|Willie Jackson and Martyn Bradbury: One season wonders?|
NEW ZEALAND HEADS INTO A GENERAL ELECTION YEAR with a largely neutered mainstream media. While New Zealand's last outpost of public broadcasting, RNZ National, can be expected to do its job and hold the politicians - and the aspiring politicians - to account, the same thing can't be said for the corporate media.
In 2017 TVNZ 's Seven Sharp will be continued to be fronted by Mike Hosking , a notorious cheerleader for the National Party. If his performance in 2014 is any indication, we can expect him ratchet up his pro-Government commentary as the election draws ever closer.
Meanwhile, over on TV3, the 7pm slot will be occupied by The Project. After the failure of Story, TV3 have decided to copy an Australian show, that 'combines light entertainment with news commentary' It won't be delivering hard nosed current affairs either.
And if anyone thought the departure of Paul Henry, another National party supporter, from TV3's breakfast show would lead to an improvement - their hopes must have been dashed when it was announced that Duncan Garner would be replacing Henry. Garner's political sympathies also lie with the present Government.
Those looking for something more substantive in an election year, might of been thinking Waatea 5th Estate (Face TV) would be worth a look. Launched by broadcaster Willie Jackson and blogger Martyn Bradbury, it was a daily discussion show which Bradbury promoted as presenting a clear alternative to the "dumbed down tabloid trash served up as current affairs on other channels at 7pm".
While the show had its flaws, it did provide an arena for the serious discussion of issues long abandoned by TVNZ and TV3 in their chase for ratings and more advertising revenue.
AS RNZ's Mediawatch reported earlier this year,one of the regular guests on the show, AUT media lecturer Wayne Hope, expressed the hope that NZ On Air would " broaden its remit to fund more programmes like this one".
This week though Martyn Bradbury curtly announced on The Daily Blog that Waatea 5th Estate's application for funding in 2017 had been declined.
"It is depressing to think that we will see a 2017 election with the same current affairs gatekeepers doing the same idiocy dressed up as public debate," he wrote.
Missing in Bradbury's announcement was an explanation as to why NZ ON Air had declined Waatea 5th Estate's application. NZ ON Air itself does not, as a matter of policy, publish details of declined applications.
NZ On Air though says that it received a total of 43 applications for funding. After evaluation by a panel of reviewers from within NZ On Air a shortlist of 12 proposals was arrived at, which were further assessed by two external reviewers.
"Waatea 5th Estate did not make the shortlist," says NZ On Air. "This is more a reflection of the high standard of applications overall than of any fault in the concept."
NZ ON Air points out that funding is contestable and that there is no guarantee any project will get funded and that the competition is fierce.
"Many great ideas missed out on funding."