I have been critical in recent months about how media operates in New Zealand, it’s tendency to base news reports on ratings rather than news values, the media structures which stifle competition and how media is under-resourced to do its job adequately.
I’m also very critical of the government’s undermining of public broadcasting; its removal of the TVNZ charter, and the stifling of funding to RadioNZ. It’s likely we’ll see the demise next year of the sole surviving commerical free, and innovative TVNZ7, our public digital channel, as a result of their indifference and neglect.
Meanwhile, showing a complete double standard, the government allowed TVNZ’s commercial rival, Mediaworks, to defer payment of $43 million for its radio spectrum licences.
As respected media commentator Peter Thompson wrote in Saturday’s DomPost
Although the Communications Minister, Steven Joyce, has argued this deferral does not constitute a loan, Mediaworks is obliged to pay 11.2 per cent interest on the deferred payment it has effectively borrowed from the Crown.
Sounds like a loan to me. And everyone else.
I think that most journalists who read Red Alert would agree that even if they violently disagree with me on some of my utterances about our media, that I tend to say what I think and believe.
There are some serious issues to be addressed. It’s not the people working in our media that are at fault. We have some very good journalists, producers,camera people, sub-editors, editors… the list goes.
I don’t like the way our news is covered sometimes. I wish we could focus more on issues that affect people, why and how they are happening and ideas to make our country a better place.
I wish we didn’t focus so much on personality politics.
But that’s what happens. And sometimes it’s our own fault.
I believe that if we had a stronger, resourced, respected and independent public media, it would at the very least provide a strong contrast and at best a strong benchmark to the rest of media. Something to aspire to. Our democracy would be a much healthier one as a result.
I recently spent 10 days in London. The role played by the BBC and Channel 4 is enormously important in the UK. The media is diverse, dynamic and fiercely competitive. Talent abounds. There’s also tabloid, sensationalist reporting. But it’s tempered with high quality reporting and analysis. And that’s only the news. Lots to choose from.
We are a much smaller market, but we haven’t got it right. It’s not the fault of the journos. I respect their craft.
A few days ago TVNZ reported a 136% improvement in Operating Earnings for the six months to December 2010. Advertising revenues are picking up they say. CEO Rick Ellis trumpeted that ONE News had achieved its ninth consecutive month of year on year audience share growth, and on the way had picked up the Qantas Award for Best News for an unprecedented third year in a row. In total, TVNZ won eight of the 11 News and Current Affairs awards, he said.
At the very end of the release he made this claim:
Beyond the tragedies themselves (Pike River, earthquakes), those disasters reinforced the role TVNZ plays in informing and bringing the country together and were a potent reminder to every member of the company of the responsibility and importance of what TVNZ does.
I won’t comment about the Qantas Media Awards. But I will comment on Ellis’ disingenuous remarks which are simply not borne our by the facts.
TVNZ’s priorities under National are to make a profit. Any other cultural and civic benefits are purely incidental. TV3 has done a better job of covering those disasters and they struggle to survive in the skewed and uncompetitive environment which is our broadcasting sector.
Who wants to help me fix that?
Note: To be clear. The criticism of TVNZ coverage is confined to immediately after the disasters and their ability to respond. Not to general ongoing coverage. Apologies.