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Campbell still Live, not gone

16 April 2015 11 comments

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I don’t always get an opportunity to write about something positive. Whether political or in the media, there are so many dodgy, unpleasant, or downright despicable things happening that our attention is usually taken up by matters that are, in the main, negative.

Case in point, regarding the media, was Paul Henry’s outrageous and offensive remark to a female guest on his programme, when he enquired if she had had sex with Virgin Airlines owner, Richard Branson. The fact that the woman in question was internationally respected and renowned  scientist, Dr Michelle Dickinson, who had been one of a number of people invited by Branson to attend his event,  made Henry’s remarks even more repugnant.

But as some TV3 producers of Henry’s show indicated rather hysterically and defensively, it seems that Henry’s obnoxious behaviour was perfectly acceptable to them (see: Addendum 1).

Thankfully, good  taste prevailed and Henry’s late night programme was dumped only after one year. Perhaps viewers were simply too tired at the end of a long working day to put up with an over-grown schoolboy revelling in his crude, moronic, “sense of humour”.

On the other end of the media spectrum, we have current affairs shows like ‘Campbell Live’. In a vast ocean of dross, John Campbell’s prime time programme of social and political stories stands out like a beacon.

Campbell and his team of professionals hold politicians to account; bring us stories of events happening in our communities; focus on the worst of human behaviour – but also highlight the very best that people are capable off. There is simply none of the jaded cynicism or political sycophancy of Mike Hosking, Campbell’s so-called “competition” on TV1. There is certainly none of the juvenile, smutty, sexist “humour” that the cretinous Paul Henry indulges in.

Campbell reflected what was happening in our own country, good and bad; noble and anti-social; and asked awkward questions of those in authority.

Hardly surprising that “Campbell Live” has won a whole slew of awards, according to this Wikipedia article;

  • Campbell Live won two awards at the 2006 Qantas Television Awards including Best Current Affairs Series. The second award was for the Best News or Current Affairs Presenter for John Campbell.
  • At the 2010 Qantas Television Awards, Campbell Live received three awards, one for Best Current Affairs Editing, one for Best Current Affairs Reporting and John Campbell again won for Best News or Current Affairs Presenter.
  • At the 2011 Aotearoa Film and Television Awards, Campbell Live received an award for investigation of the year for their work tracking the Samoan Tsunami relief funds – presented to host John Campbell, Executive Producer Pip Keane and Producer Claudine MacLean.
  • Campbell Live has also won The TV Guide Best on the Box People’s Choice Award for Best Current Affairs Show from 2011 to 2014 and Best Presenter from 2010 to 2014.

The growth of media “personalities/entertainers”, replacing professional journalists and broadcasters, is becoming more depressing with each passing year.

Media personalities like Hosking no longer even bother hiding their political allegiances. Political neutrality, it seems, is a quaint concept left behind in the 20th Century.

When so-called “broadcasters” like Mike Hosking treats a Government Minister with unquestioning  reverance, whilst badgering, demeaning, and dismissing a critic of the government, we have indeed arrived at a state of affairs little better than a satrap of Putin’s Russia.

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Seven Sharp - 14 august 2014 - nicky hager - steven joyce - dirty politics

Seven Sharp‘ – 14 August 2014 – Mike  Hosking chats with Steven Joyce whilst excoriating Nicky Hager over revelations in ‘Dirty Politics‘.

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Luckily for Hosking, he has his supporters from the National Party parliamentary wing, as Todd Barclay revealed with his injudicious comments on Twitter.

Ironically, right-wing broadcasters such as Bill Ralston – who himself has links to the National Government – has berated TV3’s moves to “review” ‘Campbell Live‘;

“I think they’re dealing with a product that they do not understand. There is a market for news and current affairs in New Zealand and there is a market for what John is doing.

The most senior management of TV3 have been gunning for John Campbell for a long while. He has been under enormous pressure and it has been lawyers, I understand, at 40 paces as they fight this one through.”

On Twitter, Ralston lamented;

For the record: TV3 top management are intellectual pygmies (excepting Jennings) who never understand good current affairs

Has realisation finally dawned on Ralston that a free media can be undermined by capitalism as well as authoritarian governments? Better late than never.

Bit by bit, the so-called “free” media in this country is being neutered – not by State power – but by the unrelenting, voracious hunger of commercial imperatives for profit and shareholder returns, as well as conservative, National-aligned broadcasters.

Commercial threats to the media cannot be under-estimated. Note this intriguing (and over-looked) comment on a ‘Stuff‘ website reporting on the ‘Campbell Live‘ story;

Avocado on Toast

Okay, I’m going to shed some light on this. I use to work for Mediaworks which – ten years ago up until three years ago – was an amazing place to work. Sadly a lot of managerial/decision making positions have been given to accountants or sales representatives as of late. Neither of which have any experience in how TV nor Radio actually works; all they care about is the bottom line. Redundancies/cost cuttings have been occurring across the company in all the wrong places and all the work funneled into hubs last year and this year. This saves money but puts pressure on those hub staff as they’re not re-compensated for the extra work nor given extra resources to help with the work. The only departments getting extra resources, pay increases and extra staff are sale representatives. Questioning these decisions results in “hush meetings”. They’ll be looking at Campbell Live not asking: “How can we make this better for the staff and the business?”, instead they’ll be asking: “How can we make this cheaper yet more profitable without any regard for the staff?”. They’ll cut key staff and resources then blame the staff members whom they don’t make redundant when it falls over. And I can assure you that this paragraph is EXACTLY what Mediaworks’ business model is. Mediaworks is going to implode within the next two years, I feel pretty confident in saying this as everything that I’ve said would happen three years ago up until this very story HAS happened. Thus why I happily resigned.

The reason I give credence to that comment is because precisely the same corporate policy of staff cutbacks and drop in quality has occurred at Fairfax media. Sources within Fairfax have described  very similar events taking place within our newspapers – which I scrutinised in June 2013  – and which was recently covered on Radio NZ’s “Media Watch” on 5 April.

The gutting and dumbing-down of our media has been occurring at a creeping, snail’s pace.

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Recent “milestones” – of a pessimistic variety – have been the amalgamation of Wellington’s ‘Evening Post‘ and ‘Dominion‘, in  July 2002; on-going redundancies of journalists and sub-editors at Fairfax NZ;  axing of non-commercial TVNZ7 on 30 June 2012; replacing TVNZ’s ‘Close Up‘ with ‘Seven Sharp‘ on 4 February 2013, and many others. The scheduling of TVNZ’s ‘Q+A‘ and TV3’s ‘The Nation‘ on Saturday and Sunday mornings  is an undisguised ghettoisation of political current affairs programming in this country.

