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The fast death of broadcast free to air TV

Written By: - Date published: 8:19 am, October 22nd, 2019 - 37 comments
Categories: Media - Tags:

That the media in the country and others, especially now free-to-air TV,  are getting creamed doesn’t surprise me. That TV3 is essentially being given away (or closed) having apparently been separated from the still lucrative radio doesn’t surprise me.

Blame the broadcast model, the pain of noisy advertising and the rush to bottom in taste by chasing the few remaining people who won’t change the habits of a lifetime.

What does surprise me is just how fast it is changing.

It was only in 2012 that I dropped the connection to the free to air TV. That was almost an accident – as I described in a rant at the time:-

So nearly two months ago we moved out of the larger rental we’d had for the last 3 years back into my old apartment in a flurry of concrete dust from polishing concrete and cursing from fitting storage. But I still haven’t bothered with connecting up broadcast TV. Why would I want to bother? Broadcast TV is largely mindless and endlessly frustrating.

It is really hard to think why it will ever make its way up my nearly infinite list of tasks to the point that I actually do it. And I’d have to confess on this Labour weekend that is because I’m always short of time outside of work..

It wasn’t until the end of last year, 18 months after moving into another apartment with a working aerial, that we went out to get a freeview box to attach to the old TV.

Connected it up – got every available channel.

Our television went on to the free to air broadcasts for a few hours. I managed to watch the news. Then without even really talking about it between us, the freeview box never again got used. Well – that was a waste of money.  

The problem is that the content was (to put it politely) drivel. Everything that I said back in 2012 was still applicable – but worse. It was a bit of nostalgia trip remembering when I had Sky – and I see that they have issues as well..

So back to my original point. Why would I want to revert to broadcast TV? What does it give me? This is my rough list looking at local TV (with Sky comments in brackets).

  • Mindless repeated ads with the sound mixing frequencies pushed to irritate me (and that includes Sky). All of the bullshit put out by the ad agencies is crap. They damn well mix them to be intrusive and loud.
  • Programs that are never ever on when you want to watch it in your busy time schedule (Sky is as bad).
  • Mindless TV reality shows  that I never want to watch (with Sky it is endless drivel ‘documentaries’ about military conflicts of no interest or value).
  • TV News and Current affairs that is rarely worth watching (Sky has a few channels worth watching – but I’d like to pay for them individually – like BBC or Al Jazzerra(which they don’t offer from memory)).
  • Irritating media celebrities, Te Radar comes to mind, doing travel commercials (the infomercial content is pretty high on Sky as well).
  • Shows, movies and documentaries that are repeated far too often (especially on Sky).

Ok there are a few things of real interest on TV as Brian Edwards pointed out today in “When Hone met Rachel – Now that was a surprise!“, and I agree with him that was definitely worth watching. Both Hone Harawira and Rachel Smalley were impressive.

But consider that I saw it on my iPad was the result of recommendation by someone whose opinion I value. I didn’t have to wade through the mindless drivel that broadcast TV has becoming to find a gem. Moreover, I did it strictly on my time schedule and using a direct link to the video page.

We pay for Netflix, Lightbox, Neon and Spotify. Have subscriptions to various newspapers and magazines worldwide and even a few locally. 

I’d still like to buy a subscription to a few local news and current affairs consolidations on a app for my phone. But that has been constant request since 2012…

I’d pay to have the news and current affairs programs from all NZ channels available as a service. There are usually at least 5 minutes that I want to watch in the news each night. But there is no way that I want to go back to watching bloody ads and not being able to discard the sports and other dross.

Doesn’t seem likely to happen. I may have to be content listening to bits of RNZ on skullcandy when I’m biking to and from work, and the pile of smaller news style sites. 

But what really worries me is just how fast this has been. Sure I feel some sympathy for the employees caught up in it. But that really isn’t the major focus of my concern (that was all obvious where it was heading back in 2012). Consider the last part of my rant in 2012.

I’m a pretty typical near the bleeding edge techie – I use what works. Where I go, you typically find the others follow over the following decades. And I’m so relieved that alternatives are available that I doubt that the aerial will ever go back in.  The day of mass marketing via broadcast is nearly over. The internet provides point-to-point delivery and media organisation should stop pissing around and develop a way of delivering content that way.

Well it didn’t take decades. So the really really important question arises.

I think that old age is starting to make me fall back into the pack. I’ve never been in the pack. Should I be worried?


