One of the political creeds I live by is “Anything The Market Can Do, The State Can Do Better”.
This was short-circuited recently by an associate, who pointed out that state broadcasting was responsible for the abomination that is Seven Sharp … while privately owned MediaWorks gave us the absolutely awesome Campbell Live.
And while for some in(s)ane reason, the Seven Sharp experiment appears to have produced commercial dividends for the public sector (netting upwards of half a million viewers a night mid-way through last year) … not only is Campbell’s audience remarkably loyal (with a viewership that’s remained steady at the quarter-of-a-million mark despite the Seven Sharp onslaught); but, as TV3’s Mark Jennings puts it “In terms of breaking stories and creating change in this country, Campbell Live wins by a mile. Seven Sharp is not even in the same race.”
That’s why Campbell Live is so important. Because it’s NOT just another post-6pm-news attention sucker.
Instead, it’s one of our last remaining “traditional-media” examples of that dying breed: the Crusading Investigative Journalist.
Who else could have held the Prime Minister to account on the GCSB bill; shone a spotlight on Simon Bridges over deep sea oil drilling (or, for that matter, kept something approaching a straight face when Bridges referred to the endangered Maui Dolphin as a species of “fish“); dragged Peter Dunne into Naenae to personally witness the havoc his Legal Highs law was creating; and tirelessly crusaded in favour of the “Feed the Kids” bill into the bargain.
With a record of holding the politically powerful to account like that, it’s perhaps little wonder that experienced pundits like Damien Christie are speculating that the decision to ditch Campbell faster than Natalia Kills might have something to do with the government’s massive cash-injection to MediaWorks less than 24 hours before...
I’m by no means ill-favourably disposed toward Jono & Ben (they do, after all, give Winston frequent awesome exposure) … but the very idea that John Campbell could be meaningfully replaced with something more “infotainmenty” – with, given Jono & Ben are the purported supplement, the emphasis placed quite firmly on the “tainmenty” – is quite frankly ludicrous.
Even Jono & Ben themselves are pouring cold water on it, posting to Facebook last night that the first they’d heard of their impending promotion was yesterday’s NZ Herald article; and further clarifying for good measure that “the only thing Jono wants from John Campbell is [his] marvelous head of hair”.
Still, it could be worse … MediaWorks could have volunteered the 7pm timeslot to Paul Henry!
My own disdain for questionably thought-out hashtaggery as a form of activism in defence of journalists is already reasonably well-known … but with Campbell’s status as a public institution foremost and firmly in mind, I look forward to much of the New Zealand politisphere joining with me in saying:
Because despite his epic efforts with both #FeedTheKids and feeding John Key to the lions, prime-time broadcasting is about MORE than just Bread & Circuses.