Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Save TVNZ7 in Wellington

The Save TVNZ7 crowd was in town on Monday, and certainly not a small crowd it was, barely a month and a half out from the channel's final closedown. The panel was hosted by Wallace Chapman of TVNZ7's Back Benchers, local MP Grant Robertson, Dr Peter Thompson of Victoria University of Wellington's media studies department, Opposition broadcasting spokeswoman Clare Curran, former MP and local public broadcasting advocate Sue Kedgley, and veteran media commentator Tom Frewen. Government MPs were believed to have been invited but all chose to turn it down.

Here's a podcast of Dr Thompson, giving his suggestions for the future of public broadcasting and how to finance it:

And my question to the panel about the Law Commission's inquiry into media convergence, answered by Clare Curran:
"No doubt you'll probably be aware of the Leveson Inquiry in Britain looking into the News of the World scandal, and the Finkelstein Inquiry in Australia that's looking into Rupert Murdoch's anti-competitive practices. There's been a similar kind of report here by the Law Commission looking into media convergence and possibly the concentration of media ownership... what sort of hopes do you hold for any positive finds from that, and if not, what chance of a Royal Commission into public broadcasting as a whole?"

Curran's response was that the Commerce Commission is probing SKY TV's anti-competitive practices involving sweetheart deals with Internet providers, and for a need for a wider public debate on media concentration and ownership in NZ, which has one of the most law-of-the-jungle media sectors in the world. Meeting Ms Curran afterwards, she believed that a Royal Commission wouldn't be necessary unless there was a catastrophic scandal on the level of Hackgate or Arthur Allan Thomas. (John Drinnan and Liam Dann have more on the Commerce Commission's probe.)

Instead of yet another hot air vent, this actually seems to be getting some traction. Grant Robertson has pledged support for a proposed Campaign for Public Broadcasting, which would combine both the Save TVNZ7 group and the earlier Save Radio NZ meetings, and seek to create a new public broadcaster at arms length from politics.

After the meeting finished, I met Frank of Frankly Speaking for the first time in person, who has a fuller account of the night's discussion.

I'm of the view that the real reason for weakening public broadcasting isn't penny-pinching, but bare-faced anti-intellectualism disguised as penny-pinching, which is a subset of what Naomi Klein calls "disaster capitalism". I overheard a comment in the discussion, probably from Sue Kedgley, that an ignorant populace is a compliant populace - a dogma straight out of Ancient Rome's bread and circuses, and Orwell's 1984. When John Howard was Australia's Prime Minister, he hated the ABC because he thought it was full of socialists, and unsuccessfully threatened it with funding cuts. It's now stronger than ever. Even the BBC has largely held its own despite being targeted by hostile politicians.

TVNZ7's demise on 30 June, 2012 is a given, and its fatal weakness was the first four letters in its name. I'm personally of the view that TVNZ in its present form - being dominated by overpaid managerialists over actual broadcasting people - has passed the point of no return, given that former CEO Ian Fraser - very much in favour of public broadcasting - couldn't effect the change he wanted. And if or when TVNZ7 does rise from the ashes, it'll likely be without the TVNZ baggage.

That's enough venting on the topic for now. In the meantime, get some satirical therapy with my SKYNET gear.

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