‘ and ‘The Nation‘?  Tim himself concedes that this is an extraordinary, on-going story.

When the fate of television’s last, prime-time investigative tv show is under threat – then we, the public, deserve to at least ask why?

Are we still permitted to ask questions? Especially when the msm won’t ask on our behalf?

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Addendum1

I invite producers of ‘Q+A‘ to answer the same questions I have levelled at Tim Watkin.  To date, I have had no response to queries sent via Twitter to the show’s producer.

Addendum2

Meanwhile, news for ‘Campbell Live‘ just gets better and better;

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campbell live - twitter - ratings - 17 april 2015

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As I tweeted back, “I guess with those figures, Mediaworks will be canning Jono & Ben and 3 News?”

Addendum3

The near-full version of emails between myself and ‘Nation‘ producer, Tim Watkin, is available for viewing here.

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References

NZ Herald: Campbell Live to be axed? TV bosses place show under review

Frankly Speaking: Campbell still Live, not gone

TVNZ: Q+A (19 April 2015)

TV3: Animation Nation

NZ Herald: Campbell’s sponsor cut months ago

Mana Party:  Key – I want that left wing bastard gone

Twitter: Campbell Live

Previous related blogposts

The Curious World of the Main Stream Media

Other bloggers


 

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campbell live - cartoon - bromhead

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 April 2015.

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The Curious World of the Main Stream Media

19 April 2015 9 comments

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Q+ A and The Nation

The biggest news story of the week broke on  Thursday, 9 April, with Mediaworks revealing to a stunned public  that ‘Campbell Live‘ – which had just celebrated it’s tenth anniversary – was “under review”. It was a story appearing in practically every media outlet in the country;

Fairfax media

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NZ Herald

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nz herald - john campbell - campbell live - tv3 - mediaworks - Campbell Live to be axed TV bosses place show under review

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Radio NZ

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radio nz - john campbell - campbell live - tv3 - mediaworks - The end for Campbell Live

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NZ Newswire

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nz newswire - john campbell - campbell live - tv3 - mediaworks - Support swells as Campbell Live faces chop

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Mediaworks/TV3

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NewstalkZB

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National Business Review

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NBR - national business review - tv3 - john campbell - campbell live - tv3 - mediaworks - Will Campbell Live survive

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On Facebook, a Save Campbell Live!  group quickly sprang up, with 1,545 members as 12.01am, 14 April.

One petition on Change.org has acquired 19,654 signatures, and another on Action Stations has 66,974.

The tweet hashtag, , was trending near the top of Twitter’s New Zealand Trends on 9 April;

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#savecampbelllive

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Acknowledgement for use of image above: Halloween Mike1

As well as the msm, most of the top blogs in the country covered the story, one way or another (see: Other blogs)

So I was looking forward to see some serious analysis on ‘The Nation‘ and/or ‘Q+A‘, on this issue.

Incredibly, and alarmingly, none was forthcoming, except for a brief throw-away-line by comedians Jeremy Corbett and Paul Ego, during their sixty-second satirical-slot on ‘The Nation‘ (though without any actual direct reference to John Campbell), to “being replaced by Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce“.

TV1’s ‘Q+A‘ was also strangely silent on an issue that had been a nationwide talking point.

Instead, on Saturday’s ‘The Nation‘, we had stories on;

  • Legal highs, with interviews with Peter Dunne and Matt Bowden
  • the booming Auckland Property market, with interviews with Mayor Len Brown; Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse; Kate Healy from Ngati Whatua Orakei Whai Rawa Ltd, and property developer David Whitburn

Sunday’s ‘Q+A‘ on TV1  gave us;

  • an interview with HSBC economist, Paul Bloxham, who coined the phrase “rock star economy”
  • urban-designer, Charles Montgomery, on how to improve our cities

Considering that ‘Campbell Live‘ is one of the last serious current affairs programme remaining on free-to-air television, one would have thought that this was worthy of scrutiny by either ‘Q+A’ or ‘The Nation‘.

Understandably, perhaps, TV3’s executives Julie Christie and Group Chief Executive Officer Mark Weldon – who have allegedly expressed a dislike for  ‘Campbell Live‘ – may have dissuaded ‘The Nation‘ from enquiring further into the matter.

When Fairfax Media made redundant large numbers of sub-editors a few years ago, the event was not reported in ‘The Dominion Post‘ or any other Fairfax title. The news was suppressed by management. In this respect media management can be every bit as shy of public scrutiny as the politicians they profess to scrutinise.

The media demand press freedom to allow public scrutiny – except when it applies to them.