Aside from ‘Campbell Live‘, only Radio New Zealand’s ‘Check Point‘ offers a serious prime-time, professional, broadcast-programme. But even Radio NZ  has been the victim of a sustained, covert attack by this National government, with a freeze on funding since 2008.

Make no mistake – ‘Campbell Live‘ is the last serious current affairs programme, scheduled for prime time viewing, on our free-to-air television screens.

The threat to a free media comes not from jack-booted secret police, acting on orders from a repressive government. The threat is more subtle, and comes in the form of commercial imperatives – which demands “more from less”.

The irony here is that our newspaper, radio, and television media are quick to point to “press freedom”, when they perceive their ability to publish/broadcast as they wish, is under some form of constraint by legislation; privacy demands; national “security”; police investigations, etc.

But the real attack on freedom of the press is coming not from externalities – but from within.

The next time TV3 complains of an attack on press freedom – someone should be asking them how they reconcile the so-called free press with TV3 executives axing the last serious current affairs programme on prime-time TV.

If an authoritarian government banned ‘Campbell Live‘ from the air, TV3 would be up in arms. There would be fierce resistance; government diktats resisted; offices raided by police; arrests made; people detained.

But when their own management does it, for commercial reasons, that is evidently acceptable.

The media demand press freedom. As longer as it’s profitable.

Perhaps, as Brian Edwards pointed out in his insightful blogpost on 10 April, it is simply that public service television and commercial television are as incompatible as mixing oil and water.

In which case, the sooner we return to a dedicated, non-commercial, public-service broadcaster – the better. And commercial broadcasters like TV1, Tv2, TV3, et al, can do what they do best; broadcast crap.

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Addendum1

Petitions to save ‘Campbell Live’. Add your voice to this campaign;

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save campbell live petition

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save campbell live petition - (2)

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Addendum 2

On-line poll at NZ Herald (not scientific) as at mid-day, 10 April;

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should campbell live be saved - nz herald

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Addendum 3

From MediaWork’s Mark Jennings;

“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.”

Mr Jennings – I suggest pornography;

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NZ media - new styles of news reading

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Nothing quite like some bare flesh to push up ratings, eh?

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References

TV1: Seven Sharp – Hager and Joyce: Head to head

Fairfax media: National MP Todd Barclay blasts Campbell Live supporters

NZ Herald: Media – Hosking plugs car and Key

Wikipedia: Campbell Live – Awards

NZ Herald: Decline in Campbell Live audience not ‘sustainable’

Dominion Post: Rise in consultant costs ‘gob-smacking’

Twitter: Bill Ralston

Fairfax media: Campbell Live to be reviewed

Frankly Speaking: Pay Walls – the last gasp of a failed media business-model? (blogpost)

Radio NZ:  Mediawatch for 5 April 2015 (alternative link)

Scoop media: Redundancies at Radio NZ? The funding freeze in action

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

Fairfax media: Behind every TV stripper

Previous related blogposts

Mike Hosking – Minister for War Propaganda?

Message to TV3 execs – Is this really acceptable?

When the mainstream media go feral: A tale of two holidays

The Media will respond to Kim Dotcom’s up-coming revelations professionally, impartially, and with all due diligence

Letter to the Editor: John Campbell expose on Key and GCSB

The trivialisation of the News and consequences

Seven Sharp turns into Serious Shite?

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

Pay Walls – the last gasp of a failed media business-model?

Additional

Facebook: Campbell Live

Facebook: Save Campbell Live!

NZ Herald: John Campbell: Mr Conscience

Petition: TV3 – Save Campbell Live

Petition: Save Campbell Live

Other blogs

Brian Edwards: The Campbell Live Debate – A Considered View

Insight NZ: Some of the best #SaveCampbellLive tweets and statuses (so far)

No Right Turn: Save Campbell Live

Polity: John Campbell

Public Address: About Campbell Live

The Civilian: No telling how large Mike Hosking’s erection is right now

The Standard: Save Campbell Live!

The Standard: Campbell live and politicisation of media

The Political Scientist: Seven Sharp, Campbell Live and TV Ratings – The ‘Nudge’ Factor

Lefthandpalm: Campbell … live?

 

 

 


 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 April 2015.

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Pay Walls – the last gasp of a failed media business-model?

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Humpty Dumpty and Paywall

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NZ, Wellington, 25 May – Journalists and other staff working for Fairfax media, were told last week  of a review that the company was carrying out. Management told staff that times are tough; advertising revenue was down; and that job losses had not been ruled out. Incredulous staff were told that there would have to be a reshuffle to make things work and that their would be job losses.

Staff were given no further details.

According to Radio NZ,

Acting general manager Andrew Boyle says there are potential job cuts across the entire company, from advertising to editorial.

Acknowledgment: Radio NZ – Fairfax looks at job cuts

And according to Stop Press,

He’s unable to say how many of Fairfax NZ’s roughly 1800 staff will be affected by the restructuring, as the company is still in early consultation with its business departments. However, he does expect it to be wide reaching including editorial, sales and operational roles. Pre-press (ad placing) and a contact centre run by Fairfax are also in the scope, he adds.

Acknowledgment: Stop Press –  Job cuts on the horizon for Fairfax, company looks towards paywalls

Fairfax NZ acting general manager, Andrew Boyle, was quick to make reassuring noises to his readers,

We still intend to be the largest newsroom in the country. We know competing with quality local content is vital to our future.”

Acknowledgment: NBR – More jobs at risk as Fairfax continues to restructure

Which was reinforced with his statement to Stop Press,

At the end of all this we will remain the largest newsroom in the country and we won’t compromise what we’ll do for our readers.”

Unfortunately, if past trends with the Dominion Post, Evening Post, and The Dominion are any indication, Mr Boyle’s optimism is not confirmed by past experience.

Since 1983, newspapers in  Wellington have gone through radical changes in both style; the number of titles available – and page-count.

Whilst prices have risen, the number of pages has dropped.

