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TV3’s The Project – A Babyboomer lowers the boom

By   /  March 27, 2017  /  24 Comments

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If Mediaworks is attempting to cater to Babyboomers, then shite offerings such as ‘The Project’ will not cut the mustard. It is a pale, immature, sickly parody of professional journalism. What else can you call something that is fronted by people whose day-jobs are comedians?

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“TV3 have attempted to make current affairs for people who listen to the Edge, the problem is that generation doesn’t watch TV. So TV3 have alienated Gen X and Boomers who want actual current affairs at 7pm to gain a generational audience who don’t bother with the platform TV3 are using.” Martyn Bradbury, 26 March 2017

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I don’t often comment on other bloggers who have contributed a piece for The Daily Blog. Ninety percent of the time, my ideals, values, and beliefs are  muchly similar to those expressed by others on this forum.

Martyn Bradbury’s piece on   “The Project meltdown raised a point that has been on my mind since I saw the very first ‘Project’ billboard in Kilbirnie, Wellington. Waiting patiently at the lights, my gaze wandered over to the billboard on my hard right (metaphor?);

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The Billboard was situated just above clothing bins where unwanted stuff is dumped by people. (Irony?)

At first, I was stumped. I couldn’t work out what ‘The Project’ or the logo, ‘+HR=E’ was supposed to signify. My first impressions were that it was promoting a new New Zealand comedy movie. Or a novel, upmarket chain of childcare centres was entering the country. ‘+HR=E’ would be a pretty nifty corporate logo for the latter. ‘+HR=E’. Three year olds. Geddit?

A few moments later, as the lights were still red,  I noticed the blurb “News delivered differently” and “Weeknights 7pm”, and then it dawned on me. It was Mediawork’s latest effort to wrest primacy of the 7pm timeslot from ‘Seven Sharp’ and ‘Shortland Street’.

The lights turned green, meaning my *facepalm* moment had gone and I kept both hands gripping the wheel as I mercifully left the scene of the Braindead Zone I had stopped in.

My thoughts turned to another image I remembered from Google Images;

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Oh, how times change.

From sombre anchormen (and they were all men during Phillip Sherry’s time at the NZBC), to… muppets.  Yes, really, muppets. ‘The Project’ has muppets on its set. Here’s the evidence, from an episode on 4 March 2017;

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Let’s play a game, children… see who can spot The Muppet.

Take…

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Your…

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Time…

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No?

Can’t pick it?

Ok, it’s probably this one;

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(But I could be wrong.)

Now, I’m not suggesting for one micro-second that we return to the era when our NZBC was practically an off-shoot of the 1950s-version of the BBC.

But Mediaworks already had a well-recognised, well-respected ‘brand’ in the form of TV3’s ‘Campbell Live‘. It was solid journalism covering a wide range of stories, from the sombre and thought-provoking to the occassionally light and frothy.

Its in-depth coverage the  GCSB Bill, and the Ian Fletcher scandal  in 2013 and 2014 were perhaps one of only two serious media  analysis (the other being Radio NZ) of National’s widening of the surveillance state in this country;

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Campbell Live’s‘ on-going investigation of  post-earthquake events in Christchurch also raised new standards of journalism, as well as nationwide consciousness of events and on-going problems in that stricken city.

Indeed, John Campbell and his talented team at TV3 were so successful at raising public awareness on the GCSB issue that it provoked our former-Dear Leader Key to respond in his usual trivialising, shoulder-shrugging, *meh*-sort of way;

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Jessica Wright: “How do you think that Kiwis feel about the bill?

John Key: “I think they’re much more interested in snapper quota.”

Jessica Wright: “But I’m not talking about snapper quota, I’m talking about the GCSB Bill. How do you think that they feel about the GCSB Bill?”

John Key: “Yeah, I think they’re much more interested in snapper quota.”

Jessica Wright: “Why?”

John Key: “Because they like catching fish.”

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Despite ‘Campbell Liverise in ratings, it was insufficient to save the programme from it’s apparently pre-determined doom.  It was soon followed by the jaw-droppingly  inane New Zealand-version of  ‘Come Dine With Me‘;

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Rivetting stuff. Almost as engaging as watching grass grow.

By sheer coincidence the producer of ‘Come Dine With Me‘ was  none other than Mediawork’s Board Member, and unReality TV porn-purveyor, Julie Christie.

When Mediaworks axed ‘Campbell Live‘ in May 2015 – most likely at the behest of corporate head-kicker Mark Weldon, aided by his trustee henchwoman, Julie Christie – they opened a can of worms.

