TVNZ 7 - the art of recycling
The hype and the blah blah blah of patronising prose from some comms staff hackette aside, the new "factual" channel from TVNZ will be most welcomed because it has no ads. I attended the media briefing in Auckland earlier today and found the schedule rather scant. Compared with the briefing for TV4 (back in the mid 90s) it was so thin it should be referred to anorexia counselling.
The only shows that will be made for the new freeview channel are the flagship 8pm newscast - which itself looks like it will be substantially what has aired over on One two hours before - and the two panel shows airing back-to-back on Wednesdays after the news. And that's it. That's all for that channel.
I asked someone involved if any other shows are planned to be announced before they launch... and, no. No, that's it. So no pressure then on Russell Brown, host of "Media 7" and Wallace Chapman, host of "Back Benches." Good luck to them both.
There are to be documentaries, but it was not clear whether they were to be commissioned specifically or not, and the impression gained from the clip we saw seemed to indicate that polytech media students are going to have a wonderful opportunity to have their efforts screened.
I'm sure that re-running Agenda and Eye to Eye and even Close Up will be useful for some people, and international shows like Four Corners and Dateline are welcome, but two hours of Breakfast re-runs every weekday!? They get $80 million for 5 years direct from government plus some money from TVNZ revenues. Nothing more?
There are 9 news staff dedicated to the hourly 10 minute "News Now" bulletins and the "News at 8" hour-long programme. That sounds reasonable, but they are going to have to be busy little bees to produce enough items unique to the channel to adequately differentiate itself from its parent at One.
7's head, Eric Kearley, told me that they are on a shoestring budget for what they are expected to produce, but seemed confident they would hit their targets. He said they would have a strong online presence. On this point Russell was keen to let people know his show would be very engaged online - including some form of discussion function. Media 7 would be filmed at the Classic on Queen St and feature media types, whilst Wallace's show's at the Back Bencher pub across from Parliament will have MPs and journalists (and others too if Wallace gets his way) on their panel. There will be short info or background pieces too, so each show has a small staff.
From their interests I can see Wallace going a bit eclectic with his mix and Russell going geek with techie diversions. They'll need a few episodes to settle in so we (and I really mean myself here) shouldn't be too quick to judge their first shows (in early April). It was good to meet Wallace at last - as we take alternating places on Alt TV's Sunday Newspaper Brunch Club - although I had to wait for his surrounding harem of beguiled female media students to eventually disperse before I could get a word in. He was wearing long pointy black (Italian?) shoes - and then I remembered that everyone in television must wear some form of unusual shoes, the commonest amongst actors being the boot-type black leather shoe with elastic at the sides and no laces... where was I... yes, and as for Russell, he'd done nothing for me to whine about, and he's probably too accustomed to blog rants against him to care what I might have said, so that was pleasant. He did briefly speak to a strange chap with a number one cut who was wearing a blue and white bow-tie (I'm not kidding) who had a slight dishevellment that will evolve into full-blown eccentricity in later years I'm sure. From his manner and deferential tone he could have been Russell's valet or something - like they may have some sort of working relationship. Like he was telling him his golf clubs would be clean and in the Land Rover after his luncheon appointment. And I just thought: Craig Ranapia. Don't know why.
So my impression is that it's actually quite meagre stuff when you look through the schedule. Do three shows really a channel make? They got the media bit right, they got the politics bit right, but there's a reason both shows are panel format isn't there. Cost. It's relatively cheap. I would like to have seen a science/tech show, a hard interview show, a soft interview show, and an arts/cultural show. Maybe later?