RNZ returns to its regular schedule on Monday – declaring an end to a four week summer when the world allegedly stops spinning for us all to catch our breath. Locally, its a time when politics and business slow down allowing local media operate on a skeleton staff for a couple of weeks. RNZ takes that a step further. It always restarts programming year on Wellington Anniversary Day, after what is effectively a month long break. Its a week too long. National Radio has been missing in action this week. The world is in upheaval due to Trump. Morning Report will return on Monday with the world utterly changed.
Prospects are still live for closer links between Freeview and Lightbox. TVNZ is still looking at taking a bigger stake in Freeview and part of that might see closer ties with the Spark owned pay tv platform, I am told by industry players.
One ndustry source suggested a tie up between TVNZ and Spark might not involve an equity stake. But the relationship might entail something as simple as having a Lightbox App on the Freeview platform to allow easy movement across platforms. Spark has declined to discuss plans to increase its media arm, but in my opinion Spark would make a good partner for free to air TV.
Caption: The art deco Daily Telegraph building symbolised the steady, secure nature of provincial newspapers in the 1980s.
An old journalist colleague of mine, Mike Johansson and has a unique take of the changes facing print media. He started out as a cadet reporter at the now defunct Napier Daily Telegraph in what is now remembered as a strong and stable era for New Zealand print journalism. Provincial newspapers were buoyed by classified advertising and had enough resources to sustain a rounds system that covered local news with some detailed understanding. He also worked as a sub-editor at The Press, in Christchurch, in what was, in retrospect, a golden era.
Johansson earned a Rotary scholarship to the prestigious S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University in Upstate New York and after that he made a career nearby at the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester owned by the giant Gannett Corporation.
“In 1986 when I landed in Syracuse, readership was in very slow decline,” he says.
It’s hardly news that newspapers have been going through heavy weather. But it is clear 2017 will be make or break time for New Zealand newspapers. All over the world papers are closing and downsizing. In general, NZ papers have remained profitable, though this week Fairfax New Zealand announced a $75 million loss after writing down the value of its papers by $100 million. But there are special problems here make our journalism more vulnerable. Partly it is because we have uniquely had no specific media and as a result we have already reached the point where our media is already ruled by duopolies. The next step is monopolies and the Commerce Commission regulating competition, seems wary of taking that step.
Perhaps more than other countries New Zealand newspapers have been doing the hard work building stories from the start – the heavy lifting some call it. Establishing the detail and diversity of news for other media that follow up on them. A diminished resources for newspapers has already led to the end of the rounds system – where reporters brvsmr experts in issues or or institions, That has diminished newspaper reporter and had a downstream effect with poorer TV and radio bulletins. Further cuts are inevitable for newspapers and that will flow on to other media. The immediate future will be decided on March 15 when the Commerce Commission decides whether to change its mind and approve the merger of NZME. and Fairfax. The strong criticism in the ComCom draft report issued in November means that few expect merger approval. Commerce Commission chair Mark Berry appeared to go out of his way to discourage expectations for a turnaround, saying the influence of the combined countries as second only to Mainland China,. If it does occur there will likely be a swift change and layoffs .The two firms will stop sending two or more people to cover one news story. Some predict over 25 per cent of 3000 combined staff will go, including dozens of journalists. Even if there is no merger there will be cuts to staff longer term . Newspaper companies will have to assess how they can continue to make money in a market where their business model (they freely admit) no longer works.
Caption: Fake News in Facebook promoted the election of Donald Trump.
Mark Jennings offers practical and realistic analysis on the parlous state of New Zealand News Media. This is the slightly abridged text of Jennings’ giving the John O’Shea memorial address to the SPADA conference this week.
I’d like to look at two major themes that have impacted the media this year. One is international and one is domestic.The first is the now widely held view that the world’s media is so out of touch that it completely misread Brexit and Donald Trump’s rise to power and has become irrelevant to a large part of the population.
The second one is, what’s led to the two biggest media organisations in this country feeling they have to merge to if they are to keep producing the sort of journalism that matters. In my view, there are many factors that are common to both these topics. It wasn’t that long ago that technology and the internet looked like they were going to be mainstream media’s greatest allies, in what I think is its key role, providing timely information and context to a wide audience.
The combination of technology and the internet promised so much. Looking back, I think it was a sweet spot in media history, a great time to be a journalist and I think the public was well served too. Profitability and competition spawned a whole range of new products and product innovation. I’d like to fast forward to the rise of Google and Facebook
– particularly Facebook. The traditional mainstream media has lost control of its distribution platforms. 50 percent of Americans now get their news from Facebook. I don’t know the figure for New Zealand but my gut tells that is probably similar. There are two big problems with this.The first one is money. If you are not buying a paper, reading the advertisements in it, or watching the ads on a free to-air news broadcast or paying to access material on line, then the content provider is going to go broke. As we know, that’s what’s happening around the western world including New Zealand.
It’s not a quick death though, it is a slow and painful one, as Facebook and Google suck more and more money out of the market.News providers cut staff, lower quality, steal each other’s material and now try to trick the public into clicking onto nonsense stories in the hope of staying in business. All mainstream news media now distribute their content via Facebook. They don’t make much money out of it but they don’t really have a choice.
What the mainstream media has done, perhaps unwittingly, though, is to legitimise Facebook as a news source.