Stranger still is that TVNZ – a direct commercial competitor to Mediaworks – made no mention of goings-on at TV3. One would think that a major event in this country’s media would have rated some sort of story or analysis with media experts.

Instead – nothing.

Television executives seem very shy when it comes to public attention on their own activities.

How NOT to promote a flagship programme

Palmerston North teacher, Scott Milne, pointed out that ‘Campbell Live‘s’ poor ratings may be due to Mediaworks not promoting the programme as enthusiastically as it does with others.

On Twitter, Scott posted this screen-shot of a TV3 webpage;

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Twitter - tv3 - john campbell - campbell live - tv3 - mediaworks - Scott Milne

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When an advert for hair shampoo (lower right on page) is larger than the promo for a current affairs show, it becomes fairly clear how well the broadcaster is supporting their own product (the programme – not the shampoo).

Perhaps there is an element of truth to suggestions that certain Mediaworks executives are not “fans” of Campbell and/or his show?

The sooner that a free-to-air, non-commercial, public broadcasting channel is established, the better it will be for this country. If  the UK can have the BBC and  Australia has the ABC and SBS – why can’t we have something similar?

Short answer: lack of political will coupled with ideological stubborness.

If we had a new NZBC, commercial free, and dedicated to something resembling quality programming – TVNZ and Mediaworks/TV3 could broadcast all the crappy reality and crime shows that the rest of the public could possibly stomach.

More than anything, a lack of a free-to-air, non-commercial, public broadcasting channel shows how immature we are as a nation. Distracted by trivia has given us the only form of  dumbed-down  television the masses can digest.

More head-scratching decisions at TV3?

News over the weekend indicates that TV3 will be cutting back their weekend news bulletins at 6pm to only half an hour – less when you subtract advertising, weather, and sports;

TV3 is to chop its Sunday night news bulletin to 30 minutes, in the latest dramatic move to turn its news department into a “news, commentary and conversation” team.

MediaWorks chief executive Mark Weldon is at odds with many among his 200-strong news staff after announcing “bubbles and bagels” to celebrate the launch of Paul Henry – at the same time as Campbell Live staff were being told their programme faced the axe.

“It was just insensitive and inappropriate,” a TV3 news staffer said.

A cut-down version of ‘Third Degree‘ will be given a new – and somewhat bizarre – name;  “3D and will be shortened to 30 minutes“.

If  MediaWorks executives still have faith in their 6PM news bulletin and ‘Third Degree/3D‘, they have an unusual way of showing it. Which raises a few questions – what do they hope to gain? More time allocated for commercial programming?

Those viewers who enjoy watching the 6PM news bulletins may find themselves feeling cheated at TV3’s cut-down, “budget” version. They may vote with their remotes to switch to TV1, where the format will offer an unchanged, longer version.

After all, if you enjoy watching TV news, which would you opt for?

Those who don’t watch TV news won’t care either way.

So MediaWork’s decision will impact only on news-watchers – and cutting back the format to 30 minutes may yet prove to be one of the  biggest blunders in TV3’s history. Perhaps bigger than it’s excellent 1993 sitcom, ‘Melody Rules‘…

MediaWorks group head of news Mark Jennings just keeps digging…

Just when you thought that threats to ‘Campbell Live’s‘ survival and cutting TV3’s 6pm news bulletin was bad enough, MediaWorks group head of news Mark Jennings seems to have made things worse by these incongruous utterances on 12 April;

“We know that Sunday night is a good place for current affairs. People are increasingly time poor and we believe 30 minutes of news plus 30 minutes of current affairs is a winning formula for this popular timeslot.”

No, Mr Jennings, we are not “time poor” – we are information poor.  In a world of superficiality and bastardised media services masqerading as “news”, we are poor in real, in-depth, news and analysis.

When “X Factor NZ” receives more  promotion from MediaWorks than one of the most respected broadcasters in the country – then it is fairly obvious where management’s priorities lie.

Trying to pass off responsibility for questionable decision-making by MediaWorks executives, onto the public being “time poor”, is exceedingly bad form. And dishonest.

If people are so “time poor”, the 6PM news bulletin might as well be cut to 15 minutes. Or eliminated altogether. There. Sorted. Plenty of time for people now…

… to switch to TV1.

Mr Jennings added;

“This way we can guarantee a pacey, high-quality product that will be appointment viewing.”

Yes, “pacey” – until each advertising break. Take ten or fifteen minutes out of each ‘3D” episode, and it become so “pacey” as to rush past the viewer. Blink, and you’ll miss it.

