This is a very dark day for progressive media in Aotearoa. Campbell Live will play for the last time tonight. Next week the show will be replaced as an interim measure by repeat episodes of the reality show Road Cops. How appropriate.
Miles Thomas sums up the situation in rather stark terms.
The tragedy is that while John Campbell is a great loss to TV3, he is an even greater loss to New Zealand.
Thanks to bad decisions at TVNZ and TV3 we have lost the ability to watch our politicians squirm on prime time for longer than 15 seconds. Our leaders will be sleeping easier now – business leaders, local body leaders, religious leaders and so on. Not a good thing.
Our loss is the Government’s gain – the prevalence of government-friendly hosts and entertainment shows means it’s unlikely any government minister will face a series of awkward questions on prime-time television. Most people would agree that’s not a good thing either.
And in the Budget the Government has tightened the screws further. Just as NZ on Air was making noises about possibly funding more current affairs, the 2015 Budget introduces new targets that require 70 per cent of its prime-time programmes on TVOne, TV2 and TV3 to reach more than 200,000 viewers.
That rules out any risky new current affairs venture on TV3 – their brand-new show 3D just scraped in over 200,000 viewers last Sunday. You can be sure NZ on Air won’t risk failing to meet targets for the sake of 3D or any other vulnerable shows it would otherwise fund.
This government directive seems tantamount to requiring NZ on Air to get out of current affairs programming altogether. Something already done to TVNZ when it stripped away the Charter and required it to focus solely on profits.
And with Fairfax attacking quality in the pursuit of profits the future of media and its ability to properly report on important events is under question. Fairfax is proposing to shed more than 180 editorial positions out of a total editorial staff of 700 although other presumably lower paid jobs would be created.
Is it time for alternative media to step up and fill an increasingly large void?
The last words belong to Ali Ikram:
One of the things everyone knows about JC is that he is unfailingly polite; polite sometimes to the point of parody. It might seem like something small, but it is actually the outward expression of something greater, and the message I will be taking from my short time working on the show: kindness has power. It’s not money, it’s not a clenched fist, it’s not an earthquake or a force of nature. But it has its own quiet influence, that if applied consistently day-upon-day can do great things. If we allow ourselves to see our fate as being connected to that of the person next to us we do not just make our community better, we make ourselves better. I acknowledge these are strange words to be writing about a TV star and a show made by a commercial broadcaster in a dog-eat-dog world. But to put it another way, compassion, intelligence and thoughtfulness is where the gap in the market is.
Update: Sacha has pointed out to me that NZ on Air dispute the allegation made against it.