…and yes to the critic in the other room  – as far as I’m concerned it really is all about me 😈

37 comments on “The fast death of broadcast free to air TV ”

  1. Free to air tv has treated its viewers with contempt for years. One example is the Graham Norton Show repeated at prime time on a Friday night.

    My parents, who are both in their nineties and have been free-to-air viewers all their lives recent got access to Youtube on their TV screen and now watch that instead.

    That's how much free to air tv has lost its audience.

    However, if there was on add-free quality government funded channel like TV7 I'm sure that would be popular

    • Dukeofurl 1.1

      Plenty of Free to air channels have small audiences…thats not the issue. During the day the main channels audiences vary widely. Same goes for the price paid for programming , segmentation is the viewers friend

  2. Ad 2

    There is real ability for The Standard to take just a sliver of this free-to-air loss and gain a slightly stronger place in political discourse, should there be the collective will.

    Scoop has shown with really purposive fundraising, left-leaning independent journalism can be sustained.

    The Standard could devote a third of its front page to Twitter feeds and other such media, without going nuts. That would see a broadening of its discursive base.

    TV3's demise is a great time to look at ourselves and see what else is possible.

    • Sacha 2.1

      Scoop has survived for years by being a neutral aggregator of media releases, of value to some organisations who will pay for that. Not clear what an equivalent would be for the Standard.

      Scoop's recent focused fundraising efforts are admirable but I doubt it's where they would rather be devoting their limited resources (and they have paid staff unlike this place).

  3. Stuart Munro. 3

    With a little ferreting, one can find all the shows NZ never gets, including those excluded from the nerfed local versions of Netflix, free and ad free. Local news is a bit iffy, but TV does little or nothing to improve that. I can live without the moron panels and he said she said presenters – and the sea level weather map gives a better local prediction than the TV presentations.

    It wouldn't hurt for government to look at a new media enterprise and model for this and forthcoming centuries, possibly including a vehicle for locally produced drama, which, if and only if production standards are kept high enough, can also be distributed offshore. Campbell of Scoop would be the man to talk to – best journalist in NZ.

  4. Anne 4

    OMG, It could have been me who wrote that post – not quite but almost. In my case, over the years I replaced my TV with bigger and better models in the hope it would encourage me to watch more of it but to no avail. It seemed to me the channels were having a race to see who could reach down to the lowest common denominator first. TV3 won.

    Having almost discarded the box full time – not quite because once in a while there is a quality programme among the mindless drivel – but Youtube supplies me with most of my needs these days.

    Anyway lprent you can tell your "critic" it might be all about you, but there's a large battlefield out there full of grumps who feel exactly the same way. 😈

    • Sacha 4.1

      a large battlefield out there full of grumps who feel exactly the same way.

      Someone alert Winston! 🙂

      • Anne 4.1.1

        He already knows. That's why he targeted TV3. And that's probably only the start. 👿

        • Sacha 4.1.1.1

          After they fire that pesky chap who always disagrees with me, TV3 should bring back Merv Smith and Aunt Mabel. And reruns of the Generation Game. #sorted

      • OnceWasTim 4.1.2

        Poor old Winnie – he’s still got an ear worm infecting his brain:

        Daisy Daisy, Give me your answer do!
        I’m half crazy, all for the love of you
        It won’t be a silent marriage [or even an arranged one for that matter]
        I can’t afford a carriage
        But you’ll look sweet
        On a bicycle seat
        On a bicycle built for two

        [ He and Shane could both do with a bit of that fragrance up his back passage as well. Anal retentiveness doesn’t begin to describe it all ]

  5. Kay 5

    Despite my generally being broke, for the time being I've been able to get an internet plan that gives me enough BB to be able to stream without breaching the monthly limit, now that the prices have finally come down. And I can afford a basic Netflix subscription now that I can't eat choclolate anymore 🙂 I haven't splashed out on a fancy TV, Chromecast is a wonderful invention.

    And before the usual bashers want to come out, for people who are housebound a lot, often starring at a screen is all we're able to do so it's a necessity, not a luxury. Once upon a time there was adequate mindless programme on free to air, but even they have become unbearable- being ill doesn't completely remove one's intelligence!

    I do find it interesting how TVNZ on demand has become a channel in it's own right, screening serious/intelligent programmes that won't even be shown on free to air, or eventually only at midnight. And while ads are included, there's so few it's possible to watch them without losing track for the interruptions. So that's become my main way to watch free-to air, often as soon as it goes up after the actual programme as just screened on free to air.

