TVNZ is to Public Broadcasting what drinking is to driving
TVNZ news and its million-dollar makeover
TVNZ has paid more than $1 million to high-powered international consultants, who critics say have "Americanised" news bulletins.
The money paid for US television executive Julie Kraft to visit New Zealand several times a year to "glitz" up news bulletins - at a time when profits were plunging and staff numbers being cut.
Insiders at the state broadcaster say Kraft, of Frank N Magid Associates, has had a major influence on the way TV news has changed since 2007, including the introduction of three weather bulletins during the 6pm news hour.
The world-renowned Magid approach is characterised by live crosses and personable reporters telling stories on camera. Journalists will often inject themselves into the story, filming or describing what they did or what happened to them.
There is effectively no Public Broadcasting on television in NZ any longer, TVNZ has increasingly 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.
Post 2011, National intend to privatize TVNZ, sadly the poor job being done by TVNZ 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.
Public Broadcasting matters, it's a pity neither National or TVNZ seem to care.