Bill Ralston has a column in the HoS about the Jonathan Coleman, the new National broadcasting Minister and his plans for TVNZ. Ralston is certainly an insider on this subject but its always hard to tell where his informed analysis ends and his bitter grudge against his former employer begins:
Coleman is adamant he wants to make the $15 million charter funding fully contestable, which means TV3, C4 or Prime could bid for it to make public broadcasting-type programmes, much as they do now with New Zealand On Air funding.
His position was inadvertently reinforced when TVNZ decided to axe the serious Sunday morning political show, Agenda. It was a programme that TVNZ contracted to Richard Harman’s private production company to make.
I presume the rationale is that by doing its own Sunday morning show “in house” TVNZ can greedily keep that part of the Government’s charter funding that was Harman’s profit.
A cunning plan but one that has left TVNZ with powder burns on its foot because the minister is asking himself why the Government gives TVNZ money to make public broadcasting when it axes a public broadcasting show like Agenda?
Parallel to the Government’s 100-day plan focusing on priorities like the economy and law and order is a second-tier programme that includes a “reform” of TVNZ and the wider broadcasting industry. I suspect Coleman is determined to screw more dividends out of TVNZ, remove government subsidies from it and make it completely commercial.
My fantasy is that TV2 is made completely commercial with no government funding while TV1 goes totally public interest, with worthwhile non-commercial programs – like Agenda – that nobody in the country watches except for me.
Agenda and the first five minutes of the news are currently the only shows I watch on TV – the huge amount of advertising on New Zealand television combined with my microscopic attention span makes it impossible for any program to hold my interest; I watch the start, the ads come on and I wander off to do something else and forget about whatever it was I was watching.
Yet ironically I now watch TV shows more often than I do films; its become a cliche to point out that we’re living in a golden age of TV drama but its still true. I bought the first season of Mad Men on DVD yesterday, but standing there in Borders with my 40% off DVD’s voucher it struck me how spoilt for choice I was: I still haven’t seen the final Soprano’s episodes, or season two of Deadwood, or season four of Battlestar Galactica or Lost. If I’d spent my money at the movies I had the option of seeing Death Race or Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Oh, the agony of choice!
TV has a far better product than the film industry does right now – I’d love to know why that is. I do have a theory that writers prefer to work on a long-running show, in which they get a regular paycheck and the chance to develop characters and storylines over dozens of hours, than write a movie that spends four or five years in development hell before finally getting made as an Adam Sandler vehicle.
Anyway, on the subject of Agenda, I wonder if its going to end up on one of the new digital broadcast channels, which seems to be where TVNZ sticks all of its ‘worthwhile’ programs, the problem there being that the only people in the country who have reciever boxes seem to be technology journalists. I’m not sure the country is getting a great return on our $80 million a year there, either.