    But local news- never again. I object to being patronised and spoken to like an 8 year old. All local news comes from RNZ & Scoop, international news from Aljazerra, online, and also live streams of assorted overseas channels on you tube (Euronews, DW, ABC).

  6. Sabine 6

    The only time i see tv is when going to the in laws, its either rugby on sky or some tv show on sky Mom likes. But oh my gosh, the ads. Mind numbing. So i don't, well never actually did see the reason for a dumb box.

  7. David Mac 7

    All services pass through a product life cycle. I think anyone investing in TV3 whilst in any shape like it's current form would be underwriting the Town Cryer as newspapers rose. These days….it's a brave soul that invests in the print mediums.

    If we view popular outspoken Utubers as Town Cryers with louder voices, we've gone full circle.

    Our government shouldn't be buying coal mines because the coal price is tanking.

  8. Marcus Morris 8

    I have lived and worked in the UK in recent times and holidayed regularly in Australia. How I envy the Brits with their BBC 1 and BBC 2. The ABC does an excellent job in Oz. Why can't we have something similar.

    • tc 8.1

      We can and should, culturally it's a no brainer unless we want an offshore driven reality dumb down.

      Leadership required to achieve it which is where I hold little hope.

      Be very good for the industry if it did occur.

  9. Terrestrial TV is low density information, and homogenised entertainment, on somebody else's schedule. Fast internet offers a "fat tail" of content on demand with minimal ads (or zero if you use a solution like pi-hole). Why waste time on old media. TV turns you into an inert blob.

    • Dukeofurl 9.1

      Have you seen on demand shows ?

      Apart from reality type …and they will come… mostly low budget drama formula -10 actors no ones heard of , 2 cameras, 1 scriptwriter, with a half hour story spun out to 50 mins and story lines spun out over 10 episodes to make you bing.

  10. McFlock 10

    The only channel I watch regularly as broadcast is Comedy Central (on Sky). But I have been streaming more from TVNZ lately. Whereas TV3 was pretty much 7days and Graham Norton, and that's it.

    TV3 seems to be Auckland-centric, lowest-common-denominator schlock, by and large. I also suspect they'd be more profitable if some of the "personalities" they threw money at weren't dickheads (or at least interchangeable heads). TVNZ learned that one when they poached John Hawkesby (though it might be a lesson everyone needs to re-learn from time to time).

  11. mpledger 11

    My daughter is coming up 18 and I doubt if she's watched 10 hours of tvnz or tv3.

  12. karol121 12

    It is the age old (in modern TV times) debate in relation to television broadcasting unit expectations pertaining to a break even operation or a profitable return on investment for it's stakeholders in a commercial environment.

    In relation to overall competition in recent years both in growth and in facility (including internet click on demand), you might liken it to swimming with sharks.

    Some broadcasters have the luxury of tax payer or private interest group funding, but most aren't expected to use it as an excuse to provide presentation, hand to mouth.

    Even the evangelist TV stations look to be funded by viewers, even if in part.

    Many not for profit broadcasters ultimately provide some other consideration for backers other than simply pleasing or appeasing the public for their viewing pleasure (or to their displeasure as the case may be).

    Circa 2012, the message was clearly sent to New Zealanders through Jonathan Coleman that channels providing educational or topical content are unlikely to be allowed to sustain operations without sufficient advertising revenues or subscription revenues to support them.

    Political government in NZ appears not to wish to become embroiled in a spat over whether or not tax payers should wholly fund or even subsidize certain television channels when taxpayers already fund organisations such as NZ On Air for support and provisioning in some areas.

    The loss of Channel 7 was a pity because it was a model of mainstream educational TV and was news pertinent to New Zealand and the Pacific Region. The channel also provided both a serious and a light hearted insight in to New Zealand politics, the NZ parliamentary system and various political characters.

    Some may have considered that offering strong political opinion should be the reserve of those at least paying their way in part from revenues of an entirely commercial nature by commercial entities. Hence, if you are going to have a go at a political direction or any proposed policy, get the laundry detergent manufacturers' to help fund your program directors or presenters point of view.

    So. Adverts. My viewing experience in relation to NZ "Free to Air" is that corporate (commercial product or service) adverts account for around 15 minutes per one whole hour of presentation.

    The repetitiveness (same advert played 3 minutes later) is almost inane, and you might almost believe that they are trying to turn viewers in to mind dulled, blobs with this sort of advert scheduling. To add fuel to the fire, most of the local adverts lack luster in any case.