To illustrate;

Monday 20 May 2013

Tittle: Dominion Post

Price: $1.70

Page count: 24

Front Page Headlines (stories):

  1. “Mystery as China blocks NZ meat”
  2. “The tragic toll of asthma”

Monday 26 May 2003

Title: Dominion Post

Price: $1.00

Page count: 44

Front Page Headlines:

  1. “Millions creamed from pokies”
  2. “Only two All Black canes expected”
  3. “Woman with rifle threatens shoppers”
  4. “Hollingworth resigns for sake of office”
  5. large photo-story of father/son Tae Kwon Do contestants in national competition

Monday  24 May 1993

Title: The Dominion

Price: 60 cents

Page count: 44

Front Page Headlines:

  1. “Cyclist killed in horrific accident”
  2. “Woman dies in domestic related incident”
  3. “Referendum may not have Senate vote”
  4. “Bolger rules out Aussie marriage”
  5. “Hutt Council may scrap its school recreation programme”
  6. “EnergyDirect faces another court challenge”
  7. + 6 mini-item single-column stories
  8. + photo-story on rugby league player, Robert Piva

Title: The Evening Post

Price: 60 cents

Page count: 28 (TV  Week: 16 pages)

Front Page Headlines:

  1. “Projects blamed for Hutt debt”
  2. “Eve determined to keep going”
  3. “Waite caps off  Kiwi golf clean-up”
  4. “Million Cambodians vote for peace”
  5. + 6 mini-item single-column stories

Monday 23 May 1986

Title: The Dominion

Price: 25 cents

Page count: 20

Front Page Headlines:

  1. “Sea and air rescue of 20,000 gears up”
  2. “Grampa takes a bow”
  3. “Rock fall injures rafters”
  4. “Car batters wineshop”
  5. “Bodies found in snow”
  6. “Tear gas use defended”
  7. “Mosely ends racing career”
  8. “Tour lifts cloud for Dairy Board Chief”
  9. “Tories get jobless vote”
  10. “Wholesalers seek change in margins”
  11. “Wages action meets tough line”
  12. “Douglas expects Cabinet reversal”
  13. + 6 mini-item single-column stories
  14. + 1 mini-item story

Title: The Evening Post

Price: 25 cents

Page count: 36

Front Page Headlines:

  1. “Freeze stretched to Feb 29 – Back-dating kills allowances”
  2. “Ferries sale, planes fly – Storm battering travellers”
  3. “600 bed down on board”
  4. “Her new car met train”
  5. “Gale shuts out containership”
  6. “Edward lunches with Cabinet”
  7. “Mud, water rupture hill road fill”
  8. “The longest gale”

Generally speaking, as the price of newspapers has risen, the page count has dropped, and the number of news stories on the front page has also reduced in number. Content within newspapers has most likely also reduced.

According to one source, whilst readership levels remain fairly positive, advertising revenue has also dropped by at least 40% in the last financial year alone.

Staffing levels have also been slashed. Three years ago, about a hundred sub-editors were made redundant – a process that began in 2008, but received very little media coverage (see:  Fairfax says 100 further jobs to be cut in NZ ). Those who were kept on were reassigned to “hubs” that Fairfax set up to supply a centralised news service to service  its various metropolitan dailies.

Only Fairfax’s on-line staffing levels – those who maintain the Stuff.co.nz website – have shown an increase in numbers, as the company diverted more resources to it’s web presence.

Financially, APN’s NZ Herald is in an even  worse financial state. So much so that APN has not found any willing buyers for the ailing newspaper and remains on the market to this day.

According to Stop Press, Boyle is considering pay-walls Fairfax NZ’s online publications,

We’re investigating quite actively what paywalls might mean. There’s a lot of modeling and research work being done but I can’t tell you a definitive time line for it or what it might look like.”

Both Fairfax and APN are actively considering the pay-wall model – but are afraid to make the first move, lest  the other hold off, and readers flock to a free web-version of their competitor.

As Whakatane Beacon editor, Mark Longley pointed out,

If one major newspaper website charged and the other one remained free, well, that would be a tough call.”

Acknowledgment: TV3 News – News sites to adopt pay wall

An additional problem is that there are plenty of other on-line sources of free msm news; Radio NZ, Radiolive, NewstalkZB, TV3, TVNZ, etc. On-line readers may simply desert Fairfax and APN to where free material can be accessed.

There are already three pay-to-view publications in New Zealand; the Listener, Whakatane Beacon, and the Ashburton Guardian.

On TV3 News, Ashburton Guardian editor, Coen Lammers said,

If you want to know about Ashburton you have got to come to us, people have no choice really. If they value our journalism they’ll pay for it.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

That may work well in a town or small city, but in larger cities people have recourse to alternative sources of news. In fact, this blogger questions whether a pay-wall will turn around the fortunes of these large media chains when the problem is not with the readership – but with the content of their publications.

As the numbers above show (with one exception), the page count has dropped dramatically since 1983. It’s not possible to offer a similar service to readers even as page numbers drop – and advertising clients still have their advertisements crammed into fewer remaining pages.

Something has to give, and it has unfortunately been the quality of news presented.

To give an example; in the mid 1990s, the Evening Post alone assigned two reporters  to covering Wellington City Council issues. A third reporter was assigned part time. The Dominion most likely also had their own reporters covering Council issues.

This blogger has learned that the Dominion Post – an amalgamation of the former Evening Post and The Dominion – has assigned just one reporter to cover Council business.

How is that geared toward improving coverage of City Council issues?

Another case in point;  “fluff pieces” dominating  the front page does not help to present a serious, credible image of a newspaper;

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Acknowledgment; Dominion Post, 21 May 2013

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Whilst burying serious news stories – of a nature that may  will have incalculable consequences for the future of our country – somewhere in the back pages, does not scream Serious Media;

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Acknowledgment; Dominion Post, 21 May 2013

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Putting  Fairfax’s Stuff  (a god-awful name, by the way) website behind a pay-wall simply presents the same reduced news service, with a price-tag attached. This is not a clever business model. Especially when the “consumer” has free alternatives to choose from.

If Fairfax (and APN) are finding that revenue from advertising is falling, perhaps it is appropriate for management to re-visit their business strategy. Their model may be wrong when they treat print advertising separate from their online service.

Perhaps if Fairfax and APN proprietors treated both print and online media as a combined service, their clients may think more favourably about using it. Shoe retailers are masters at presenting a good deal for shoppers.

The last thirty years have shown that reducing the quality of media publications has proven disastrous in terms of  building readership and a strong advertising base. Trying to ‘sting’ readers for using an on-line service harks back to the old  “cost-plus” business mentality. That didn’t work out well either.

If Fairfax and APN want to grow their revenue then they need to get a lot more clever than simply putting their hands out and expecting readers to ‘cough up’. They will be mightily disappointed.

There is good reason why this blogger ceased buying newspapers ten years ago. I have a reasonably good memory that harks back to fine journalists like Lidia Zatorski who use to cover the Wellington City Council brief. If the mayor so much as sneezed – Ms Zatorski and her colleagues knew about it.

The Dominion Post is a pale shadow of it’s predecessors. My current short-term subscription of the Dompost confirms to me that nothing much has changed for the better (and said subscription will shortly be cancelled). Quite simply, the Dompost is hardly worth the paper it’s written on.

As a customer, this is how I see it.

And really, isn’t the customer always right?

Good luck on the pay-wall.

I’ll be on the other side.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 May 2013.

