Brian Edwards Media

Posts Tagged 'Campbell Live'

The Campbell Live Debate – A Considered View

Campbell Live

I’ve signed the on-line petition which effectively invites TV3 to abandon its intention to replace Campbell Live with what we now know will be a stripped soap-opera made by Julie Christie’s former company Eyeworks.

What has to be acknowledged straight away is that TV3 is a private company and under no obligation to continue producing a prime-time television programme that is losing ratings and therefore revenue. The channel cannot be asked to produce Campbell Live at a loss or to give it preference over a potentially higher rating programme in the same time-slot.

The dilemma here arises from the fact that Campbell is a public service broadcaster working for a private television network. The fault here lies not with TV3 but with the failure of successive governments to provide New Zealanders with a true public service television channel.  While Campbell continued to rate with TV3’s youngish target demographic, his position was relatively secure. The show, which the channel advertises as “New Zealand’s leading current affairs programme”, has been around for a decade. Not a bad run in anyone’s books. But, under the private broadcasting system, once viewers begin to turn off a programme, its host is likely to be shown the door.    Read the rest of this entry »


Campbell versus Key – the wider issue.


The wider issue is television itself. Television does not deal well with complexity. This is particularly the case with commercial television which subscribes to the view that the average viewer has a short attention span, is easily bored and likely to reach for the remote within minutes or possibly seconds of the first hint of tedium appearing. Commercial television executives have assessed the attention span of the average viewer at a maximum of seven minutes, less if the viewer’s interest is not frequently stimulated.

In the areas of news and current affairs that stimulation generally comes in the form of conflict:  the reporting of conflict in the case of news; and actual conflict between antagonists in the case of television current affairs. Third Degree’s ‘The Vote’ provides a classic example. As did the Campbell/Key debate.

However unpalatable, this view of things is probably more or less correct. Commercial television viewers do bore easily and will desert a channel that does not offer them excitement. Such desertion leads to declining ratings and  loss of advertising revenue – the commercial television executive’s nightmare.

The discursive (big word for ‘long’) examination of significant social or political issues simply does not fit the commercial broadcaster’s agenda. So programmes like Campbell Live and Seven Sharp, which play in prime time, are normally made up of three segments with a combined duration of around 22 minutes. I’m told the average sound-bite in a commercial news bulletin is now around five seconds.

Programmes which do attempt to take a more in-depth look at social and political issues – such as The Nation and Q & A – are deliberately marginalised by commercial television executives to the audience wastelands of early Saturday and Sunday morning. Read the rest of this entry »


In the red corner John Campbell; In the blue corner John Key; Your Referee – the good doctor!

The last time I really got stuck into John Campbell was when he interviewed ‘moon man’ Ken Ring after the February earthquake. That was on 28 February 2011. You’ll gather I find very little to criticise in John’s approach to his work – and a great deal to praise. I’ve described what he does as ‘advocacy journalism’ and many thousands of New Zealanders, most particularly those teachers, parents and children adversely affected by the Novopay debacle, and the dispossessed and seemingly abandoned victims of the Christchurch earthquake, have benefited from that advocacy.  It would not, I think, be an exaggeration to claim that both groups and a great many other people regard John Campbell as something of a hero. I share that view.

I don’t want to revisit the Ring interview. My criticism of John for browbeating his subject was harsh and I later regretted its harshness. I followed the first post up with a second, A Gracious Apology from John Campbell. It included this sentence: ‘For my part, I believe that my critique of his performance on this occasion was justified, but the manner in which it was expressed may not have been. Like John himself, I was angry.’

My impression last night was that John was angry again, this time with the Prime Minister, John Key. Key had refused numerous invitations by Campbell Live to discuss the GCSB legislation. That is his right. Television programmes have no power of subpoena and nor should they have such a power. Read the rest of this entry »


Better! Better! Better! (‘Seven Sharp’ last night)

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I am at this very moment preparing my invoice to send to Raewyn Rasch, the Executive Producer of Seven Sharp. You may recall that Raewyn wrote to me, unhappy with my early comments about her programme. Very early, come  to think of it – a week before the programme even went to air. The omens, I’d said, weren’t looking good.