    Compare advert scheduling to Sky TV (satellite), and it seems to be about the same for many of it's topical channels (or factual documentary channels) depending on the time of day/night. But a reasonable proportion of these adverts are self promotion adverts in relation to forthcoming programs or series pertinent to Sky. Also, the adverts are usually less frequent during the "wee" hours.

    Most news channels on Sky are corporate advertising free. This is refreshing considering that most of them provide both a wealth of insight, and most of the content is as balanced as you could expect, given the overall obligations of the stations to their respective handlers.

    Free can be confused with advert free, but shouldn't be, of course.

    If you are actually sitting down watching these adverts, you are well and truly paying (for them) with your time.

    The old; "no free lunch" adage.

    • In Vino 12.1

      It was the stupid commercialism of the 1980s (which still rules) that destroyed good free-to-air TV in NZ. If it has now strangled itself, bloody good job.

      When I was living in West Germany (1979) I was impressed with their TV. Some ad-free channels, but the channels that had ads were not allowed to interrupt any programme or film. They played all the ads between the programmes/films in sessions that went on for as much as 20 minutes, but they made it entertaining by having funny stick-figure comedy or short sketches between the ads. That lifted the entertainment value, and made the ads tolerable. The ads actually competed on a level playing field with the quality programmes – both were entertaining, and the quality programmes were never ruined.

      But that could not happen here in NZ. Quality films and programmes had to be butchered by rude interruptions at crucial moments so that sacred, holy advertisers could get their maximum punch regardless of how they ruined the film/programme.

      Barbarism. But Kiwis accepted it as normal, knowing no better.

      With the choices I now have, I will not weep if TV3 goes.

      I will weep for what NZ could have done with TV. Commercialism is a poison that corrupts all that it touches. The economy makes a good servant, but a very bad master.

      I wish I had understood all that more clearly back in the 1980s. I would have argued that way at the time.

      • Karol121 12.1.1

        I know.

        But in the "new" New Zealand reality of "open for business" for much of everything visibly for lease or sale, (and goodness knows what else), most everybody is looking at revenues for service, and this includes maximum revenues by way of commercial television advertising.

        The reflection on 80's commercial reality, mainly sentimental, but still nice.

        Government supports profitable business and the reverse is true. Taxpayer funding previously applied to state subsidies (including "teev"), now reserved for commercial consultancy firms and other specialist services lucrative free for all.

        At the risk of sounding repetitive, the catch-phrase is most assuredly that there is no free lunch, or dinner or good morning breakfast.

  13. A 13

    I think that TV3 could reform and dominate the online space IF it learns to respect the audience.

    TV 3 died for me the day they Cambo go.

  14. Alfie 14

    I spent my life working in broadcast TV and I’ve done a lot of work for TV3 over the years. I’m sorry for all those good people who are losing their jobs in a diminishing market. But most of the blame has to fall on those corporate pricks who allowed Weldon to do Key’s bidding and destroy one of the better news and current affairs operations in the country. Those guys can go fuck themselves.

    Despite working in the industry, we brought our kids up without a TV in the house for most of their lives. We spent ten years in the UK where it was a completely different experience, but here in NZ we viewed tele more as a corrosive influence. So much about local broadcast TV is intrusive. Apart from endless “reality” rubbish… there's

    * The high rotation ads using painfully high compression audio which pushes frequencies against a top wall so everything is max loudness. Or perceived that way.

    * The endless self promos which somehow don’t qualify as ads, even though they are. They even play these on the few concession-to-religious-people ad-free days we have, making sure the audience doesn’t get conditioned to actual ad-free days. As if promos for their own products are not actually ads. I’ve never noticed the distinction.

    * The crass nature of squeezing entire end credit sequences into miniature boxes, rendering them unreadable. Then filling the remaining 90% of the screen with yet more self-promotional ads.

    * And the celebrities. Oh, the celebs. The same boring, opinionated pricks who infest so much of our local media these days. A constant reminder of how small our isolated pond actually turned out to be.

    I haven’t watched TV3 since they killed John Campbell’s show and I never watch TVNZ by choice. We ditched Sky a while back. To me they’ve all become crass — poor examples of what the media world has to offer these days. The world is full of interesting media.

    Once you’ve tasted the good stuff, why would you want to go back to eating recycled bottom-feeder crap?

    </grumpy old guy rant over>

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