There were (unsubstantiated) rumours that Key had contacted Weldon, demanding that Campbell be gotten rid off.

The short-lived garbage  that was ‘Come Dine With Me‘ was considered unappetising by the viewing public, and was quickly canned after only two months. It was followed by Story’  in August 2015 but seemed not to engage viewers. The last chapter of ‘Story’ was broadcast in December 2016.

Now we have ‘The Project‘.

Firstly, I have no idea where Mediaworks execs get their ideas from or why they think that something as vacuous as this programme would appeal to the public.

As “Bomber” Bradbury succinctly put it;

“TV3 have attempted to make current affairs for people who listen to the Edge, the problem is that generation doesn’t watch TV. So TV3 have alienated Gen X and Boomers who want actual current affairs at 7pm to gain a generational audience who don’t bother with the platform TV3 are using.”

We ‘boomers  are the generation that grew up on serious investigative journalism. We are the who watched as Muldoon was taken down by a younger Simon Walker and John Campbell took on Helen Clark. We’ve enjoyed the stellar talents of committed professionals like  Lindsay Perigo, Louise Wallace, Brian Edwards, Maggie Barry, Bill Ralston, Kim Hill, Ian Fraser, Mihingarangi Forbes, Liam Jeory, Kathryn Ryan, Carol Hirschfeld, Paul Holmes, Anita McNaught, Cameron Bennett, Melanie Reid, Guyon Espiner, Genevieve Westcott, Mike McRoberts, Lisa Owen,  and so many, many more. 

Regardless of their politics, these were dedicated journalists who we could rely on to ask the questions that we ordinary Citizens were rarely in a position to do. They were persistent. They asked the hard questions which demanded answers and in doing so, challenged those in authority.

That is the purpose of journalism.

Not to look like this;

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I can’t speak for all Babyboomers (of which I am a member of that privileged demographic), but I want my current affairs and news more like BBC/Al Jazeera/Radio NZ/CNN/etc instead of this;

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I want to see this;

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And most certainly not this;

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Next, the number one rule in business is;

#1 The customer is always right

The second rule is;

#2 If in doubt, refer to Rule One

That rule may not always apply. If a customer requests cyanide in their latte, that request can be rightly declined (or not, depending on what is clearly stated on the menu board).

Aside from issues of life and death, public morality, and physical/biological impossibilities, the customer (in the form of the Viewing Public) is always right when it clearly expressed a desire to keep ‘Campbell Live‘ very much alive. So, how right was the  customer?

Viewers:

Campbell Live – 23 May 2015: 330,830

According to comparative ratings, approximately 186,830 customers were very much right. They “walked” from TV3, en masse. Consider me one of them.

Instead of telling us, the viewers what we want to watch, perhaps Mediaworks should have listened to us in the first place. Businesses that turn a deaf ear to their customers usually end up like this;

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If Mediaworks is attempting to cater to Babyboomers, then shite offerings such as ‘The Project‘ will not cut the mustard. It is a pale, immature, sickly parody of professional journalism. What else can you call something that is fronted by people whose day-jobs are comedians? (Though, to be fair, Jesse Mulligan and Josh Thompson are pretty damned good comedians. I’ve enjoyed watching their gigs on ‘7 Days‘.)

It is an insult to my intelligence.

It is an insult to the intelligence of every person who has grown up (or not) watching real journalism, covering real stories, in a real, professional manner.

To be blunt, Mediawork Execs, if you can’t cobble together credible meaningful journalism for your 7pm timeslot, just repeat F.R.I.E.N.D.S or M*A*S*H* or anything else with excessive punctuation marks in the title.

Or just show this;

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Add a bit of background elevator-music and you’re sorted.

Or, you could try something Different/Not Different. Hire a bunch of the most respected, experienced, capable journalists; resource them properly; and give them sufficient editorial-independence to do their jobs properly.

Guarantee them security from interference by the Mark Weldons and Julie Christies of the world.

Spend money on promoting the product. If Mediaworks can spend millions promoting ‘The Block‘, ‘The Batchelor‘, ‘The Project‘, and other programmes of dubious value – then it should be able to promote a serious, flagship current affairs programme.

Treat the viewing public with respect.

That is how a business succeeds.

It’s not that hard. Does it really have to be explained?

