Brian Edwards Media

“Key Booted for Brooke by TVNZ” – Why I chose to watch the All Black

Pic: stuff.co.nz

Pic: stuff.co.nz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Key booted for Brooke by TVNZ” was a front page headline in this morning’s Herald. Shock! Horror!

The story began: “Television NZ bumped Prime Minister John Key from its prime-time current affairs show so it could feature former All Black Robin Brooke saying sorry for groping a teenage girl.” 

“Prime-time current affairs show?” Well, as I’ve said before, Close Up isn’t a current affairs show and neither is Campbell Live. Both are magazine programmes which occasionally feature topical stories. Their brief is to retain as far as possible the audience which they inherit from their channel’s 6 o’clock news, sport and weather package, which to a large extent determines the channels’ ratings for the rest of the evening. So the content has to be largely tabloid – that is to say catering to popular taste. So nothing can be too long, nothing can be too mentally demanding and absolutely nothing can be boring. Political commentator Joe Atkinson coined the term ‘morselisation’ to describe New Zealand television’s treatment of news and current affairs issues. What viewers want, so the channels believe, is information that is served up in bite-sized chunks.

So Close Up and Campbell Live can’t be current affairs shows in the sense that Panorama in the UK or Q&A here are current affairs programmes. And we really can’t  blame them for not doing what they’re not allowed to do. It isn’t even the channels’ fault. The privately owned TV3 and the state-owned TV One and TV2 all have the same brief from their owners – to deliver audiences to advertisers. So it you really want discursive, in-depth examination of social and political issues, your options will be to turn to Radio New Zealand, Sky, the print media, a few programmes on TVNZ7 including Media 7, and Q&A on Sunday morning.  

So if you were the producer of Close Up and you had to choose between an exclusive interview with a former All Black in which he explains and apologises for his actions in groping a teenage girl’s bum and genital area, and an interview with the Prime Minister about his just-delivered State of the Nation speech, given your brief, which would you choose? John Key on tax or Robin Brooke on being a naughty boy? The former All Black of course, because this  is in every sense of the term ‘a sexy story’. If it’s viewers you’re after, go for that.

And here’s a little bit of evidence. I’m a strong advocate of quality television particularly in the field of news and current affairs. I go on about it ad nauseam. And I have a serious interest in politics. Thanks to MySky we record each night’s news on both channels as well as Campbell Live and Close Up. From the promos, I knew what was going to be on both 7 o’clock programmes on Tuesday. I watched the Robin Brooke interview first. Why? Because I was more interested in finding out how he would handle the interview (very well, I thought) than I was in how John Key would handle John Campbell questioning him on tax. The human interest story left the political story for dead.

And if John Campbell had had the Robin Brooke exclusive, would he have given it priority over the PM and tax? You betcha! The programme even bought a clip of the interview from its rival, so that they could tease it later in the show. That’s showbiz folks.

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29 Comments:

  1. How do you reconcile http://brianedwardsmedia.co.nz/2009/09/miracle-in-albert-street-herald-turns-into-sun/ — with your enthusiastic glee, over third-rate news?

    In one breath, you’re bemoaning the Herald for devolving into tabloid — in format, presentation and content — and, in the next breath, you’re lauding TVNZ, for their “scoop” on the Tawdry and the Sleaze, from an All Black has-been.

    You thought Brooke acquitted himself, well? I thought, his “explanation” was entirely congruent with his persona. Crap. “Just can’t recall what happened that night; had a complete blackout”. Yeah, right. A total “cop out”, as Sainsbury pointed out. But he lacked the wherewithal to drive the point home, and to really call him up.
    Brooke comported himself, on Close up, like the inveterate liar, he is.

    • In one breath, you’re bemoaning the Herald for devolving into tabloid — in format, presentation and content — and, in the next breath, you’re lauding TVNZ, for their “scoop” on the Tawdry and the Sleaze, from an All Black has-been.

      Well, a couple of points here, Merv. I wasn’t ‘lauding’ TVNZ, I was simply taking a realistic position that the commercial imperatives under which these programme operate make it impossible for them to present serious, in-depth current affairs. And, having read pretty well all there was to know about John Key’s speech, I was considerably more interested in how Brooke would handle this interview with Sainsbury. Politics can be dull, this was unlikely to be.