Well, they still weren’t looking good a week into the show and I wrote another fairly lengthy post saying what I thought was wrong and, by implication, needed fixing.

And then came last night, Tuesday.  And Tuesday was different. Tuesday’s programme had a real edge to it, the very thing I’d said was missing from the earlier shows. The banter was sharper, more Paul Henry and less Play School. And the tag-team interviewing had been largely abandoned. There was Greg Boyed manfully attempting to do the impossible – get a straight answer from Winston Peters; and Ali Mau doing an interview with Investigate magazine publisher Ian Wishart, who had brought us NZ First MP Richard Prosser’s thoughtful views on ‘Wogistan’. The interview was a model of its type. And finally, a really interesting item on just how long you can survive in the open sea without a life-jacket.

All in all, a nice example of what you might call ‘palatable current affairs’. Which is ironic really when you consider that last night was also the first night that Campbell Live beat its opposition on One with 352,600 viewers against Seven Sharp’s 296,700.

My unsolicited advice to Raewyn Rash would be not to be discouraged by last night’s figures which are a reflection of viewers’ response to the previous eight days and not to last night’s show. Stick with it.

Though can I please make one suggestion to Greg Boyed. It isn’t necessary in a probing interview to look and sound so angry that you’d like to climb across the desk  and throttle your interviewee. Winston can be annoying, but not that annoying. And he has the sweetest smile.


Seven Sharp Week One – Was the weather or Waitangi Day to blame?

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The best comment I’ve heard about Seven Sharp came from Canterbury University senior journalism lecturer Tara Ross who said: We were invited to tweet and we were invited to vote, but what were we invited to think about?”

My answer would be: little of any consequence. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that – the utterly brilliant QI deals almost exclusively in ‘quite interesting’ ephemera. I can watch, and have watched half a dozen episodes on the trot and could happily have watched half a dozen more. Informative, irreverent, rude, challenging, side-splittingly funny. All the things Seven Sharp isn’t.

Given the quality of talent available to the BBC, the comparison is of course unfair. And QI makes no claim to be anything other than an (admittedly somewhat intellectual) entertainment.

Television New Zealand’s Head of News and Current Affairs, Ross Dagan, on the other hand, does a disservice to the producers and presenters on Seven Sharp, not to mention its viewers, by continuing to insist that Close Up’s replacement is still a ‘prime-time current affairs’ programme. It isn’t, at least not in the common usage of the term.  Collins English Dictionary defines ‘current affairs’ as ‘relating to events and developments taking place in the world now, or the way in which these are covered or presented by the media’. The only prime-time network programme that currently comes close to that definition is Campbell Live.

Had Seven Sharp been billed as a ‘magazine programme offering a light-hearted and occasionally serious look at the events of the day’, its producers and presenters would have been spared the tsunami of criticism and viewer disappointment that has all but swept the programme away.   Read the rest of this entry »


TVNZ exchanges current-affairs for a mess of pottage at 7pm

[On the same day that this post was published TVNZ’s Head of News and Current Affairs, Ross Dagan, resigned. Spooky eh?]

I think it was my good friend Joe Atkinson who coined the term ‘morselisation’ to describe what began to happen to news and current affairs programmes in this country from around 1989 when real competition for viewers and the advertising dollar arrived with the launch of TV3. The term reflected the view of television executives that viewers had a limited appetite for serious current affairs programming and could only handle information if it was served up to them in bite-sized chunks. News items consequently got shorter; the 15-second sound-bite shrank to 5 seconds; and long-form interviews were relegated to the advertising-free viewer wasteland of Sunday morning.

If you were so ungenerous as to point any of this out, the executives would remind you of Holmes and later Close Up and Campbell Live, top-rating current-affairs programmes which they broadcast in prime time.