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References

Radio NZ: Labour calls for inquiry over GCSB appointment

Scoop media: The GCSB Bill – We at least have to try

Fairfax media: Come Dine with Me to replace Campbell Live

Fairfax media: John Campbell bows out of Campbell Live show

NZ Herald: Political roundup – Who killed Campbell Live?

Wikipedia: Story

NZ On Screen: Tonight – Robert Muldoon interview

NZ On Screen: 3 News – ‘Corngate’ interview with Helen Clark

Throng: TV Ratings – 22 May 2015

Fairfax media: MediaWorks boss – Project is here to stay and will win the ratings war

Other Bloggers

The Daily Blog: The Project meltdown – when Executives come out to support your 7pm Show, that’s when you know you are in trouble

The Standard: I want that left wing bastard gone

Previous related blogposts

The Curious World of the Main Stream Media

Producer of ‘The Nation’ hits back at “interference” allegations over ‘Campbell Live’

Campbell still Live, not gone

Friends, Kiwis, Countrymen! I come to praise John Campbell, not bury him

Mediawork’s Julie Christie at war with NZ on Air – Possible conflict of interest as first reported last year on TDB

Blogger threatened with lawsuit over questions of conflict-of-interest regarding Mediaworks

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= fs =

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24 Comments

  1. Samwise says:

    I watched ten minutes of that rubbish. Who do I send the bill to, to get compensation for time wasted?

    I wonder who will be the next company to be “improved” by mr mark weldon?

  2. Mike the Lefty says:

    If they promised to substitute the whole “panel” with the Wiggles I might be persuaded to watch the programme, at least once.
    The Wiggles would certainly ask more pertinent questions.

  3. saveNZ says:

    +100%

    Bomber also hit the nail on the head by saying that audience does not watch TV.

    When TV3 openly went against a massive public campaign by terminating Campbell Live, they not only lost viewers for that show, they actually lost the viewers from TV in general.

    TV is dead apart form to the oldies but even my elderly non tech mother has Netflix and an iPad these days.

    (Sadly she got the iPad on HP from Dick Smith and is now in some sort of Kafka like payment scheme from the creditors).

    Living the NZ dream. sarc.

  4. J S Bark J S Bark says:

    Jesse Mulligan hosts on RNZ.

    To me this demonstrates how the long heroic investigative tradition of that august institution has succumbed to neo-liberal dumbing down.

    RNZ is also starting to fail (or at least wobble) in its public service quotient.

    I smell political interference…

    • the pigman says:

      Be fair to Jesse.

      He is not bad in his interviews on RNZ, except when he is leeringly breathing down the neck of (like every other 35+ year old male in NZ) Hera Lindsay Bird. Which is not a criticism of Bird.

    • cagey says:

      Come on, he’s only the afternoon host – Jim Mora hardly broke any hard news at 2pm! I’m more concerned with Suzie Fergusson’s inability to ask anything jornalistically significant and how the PM seems to be talking to her only now. Guyon is not that much better, either.

      • Mike the Lefty says:

        Guyon is still in denial that John Key isn’t actually PM anymore.
        Hosking and Henry are also getting treatment for depression caused by the shock of Key’s resignation.

  5. Not a Robot says:

    When I first heard about “The Project” I tried to find out what it was about, and failed. That’s a bad thing, if you’re trying to market a new program.

    I have only just now learned it is supposed to be a news program. I thought it was another “Survivor” type reality show for Rentier a**holes. I wanted to hate on it for that reason, not watch it.

    That it is a news show (complete with Muppets) makes me want to watch it even less. Not that I ever watch TV, I don’t even have one. I am really only curious to find out what ideas are currently swilling around in popular culture.

    There are no ideas swirling around in popular culture, that’s what I learned.

    Because if you are a Corporate MSM Exec, the last thing on *Earth* you want to report to people is that the current system is not working, and cannot be made to work, that their politicians are paid to keep them poor and docile, and that Capitalism in particular is actually, deliberately trying to kill them.

    How do you report “news” when all the news is bad for Capitalism?

    Muppets.

    In La La Land.

    And then put a ‘news’ sticker on it.

    But don’t tell anyone.

    TV just needs to die off. Except it won’t, because that would mean the Establishment had to concede that it has lost all control over the public mind-share, and there goes billions in advertising, right down the toilet. So they keep trying to find ever more creative ways to entice us to eat their bullshit news offerings. And they keep failing.

    I’d rather get my news from RT.com, Max Keiser and the rest of my short-list of alternative online outlets.

    See ya, Muppets!