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Source Acknowledgments

Various individuals

References

National Business Review:  Fairfax says 100 further jobs to be cut in NZ (26 Aug 2008)

Stop Press: Sky TV profits up, APN suffers losses, and Fairfax not doing so well (22 Feb 2013)

Stop Press:  Job cuts on the horizon for Fairfax, company looks towards paywalls (21 May 2013)

Radio NZ: Fairfax looks at job cuts (21 May 2013)

National Business Review: More jobs at risk as Fairfax continues to restructure (22 May 2013)

TV3 News: News sites to adopt pay wall (24 May 2013)

NZ Herald: Maori TV payout and the year of the paywall (24 May 2013)

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Seven Sharp turns into Serious Shite?

23 February 2013 11 comments

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The State of Media

With so much happening in this country over the last thirty years, one would think that this should be the Golden Age for investigative journaliasm and documentary-making.

Sadly, this is not the case.

On the contrary, our print and electronic journalism  have been relegated and turned into ‘McMedia ‘; quickly produced; lacking in any substance of value; and just as quickly (with some exceptions) forgotten.

In terms of documentary-making, what really stands out (confirmed by a ten second survey conducted in my household) is Bryan Bruce’s insightful and provocative doco, ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ (see:  Inside Child Poverty – A Special Report).

No other single, one-off documentary came to mind.

In terms of television current affairs, the only recent stories that came to us were stories to do with Novopay and the Bronwyn Pullar-ACC story which saw a government Minister and several ACC executives lose their jobs. ‘Campbell Live‘ and several ex-TVNZ7 documentaries such as  ‘The Court Report’ featured in our household discussion of what stuck in our minds.

Other current affairs such as ‘Q+A’, ‘The Nation’, and vastly under-rated ‘Think Tank’, were consigned to ghetto-times of Sunday mornings. TVNZ’s ‘Sunday‘ programme – on at a more watchable time-slot of 7pm – was cut from an hour to thirty minutes (less, once you excise advertisements for unfeasibly fast cars, personal hygiene products, and the latest Briscoes “sale”).

The print media is still reasonably diverse, though Wellington’s “Dominion Post” is fast losing circulation and becoming thinner and thinner. (Don’t think we haven’t noticed Mr Williams and Mr Thompson.) Constant reductions in staffing levels has resulted in a predictable down-turn in news stories – especially relevant news stories, which put issues and events into context.

For example, prior to the ‘Evening Post’ and ‘Dominion‘ being amalgamated, the ‘Post‘ employed two journalists to cover Wellington City Council issues on a full-time basis, and a third journalist, part-time. Former journalist, Lidia Zatorski, wrote some of the most insightful pieces on Council-related issues. (The mayor couldn’t sneeze without Ms Zatorski noting time, place, and potential effects on the capital city.)

As a result, Wellingtonians were well-served with an on-going stream of local body reports that not only informed readers – but also put events into context. Events weren’t isolated – they were linked, giving us an overall impression what was taking place in our city.

These days, Fairfax media has one journalist, working part time, covering City Council issues. There could be a mass shoot-out between Councillors, disagreeing on what colour to paint park-benchs, and we’d probably not know until a week later.

With TVNZ, a state-owned, supposed “public broadcaster”, dumbing-down has plumbed new depths in a stagnant pool of irrelevancy with it’s much-criticised, ‘Seven Sharp‘.

The replacement to ‘Close-up‘ (which, in itself was a replacement to ‘Holmes‘), ‘Seven Sharp’ may have met “demographic targets” and “consumer needs” – but fewer and fewer people are watching it. In fact, it’s turning viewers away in droves.

TVNZ’s descent into Idiocracy – like many things in the last 30 years – began with the corporatisation of state-owned bodies. Turning a profit was to be the number one goal – and television was no exception.

In 2003, the  Labour Government attempted to mitigate the worst effects of commercialisation by implementing a Charter for TVNZ to follow. The Charter would supposedly direct TVNZ to offer quality programmes for viewers,

Provisions included,

  • Having the presence of a significant Maori voice, including programmes promoting the Maori language and programmes addressing Maori history, culture and current issues;
  • Include the tastes and interests not generally catered for by other national television broadcasters;
  • Provide independent, comprehensive, impartial, and in-depth coverage and analysis of news and current affairs;
  • Promote understanding of the diversity of cultures making up the New Zealand population;
  • Feature New Zealand films, drama, comedy and documentary programmes;
  • Provide for the informational, entertainment and educational needs of children and young people;
  • Observe a code of ethics that addresses the level and nature of advertising to which children are exposed.
But National would have none of that “socialist” stuff, and by July 2011, Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman had repealed the Charter with the euphemistically sounding Television New Zealand (TVNZ) Amendment Bill. It was the end of any semblance of public broadcasting and Coleman’s assurances that,

The removal of the Charter will have little impact on what is shown on the screen. TVNZ will still screen content of relevance to a broad cross section of New Zealanders, and they will still screen high levels of New Zealand content.”

Source

– was a mealy mouthed, empty promise.

In fact, almost 16 months earlier, Coleman had told the public what he really wanted for TV 1 and TV2,

Everyone … could be a lot happier if they had that clear view where you go in TVNZ to find public broadcasting content and where you can expect to find frankly nakedly commercial stuff.”

Source

Coleman also made this extraordinary at the same time, in March 2010,

My view was if we could get that demarcation … once everyone has got access to digital television, which isn’t too many years away, if you know that if you go to 7 or maybe 6 and 7 you can get what most people could describe as quality broadcasting content.

“Then if you flick to One and Two you get whatever they serve up … it would bring some more honesty and clarity to the situation,” Coleman said.

“The 7 schedule pretty much already fits that definition broadly.”

IBID

His reference to  “going to [TVNZ]7 or maybe [TVNZ]6 and 7 you can get what most people could describe as quality broadcasting content” was the same TVNZ7 that National canned in July year, despite strong public opposition. (And politicians wonder why we distrust them?)

Parts of TVNZ6 was later leased to SkyTV for pay-viewing only.

In July 2011, Coleman stated as bluntly as he could, that removing the Charter and rejecting non-commercial   public-service content, would give TVNZ,

“…the flexibility it needs to effectively pursue commercial objectives”.

Under National, TVNZ programming was pre-ordained  to be 100% commercialised and ratings-driven. Much like giving children ice cream on demand, the viewing public got what they (supposedly) wanted; entertainment ‘lollies’.

In return, National would “milk” it as a cash-cow (as with Genesis, Mighty River Power, Meridian, Air New Zealand, and until lately, Solid Energy).

Seven Sharp‘ – or ‘Seven Shite‘ as one Facebook commentator labelled it – was simply the natural end-result of this process.

This was made no more clearer than when TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick admitted to a Parliamentary Select Committee that the broadcaster was now,

“... entirely driven by consumer behaviour”, and Seven Sharp was “absolutely in the right territory…”

“… And now there are so many more opportunities and places you can access the news and as a result of them I think that consumers are looking for short, sharp soundbites; they’re looking for a punchy delivery.”

