Is it the end of the road for Campbell Live?

WHEN MEDIAWORKS ANNOUNCED this afternoon that Campbell Live was 'under review', an impressive Twitter storm flared up.

The general sense of outrage was, for me, exemplified by Hamish Keith. He tweeted:

"Last shred of responsible television to be 'reviewed' while idiocy, sycophancy and vacuity is promoted and celebrated."

While Campbell Live has not yet been axed its future is, at best, uncertain. The corporate priorities and politics of Mediaworks suggest that the show won't see the year out. Crucially Campbell Live does not enjoy the support of chief executive Mark Weldon and MediaWorks director Julie 'reality show queen' Christie.

How bad could things get? Very bad if you expect to watch a local news and current affairs show at seven o'clock . A 'consultative document' handed out to staff at TV3 says that the company is considering everything from a light entertainment show or a tabloid-style infotainment show like Hard Copy. The consultative document even proposes suggesting a news show where an attractive female newsreader gradually takes her clothes off. I'm joking, of course. Or am I? Anything is possible from a media organisation that is suggesting that the 7pm time slot is inappropriate for "hard-hitting current affairs in the changing landscape of media consumption."

Mediaworks says the ratings for Campbell Live aren't good enough. While its true the show is consistently beaten by the vacuous nonsense that Seven Sharp serves up, the show also never shone brightly during the days of TVNZ's Close Up either.

Last night Campbell Live did another excellent  item on  zero hour work practices - it has been running a campaign against them. Over on Seven Sharp National Party cheerleader Mike Hosking was talking drivel about how to get revenge on your ex partner. Which would you watch?

Mediawork's agenda, set by Julie Christie, is to accelerate TV3 further away from hard news and current affairs. Campbell Live is one of the last port of calls on the way to an even more dumbed down brand of television.

Professor of Journalism  Bob Franklin wrote in his 1997 book Newszak and News Media:

Entertainment has superseded the provision of information; human interest has supplanted the public interest; measured judgement has succumbed to sensationalism; the trivial has triumphed over the weighty; the intimate relationships of celebrities, from soap operas, the world of sport or the royal family are judged more 'newsworthy' than the reporting of significant issues and events of international consequence. Traditional news values have been undermined by new values; 'infotainment' is rampant.

As a commercial operator Mediaworks can, of course, do whatever it likes. While I hope the campaign to save Campbell Live is successful I would not be surprised if it wasn't. Appealing to Mediawork's sense of journalistic integrity seems somewhat forlorn when those news values are rapidly disappearing in the face of rampant infotainment and the pursuit of the advertising dollar. I hope I'm proved wrong.

The loss of Campbell Live would be a whole lot less significant if we had a legitimate public broadcaster that was not a slave to the values of the market. Shamefully we are the only developed country that has no such broadcaster.

Last month TVNZ executives fronted a Parliamentary Committee for the state owned company's annual review.

Chief Executive Kevin Kenrick was asked whether TVNZ could still be described as a public broadcaster. Kenrick felt unable to defend TVNZ's public broadcasting credentials and would only say it was an 'ill-defined term' that he never used.

If you plan to support the campaign to save Campbell Live I would also suggest that the Coalition for Better Broadcasting is also worthy of support. Among other things it is campaigning for the establishment of a commercial free television channel like the BBC in Britain and the ABC in Australia.


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