When the radio industry changed to new combined GfK ratings system at the start of his year, commercial radio bosses insisted that RNZ National results should be kept separate from their own. Despite collecting similar information, it is hard to compare commercial and public broadcasting figures. Maybe the commercial radio people saw trouble ahead. In this, the third survey of the year, Morning Report appears to be holding up well and National Radio maintains a 10.5 per cent share of the total radio audience. Meanwhile, Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB has taken a big tumble. Lets wait until the next survey. Things could turn around. But it seems possible that Hosking is losing his tight grip on the breakfast talk audience. Are people falling out of love with The Hosk?
MediaWorks insists its new comedy news show “The Project” replacing “Story” is a joint venture between the news and entertainment divisions. But based on what my sources are saying, the kiwi version of the Australian format show will be entertainment pure and simple – with little involvement from news.
It seems the entertainment operation had always wanted to take over the 7pm slot from news. After the Campbell Live debacle and poor ratings for Story, content boss Andrew Szusterman had convinced management that news and current affairs would not work. The Project has won accolades and seven Logie awards in Australia.
The big question is how the New Zealand’s version will compare given it will have much lower budgets.
“The Project” is not a sure bet. There has big challenges getting it ready for the first quarter of 2017 next year. New Zealand has some talented comedians and writers.
But will the Seven Days team that will have a big role be up to the challenge for a daily prime time show that promises funny TV. The Seven Days crew will have a big role. The Friday night show about four hours to make a half hour programme. Tv3 deserves the best of luck with The Project. I was not a huge fan of Story, but they did try. The Project in Australia has been successful with generous budgets and top talent. But will that happen here?
Lazy journalist research: What Wikipedia says about the format for The Project:
The main content of the show revolves around Aly, Bickmore and Helliar at the desk discussing some of the news events of the day as reported by Bickmore. This discussion often involves live crosses to reporters or guests via satellite. Special guests, often of a celebrity nature, also regularly appear in studio, usually during each show’s final segments. In addition, the show features pre-recorded interviews with celebrities, conducted by either one of the main cast or US correspondent Jonathan Hyla. Feature stories by the main cast, often of a humorous but insightful nature, are also prominent throughout each week.
CAPTION: The NZ Herald has reported Henry wants to move to Palm Springs
MediaWorks and its owners at Oaktree Capital will know that Henry’s departure is a disaster and that it will make it even harder to find a buyer. MediaWorks is losing its only star at a time television faces a big challenge retaining advertising revenue. He has built up the TV audience for his TV3 breakfast show – and he has done that largely without turning to the shock jock tactics of the past ( The recent NZ Herald article excepted), It is true the rise for the Paul Henry show on RadioLive has been less dramatic. But In the latest radio survey, he increased his share of the audience, and the departure of his offsider Hillary Barry has made no impact.
CAPTION: Guy Williams is rumoured to be spearheading a new initiative at 7pm
Inevitably John Campbell fans will wish that the end of Story might mean a new beginning and John Campbell being brought back to TV3. After all, Story was hastily installed to replace CampbellLive after a big falling out with management two years ago. But in my opinion MediaWorks management has never taken that idea seriously, and the new Aussie bosses hearts set on a humorous panel show. Lets face it, TV companies are marking away from journalism. not back towards it.
The New Zealand Herald has suggested something like the Australian Ten Network show “The Project”, which explores some strong news angles. But If I were a betting man I would predict the replacement will be more about humour than the news. I have heard the comedy show “Seven Days” mentioned in despatches, as a template The NZ herald is speculating that Guy Williams will take a role. He has long been a part of MediaWorks initiatives.
But that is a big ask. It’s all very well to do a weekly show, but try translating that to daily shows and keeping up the laughs. It might work with someone like Paul Henry riffing off news topics, but it would be hard for Guy Williams to keep up. Campbell fans he clearly has his fans who would wish his style of campaigning journalism returned to TV at 7pm. But in my opinion TV3 is never going back to that, and MediaWorks was badly burnt when it was still on air. Fans launched a campaign to keep it on air, and it was embarrassing for MediaWorks. Former chief Mark Weldon played a big part. He may have gone. But the Campbell Live team clashed badly with company director Julie Christie – who had no great love for Campbell. Many of Campbell’s old fans have followed him the Radio New Zealand Checkpoint – where he has maintained somewhat cultish following. Indeed, Checkpoint has taken on some of the traits of Campbell Live.
An announcement is expected soon confirming that TV3 is to scrapped its weeknight magazine show Story.
The show had struggled in the ratings, and the NZ Herald reported this week that Story co-host Duncan Garner is to take over as host of the TV3 breakfast show, replacing Paul Henry. Garner’s Story co-host Heather du Plessis-Allan is expected to take a senior role at Newshub, possibly working alongside Paddy Gower in the parliamentary bureau, sources say. Henry – who embarked on a strange publicity interview with the Herald last week where he signalled he was unhappy. He has separately insisted that he has no interest of going for the 7pm slot, and I am told he was scheduled to step down in April next year. That may have been brought forward now. MediaWorks sources say that new Aussie management are having to get to grips with these latest upheavals after the departure of Hillary Barry to TVNZ. Former head of news and current affairs Mark Jennings – now a media consultant – said in an article in the pop culture website The Spinoff that he believes Henry will move on. Henry is said to be independently wealthy so does not need to work even though he earns a famously high salary providing the TV and radio show at MediaWorks. He is said to have been unhappy at MediaWorks since
Mark Weldon – a prime supporter for the show – stepped down from his job as CEO. November and December are traditionally known in TV Land as the time for contract negotiations. At TVNZ this time of year was traditionally called “the clubbing of the seals. There will still be jobs around It seems likely that Story will be replaced by a humorous panel show with a comedy element. Maybe Henry might take part in that.