Brian Edwards Media

Posts Tagged 'Close Up'

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 »


Snickering with Paul Henry


I read that Paul Henry is to be the New Zealand face for Snickers. My initial response was that this was not surprising since Paul has been snickering at his fellow man and woman for years. He’s mean. And that is apparently the very quality that the makers of Snickers want in their ads.

I say ‘apparently’ because, thanks to MySky, I don’t have to watch commercials and have never seen a Snickers ad. But I gather they feature some of the behavioural ill-effects that hunger for chocolate can have on human beings. Meanness, it seems, is one.

So Paul is going to play himself in the commercial. And he’s delighted:

“I’m excited to be involved in something which essentially just allows me to be myself. I’m glad to be able to show that meanness can be fun and celebratory, and despite the old adage that it’s difficult to do, meanness really does come easy.”

We never thought otherwise, Paul.

Other Snickers front-people have included Betty White, Joe Pesci, Aretha Franklin, Liza Minnelli and Joan Collins, and Paul regards his inclusion in this Hollywood  A-list as “something of an honour”. I assume he means for him.  Read the rest of this entry »


Agreement and some disagreement on my claim that TVNZ hung Close Up reporter Kate Lynch out to dry.

I read in today’s Herald that media-trainer to Right-thinking-people, Janet Wilson, has elegantly dismissed my assessment of TVNZ’s treatment of Kate Lynch as ‘bollocks’. Reminding readers that she was herself once a news producer, she opines that TVNZ were not only perfectly within their rights to demote Lynch, but would have been entitled to sack her.

I might accept that argument if the broadcaster had also sacked the producer of the programme for dereliction of duty in failing to detect what Lynch’s critics describe as a blatant example of plagiarism. She sent Lynch out on the job, she previewed the words and pictures, she approved the item for broadcast and she put it to air. The buck stops with her. That’s what being a producer means, Janet.

So I’m more inclined to go along with respected media commentator and University of Canterbury Professor of Social and Political Sciences, Jim Tully, who told the Herald that it was ‘extremely difficult’ to believe Lynch acted alone, and hoped anyone else involved had been dealt with at an appropriate level.

Hope springs eternal. I, for example, hope that TVNZ will give priority to identifying the ‘one inside mole’ in their organisation who breached their non-disclosure agreement with Lynch by gleefully revealing to gossip columnist Rachel Glucina every detail of the humiliating conditions imposed on the reporter by TVNZ management. They won’t of course. ‘Not knowing’ will make it easier for management to absolve themselves of responsibility, both legal and moral, for this employment scandal.

As I concluded in my previous post, ‘Lynch has now not merely been demoted by TVNZ but humiliated by the release of the terms of that demotion.’ In her position, I would be reaching for my lawyer.   Read the rest of this entry »


The Curious Case of Close Up’s Controversial Cloning

Have a look at this:

There’s very little, well, actually no doubt at all that this Close Up item on how many things in an average New Zealand home are actually Kiwi made, is an almost exact facsimile of an ABC America story on how many items in an average US home are actually made there. The idea is the same, the storyline is the same, the direction is the same, the graphics are the same, the commentary is the same. Not to put too fine a point on it, the Close Up version is a clone of the American story.

Plagiarism? Well, it depends.   Read the rest of this entry »


Hurrah for Harold Harris! A Guide to Speaking Sainsbury.

Once upon a time aspiring radio and TV stars were sent off for voice coaching before they were allowed to pollute our airways. At the very least they had to have pleasant voices and excellent diction.

No longer. Our TV screens are now populated in prime time by young women whose voices could etch glass at 40 paces and men who happily mangle the language to the point of incomprehensibility.

My current personal favourite is the new dialect of Sainsbury, to be heard on Close Up most evenings at 7pm. I’ve heard the odd Sainsburyism from news reporters on both One and Three and once, to my astonishment, from Mike McRoberts.  It’s clearly the coming fashion and we should all adopt it as soon as possible.

Visitors filling in time between World Cup matches may require help with translation before they can fully appreciate Close Up. They may be so impressed with what they hear that they want to start speaking Sainsbury themselves.  Here’s a little pronunciation guide for the uninitiated and the eager:

Harold – as in ‘Harold is that dodgy Toyota you’re selling?’

Harris – as in ‘Harris it that you can’t kick the damn ball between the posts?’

Hurrah – as in ‘Hurrah you, now that you’ve had liposuction?’

Harrever – as in ‘Harrever will you get that money out of the country, Mr Hotchins?’

Harroffen – as in ‘Harroffen will Hone hongi Willie before the election?’