My own view was that these were actually magazine programmes with a heavy emphasis on ‘infotainment’, not least in the confrontational styles of their host/ interviewers.  Read the rest of this entry »


The producer of Campbell Live responds to my criticism of its interview with Alasdair Thompson and I reply.

Pip Keane, Producer of Campbell Live, writes:

I produce Campbell Live and I would argue,  Brian, that we were being honest. Yesterday was a huge day for Christchurch and after the good work we have done there for the past two weeks (I would argue a combination of our caravan of complaint, compelling stories consistently night after night and John’s interviews over the past fortnight put some pressure on the Government to bring yesterday’s zoning decision forward.)

On a day that meant so much not just for Christchurch but for the rest of the country too, we’re hardly going to run a 27 minute interview with Alasdair Thompson. In fact, if we had you would probably have written a column about it! We had to choose the best part to put to air. That’s our job. When John does an interview with someone in the field, e.g. John Key on budget day, he might speak to him for 20 minutes. We don’t put the whole interview to air. We put the best bits to air. I had four spare minutes yesterday and now the whole interview is on the internet for people to watch, judge and draw their own conclusion. That’s what good journalism is all about (I think you taught me that during my journalism course?)

If it wasn’t on the internet, you wouldn’t have seen it. You wouldn’t have known what else Alasdair said or the context of the interview so to say we are dishonest I would argue is wrong. What didn’t go to air in the TVNZ interview? Would you have watched the first four minutes of Alasdair speaking with Mihi? The middle four minutes? The last four minutes? It was pure coincidence that he was interviewed by two TV3 female reporters. I asked Mihi to ring Alasdair and she did. She then went down to his office for an interview. At this point he had already done two other interviews. He had every opportunity to tell her to go away but he didn’t and instead spoke with her for 27 minutes. At no point did he ask for the camera to be turned off or the interview to be stopped.

Re the poll. The story had been around all day. John promoted the poll at the top of the show but people didn’t see Mihi’s interview until the last segment of the show. People were voting on what they had seen and heard all day and in the news. They must have been because 80 per cent of our votes were in by the time the story went to air. Others rolled in after the show and after the interview but were not included in the result that went to air. Interestingly, the percentages didn’t change.

Read the rest of this entry »


Dishonest journalism from Campbell Live and why Alasdair Thompson should refer it to the BSA

Photo: Richard Robinson

Here’s a little quiz: Who said this?

“I believe that in life most women are more productive totally than most men. I absolutely believe that. When you take into account the things that women do in their lives compared to most men. They often do all the arranging of the finances for the whole family, they run the household, they care for the children, they do all manner of things and they go to work. Their total productivity in life, in my opinion, is higher than most men.”

The answer? Alasdair Thompson. Where? In an interview with Mihingarangi Forbes for Campbell Live.

How come you didn’t know that? Because that part of the interview wasn’t shown on the programme. In fact only 4’18” of this 27 minute interview was shown. Read the rest of this entry »


I argue that Campbell Live’s ‘Stone Wall’ and ‘Caravan of Complaint’ serve democracy well.

Campbell Live has introduced a new feature on the programme. They’re calling it ‘The Stone Wall’ and it will display the names and photographs of Cabinet Ministers, from the PM down, who decline invitations to appear on the programme.

The idea isn’t entirely new. For a long time Fair Go had a ‘Wall of Shame’ which served much the same purpose. Malefactors who refused to front in the studio had their  name and photograph displayed on the wall, until they learnt the error of their ways and made an appearance.

I objected to the Fair Go version because people and companies who had sorted things out to the complainant’s satisfaction still had their name and photograph posted on the ‘Wall of Shame’ where it remained till they relented and turned up. This had absolutely nothing to do with fairness and everything to do with television’s requirement for pictures and conflict.