      On Brooke, I don’t agree with you. What happened in Fiji was yet another symptom of the booze culture that dominates New Zealand society and nowhere more so than in sport. In that context, memory loss is absolutely common.

  2. Mark Sainsbury’s mo v John Campbell’s short cropped hair – no contest!! But seriously I often do have a look at Q&A on Sunday evenings on TVNZ 7 and yes it’s not too bad, but Paul Holmes still gives me the big turn off. Hopefully TV3 does get ‘Agenda’ back up and running this year with their ex political reporter [Stephen Parker?]who rushed off to be Gerry Brownlee’s lap dog, and who was a relatively decent political correspondent; and that the proposed programme does give TV1 a run for it’s money. Perhaps it’s my advancing years, but I do hanker after a decent current affairs T V programme – ‘Gallery’ readily springs to mind.

    • Mark Sainsbury’s mo v John Campbell’s short cropped hair – no contest!! But seriously I often do have a look at Q&A on Sunday evenings on TVNZ 7 and yes it’s not too bad, but Paul Holmes still gives me the big turn off.

      I understand what you’re saying, Jill. But there’s probably a trade-off here. Paul is a populist broadcaster, but he’s also brought life to the programme and has probably attracted more people to watch it. He’s also hugely well informed on politics and very erudite.

  3. I’ve an inkling you’d find Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe entertaining and all-to-reaffirming.

    Can you view avi files on your television..??

    • I’ve an inkling you’d find Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe entertaining and all-to-reaffirming. Can you view avi files on your television..??

      I’ve no idea. It’s a Sony Bravia. You tell me.

  4. I still hanker for Brian Priestlys Fourth Estate

    • I still hanker for Brian Priestlys Fourth Estate

      Well yes. And you’ll see he is quoted on the home page of our site. I knew him pretty well and was one of a number of journos who appeared on Fourth Estate after his death.

  5. I cannot imagine why you even bother to watch Close Up/Campbell Live. You are likely to get more insight from the Cartoon Network. In fact I can find no valid reason for even watching TV1/3 news, now that TVNZ7 is available

    I find this prurient interest in Brooke and what he did, fascinating. It validates the TV networks’ philospophy of, ‘if it bleeds, it leads’. We truly have the media we deserve. If you continue to boost viewing figures by watching dross you can hardly complain when dross is what you get.

    As I said in an earlier post had the Brooke incident happened in NZ, his name would have been suppressed and given the amount of coverage this has received in the media that may have been no bad thing.

    • I cannot imagine why you even bother to watch Close Up/Campbell Live.

      Well, there is some interesting, informative and entertaining material on these programmes. I like fillet steak, but I don’t want a constant diet of it. The occasional Big Mac makes a nice change. And Campbell at least is a rye and amusing host.

  6. Are you deliberately misspelling things Brian, or is it a symptom of a deeper malaise? “Rye and amusing” and “home page of our cite”? Sorry, I’ll switch my pedantry off now.

    • Are you deliberately misspelling things Brian, or is it a symptom of a deeper malaise? “Rye and amusing” and “home page of our cite”? Sorry, I’ll switch my pedantry off now.

      The first is a typo, the second extraordinary. See my reply to Bill Forster.

  7. “I like fillet steak, but I don’t want a constant diet of it. The occasional Big Mac makes a nice change.”

    Bite the bullet and go vegetarian. Good for the brain as well as the diabetes!

    What are avi files?

    • “I like fillet steak, but I don’t want a constant diet of it. The occasional Big Mac makes a nice change.”
      Bite the bullet and go vegetarian. Good for the brain as well as the diabetes!

      We’re near vegetarians, as it is, Ben, with our fondness for Vietnamese food. I’ve no idea what avi files are. Still waiting for an answer.

  8. “a rye and amusing host”. For a moment I thought you were cleverly comparing John Campbell to an improved Bic Mac made with rye bread. But in retrospect maybe you simple meant “wry”.

    • “a rye and amusing host”. For a moment I thought you were cleverly comparing John Campbell to an improved Bic Mac made with rye bread. But in retrospect maybe you simple meant “wry”.

      Can’t believe I wrote that, Bill. But thanks. Make youself $5 by sending it to the Listener’s “Life in New Zealand” column.