Harrintristing – as in ‘Harrintristing! And where did you dispose of the body?’

Feel free to expand this guide – your contributions of any new Sainsburyisms are welcomed.

Next week: How to copy Key – an exercise in syllable reduction.


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.


A Hypothesis: Let’s assume for the moment that Darren Hughes is telling the truth.

Cartoon by Webb

Let’s assume just for the moment that Darren Hughes is telling the truth when he says he did nothing wrong when he took an eighteen-year-old back to his lodgings in the early hours of March 2.

Let’s set the bar even higher and assume that Hughes is not just relying on the letter of the law when he says he did nothing wrong, but  that  nothing of a sexual nature, nothing ‘improper’ in any way  took place. They had a cup of coffee and continued talking politics until the 18-year-old left.
And finally, let’s not worry about the probability or lack of probability of these assumptions or where this leaves the 18-year-old and his complaint to the police.
We’re simply considering a hypothesis: Darren Hughes is completely innocent.
This hypothesis was debated  on last night’s Close Upby three very experienced and very knowledgeable commentators: former Labour Party president, Mike Williams, former Labour MP, John Tamihere and Dr Bryce Edwards, blogger and lecturer in Politics at Otago University.

Asked whether Hughes political  aspirations were dog-tucker even if no prosecution were taken against him – effectively a declaration that he had broken no law – all three agreed that that was indeed the case. One expressed the reservation that if the police dealt with the matter quickly, there was a chance that Hughes might survive – a reasonably unlikely scenario, given the cops’ historic tardiness in dealing with this sort of matter.  Read the rest of this entry »


If all you need to do is tell the truth, why do people need media training?

Hard Talk's Stephen Sackur

The debate over Mark Hotchin’s interview with Mark Sainsbury on Close Up  has produced the usual shibboleths about Public Relations and Media Training. The practitioners of these dark arts are seen  either as miracle workers who can make sinners look like saints – referred to in the advertising world as ‘polishing a turd’ –  or as shysters making a killing from teaching people how to successfully lie in interviews and thus pull the wool over the eyes of the general public.  If either of these outcomes were possible, Judy and I would not be blogging about the Hotchins, we’d be with them in Hawaii, only in a much nicer spot in a much nicer house.

The “miracle-worker” version is rooted in the idea that readers, listeners and viewers are idiots who can be easily taken in by the practised sleight of hand of the PR/media trained interviewee.  But it simply isn’t so. And especially not on television.

This is what the great doyen of British interviewers, Sir Robin Day, had to say about the televised political interview:

“When a TV interviewer questions a politician, this is one of the rare occasions, perhaps the only occasion outside Parliament, when a politician’s performance cannot be completely manipulated or packaged or artificially hyped. Some TV answers can, of course, be prepared by scriptwriters and committed to memory, but not all. The answers cannot be on autocue as for an address to camera.

 “The image-maker can advise on how to sit, or what hairstyle to have, or on voice quality. But once the interview has started, the politician is on his or her own… Provided there is time for probing  cross-examination, the politician cannot be wholly shielded against the unexpected. The politician’s own brain is seen to operate. His or her real personality tends to burst out. Truth is liable to raise its lovely head.

 “In a newspaper interview, the politician may flannel or fudge, but in a TV interview the flannelling and fudging can be seen and judged by the viewing public, just as the jury in a court can form their opinion of the candour and the credibility of a witness.”

Our advice to clients has not changed in a quarter of a century. It is: Be straightforward; Tell the truth; Admit your mistakes. Why? Because that’s the only thing that works. Read the rest of this entry »


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.


Getting it Right. A Bouquet for Close Up’s Coverage of the David Tamihere Case

Sarah Ivey/NZ Herald


I spend a fair amout of time on this site taking the New Zealand television networks to task for their generally abysmal prime-time coverage of public affairs. So it’s appropriate to be equally generous in praise when they get it right.

Following David Tamihere’s release from prison, Monday’s Close Up featured a background report by Hannah Ockelford on the murder of the Swedish tourists, the subsequent arrest,  trial and conviction of Tamihere, his unsuccessful appeal to the Privy Council to overturn his conviction and his 20-year imprisonment during which he continued to assert his innocence.

This was not a long item, perhaps five or six minutes, but it was a model of television storytelling. I have long been an admirer or Hannah Ockelford, who is an excellent interviewer, brings a quiet maturity to her reporting and, as a bonus, both looks and sounds good. Her report included archival footage of the police hunt for Tamihere, who was then on the run, a summary of the evidence both for and against him, and interviews with Tamihere’s wife Kristine, his son Jon and journalist Pat Booth. All three impressed.