Paul Holmes used to have what you might call the ‘Empty Chair of Shame’. The chair was reserved for evildoers who had been invited to appear on Holmes but had declined. The conceit behind the empty chair was that hope springs eternal and that the invited guest might just change their mind and turn up. The camera (and Paul) returned frequently to the empty chair to indicate that hope was fading fast (and to further humiliate the no-show).   Read the rest of this entry »


Bouquets and brickbats – People power from Campbell Live

A large bouquet to Campbell Live last night for letting the people of Christchurch speak for themselves. This montage of frustration  told a very different story from one we’re hearing from officialdom about the EQC and the accuracy and speed of assessments. A classic was the 34 second assessment caught on CCTV.

This made excellent television – a far cry from the stumbling, bumbling  interview by Mark Sainsbury on the Tupperwaka  in which he

images31Asked such searing questions as:

Are you ashamed of your culture? (To Shane Jones)

Is this a jack-up? (To Ngarimu Blair of Ngati Whatua)

Are you saying that Pita Sharples is bribing the Maori people of Auckland? (To Shane Jones again. And no, Mark, that was the Act Party)

This mock-tough interviewing just comes across as rude and boorish. Patsy questions which are patently ridiculous. This was a subject that deserved some serious debate. It’s not going to get it on Close Up, that’s for sure.


The Lone Ranger comes to town – finally! A personal experience of bullying.

When I first saw the story about Casey Heynes, the 16-year-old Sydney schoolboy who’d been bullied for most of his school career and who finally snapped and turned on his tormentor, I was taken back to my own experience 60 years ago at Dunmurry Primary School, just outside Belfast. You’ll need to know that Anderson & McAuley was  the Belfast equivalent of Smith & Caughey or Kirkcaldie & Stains. ‘Cheeser’ was our nickname for the headmaster whose real name was Mr Chesney.  This is the story as I tell it in my memoir Daddy Was A German Spy – And Other Scandals:


  Like most schools, Dunmurry Primary had its resident bully. Nelson was an ugly fat boy. These days you would say that Nelson was an unhappy kid with body image issues who needed counselling. But in those days it was OK to say that Nelson was an ugly fat boy. Nelson threw his weight around – literally. He would jump on your back, then punch your lights out when you were on the ground. No one ever fought back and unless one of the teachers was around, no one ever came to the victim’s rescue. Nelson could have starred in a 50’s Western as the really bad dude who terrorises the town. Where was The Lone Ranger when you needed him?

 I was a favourite target for Nelson whose bully radar may have detected a nervous kid with pacifist tendencies. You never saw him coming. Nelson didn’t bother with foreplay. There were no threats or intimidation to warm things up. You suddenly found yourself spread-eagled beneath a mountain of pummelling lard.

 I put up with this for several months. Then, one day, something snapped. Nelson had just had his fill of beating the crap out of me and was wandering off in search of another victim when he got a sudden surprise. The wimp Edwards had appeared from nowhere and was riding on his back, his skinny arms round Nelson’s throat, kicking the living daylights out of the back of Nelson’s knees. A small crowd had gathered.

 ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’     Read the rest of this entry »


John Campbell, tonight you were a disgrace to the interviewer’s trade.

John, Your mindless, bullying, tirade against ‘moon man’ Ken Ring on tonight’s Campbell Live was perhaps the worst piece of egotistical, self-important, out of control, closed-minded, biased, unprofessional  non-interviewing I have seen in more than 40 years of New Zealand television.

I have no brief for Mr Ring or his theories, but after watching your treatment of him tonight, I have considerably more respect for him as the reasonable exponent of an admittedly controversial point of view than I have for you as an interviewer.

What mattered to you in this exchange was not what he had to say, but what you had to say. And since he thought the process was meant to involve his being critically questioned on statements he had made and being given reasonable opportunity to reply, he had every right to complain when you preferred to deny him that opportunity by shouting him down. It was, quite simply, appalling.