  9. Thank you. I think the poor girl just wanted him publicly humiliated and she got her wish and good on her. Personally and around the water cooler he aplogised to her, flicked her a few bucks and has enrolled in the obligatory counselling but having to go on TV just made her family look vindictive.
    Lucky for Brooke Mike Hoskins wasnt filling in, that would have made great telly.
    Its an exclusive, albeit not a very good one, but it sets TVNZ up nicely for the next PR company who has a client that wants to do a mea culpa. You can always re-book the PM, or any other politician for that matter.

    • Its an exclusive, albeit not a very good one, but it sets TVNZ up nicely for the next PR company who has a client that wants to do a mea culpa. You can always re-book the PM, or any other politician for that matter.

      Ah, where would they all be without the Max Cliffords of this world? Representing celebrities is not something Judy and I have done, but given the quality of the advice most receive here, I think maybe we should reconsider. Our advice: ‘fess up early, apologise and offer whatever compensation seems reasonable. Damn, just gave the advice away.

  10. Brian do you think that Campbell Live / Close Up were *ever* current affairs shows – have their proportions of magazine stories increased over time? Do you think the fight for ratings mean the tabloid type content will stoop to the lows of Australian’s corresponding weeknight shows?

    Just had a look at the last couple of months ratings data and Campbell Live retains, on average, about 68% of the 3 News audience while Close Up retains, on average about 83%. Another way of looking at it, about 30% of people who are watching TV at 7pm are tuning into Close Up and 14% to Campbell Live.

    So what happened in the ratings way the night of Robin Brooke on Close Up vs John Key on Campbell Live?

    * Campbell Live had its biggest audience since December 2.
    * Close Up had its third biggest episode of the year; but 10% less watching than its biggest episode of 2010 to date – so it wasn’t an entirely unusual audience size trend-wise.

    Interestingly, Close Up’s most watched episode of 2010 to date was January 25 – the night of the Auckland power cut. Campbell Live was all over the story (and sub-sequentially praised in the print media) but had just an average rating. Close Up had a follow-up story on the “Lost Boys” and covered the AC/DC tour.

    So what to make of it all? Is there really any correlation between what’s on offer and audience figures? Are viewers just entrenched into their channel (or host) of preference and aren’t interested in comparing what’s on offer?

    Would putting The Simpsons on at 7pm on 3 deliver just the same audience figures?

    • So what happened in the ratings way the night of Robin Brooke on Close Up vs John Key on Campbell Live?
      * Campbell Live had its biggest audience since December 2.
      * Close Up had its third biggest episode of the year; but 10% less watching than its biggest episode of 2010 to date – so it wasn’t an entirely unusual audience size trend-wise

      Interesting stuff, Rachel. As you know, the principal factors in determining ratings are time-slot and the strength of competing channels in that time slot. Tuesday was unusual in that both programmes had strong drawcard items. Politics may be boring, as the networks want us to believe, but Key’s statement affected what was going to be in our pockets after the Budget and there’s nothing boring about that. The Brooke story on Cambell Live was also a drawcard – sex, violence, All Black!

      A complicating factor is that so many people, like me, are able to record both channels and later watch only one or one after the other. The one they watched first might well be the one they preferred, but that isn’t recorded in the ratings which only measure whether responsents watched or did not watch. Promos may be annoying but they also allow viewers to make an advance decision on which programe they’re going to watch. Another complicating factor.

      As to whether standards will fall further, I think it’s inevitable.

  11. So if you were the producer of Close Up and you had to choose between an exclusive interview with a former All Black in which he explains and apologises for his actions in groping a teenage girl’s bum and genital area, and an interview with the Prime Minister about his just-delivered State of the Nation speech, given your brief, which would you choose?

    I’d have bumped another story and run both. And if Brooke’s PR flacks had cut up rough, I’d have not at all politely told them to eff off and try their luck with Campbell Live.

    Or is it also part of the new reality that TVNZ’s “news priorities” are ultimately determined by spin doctors? If so, TVNZ should at least be honest about it.

    • I’d have bumped another story and run both.

      Entirely reasonable. Close Up evidently thought the Brooke item of such interest and merit that they extended it to a length which it really couldn’t bear.

  12. You can always re-book the PM, or any other politician for that matter.

    Oh really? Brian might have some more direct insight into this than me, but I can’t imagine Helen Clark was ever fond of having her time wasted (or would blow off anyone else without a much better reason than “Oh, I got a better offer”).

