Why mass market TV must be kept and why all the talk of technology utterly misses the point



Reading Duncan Grieve’s analysis of the Mediaworks collapse makes you feel like he’s still trying to pitch work to all of them and doesn’t want to hurt his chances of a deal by being anything less than fawning in praise. His ability to mesh The Spinoff into every bit of public dollar and sponsorship deal is as desperate as the industry he cheerleads.

Here is why we need mass market TV.

Because outside the middle classes, those poor enough to have TV still watch TV! The most recent polling shows TV still in dominance, the reason why NZ TV has stagnated is because the content is shit, it’s not a giant change of technology!

Why watch the NZ version of MAFs if you can watch the better produced Australian or American version?

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Why watch some re-run TV show when you can see the most recent release online?

Why sit in the Lounge having to watch what Dad wants to watch when you can watch what you want in your room?

Mass market TV has failed because those running it forget what made TV relevant and exciting – being live.

The power of Social Media is that it is live, it’s happening all the time. TV needs to reinvent itself as a live event. Buying TV3 and turning it into a 24 hour live News station run by TVNZ but under the editorial control of RNZ would re-invent the industry and make it relevant again.

We have enormous fourth estate issues that urgently need mass and open debate. From climate change, to domestic violence to police powers to poverty to crime to Māori rights to everything that is happening in our society that never gets the prominence it deserves.

TV needs to find broadcasters with talent who can keep those live debates afloat for half an hour at a time. TV needs to remember it’s a broadcast service and that what they broadcast must be live to be relevant. Dump the cheap and the frivolous content and make this a happening right now service and watch people flock back to it.

That’s not to say that this live format can’t be echoed in their online content offerings, and it should be to keep younger viewers who are more digital native than TV in the lounge room comfortable.

TV in NZ can’t compete with an online overseas media that provides better content, but what TV in NZ can do is provide unique voices and unique domestic issues that overseas media can’t.

The public broadcasting square of NZ is critical for our democracy especially as online simply leads us to echo cambers and people who think vaccinations lead to autism.

Being live and local is the future of TV in NZ, provide something that doesn’t exist and the audience will come. Radio has survived because it’s a live medium, something happens and the DJ is going to tell you, TV needs to follow.

The failure of mass market TV isn’t just a technology issue, it’s because TV arrogantly forget about being relevant by being live and provided us with crap content that we could better source online ourselves.


  1. TV in NZ has generally become so awful I hardly ever watch. As for what passes for news, well let’s just say its been many years since I have pressed the on button on my remote.

    Its not helped by local and international content that can generously be described as dismal either. Much of it riddled with indoctrination and political messages that are hardly subtle.

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