My advice to Mr Ring would be to immediately complain to Mark Jennings, the Head of News and Current Affairs at TV3 about your mistreatment on the programme tonight, and the breach of Broadcasting Standards of fairness and balance which it contained. And, when your complaint is almost certainly rejected, to take the matter to the Broadcasting Standards Authority for their deliberation and judgement.

The microphone is a potent tool in the bullying interviewer’s hand, especially when the interview is not face-to-face and the interviewee is isolated in a remote studio location. Fortunately most interviewers do not abuse that situation. Tonight we saw what has overall been excellent television coverage of the Christchurch earthquake on both TVNZ and TV3 marred by a descent to broadcasting at the level of Jerry Springer. I have seldom been so angry.


A brief assessment of the players in the Hotchin/Sainsbury/Close Up interview


Close Up – Undoubtedly a major coup, though I suspect that Hotchin, or an agent on his behalf, approached the programme. However, the  production team blotted its copy book badly by totally abandoning editorial balance and showing clips damaging to Hotchin –  largely newspaper headlines – while Hotchin was speaking. An appalling lapse in editorial judgement.

Hotchin – Plausible and persuasive. I thought he was very good. His appearance has been and will be dismissed as a PR exercise and there may well be an element of truth in that. But the risks inherent in taking part in a live and predictably aggressive television interview were considerable. And, in the end, all the PR in the world will not assist the lying or dishonest television interviewee. The audience will see through him.     

Sainsbury – Handled the interview well. Asked the questions that viewers, and some at least of those who lost money in Hanover, would have wanted asked. Somewhat repetitive and it really would be good if Mark could put his questions in a less excitable way. But overall a good performance.

Campbell Live – Ended its show last night with an undignified piece of sour grapes in which John bewailed the fact that Hotchin was appearing on his competitor’s programme and re-ran old Campbell Live clips which served merely to explain why Hotchin had gone to Close Up.  John is the superior broadcaster of the two, but would he have done this particular interview better? I doubt it.

The Viewers – Will many have changed their view of Hotchin after watching the interview? Probably not.


Campbell Live’s Tristram Clayton: Bloody Awful; Totally Superb!

Campbell Live team member Tristram Clayton has begun to make something of a name for himself as a slightly quirky, off-beat reporter. He’s very good at it, as a superb little television vignette he appeared in on Tuesday made abundantly clear. Sadly, there was Wednesday to come, bringing with it a lesson for Clayton and his producer – the cobbler should stick to his last.

So as not to finish on a sour note, I’ll start with last night’s appearance. 3 News had obviously got wind of the fact that Mark Hotchin was returning from overseas and had dispatched Clayton to meet him at Auckland airport. They no doubt expected two bites off this particular cherry, a clip for the 6pm bulletin and a longer piece for Campbell Live. The tone of the interview which Clayton was expected to deliver was made clear in a promo for Campbell Live by Rachel Smalley at the start of the bulletin:

‘And we’ve got him! Campbell Live speaks exclusively to Mark Hotchin about his extravagant holiday as he tries to slip back into the country.’

This is a disgraceful statement to appear at the front of a news bulletin. All pretence of objectivity is abandoned. A businessman returning home from overseas is effectively cast as a criminal, attempting to avoid the authorities: ‘And we’ve got him … as he tries to slip back into the country.’ Hotchin’s holiday, if it were indeed a holiday, is defined as ‘extravagant’, a largely irrelevant concept in the case of a multi-millionaire, but more importantly a matter for the viewer to decide, not the reporter to prejudge.

I don’t have much time for Hotchin myself, as a post I wrote in May makes clear. There are questions I’d like to see put to him, but not by a nervous reporter, clearly out of his depth, pursuing him through an airport arrival area. The outcome is an embarrassing mess, in which Clayton manages to look inept and wetly offensive while Hotchin keeps his cool, remains determinedly polite and comes across as remarkably forbearing in fending off this irritating gnat.

Clayton’s problem is that he isn’t sure of his ground. Hotchin corrects almost everything he says and he can’t come back. After Hotchin replies to an accusation that Hanover was over-valued at the time of sale to Allied Farmers, Clayton says, ‘Right, well that’s good to know.’ I think that’s called a retreat.