And then, this “gem” from Mr Jennings;

“I am very proud of our investigative journalism, and the 3D Investigates strand will build on our ground-breaking work on the Teina Pora and David Bain cases, and the Fox Glacier crash.”

Yes, indeed. He is so “proud of [TV3’s] investigative journalism” – that he is cutting both the 6PM News Bulletin and ‘Third Degree‘ in half – and considering dumping ‘Campbell Live‘.

What a peculiar way to express one’s “pride” in their work.

With regards to ‘Campbell Live‘, Mr Jennings explained his rationale for reviewing the programme;

“Viewer expectations in 2015 are quite different from those of 2005 and we need to constantly review our programming to ensure we are meeting those expectations.”

How “viewer expectations in 2015 are quite different from those of 2005″ is never quite explained. But it cannot be that different; people may take their information from the internet, but they also still watch television.

The advent of television was supposedly the death knell for movies. That belief was wrong.

On-line e-books were supposed to make real books redundant. That belief, too, was wrong.

People will watch television. What they won’t watch is crap.

In that respect, “viewer expectations in 2015 are [not so] different from those of 2005″.

Perhaps MediaWorks’ management should be looking at themselves and not at the public for reasons of ‘Campbell Live‘ not gaining increased viewership.

First and foremost; has it been promoted with the same vigour and gusto as Paul Henry? ‘The Block‘? ‘X Factor‘? ‘The Bachelor‘?

If the answer is “no” – the solution that follows on is fairly evident. Does it need to be spelled out?

MSM antics just get weirder and weirder…

Just when you thought the msm couldn’t get any weirder, comes this strange story about Fairfax media touting for ‘freebies’ from it’s readers;

Fairfax encourages readers to write

NZCity, 11 April 2015
Fairfax Media New Zealand has outlined more of its plans to make readers involved in its editorial process.

The company’s Stuff Nation product already publishes more than 2300 articles every year written by readers and the pieces are among stuff.co.nz’s most read and commented on.

Fairfax Media New Zealand group executive editor Sinead Boucher told theNewspaperWorks masthead newsrooms will set assignments for readers on newsworthy topics, as well as encourage them to send in more personal topics they may wish to discuss.

Pieces will be individually verified and edited by Fairfax journalists and edits discussed with contributors.

It’s not an attempt to get free content or do away with journalists, Ms Boucher says.

The company wants readers to play a larger role.

Popular issues include bullying, elections, obesity, the road toll, marriage equality and the property market.

On March 18, Fairfax Media New Zealand announced it was introducing a new approach to digital storytelling with a renewed focus on local journalism.

A series of changes and proposed changes aimed at enhancing local and national journalism across digital and print will be rolled out nationally.

Accepting op-ed pieces or letters-to-the-editor is one thing.

But “setting assignments for readers on newsworthy topics” appears to me that Fairfax is attempting to attract free content, which it will then on-sell for commercial gain.

There is a word for that: exploitation.

Not exactly surprising though, as Fairfax has lost many of their journalists and sub-editors over the last decade, as the company seeks to increase it’s profits and returns to shareholders.

“It’s not an attempt to get free content or do away with journalists”, Ms Boucher says.

That should go on a Tui billboard.

With fewer staff expected to do more; increasing use of “news hubs”; and a focus on on-line content at the expense of newspapers – that is precisely what Fairfax are aiming at.

Is this the future of newspapers; a msm-version of de facto bloggers-in-lieu-of-real-journalists, mass-producing stories on the cheap (free)?  If so, it makes for grim reading.

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References

Fairfax media: Campbell Live vs Jono and Ben

Fairfax media: Campbell Live to be reviewed

NZ Herald: Campbell Live to be axed? TV bosses place show under review

Radio NZ: The end for Campbell Live?

NZ Newswire: Support swells as Campbell Live faces chop

Mediaworks/TV3: MediaWorks confirms Campbell Live review

Newstalk ZB: Campbell Live facing the axe

NBR: Will Campbell Live survive?

TV3: The Nation (11/12 April 2015)

TVNZ: Q+A (12 April 2015)

Converge: Fairfax In Trouble

Twitter: Scott Milne

Fairfax media: Campbell Live should have moved with the times, pundits say

TV3: TV3 to reduce Sunday 6pm news bulletin to 30 minutes

Wikipedia: Melody Rules

TV3: TV3 current affairs moves to premium timeslot

Scoop media: Jono and Ben and Campbell Live

NZ CIty:  Fairfax encourages readers to write

Additional

Previous related blogposts


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emerson-charlie-hypocrisy-john key.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 April 2015.

 

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