Source

Well, if viewers are “looking for short, sharp soundbites; they’re looking for a punchy delivery” – they are showing it in a strange way by deserting TVNZ and switching on to ‘Campbell Live‘ instead,

The ratings head-to-head between Seven Sharp and Campbell Live reveals TVNZ’s new offering outperforming TV3 in total audience terms all but twice in its first two weeks.

But over the same period, the TVNZ show lost the key demographic both channels are chasing, those aged between 25 to 54, eight times.

Figures supplied by Nielsen TAM show that apart from the first big bang on February 4 where 508,500 tuned into Seven Sharp compared to 246,300 on TV3, there have been plenty of nights where the two have been separated by barely a percentage point or two of the total television audience.

For Campbell Live, February 12 was historic. It was the first time the channel won the slot since TV3 began in November 1989, a win it repeated three days later by taking 7.2 per cent of the total audience aged five and over with 298,800 viewers to 242,300.

Source

Perhaps TVNZ’s attitude toward public broadcasting and criticisms for a lack thereof, can be summed up by  this comment by Kendrick,

There has been a lot of commentary about Seven Sharp which has typically come from less than 12 commentators, and they tend to reinforce a more traditional perspective of what current affairs has been as opposed to a reflection of what it might be.”

Source

There is an underlying arrogance in Kendrick’s remarks. It is a “We Know Best What You Want” conceit. Never mind if the public are craving intelligent, challenging TV content – we’ll get dumbed-down viewing because that’s what “We Really Want”.

Which is a self-fulfilling curse; the more crap broadcast, the more crap some viewers will watch, which then shows up in the Ratings…

Public reaction

Meanwhile, apart from the “12 commentators” that Kendrick dismisses  in a cursory, derisory manner, what people are really  expressing is just as critical of ‘Seven Sharp’.

As Facebook users have said to this blogger,

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Jenny B

“Apparently it has the pollings. Sad reflection that NZ’ers prefer to be entertained than educated.

 Loving Campbell taking on social issues now. But last Century, Sunday night was the time for hard political journalism – why are we being fed sop?”

Taura J

“They assume the audience is stupid. They assume the ratings won’t be good enough, which in turn, won’t draw the advertisers. Which in turn, won’t pay for their prime time news slot. They apparently don’t think there’s enough local news around because everyone is watching garbage.

The so called mainstream media has been manipulated by other influences for years. I have sat and watched the quality of journalism rot like a gangrenous limb every night in TV. Watched objectivity, that grand bastion of true journalism vanish in favour of opinion pieces and puerile garbage about feuding families and neighbours and the bad natives who are too lazy to do anything worthwhile.”

Hone W

“Advertisers react to raw data, and I’d be fairly sure the drive for less hard news content on TV is coming from the viewers, (us).. not any grand conspiracy…
As long as the value of a given programme is rated by viewer numbers, and nothing else, car crash footage will always beat political debate.”

Matthew H

“every body i know is crying out for decent news & political shows in prime time, instead of this diet of cooking shows & crap sitcoms, with all the political talk on a sunday morning… if, as he says,  consumers are the ones who ask for this low-rent shit that claims to be ‘news’, then no bastard asked me”

David MF

“Seven Shite”

Alastair F

“State television has been wallowing in the sewer for at least 15 years. Nothing has changed.

 Their political independence has never been credible. You wouldn’t trust TV3 to report impartially on a corporate scandal involving Mediaworks and you wouldn’t trust The Press to report impartially on a scandal involving Fairfax, so why would you trust state television to duly criticise its owner?”

Jill M

“I didn’t think it was possible to get worse… but it has.”

Mike P

“TVNZ news and current affairs seem to be following an agenda of ‘keep ’em dumb.’ Looking at comparisons between SevenSharp and Campbell this is plainly obvious, but the the same is true between  Breakfast and Firstline, and increasingly so in the 6pm slot.

Here’s a question, as state broadcaster how much influence is placed on their independence and impartiality. Can we truly believe that at a time when John Key is singing the ‘nothing to see here’ tune that the state owned and operated news service are singing along.”

Mike M

“Is it for education or entertainment ?”

Robbie K

“Given Kiwi’s television addiction, you could put any crap on TV and it will find an audience, so ratings don’t really come into it. Television is the cheapest form of entertainment available, so not hard to understand our love affair with the box.

However, I cannot accept New Zealanders are so intellectually deficient they can’t handle cerebral programming. Natural history and science programs rate very well in this country, so the problem is not what Kiwi’s choose to watch, it is simply that what is offered up is mindless rubbish. Is Kevin Kenrick cerebral enough to understand this? Now there’s a question.”

Robert G

“Some harder journalism asking questions about things like the obscene prices expected of us by oil companies, the Sky City Casino deal, a constitution for New Zealand among other things, would be better.”

Mark H

“Feel free to include my thought that Kevin Kenrick is an idiot.”

Marianne H

“I’ve switched to 3 and Campbell after years of sticking with TV One”

Wendy EM 

“I do not believe the content that 7 sharp even hits it with the under 35 year olds after all they have SKY television and reality shows and Seven sharp is hideous of course the people that are over 20 tend to be with Campbell Live, I have moved to Campbell being in my 50!!! I am embarrassed by TV ONE in every journalism respect. Campbell Team are on the pulse night after night.”

Alison W

“The mainstream media generally get their tips and news from Tweets, Facebook posts and freelance bloggers. I would rather read and view the news of intelligent, articulate, investigative, freelance bloggers and journos, than have my mind dumbed down and filled with the biased agendas of a right wing, Fairfax driven media. That being said, Campbell Live does at least demonstrate a social conscience, and I made the switch to watching that over a year ago now. Seven Sharp is Seven Dull.”

Taura J

“The so called mainstream media has been manipulated by other influences for years. I have sat and watched the quality of journalism rot like a gangrenous limb every night in TV. Watched objectivity, that grand bastion of true journalism vanish in favour of opinion pieces and puerile garbage about feuding families and neighbours and the bad natives who are too lazy to do anything worthwhile.”

Daphne M

“NZ tv show’s are alright! It’s when the MP’s start adding their bits in that the flavour become’s kawa (sour). If MP’s, had real job’s, instead of being in a studio for picking on somebody about their job,..  then,it’s time to GO!!! Leave the real worker’s to do their own job’s….KEEP YOUR NOSE, OUT!!!”

Duncan L

“I no longer watch what passes for news generated by any teevy broadcaster in NZ – I turn to Triangle/Face for Al Jazeera and DWTV, and occasionally, if I can stop my soul from rising up and strangling my moral conscience, Voice of America.