  6. Priss says:

    Excellent appraisal Frank (and Martyn). I’ve watched a couple of episodes of THE PROJECT and both times it left me scratching my head wondering What the F was that all about??

    If TV3’s executives think it’s viewing audience will increase then they’re as braindead as THE PROJECT they gave birth to.

    No wonder Hillary Barry had a gutsful of these inept people.

  7. When the main tv stations fail to provide the public with independent critical investigative journalism and do not engage the public in discussion on major social and political issues, you end up with a nation that is politically naive, compliant, complacent and apathetic . Such a situation undermines democracy and leads directly to the election of Trump in US and the Exit EU vote in UK. The Project and Seven Sharp are gross examples of this failure.
    RNZ does much that is good, but Jesse Mulligan and Wallace Chapman are two men inflicted upon us, both doomed in their eternal search for perfect fluency and coherent thought.

  8. Nitrium Nitrium says:

    Both you and Bomber and spell bachelor as “batchelor” (with a t), so that’s a thing. Annnyyyyway, agree 100%. Still have thankfully not seen a single minute of The Project, although I have seen a few of Hosking’s rants on the other channel that made me throw up a little.
    I’m a NOT a Millennial (I’m Gen-X), but can nonetheless confirm you’re better off watching all your news and current affairs on YouTube than either of the NZ TV networks.

    • Bugger. Nitrium, I could try to pull a “Keyism” and fib my way out of that typo by referring to “battyness”… but nah, it wouldn’t fly.

      I ‘fess up. It was a typo.

  9. bert says:

    The Project is SHITE!

  10. Siobhan says:

    Are we sure baby-boomers aren’t looking for some dumbing down? Because at the supermarket when I look at the covers for things like the Listener, and North and South magazine, which I assume appeal to the boomers, and in a difficult market must respond pretty quickly to sales figures, the bar seems way lower than even 20 years ago.

    The strangest thing I’ve found is those boomers who for some reason relegate the computer to the sun room, and spend their evenings staring at the box…half the time with the sound off because even they can’t deal with the inane babble.

    TV is a lost cause.

  11. Pete says:

    When you have comedians fronting the show, song and dance advertising and the enthusiastic studio clapping a la a party, you know it’s not going to be the right forum for an item about a dying cancer victim being denied treatment. Or just about anything else except some song and dance enthusiastic party, fun and fancy fare.

    It just so happens life is not all enthusiastic party, fun and fancy fare, there are issues which are best addressed and made known. Maybe the idea is that injustices and those issues needing addressing will all be somehow forgotten about or ameliorated by a daily dash of the Project.

    Maybe that’s why it has that name, it has, it thinks it has, a grand mission. Instead it is a grand miss.

  12. mosa says:

    Great informative post Frank.

    When Campbell was finally silenced (on tv 3 anyway) and i knew the reason why despite the propaganda from Weldon and others they lost me as a viewer with the final show.

    No matter how catchy the bill boards are its a waste of time and effort because anything they put in Campbell’s place will never make up for the loss of a programme that was intelligent and put considerable effort into researching a story and it was never about the glorification of the world famous in NZ wannabee presenter.

    Waatea fifth estate got close but needed serious money and a good marketing campaign but in its short life it proved that good current affairs can still play a part in the medium of television.

  13. Mike in Auckland says:

    ‘The Project’: Just as I am used to eating GOOD food and have SHIT come out of my other side hours later, I cannot “adjust” to eating shit, nor viewing or hearing shit. Shit to me, can only be the natural refuse from digesting something better, but having SHIT served up as ‘diet’, that is food, or “diet” for my eyes and/or ears, that is perverse and abhorrent.

    Consequently, I consider such shows we now have just as being that: SHIT I stay well clear off. It belongs down the toilet bowl and needs a good flush, so we cannot see and smell it.

    And thus ‘The Project’ will simply end there, very soon, flushed down the pipe again.

  14. Afewknowthetruth says:

    Life is too short and too precious to spend it watching the shite that corporations broadcast in a feeble attempt to maintain advertising revenues and business as usual in the last days of empire.

    There is no REAL NEWS on the mainstream media.

  15. BigRickyStyles says:

    TV is for old people.

    Only old people would complain about it.

    Campbell went because his numbers were falling. His numbers were falling because his appeal was far too narrow. Talking to the left cuts out over half the potential audience on a medium that competes with infinite choices

    TV is dead. Too narrow.

  16. Sally's Husband says:

    We watched one episode of The Project. That was enough. No more, thank you.

  17. […] blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 March […]

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