Friday, 10 April 2015

Campbell ... live?

Now, I'm not at all convinced by the current story about Campbell Live's ratings being cataclysmically low.  I think the Cricket World Cup might have had something to do with.

That doesn't mean there isn't an underlying problem.  A slow, dignified death is still a death and when we're talking about something as important as investigative journalism on TV, that's a worry.

(It's even more of a worry when someone as mellow and undangerous as John Campbell is the nearest thing we have to a New Zeland Ed Murrow.  Though we seem to have more than our fair share of Rush Limbaughs.)

And, even f it does turn out that Campbell Live's decline is down to the success of the Black Caps, the eagerness with which this story has been trumpeted is symptomatic.  Commercial TV wants shot of quality journalism.  Sooner or later - probably sooner - Campbell Live will be consigned to the scrap heap of not bad things that commercial television just didn't want to do.

The real problem is that, bluntly, commercial TV isin't interested in public service broadcasting.  It's stupid to pretend it does.  It never did.  I don't like watching people being forced to do something they find unpleasant and uncomfortable, so the sooner commercial networks are free to show nothing more news worthy than pictures of celebrities in their bikinis, the happier they and we will be.

Instead of the current ghastly situation where commercial channels are forced to pretend they give a damn about the public interest and public service broadcasting, New Zealand should have a state funded non-advertising channel, similar to the BBC.

This will be free to pursue important but non-commercial investigative journalism.  And the commericial channels will be free to do whatever they think their audience wants them to do.

(Though they are frequently wrong - the cliche about no-one every going broke under-estimating the taste of the public is always true. Plenty of cynical shit merchants have gone broke doing just that.)

The sooner we stop pretending that a mixed model actually works, the better.  And it will be good for the audience as well.  It is noteable that British commercial television is far better than commercial televison in other countries.

That's because it is forced to compete - not against other commercial TV channels, which would result in a race to the bottom and then right down into the subterranean depths -   but against a non commercial rival.  The BBC forces commercial rivals to maintain their standards, so even those who don't watch it will benefit from it.

Just stop wasting tax payers money on commercial companies who don't really care.

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