News on NZ teevy is dominated by road accidents, boozy teenagers, sport and scandal – as for expecting any in-depth analysis or anything remotely resembling investigative or critical journalism, well, we’re screwed, unless you happen to be one the unlobotomised, multi-tasking few who can listen to the radio (and I’m refering exclusively to the National Programme here) at the same time as they walk and chew gum. 

I’m ashamed, sometimes, to be part of the institution which churns out the next-generation of wannabe journalists whose sole ambitions seem to be getting a job with a corporation and their grinning mugs on the small screen.”

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Sell it?

Writing for the Herald on 8 February (see: Perhaps now’s a good time to sell off TVNZ), columnist Toby Manhire suggested that TVNZ was so far gone in terms of quality that it was irredeemable and fit only to be hocked of.  He said, in part,

So sell TVNZ. It would end any residual confusion within the organisation about their purpose. It would end any misplaced vestigial attachment by audiences who still dream of the Goodnight Kiwi. Paradoxically, it might encourage TVNZ to pursue more public-interest journalism to retain a “national voice” reputation. For anyone who believes, as I do, that New Zealand should have a mainstream public TV broadcaster, it would blow away any fog around the question of whether we currently have one. We do not.”

In case Toby Manhire is being dead serious and not indulging in wry tongue-firmly-in-cheek black humour, any suggestion to sell TVNZ because it has been dumbed down, is simply rewarding National for deliberately undermining our State broadcaster.

It is not a solution. It is a reward for bad behaviour.

Not only would it fulfill what might be a deliberate agenda to alienate public support for TVNZ – but it closes of future avenues to bring the broadcaster back from the brink.

A future progressive government would have a massive task on it’s hands; to effectively undo decades of commercialisation and bring back a true public service.

But it’s not impossible.

If free-marketeers can wreck it – we should be able to repair or replace it.

One classic suggestion is to make TV1 a non-commercial station, funded by a fully commercial, go-for-trash, TV2 broadcaster.

Or to fund public television through a small levy on pay-to-view broadcasters, such as SkyTV.

More importantly, any such progressive reform would have to be entrenched in legislation and tied up in so many safe-guards that it would take years for any future National government to undo  and wrecking it all over again. (See upcoming blogpost, ‘Talkback Radio, Public Radio, and related matters’, on ‘The Daily Blog‘, on 1 March.)

One-stop shop or multiple platforms?

An argument has been made that public-service programming should be left to NZ on Air, which would be responsible for dispensing contestable funding for documentaries, current affairs, and other public interest programmes.

So  programmes like ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ and ‘The Nation‘ could be funded by ‘NZ on Air‘, and broadcast by any number of  electronic media, irrespective of whether of who owns said broadcaster. As it’s curreently mandated to do.

To a degree that has some validity.

Unfortunately, at least two cases point against ‘NZ on Air‘ as the sole agency for intelligent tv viewing,

Key defended ‘NZ on Airs‘ public funding for ‘The GC’ by claiming,

They make their decisions completely independentlyOur board is to appoint the board, and their job is to make the funding calls.

Source

Yeah. Nah.

“Independent”, Mr Key?

I don’t think so.

Not when your own Electorate Chairman and National Party Regional Deputy, Stephen McElrea, sits on ‘NZ on Airs‘ Board – which is responsible for funding decision-making. (see:  Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air)

Only a politician might think  that is “independepent” and “non-partisan”.

Secondly, there are two other  reasons why this country needs a committed non-commercial; fully funded; dedicated  public service broadcaster.

It is the same reasons why we have a committed non-commercial; fully funded; dedicated  public service radio station, Radio New Zealand. Namely;

  • Convenience

Much like going to a supermarket which retails a wide range of goods, and saves us the effort of going to separate retailers for fruit & veg; meat; fish; hardware, the supermnarket is a convenient  one-stop shop.

It’s what consumers want. And in a market-driven society, what consumers want, consumers get.

Why should it be any different for a one-stop broadcaster/shop?

In fact, we already have racing channels; religious channels; shopping channels; cartoon channels; etc, etc, etc.

So why not a committed non-commercial; fully funded; dedicated  public service television station?

  • A sense of purpose

TV3 did well to broadcast  ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ and it’s ‘Campbell Live‘ programme is to be commended for it’s investigate and advocacy journalism. Long may TV3 survive and return good dividends to it’s shareholder(s).

But we also need a dedicated  public service television station that has a sense of purpose that is different to commercial TV.

We need a sense of purpose that is not controlled by ratings; has public service as it’s #1 goal; and broadcasts programmes that are challenging as well as informative. Programmes that might not be commercially successful, but nevertheless spark public debate on isues.

Such as ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ did, in November 2011.

Unfortunately, programming such as ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ by commercial broadcasters is a rarity, and TV3 received much flak for the courage they displayed that day.

It is a fact that almost every OECD nation, as well as Russia,  has a public service tv broadcaster. Australia has seven; ABC1, ABC2, ABC3, ABC News 24, SBS1, SBS2, and NITV (National Indigenous TV).

It is depressing to realise that this   National government refuses to give New Zealanders what other countries already have.

Conclusion

There is no arguing with the simple fact that Nationaland ACT have zero interest in public service broadcast.

In fact, if anything, the dumbing down or ghottoisation of public broadcasting serves their political  interests. After all, a commercialised broadcaster will most often choose to focus their News stories around crime/police/court reporting – which is cheaper than investigative journalism, as police feed information directly to journalists in News Rooms.

Investigative reporting – such as  “Campbell Live”  – is much rarer.

Documentaries that look behind the superficialities of our society – such as  Bryan Bruce’s  ‘Inside Child Poverty‘ – is rarer still.

Which is probably why right wing governments love the commercialisation of our broadcasting.

Evidence for this is  on TV1, 7pm, week nights.

I rest my case.

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Previous related blogposts

NZ on Air funding soft-core porn garbage? Since when? Since now!!

Public Broadcasting – down, but not out

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want

The Ridges are on tonight!!!

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

Sources

Fairfax media: Government signals big changes for TVNZ (13 March 2010)

TV3: TVNZ Charter abolished (13 July 2011)

NZ Herald: Perhaps now’s a good time to sell off TVNZ (8 Feb 2013)

NZ Herald: Susan Wood new host of TVNZ’s Q+A (21 Feb 2013)

NZ Herald: Seven Sharp staff in talks on show (22 Feb 2013)

NZ Herald: Seven Sharp vs Campbell Live – who’s winning? (22 Feb 2013)

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

17 January 2013 13 comments

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could anything be more exciting than television

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A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” – Oscar Wilde

It’s no great secret that the news media in this country – with perhaps one or two exceptions –  has been going downhill  in the last three decades.