When he tackles Hotchin on the mansion at Paratai Drive, Hotchin matter-of-factly replies: ‘I can’t hide it. It’s there. It’s going to be finished and it’s going to be sold.’

Clayton: ‘That’s fair enough.’

I’ve got firsthand experience of Clayton’s difficulty, of being faced with a rather daunting interviewee, being expected to take a fairly aggressive line and knowing full well that you’re out of your depth. (The name Muldoon springs to mind) This accounts for Clayton stammering and stuttering his way through the interview and for those soothing verbal gestures he makes to Hotchin, who barely looks at him.

When Hotchin finally said, ‘Why do I keep talking to you?’ I thought this was the best question in the interview.    Read the rest of this entry »


Who gets the dough when you take part in a TVNZ/TV3 text-in poll? I find out and it ain’t pretty!

'How come there was no Guinness ads in the final? Sure it must be rigged.

You may have noticed that text-in polls are becoming increasingly popular with the major television networks. And you many have wondered just why it costs so much to text one of their programmes, why the charge varies substantially from channel to channel and programme to programme, and just where the money is going.

Leaving aside for the moment that these polls have zero statistical value, you might think that by getting free programme material, paid for by viewers,  they are on a much better deal than you and me. And it might occur to you that if there has to be a charge, that charge should be a) reasonable and b) consistent. So far as I can see, it’s neither.

In recent weeks I’ve seen ‘text-in’ charges of 50 cents, 75 cents and 99 cents.  This week, for example,  it would have cost you 50 cents to answer ‘Campbell Live’s question: ‘Who is to blame for The Hobbit fiasco –  a) the union or b) the film studio?’

But if you watched the Fair Go Ad Awards on Wednesday and wanted to vote for the worst and best television ads, you’d have had to pay 99 cents … twice!

So my first question is: Since the most you can pay to send  a text internally in New Zealand is 20 cents – and considerably less if you’re on a plan –  why does it cost two-and-a-half times that much to send a text to Campbell Live, and why does it cost five times that much to sent a text to Fair Go? Fair Go of all programmes!

My second question is: why should there be any difference in the cost of sending a text to different channels or different programmes?

And my third question is: how much money are we talking about and  where is it all going?    Read the rest of this entry »


Brian Tamaki – Mad, Bad, Neither or Both (Revisited)

Pic: Glenn Jeffrey/NZ Herald

Pic: Glenn Jeffrey/NZ Herald








In October last year, I wrote a post about Brian Tamaki and the Destiny Church.  Over the last few days it has become apparent that sections of  of the church’s membership are waking up to the true character of their ‘Bishop’, his wife and his lieutenants. Among those lieutenants, Richard Lewis, who has appeared twice on Campbell Live, once to answer questions about the church  and, a couple of nights ago, to refuse to answer questions about the church,  presents a particularly daunting, almost menacing image. It is as hard to reconcile that image with the practice of what one might call ‘true Christianity’ as it is to reconcile the Tamakis’ lifestyle with the teachings of Christ. That disconnect, as former church member Matthew Coleman told John Campbell last night, is essentially what the disaffected members of the church’s Brisbane congregation are no longer able to accept.

It is possible that the rigorous discipline practised within Destiny Church has been instrumental in turning around the lives of men who might otherwise have ended up in the prison system, but no amount of good works can disguise the fact that it is Tamaki and his wife Hannah who have benefited most from the organisation which they founded.

Whether  the events in Brisbane mark the beginning of the end of Destiny Church remains to be seen. The history of cults suggests otherwise. Cults survive through mind-manipulation, bullying and fear. They are invariably easier to join than they are to leave. But the signs are at least encouraging that the members of Destiny Church are finally getting wise to the real ambition, the real motivation of their homophobic, misogynistic, deluded leader.

Read the original post.


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













“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.”  Read the rest of this entry »