And on a packed show this week we learnt someone has a tattoo of TV3 reporter Paddy Gower on their ankle, the Prime Minister hasn't seen the show yet, 'wadeable' means that the water comes up to the genitalia and Jesse Mulligan talked with a man who enjoys meditation, because he thinks it's better than sitting around doing nothing...

I SAT DETERMINEDLY through the first three shows of The Project. I persisted to the bitter end, although I was sorely tempted to flick on to something else when, on Wednesday night, TV3 political reporter Paddy Gower was asked the whether or not it was true someone had a tattoo of him. We discovered that the tattoo in question is apparently on a person's ankle. Now we can all get some sleep.

I pulled out of the Thursday show after the show managed to 'deal' with the pressing issue of river pollution in no more than three minutes.

This, folks, is apparently 'news delivered differently' but I prefer to describe it as infotainment packaged as bite sized morsels. I've seen music videos that are far longer than some of The Projects' news reports. It's all bright and breezy like a Kylie Minogue video, but the high gloss can't hide the fact that not a lot of substance is going on here on - just a lot of spin, gossip, celebrity news and lame humour.

I read that this is news with 'attitude' but, even if that was true, its the attitude of The Two Ronnies rather than a John Stewart. I almost expect one of the panelists to burst forth with "And in a packed programme tonight...'

The big 'reveal' on Tuesday night was that the Prime Minister hasn't seen the show yet. Last night the resident comedian, Josh Thomson, banged on about how 'wadeable' meant the water came up to the genitalia. I think this was the joke. Presumably he had been working on this all day. Kiwi comedians seem incapable of delivering anything else but this trite observational humour.

While the Spin Off website might think The Project is the future of news and current affairs I think its more representative of an ongoing crisis within the mainstream media; a crisis that has seen the decline of hard news, a growth in infotainment and an increasing conformity of viewpoint with precious little real debate. The Project encapsulates all these trends.

But, as noted commentator Rachel Hunter might point out, this hasn't happened overnight. Since deregulation - of which both Labour and National are responsible for - the key consideration for news and current affairs has become RATINGS. This has substantially weakened the public sphere and that is especially so in New Zealand where any semblance of public broadcasting is now confined to the radio with RNZ National. The Project is market driven journalism - packaged as a commodity rather than for the public good.

In an increasingly competitive market, and TV3 has been struggling financially for some time, the pressure on the mainstream media to win viewers and readers has generated a journalism that is mercenary in its content and delivery, paying little heed to the public interest. Infotainment is rampant and The Project is yet another entrant in this crowded field.

For me, a show like The Project raises serious issues about the role of the corporate media in a representative democracy that is increasingly unrepresentative. But I doubt we'll see these issues discussed in the mainstream media anytime soon, especially when there's always something more ratings friendly to run. What's Kim Kardashian been up to this week, then?


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