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Bread & Circuses, Penguins & Rugby.

28 September 2011 4 comments

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Our entire mass media seems to be fixated on RWC, or Rugby, or any other sport, social event, or person(s) vaguely related to balls.  If “Happy Feet” had played rugby on Peka Peka beach, our media moguls would have died happy in their beds…
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Case in point how the RWC has supplanted normal, every-day, news events.  On 25 September,  TVNZ7 News-at-8 consisted of the following:

8.00 – 8.07: The Warriors’ win

8.08 – 815: Rugby. RWC. People with a rugby ball. Sick Jonah Lomu (ex rugby player). More rugby.

8.15: Christchurch earthquake. Meningitis case in Wellington.

8.16: Crime story in Dunedin.

8.18: Plane crash in Nepal/Mt Everest

8.19: Libyan civil war

8.21: Civil unrest in Yemen. Fire and fatalities in London.

8.23: Politics in Russia. Putin standing for President again. (Aside; will he campaign bare-chested?)

8.25: Campaign against bull fighting in Spain. (True! No bull!) Crazy US stuntman in China. Followed by Weather today. Followed by International Weather. (Raining in Botswana, I see – fishing trip cancelled tomorrow.) Then TVNZ7 station break.

8.28: Global financial crisis

8.33: UBS Bank Fraud – CEO quits. I shed at tear. (No, not really.) ASB computer glitch. (Some IT geek too busy watching internet porn?) ACT announces policy to decriminalises cannabis. (Good policy – except pot heads will have forgotten by tomorrow morning.)

8.38: Kiwi chick #1,000 born. (Lack of suitable penguin story?)

8.39: “Coming Up Soon” announcement.

8.40: TVNZ7 station break.

8.41: Sport. Rugby. (At this point I switch off. Consider phoning ASB IT geek to obtain his favourite porn website.)

There we have it, folks: fifteen minutes of rugby leading a supposedly “serious” TVNZ7 news hours – with another 15 to 20 minutes of same,  at 8.40.

By comparison, the global financial crisis – which threatens the entire planet with another Depression and collapse of entire governments – lasted five minutes.

Though this information was collated from TVNZ7, the other two television news serices, TV1 and TV3, have been likewise guilty of trivialising news reporting. Theresult is that we, as a society, are less well informed as to what is happening in our own country, and indeed the world.

This is perhaps a matter made even more critical as we have a general election looming and the global economic crisis seems to be gathering an evil head of steam. We also have a piece of legislation called the Police Surveillance Bill currently before the House – a proposed law that could make New Zealand one of the most surveilled country in the Western world.

Big Brother has taken a step nearer.

All this is practically “invisible”. The news media has practicalled muzzled itself, as it chases the Rugby World Cup, and cute animal stories.

Now I’m as happy as the next bloke or blokette to have TV news cover the RWC. No, honestly, I am! But not at the expense of general news; politics; the economy; community; and international affairs. There is a time and place for everything and the News media have a responsibility to inform New Zealanders what is happening in their own country. There is more to our lives than  a 15 minute story on the All Blacks thrashing [insert other rugby team here], and then a human-angle story on one of the All Blacks’ mum and dad.

Otherwise, this isn’t just “dumbing down”, this is a pre-frontal lobotomy of the electronic media with an ECG charge of 5,000 volts to the temples, for good measure.

Welcome to Bread and Circuses, 21st Century style – instead of  Christians and Lions, we have penguins and rugby.

Question – without using Google, do you know the answers to the following:

  1. What date will the coming General Election will be held on?
  2. Which party proposed a Capital Gains Tax?
  3. There are NZ military staff in which country: Iraq, Libya, Fiji?

If you don’t know the answers, but do know who will be playing the next match, then ask yourself why?

And who knew that this was going on:

Occupy wall street movement begins to gain critical mass

Keith Olbermann calls out Media Blackout on ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Protest

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TVNZ7, Radio New Zealand, and distracting trinkets.

A neo-liberal is one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. In this case, this National government are slowly strangling good, quality broadcasters like RNZ and TVNZ7 – whilst  feeding us a daily diet of brain-cell deadening, pseudo-news on TV1 and TV3 and apalling programming that consists mostly of American sitcoms, cooking programmes, and bleak crime shows.

If only New Zealanders were as passionate about the lack of governmental support for quality broadcasting as we were about stranded penguins; “Wellywood” signs; and books by Ian Wishart.

Oh, but that would mean thinking about complex issues, wouldn’t it? Jerking the knee with superficial,  emotion-tugging,  issues is much easier:  no effort required.

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.

Kedgley said she first thought the charity registration was a joke.

“I am appalled to discover that it is serious proposition and that the Board of Radio New Zealand has been forced by the Government’s funding freeze on Radio New Zealand to set up a trust so that it can go out with a begging bowl to the public,” she said.

“The move suggests there is quiet desperation at Radio New Zealand. The broadcaster simply cannot make ends meet under the Government’s funding freeze.”

Curran said the move raised some “serious questions”.

“Not the least of which is why the whole of RNZ has been registered as a charity, and what the long-term intention is,” she said.

“Radio NZ’s survival should not be dependent on it having to solicit donations. It is our state radio broadcaster and holds a special place in New Zealand.”

Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman couldn’t be reached for comment and neither could RNZ chairman Richard Griffin.

Griffin told Fairfax earlier this year that RNZ could only survive a funding freeze for another two years.

He said the current freeze put the public broadcaster in a “more than difficult” financial position.

“If we’re left in a position where every year costs increase and funding remains static, we’re going to wither.”

It was believed that the charity was mainly to fund its concert station.

It is an unbelievable, bizarre state-of -affairs when a public service such as Radio New Zealand , has to register itself as a charity. If this doesn’t ring alarm bells with us, then we are truly asleep.

It should also give us cause for concern that National  will be closing down TVNZ7. This free-to-air; advertising free; public network is a wealth of news, documentaries, and offers an un-commercialised look at ourselves and the world around us.

TVNZ7  treats the viewer with intelligence and respect.  It is television as it should be – and not the mindless rubbish that we are now served up every day on other channels. (Parliament TV excepted – that contains very mature, erudite debate from our Honourable Members of Parliament.)

It is a great shame that two quality public services – TVNZ7 and Radio New Zealand – can be put in jeopardy through the lack of political support from the government-of-the-day, and because of public apathy.  If New Zealanders were as passionate about their own  public broadcasting system, as they were about wayward penguins, oh what a much more mature society we would be.

But we are like children, it seems, and easily enthralled by the latest distracting trinket.

New Zealand has often been described as a “young country”.

That is truer than we realised.