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.
Luckily for Hosking, he has his supporters from the National Party parliamentary wing, as Todd Barclay revealed with his injudicious comments on Twitter.
“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 @JohnJCampbell
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 ToastOkay, 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.
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.
Petitions to save ‘Campbell Live’. Add your voice to this campaign;
On-line poll at NZ Herald (not scientific) as at mid-day, 10 April;
“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;
Nothing quite like some bare flesh to push up ratings, eh?
Fairfax media: National MP Todd Barclay blasts Campbell Live supporters
NZ Herald: Media – Hosking plugs car and Key
Wikipedia: Campbell Live – Awards
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)
Fairfax media: Behind every TV stripper
Previous related blogposts
Facebook: Campbell Live
Facebook: Save Campbell Live!
NZ Herald: John Campbell: Mr Conscience
Petition: TV3 – Save Campbell Live
Petition: Save Campbell Live
Brian Edwards: The Campbell Live Debate – A Considered View
No Right Turn: Save Campbell Live
Polity: John Campbell
Public Address: About Campbell Live
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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