TVNZ is wrapping up further staff cuts in silk stockings with its ‘biggest changes to television news and current affairs in 20 years’ announcement yesterday.
The ‘multi-media’ approach will see reporters become their own video editors and sometimes camera operator, as well as working for programmes from Breakfast through to late news bulletins and the web too boot. All very ‘efficient’, extracting the most from staff as a resource and assisting our state-owned television network to maximise its returns to the government, now the only requirement of TVNZ. The last line of the media release identifies the drive: annual savings of $3m.
And yes, it parallels what is happening in other news operations where falling revenues have seen newsrooms decimated and reporters required to file incessantly for a variety of outlets including web services and blogs. All of these changes are turning too many journalists into churnalists. Where once there was a capacity to dig, do the research, speak to a variety of sources, check the facts – now there is constant pressure to meet another deadline. The head of an aid organisation I spoke to this week complained without prompting that journalists no longer ring and ask her a series of questions – they just want her to voice a grab so they can get it to air or on-screen.
So it will increasingly become with TVNZ. The reporters it still has that could, until now, expect the time to work on a story for a dedicated programme, will now have to file for a range of programmes and platforms. And edit (and increasingly) film their own stories too.
All of this will mean TVNZ scatters its resources more thinly across an increasing range of platforms. My pick is that some core viewers will notice the lesser fare and the audience-pull that TVNZ gets from One News, Sunday, Fair Go will diminish. That ultimately is bad news for TVNZ and for those of us who believe it has a crucial role to play in ensuring New Zealanders are truly well-informed.