As an example, the previous entities, the ‘Evening Post‘ and ‘Dominion‘ in Wellington,  once employed three reporters – two full time and one part-time – to cover  local body politics and events in the city.  No councillor or mayor could pass wind without one of the journos picking it up. If something smelled rotten, the journos would sniff it out fairly smartly.

Now, with continuing cutbacks at Fairfax media, and most sub-editors gone, the combined entity known as the ‘Dominion Post‘ has one journalist covering City Council activities on a part-time basis. Coverage has becomes sporadic, disjointed, and out of context.

Which is why Wellingtonians now have little idea what’s happening at their  Council.

TVNZ and TV3 once had current affairs programmes, at prime time, conducting in depth investigations into government activities and dubious behaviour from dodgy politicians.

Many of those programmes, ‘Holmes‘, ‘Assignment‘, have gone.  ‘Sunday” was an hour long on Sunday nights – that’s been cut to thirty minutes.

The main current affairs prpgrammes – TVNZ’s ‘Q+A‘ and TV3’s ‘The Nation‘ – have been relegated to Sunday mornings at 8am and 9am. Hardly conducive to encouraging the public to be aware of political issues in our country. Only insomniacs and the  most committed political junkie would be willing to forego a Sunday morning lie-in to watch TV journos in action with our elected representatives.

Private and State radio is perhaps  the only part of the  industry that has remained consistent.

Talkback Radio – idiot voices screaming at other idiot voices on issues that idiots know little about.

It is the realm where superficial “knowledge”  is the main currency and shrill prejudice holds sway over calm reasoned analysis on issues. Imagine allotting a bunch of bigoted, ill-informed rednecks  equal speaking time at the Oxford debates, shouting down their more knowledgeable and wiser debating opponants, and that gives an insight into talkback radio.

Even the talkback “hosts” are not ones to rise above the common, noisome mud of prejudice and wilful ignorance, as happened last week,

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Radio Network apologises for 'dyke' slur against Alison Mau

Full story

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Charming.

But hardly surprising.

It’s all part of the commercial radio game; win as many listeners as you can by being as offensive and outrageous as you can. That wins ratings, which in turn let’s you sell more advertising, leading to higher profits, which results in  increasing dividends to ever more demanding shareholders.

In a free market society, being offensive and prejudiced (or even better still, offensively prejudiced) is profitable. (See: Laws told off for ‘shoot rabid reporters’ comment)

Ever wondered why radio stations and newspapers “love” Michael Laws so much? Wonder no more. He sells advertising.

Ironically, when radio stations like NewstalkZB are then held to account for  offensive behaviour, the additional publicity they gain – as in the case of the subsequent NZ Herald story above – gives them even more public attention. And higher ratings. And sell more advertising… It’s a win/win for them.

Radio NZ – after the political assassination of TVNZ7 – the last remaining non-commercial, public service media in this country.

And National is gunning for it,

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Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

Full story

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It’s fairly obvious why Peter Cavanagh is resigning as  Chief Executive: National has plans to commercialise Radio NZ.

This will no doubt be aided and abetted by Radio NZ board chairman, Richard Griffin. As well as having been a former Radio NZ political editor, Griffin took the job of  press secretary to former National, prime minister, Jim Bolger (See:  Richard Griffin to chair Radio NZ board).

The stage is set…

For National,  non-commercial SOEs such as Radio NZ and TVNZ are anathema to their free market ideology – the very same ideology that saw the closure of TVNZ7 by deliberate political design, despite public support for the channel,

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We need public service TV

See: TVNZ7 supporters rally at Parliament

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The commercialisation of  media such as TVNZ is of considerable benefit to National Party (and perhaps Labour?) politicians, for two very good reasons,

  1. They yield a profit to the State, thereby making government’s job much easier to balance The Books.
  2. Commercialisation encourages ratings-driven programming. Hence the preponderence of crime ‘drama’, reality TV shows of every description, cheap US sitcoms, home improvement shows, and more cooking programmes than you can shake a wooden spatula at.

The second rationale has a by-product that governing politicians welcome with cunningly-disguised glee; ratings driven programming does not include current affairs shows and documentary making. These are now funded by NZ on Air – and even NZOA has been captured by National’s party apparatchiks,

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Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

Full story

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… to fund brain-deadening crap like this,

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The GC

See previous blogpost: NZ on Air funding soft-core porn garbage? Since when? Since now!!

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It is no coincidence that the gradual demise of intelligent programmes that inform and challenge  the viewer has been consistant with the rise and rise of commercialisation of the media – especially the state owned “public broadcaster”, TVNZ.

Quite simply, junk programmes such as cooking porn;  MaF officials measuring the size of fish in someone’s bucket; and crime ‘dramas’ depicting the latest grisly murder (usually a female victim) in ghoulish detail, is what sells advertising.

And it should be no surprise that as the media shies away from serious reporting of current affairs, we had the lowest voter turnout last year since 1887 (see:  Steve Liddle: Election apathy shows need for civics at school).

The Americanisation of our media (“if it bleeds, it leads”) is creating the Americanisation of our electoral process (apathy and low voter turnout – see: Voter turnout in 2012 US presidential elections 9% lower than 2008 ).

Major political parties – especially those on the Right, such as National – love this kind of thing. An unsophisticated public results in low-information voters. Low information voters allow  governments to get way with all manner of dubious policies such as cuts to services; more user pays; environmentally-damaging activities, and further implementation of neo-liberal ideology.

It literally encourages the dumbing-down of society until the consequences are satirised in movies like this,

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idiocracyposter0eo4

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Idiocracy” was produced as a speculative “what if” sf movie. It’s now more like a documentary. If you haven’t see it – this blogger strongly recommends that you do. You’ll be feeling a creepy sense of deja vu throughout it (and you’ll never look at ‘power drinks’ in quite the same way again).

It now appears that we, the New Zealand public, have till the end of the year to mobilise to pressure National not to interfere with the running of Radio NZ.

A statement from the Coalition for Better Broadcasting on 16 January, said,

The real story here is that the National Government – having fully commercialised TVNZ and done away with non-commercial TV channels Stratos, TV6 & 7 – is also slowly strangling RNZ to the point that it cannot survive. In 2007 a KPMG report to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage found that RNZ was already running as efficiently as possible. It recommended a funding increase to allow RNZ to continue its high standards. But the following year, the National Government froze the RNZ budget and that freeze still exists with RNZ operating on the same budget as 5 years ago.

The CBB believes this is a shockingly poor way to treat our national radio broadcaster: the station we rely on in times of emergency, disaster and crisis. We note the repeated absence on RNZ of our Prime Minister (who prefers to goof around on commercial stations) and many of his Cabinet colleagues. This fact and frequent remarks made by Ministers, makes it clear that the decision to freeze funding to RNZ is an attempt to influence the station’s ability to present in-depth news and current affairs. This contradicts statutory requirements that the government does not influence RNZ editorial stance and may even be illegal.

