Posted by BE on February 13th, 2013
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.
Posted by BE on February 9th, 2013
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 »
Posted by BE on January 15th, 2013
[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 »