The 50 Year wake for Public Broadcasting
I'm not sure I can articulate the horror story that was the '50 years of NZ TV Celebration' which screened last night on TV One. It was 2 hours of a C Grade Game show where the boredom of the audience could only be hidden by quick edits and the camera skill required to hide how many of the audience walked out should perhaps win a special effects award over anything Avatar could come up with.
That this shitty, poorly researched 'guess the TV theme song' game could be allowed to painfully drag on like a lamb with a broken back for two hours shows how desperate and devoid the producers seemed for ideas.
God it was fucking ugly, this wasn't a celebration of TV in NZ, it was a wake for public broadcasting, last night should have been a celebration of TV to give an idea of what the next 50 years could be, instead it was a cheap stag night out at a strip bar with very, very. very ugly strippers.
There is effectively no Public Broadcasting in NZ any longer (on TV - thank you John for the reminder), TVNZ has increasingly over the last half of that 50 years seen their news audience as consumers rather than citizens, and when a broadcaster see their audience as consumers and not citizens then a 'downmarket' content formula is adopted by the broadcaster to select stories based on their ratings shock value over the fourth estate function of a critical media holding the powerful to account.
This function within a Democracy is vital for the healthy function of our democracy, however this function has become increasingly sidelined with a myopic focus on entertainment uber alles.
This 'disneyization' to make news entertainment is what we the viewer sees at the front of the house, while a management style of 'McDonaldization' out the back of the house has stripped down the Journalistic mechanics for speedy pap production.
In 1984, 40% of the news on TVNZ was politics, after the viewer as consumer restructuring, that had fallen by 1996 to only 20%, with the other 20% now crime stories. If it bleeds, it leads because shock stories about crime gain ratings.
Sadly the introduction of Freeview in 2008 hasn't seemed to have stopped this trend, in fact it seems to have been a greenlight for TVNZ to push these viewer as consumer buttons much deeper into the 6pm News hour. Two years before Freeview became available on both terrestrial and digital frequencies, in March 2006, crime made up 22% of the news and was featured 29% in the headlines, yet 2 years after Freeview crime stories in March 2010 on the 6pm News made up only 14% of the stories in that month, yet was represented a staggering 35% of the time in the headlines.
Even though news stories as a whole had slumped to 14% in March 2010 on the 6pm One News, it was represented 35% of the time in the headlines. The impact is that the shock value of crime is vastly over represented in the news headlines so the impression left with viewers is one of a mad max post apocalyptic nightmare requiring Dirty Harry to sort out.
Interesting to note that the misrepresentation of crime in the News coincided with the rise of the Sensible Sentencing Trust.
Of course these issues of our Public Broadcaster and the importance of public broadcasting to our democracy were not discussed in the 50 year celebration of TV, and this on the very same day that TVNZ handed over the rights to our TV history to Rupert fucking Murdoch in the form of the Heartland channel available to taxpayers ONLY on the Sky pay per channel platform.
Post 2011, National intend to privatize TVNZ, sadly the poor job of being seen as a national broadcasting treasure means few will weep when it's finally whored off to Murdoch or one of his ilk. The impact of that will have even deeper cultural and political ramifications, but they won't be seen until it's too late.
Of course none of these fundamental issues were discussed or even hinted at, preferring instead for a tedious 2 hour grubby game show where the intelligence of all was insulted. Maybe that is fitting for TVNZ?