  13. I have often wondered about the attraction of My Sky. I struggle to find one programme I want to watch let alone record two at the same time. I can only assume in your case it is some form of masochism that makes you want to watch both new programmes. Why don’t you talk to Judy instead?

    As for Brooke; well we all do bloody stupid things in our lives. Is public humiliation before an audience that 200 years ago would have been slavering in fron of the guillotine, really necessary? The human race does not advance very much, in spite of our veneer of so called civilisation.

    • I have often wondered about the attraction of My Sky. I struggle to find one programme I want to watch let alone record two at the same time. I can only assume in your case it is some form of masochism that makes you want to watch both new programmes. Why don’t you talk to Judy instead?

      Difficult to be a media consultant and commentator without watching the programmes that most Kiwis watch. Unlike you, I have no trouble finding things to interest me on the 50 or more channels I can access on Sky.

  14. You may not be “lauding TVNZ”, but it certainly had all the hallmarks of your vigorous approval. Again, you can hardly blame the Herald for feeling aggrieved. They could just as easily argue their own “commercial imperatives” as being “realistic” to retain their readership levels. The same commercial imperatives where TVNZ gets your nod of approval, you decry, when it comes to the Herald.

    But I understand one thing: a faded All Black’s sexual misdemeanours — and thuggish aggression — takes precedence over any other issue, on any TV current affairs programme, on any day of the week.

    I can appreciate your interest (being in the business of “damage control”), but your positive take on Brooke’s mea culpa bears testimony to the fact — that, when it comes to an All Black (past and present), we should be ready to “forgive and forget”. And then we wonder why our judges hand out Suppression Orders, like confetti.

    “What happened in Fiji”, says more about how we are as a nation — so enamoured with the All Blacks — and less about our binge-drinking culture. All very good in re-seating fallen ABs on their pedestals, should they topple off. But, do we need to hand them silk cushions to sit on, as well? Brooke wasn’t as nearly as inebriated as he made himself out to be. He demonstrated sufficient presence of mind to do what he did — to the girl and to the boy who came to her defense. He wasn’t in a horizontal position, choking on his vomit (that was reserved for last night’s “bravura” performance). Sainsbury lacked the necessary verve and incisiveness, when “tackling” Brooke. He reverted to type — being the avuncular, jolly Santa Claus incarnate, he is renown for. Mercifully, we were spared the “Ho-ho-ho”.

    • You may not be “lauding TVNZ”, but it certainly had all the hallmarks of your vigorous approval. Again, you can hardly blame the Herald for feeling aggrieved. They could just as easily argue their own “commercial imperatives” as being “realistic” to retain their readership levels.

      The difference is that the Herald is the only metropolitan daily in Auckland. It has no competition. So that argument seems to me to fail. There are certainly tabloid elements in the paper, as I’ve claimed, and its Monday layout suggests that strongly. The interesting thing is that the Herald on Sunday is not only tabloid in format but tabloid in content and very little different in that regard from the Sunday News. Reason? Sunday is the one day the Herald has competition. I’ve said elsewhere that, despite its flaws, the Herald is probably our best paper. Certainly no other metropolitan devotes so much space to significant issues or runs investigative campaigns, such as the leaky house campaign, which have a significant impact in bringing about social and legislative change. The P campaign is another good example and there are many others.

      Your third para might have some validity if I were a rugby fan. I can’t stand the game and my opinion of the intellectual and moral standards of most All Blacks is best not put in print. My view of Brooke’s performance on Close Up has nothing to do with our media training or crisis management activities. I’d agree that he should have ‘fessed up and apologised right away. Someone gave him very bad advice. But I believed him because that is what my instinct, intuition and perception told me.

      Finally Brooke behaved appallingly in Fiji. He was pissed. Not, as my wife would say, an excuse for his behaviour, but certainly a likely explanation for his loss of memory. That’s why I say this is a booze issue. Thousands of Kiwi men and women wake up every morning with no memory of what happened the night before. We live in a booze-sodden culture.

  15. AVI files are compressed movie files downloaded to a computer. They need to be converted to DVD to play on your telly. You need software and a fair bit of IT savvy. A headache for the for the average punter.

  16. If Brian has a Sony Bravia I’m quite sure it has the ability to connect video output from a laptop or PC. My laptop has HDMI out and my TV has HDMI in, and Brian probably has the same.