Pat Booth is without question the most admired  investigative journalist in New Zealand.  He is a crusader for justice. And, as it happens, he understands the art of persuasive communication, no better illustrated than in his interview with Ockelford. At a technical level, he sits forward, holds intense eye-contact with his interviewer, speaks quietly – this is an intimate format – and listens intently to the questions. I doubt that he thinks about any of this. It’s instinctual. He presents his case entirely without hyperbole or histrionics. He is utterly reasonable. And, most important of all, he willingly concedes any weakness in his argument. When accused by the interviewer of having just as blinkered a view of the case as the police, he simply replies, ‘Oh yes, yes, I agree. We are all victims of our environment and what we know.’   The effect is not to undermine but to enhance his credibility. This is an object lesson in the art of the interview.

At the end of the five or six minutes, I feel that I have been given a clear, concise, low-key and even-handed summary of the issues surrounding the arrest, trial,  conviction and imprisonment of David Tamihere. I have been informed. And I have been left to make up my own mind on where the truth actually lies. That is what I mean by ‘getting it right’.

Take another look

And look for the line of the week – Pat Booth talking about hard-line detective John Hughes, who headed the investigation: ‘He was known in the underworld as The Gardener, because he planted so well.’


Shouldn’t This Fellow Be Hosting ‘Close Up’ Every Night?

Mike Hosking was standing in for Mark Sainsbury on last night’s Close Up. I haven’t always been a fan of Mr Hosking’s interviewing style, but each time he appears on Close Up my respect for him grows.

A useful litmus test for judging a television host or interviewer is how comfortable they make you feel watching them. If their presentation or questioning make you feel as though you’re watching an amateur high-wire walker making his debut between two New York skyscrapers in a high wind, you can be reasonably certain that the interviewer really isn’t very good and his career may  fall to earth sooner rather than later.

If, on the other hand, your sense of being in safe hands allows you to concentrate fully on the subject of the debate or interview, rather than on how the host is doing, you can be reasonably certain that you’re watching a skilled professional. This is the feeling I get with Mike Hosking – nothing is going to go wrong.  Read the rest of this entry »


TVNZ Responds to “A Little Bird Told Me” (Updated Tuesday, May 4)






I have received the following email from Mike Valintine, Editor of Close Up:

Hi Brian …your little bird is completely wrong. There was no attempt to delay or prevent the Serepisos story from going to air. It is correct Daniel did the interview with the businessman a month before the item went to air but that is easily explained. Firstly Mr Henshilwood and his wife went on holiday immediately after the interview and we were awaiting documentation from them to support their claims. This was in storage and it took more than a week after their return to access the files. We also wanted them back to approach Mr Serepisos in person. Secondly at that time their story was part of a wide ranging investigation into Mr Serepisos’s debts. My expectation was that Daniel’s story would be aired as part of a more comprehensive insight. When it became clear that the wider investigation would take longer than anticipated Daniels story was put to air.
There was certainly no pressure placed upon me and I instructed staff working on it to treat it like any other story- without fear or favour.

Mike V.


Read the rest of this entry »


The Apprentice File – A Little Bird Told Me…

Now here’s a mystery which has just been drawn to my attention by an eagle-eyed little bird high up in the journalism tree. Last Tuesday, April 27, TVNZ’s Close Up programme ran a story on small businessman David Henshilwood who, since July of 2009,  had been owed $3680 for work he’d done installing television screens in the Century City Hotel, owned by multi-millionaire businessman and host of TVNZ’s  The Apprentice, Terry Serepisos. 

It was quite a gritty little story. And, in the best traditions of Fair Go, it had yielded a result. On the previous day, Monday, April 26, Close Up had contacted Mr Serepisos’ office and outlined the basis of the story they were about to run. And, lo and behold, a cheque for the full amount owing was already in Mr Henshilwood’s hands. Hurrah! Well done Close Up.

But the eagle-eyed little bird had spotted something strange in the Close Up story. In it reporter Daniel Faitaua interviews David Henshilwood and his wife Sally about their problems with Serepisos. Referring to the interview, Faitaua says in voice-over, ‘That was them four weeks ago when they told us of their frustration trying to get paid for installing screens in Terry Serepisos’ Century City Hotel.’

Whoa there! Four weeks ago! You interviewed the Henshilwoods four weeks ago, but you only approached Sereposis’ office yesterday to seek a response. Isn’t that just a little strange?  Read the rest of this entry »


“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 »