The Curious World of the Main Stream Media



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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;

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Fairfax media


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NZ Herald


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Radio NZ


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NZ Newswire


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National Business Review


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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 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;




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;


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


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’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.



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


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  1. Why do I get the feeling that TV3 are shooting themselves in the foot by threatening to cancel CAMPBELL LIVE?? It is one of their flagship programmes and they’re treating it like shit.

    Imagine if Campbell and his team went over to TV1 that would really put the cat amongst the pigeons!!!!!

  2. Whew!

    That was an essay Frank,

    Yes Q+A is just a shell of it’s former hard hitting Paul Homes critical review of the weekly events.

    It’s almost as if the presenters are scarred of facing carping howls from this toxic Government should they even ask one pointed question.

    Larry King the King of US public affairs programing has now joined the RT lineup, and says in his sound bite,
    “Its not the questions you ask that make a difference its the way you ask them”

    Maybe John Cambell should join begin his RT type show and open up this repressed Autocratic control over the forth estate in this sad country we have become on Planet Key.

    Like I said we need to get all opposition parties to join together in a rare show of unity for public good and force a court injunction, to have half the public funded media handed over to opposition Parties administration and have all formerly sacked or retired Investigative journalists to present “another side of the story” on our Public service media of TVNZ/RNZ that we all pay for before its to late and we loose all our sharpest Journalists to overseas media groups like Larry King and RT.

  3. Hat tip to you, Frank Macskasy. A great article.

    If the RW head honcho bastards at Media Works mess up Campbell Live, I will personally commit to boycotting TV3 and Radio Live, the two of their mediums that I usually use.

    My individual action may not make much of a dent to them, but if hundreds of thousands follow suit, that would show those dumb wits who the real bosses are.


  4. To see the reasons behind dumbing down by media , to see why the powers that be want to pass TPP,to see what tricks international banks play etc etc . see Wake up Kiwi for today 15 April, it is an insight into what John Key and others like him are doing to destroy world security. very revealing.

  5. Not directly related to this article but I wanted to add a little vignette of how TV1 news is such a load of shite.
    On Tuesday night I watched TV1 News at Six, Big deal! you say, but I almost never watch it, I was visiting my elderly mother and that is the one she usually watches so I felt rude asking for her to change it.
    Lead story on TV1 – bad weather! snow in the South Island and look out you North Islanders it’s coming your way soon! Cue the usual pictures of cars sliding on ice and traffic banked up for miles. excited reporters predicting a bumper ski season. I waited patiently so the reporters could get the rabid excitement of a bit of bad weather out of their systems and get to the real news. But no, on and on and on it went until the first ad break. We got updates from seemingly every TV1 news reporter up and down the country. After nearly 10 minutes of this I finally lost patience and pleaded with my old Mum to change it to three so we could get some real news. Even she had had enough so she did. Over on three, some overseas news. If they had started with the wild weather (I don’t know if they did) they must have consigned it only to a couple of minutes instead of a whole first segment.
    How can we treat TV1 as a serious news programme when it thinks a bit of bad weather should be its main story? I’m sure there are always a lot more important things going on than a bit of snow, thunder, rain, hail or wind. If it had been another cyclone fair enough, but a common ordinary sub Antarctic depression? B…..y hell!
    I suppose its cheap news investigation, you don’t have to do much except sit and watch and call in a whole lot of experts to tell you what you already know will happen, the bad weather will move away (genius!, doesn’t it always?)
    What is my point? That TV one news is no longer a credible news bulletin, it treats its viewers like 4 year olds and panders to the people who point and cry “gee, look at that!”. We pay our taxes to make this shite. If they decided to privatise TVNZ I would actually cheer and say great, my taxes no longer go to funding the John Key sleepy hobbit channel.

    • You’re right bad weather is big news here, because the MSM don’t or are not allowed to report real news. Let alone having the budget to make news because that’s all going on exec salaries and shareholders.

      The new ‘up sell’ is so promote brands during the news. On TV3 this means they report the news ‘live from Sky City’ band in red and with the sky tower in the background. Just to get those compulsive gamblers a little taste of what they are missing. The story is not about Sky City but most people don’t seem to notice.

      Even more handy is that Sky City is just around the corner from TVNZ and so win win, low cost venue, ‘live’ news, and the advertising revenue from the deals with Sky city to promote their brand non stop.

      Ah and they wonder why people are stopping watching the news!

  6. What a disappointment John Campbell show was last night. They introduced the show with stating that they were looking at the controversy over vaccinations and yet it was a totally one sided pro vaccine show. There are two very important sides to this issue and even though I have been a supporter of the John Campbell show, last night was a disappointment how only one sided it was. Pro vaccines and the doctor and case to prove it and no one, not even a mention, from the other side to discuss the other side of this important issue.

  7. People have a need for news. If they won’t find it in one place, they will go somewhere else for it. And they DO know the difference between real news and faux news.

    Apart from that, the news content on free-to-air television has been so poor for so long, most people wanting news have already gone elsewhere already.

    On TV there are about five or six “major” news items each day repeated from about lunch time to midnight. One example of a major news story repeated for 12 hours was two llamas escaping in Arizona.

    • Whatever its faults, Campbell Live makes Seven Sharp look like Dumb and Dumber by comparison.

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