See: Response to the Resignation of RNZ CEO Peter Cavanagh

The under-funding of Radio NZ has been abysmal, with National wilfully attempting to strangle the broadcaster by a lack of money.

The situation for Radio NZ has become so dire that in late 2011, the Crown Entity registered itself as a charity,

The state-owned broadcaster registered itself as the Radio New Zealand Charitable Trust with the Charities Commission last month.

Some of its charitable purposes, which were listed on the commission’s website, included education, research, fundraising and providing grants to a number of individuals and groups.

A spokesperson for Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said the broadcaster still received $34 million a year but couldn’t say how long it had been receiving that amount.

A financial review of Radio NZ for the 2009/10 financial year showed it had a net deficit of $498,000 after tax, compared to a surplus of $13,000 the year before.

The review said RNZ had been too cash-strapped to participate in the 2010 New Zealand Radio Awards or put in a bid for the Rugby World Cup 2011 coverage.

See: Radio New Zealand ‘forced to register as charity

This is a deliberate campaign against Radio NZ and constitutes political interference – something that is strictly forbidden by law. National has found a way to circumvent that law.

Make no mistake, the dumbing down of Radio NZ is National’s final mission-plan to eliminate all critical, in-depth  media analysis and reporting  in this country. Turning Radio NZ in a radio-version of TVNZ would destroy any remaining  semblance of serious current affairs programming, resulting in another medium for mindless, unquestioning, consumerism.

This is the neo-liberal agenda at it’s nastiest. To be successful in re-shaping a society into a “free market”, the new right must first remove all critical elements in society and either destroy it or marginalise it.

The commercialisation of Radio NZ would be the beginning of that marginalisation. Next would be a partial privatisation, followed by a full-scale sell-off.

This blogger encourages the reader to;

1.

Join Save Radio New Zealand on Facebook. Get your friends and family to “Like” the facebook page – the more the better! Support a replacement for Peter Cavanagh  who will  maintain the non-commercialised status  of Radio NZ.

2.

If you have a National MP as your electorate MP, let him/her know your your vote in 2014 will depend on what happens to Radio NZ.  Tell your National MP that not only will you vote for another Party, but you’ll be making a donation to them as well! Demand that Peter Cavanagh’s replacement support and maintain the non-commercialised status  of Radio NZ.

3.

Write a short letter to your local newspaper and voice your feelings on this issue. The deliberate demise of TVNZ7 was bad enough – but attacking Radio NZ is the final straw. Demand that Peter Cavanagh’s replacement support and maintain the non-commercialised status  of Radio NZ.

4.

Write to Labour Leader David Shearer and demand that, if he expects voter support, that Labour reverse National’s  policies and undoes any commercialisation of Radio New Zealand.

On Point #4, the demise of TVNZ7 and impending commercialisation of Radio NZ  underscores one very critical issue: that important services such as Radio NZ must be protected by entrenched legislation that makes it difficult – if not impossible – for incoming  National regimes to to undermine such Crown entities.

It is unbelievable that an organisation such as Radio NZ – which has been operating in one form or another since 1925 – is vulnerable to the ideological machinations of a “government” that has been in office for only the last four years.  In existence for 88 years – vulnerable to attack in four?!

A new Labour-led government’s Broadcasting Minister’s first task must be to enact legislation that;

  • entrenches protection for Radio NZ,
  • denies right governments any opportunity to commercialise the broadcaster,
  • ring-fenches funding and ties it to the rate of inflation – perhaps by the Remuneration Authority which also sets MP’s salaries and perks.

The same protections must be in place for any new non-commercial public TV broadcaster that is set up by an incoming Labour-led government. Crown Entities must be free of covert political interference by the likes of Key, English, Joyce, et al, who cannot resist sticking their grubby fingers into places they shouldn’t.

At the risk of sounding overly-dramatic, this issue is not just about saving Radio NZ from commercialisation. This is a battle for the minds and souls of New Zealanders.

As Dave Armstrong wrote in August 2011,

Despite its budget freeze, National Radio continues to do an excellent job. Its current affairs programmes are intelligent and objective. That’s why you rarely hear the prime minister on Morning Report or Checkpoint. As the recent BBC Hardtalk episode showed, Mr Key becomes dangerously exposed when interviewed by a tough, intelligent journalist. He tends to send in street-smart Gerry Brownlee to take one for the team on Radio New Zealand, while he has a cosy yet inane chat with ex-children’s presenter Petra Bagust on Breakfast or talks to Veitchy on sports radio about hot chicks. That’s far more fun than explaining to Mary Wilson why parents are going to have to pay more for childcare.”

See: Govt consigns RNZ to an undeserved chilly place

In countries ruled by totalitarian regimes (late Soviet Union, North Korea, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Syria, United States, etc), despots control the media with an iron fist. Members of the state security apparatus watch every word printed; every word uttered; every picture or video screened.

In the West, we do despotic control of the media in more subtle ways. We use “market forces” instead of  secret police forces.

The Western model is far more successful because the general populace doesn’t realise it’s happening. In fact, the general populace rather like “Master Chef Albania” or “CSI Timbuktu” or “Mumbai Squalid Home Improvement”. Unfortunately, watching such drivel doesn’t make the populace any smarter or informed. It simply prepares them for Talkback radio.

It’s up to the rest of us to lead the fight and stop National in it’s tracks.

Spread the word, people.

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FB save radio nz page

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Previous related blogposts

The Ridges are on tonight!!!

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want

Public Broadcasting – down, but not out

From July 1 onwards

TVNZ7 – value for money!

TVNZ7 – Picking at the body before it’s cold

21 May – Public meeting: TVNZ7 gets the big tick!

The radio station, the newspaper columnist, and Dear Leader

NZ on Air funding soft-core porn garbage? Since when? Since now!!

References

Scoop.co.nz:  PM has questions to answer over NZ on Air link

Fairfax: Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

NZ Herald: Radio Network apologises for ‘dyke’ slur against Alison Mau

NZ Herald: TVNZ reveals Seven Sharp presenting team

NZ Herald: Radio NZ on the hunt for next chief executive

Scoop.co.nz: Response to the Resignation of RNZ CEO Peter Cavanagh

Other blogs

Tom Frewen: GC In Breach Of Funding Agreement?

Pundit:  TVNZ kills ad-free channels to grow profits

Tumeke: Seven Sharp already looks blunt

Brian Edwards: TVNZ exchanges current-affairs for a mess of pottage at 7pm

Tumeke: Is the NZ Herald a newspaper or a Police press release?

Tumeke: The future of RNZ

Whoar: “..Radio NZ tops 2012 ratings..”

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