Yesterday the Dom Post picked up some of the concerns that I’ve been raising about TVNZ’s planned closure of the Avalon TV studios. I use the term ‘closure’ deliberately, because at the moment that seems like the most likely outcome of their decision to relocate the last of their shows to Auckland and place the complex on the open market.
TVNZ claims that there are about 60 permanent staff working at Avalon, but closure will have a flow-on effect on a far greater number of people than that. Most of the people who make a living from Avalon these days are contractors. The camera men, lighting technicians, and so forth. Then there are the many local suppliers, from the florist who decorates the Good Morning set through to taxi companies, local caterers and so on.
Closing Avalon is a stupid decision that lacks vision and shows TVNZ’s lack of commitment to quality local programming. Avalon is widely recognised as the best TV production facility in the southern hemisphere, but our state broadcaster would rather screen yet more low-budget reality TV shows than put it to good use. In a few years time if Avalon is closed and they decide to produce another Dancing with the Stars type series, they’ll have nowhere to film it. Instead they’d end up converting an unused warehouse somewhere in south Auckland, with all of the cost and expense that goes with that.
The decision to relocate Good Morning to Auckland also needs to be questioned. I’m told by those that work on the show that many of the segments currently screened, including Astar’s cooking segment and the live local music performances, won’t be able to be filmed in the Auckland studios because they’re too small. Don’t forget that TVNZ relocated Good Morning to Auckland once before and it didn’t work so they moved it back to Avalon. This time, if they’ve closed Avalon down, they won’t have that option.
As I’ve said before, we don’t have a public service TV broadcaster in New Zealand. TVNZ is no different to the privately-owned commercial stations like TV3 and Four. And it’s a dinosaur. TVNZ’s heavy reliance on cheap, imported shows will be its downfall. With the proliferation of TV channels and with new technology opening up all sorts of new ways for us to access content, TVNZ’s competitive advantage should be it’s local content. The closure of Avalon demonstrates once again how they’ve failed to grasp that.