November 26, 2008

is off the agenda. Apparently.

That’s right, the only intelligent show on TV(NZ) is already buried at some ungodly hour on a Sunday morning and now… it’s surplus to requirements.

For the love of- What are they thinking? It can’t be expensive to put on. I was on it once (many years ago) and received a nice bottle of wine for my troubles but still…

I had a lovely barney with Theresa Gattung on the show. For those that don’t know, the format was – guest interviewee comes on, gets asked some questions by the host, goes off and then the panel of media types (that was me) dissect their answers.

It’s a tad unfair, I’ll be the first to admit.

So, after the interview, we did our bit. I called for more regulation (something we’ve since got) and for the Com Com to have more powers (something they’ve also since got) and then when it was over went back to the Green Room to get my stuff.

The Green Room at TVNZ. It has couches. It has a TV. It has a coffee monster in the corner. It’s small and somewhat crowded but I’ve spent a bit of time there so it’s not intimidating.

It also contained one Ms Gattung who had stayed and watched our response to her interview and who was wanting a word or two with me.

I always liked Theresa, although I think she disliked me with a passion. I’m quite sad about that but I’m not going to be bullied and I wouldn’t stand down from a fight.

And so it was that we sat thigh by thigh on a tiny two-seater couch and had the biggest barney we’ve ever had. How can you say that? she demanded. It’s perfectly reasonable, I reposted. It went on for quite some time.

After she’d gone, the producer poked his head back in (everyone else had stood there pretending not to watch but eventually just giving up and gawping) and said “Golly, we should have just filmed that instead!”

So, the only intelligent show on TV, barring the odd moment.


Yes, we can

November 6, 2008

Does Obama’s win balance out Abu Grhaib?
Does it balance out waterboarding?
Does it balance out secret extradition flights?
Does it balance out weapons of mass destruction?
Does it balance out economic turmoil?

Does it balance out The Rumsfeld? (And if you’re looking for a book about Rumsfeld, the war in Iraq, Bush’s presidency or how leadership fails those it leads, look no further than Bob Woodward’s great book, State of Denial. Well worth a read in how not to get things done).

Does it balance out “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”?

I don’t know but it goes a hell of a long way towards it. Well done, America. Welcome back.

Now, get down to business. There’s a lot to do.

It would seem the world is enamoured with Michelle as much as with Barack and I can understand why having heard her speak (well, via the Tubes at any rate). This story seems to cover all the bases.

Here she is doing what she seems to do so well.

I’ve just had to train my spell checker to accept Barack as a real thing. I can imagine there are a lot of re-settings going on around the world today.

Finally a word about the online coverage. I watched this election via the BBC, CNN and Twitter. Rarely have I felt so involved. I dashed home ready to watch the speech (sorry, The Speech) only to find that TVNZ had decided to stop screening its coverage of the election in favour of a game show.

For the love of god, people, have you no idea what you’re doing? This man will be on a dollar bill one day. They will name airports and high schools and aircraft carriers after him and you cut to Wheel of Fortune? On the plus side, a man correctly guessed ‘Chocolate Brownies’ and won a photograph of any New Zealand landscape he cared to name, so that was nice.

I imagine that will be the last time I consider watching such events on TV. It’s the tubes from here on in, all the way.

Favourite online graphic: the BBC’s historical map of voting in previous US elections. Classy.

And Tom Scott, as always, does a splendid job of it.

Our growth as a nation, independent and free, has turned a corner.

No longer can we hold our heads up as a nation of the future, of growth, of forward thinking people.

Why is that, O sage one, you ask? Is it because of the impending recession? Because IRD can’t count? Because we’ve lost Sir Ed or because we still have “issues” around whether Russell Crowe is a Kiwi or an Aussie?

No, it’s because Dr Ropata is returning to Shortland Street.

What is it with TVNZ and its return to the halcyon days (that never were) of yore? First they bring back Jim the Weather Man, now this. What next? Dig up Angela D’Audney and roll her out again? Bring it on, Selwyn Toogood. We’ll have gardening shows on in prime time (actually, they do that already), shows where minor league celebs dance for our pleasure (“Oh how I like to see the monkies dance!”) and shortly I’m sure they’ll dust off Ollie Olsen:

and probably we’ll see Radio With Pictures, the Goodnight Kiwi:

and no doubt University Challenge will be exhumed.

It’s the 21st Century. Can we have something new, please? All I can say is, I’m a simple man, trying to make my way in the universe.

Actually, I’d probably watch Radio with Pictures.

Not content with inflicting Nicky Watson on us, AGAIN. Not content with spending nearly seven minutes discussing a missing dog (species unknown or at least, misspelt). Not content with airing Cricket is a Horse, TV One, it turns out, dumped this story in favour of Nicky Watson wandering the beach community of Matarangi.

That’s right – C-grade celeb’s missing dog outranks child health.

To quote:

The Paediatrics Society report, Monitoring the Health of New Zealand Children and Young People – Indicator Handbook came out on 26 November. It makes it crystal clear that being at the bottom of the heap for health is very closely linked with being at the bottom of the heap for family income.

The story goes on:

As we’ve known for two centuries, poor children have poor health. Parts of the report read like something out of Dickens.

“The associations between substandard housing and poor health have been known for several centuries, with reports from as early as the 1830s attributing high rates of infectious disease to overcrowded, damp, and poorly ventilated housing. In New Zealand, crowding is strongly correlated with meningococcal disease, while overseas reports also demonstrate correlations with a number of infectious diseases and mental health issues.”

In 2001, 42.5% of children in the most deprived areas lived in crowded households, compared with just 2.7% of children in the most affluent areas. By 2006 – after five supposedly prosperous years – fewer children in the most affluent areas (2.3%) lived in crowded households. But more children in the most deprived areas – 43.6% – lived in crowded households.

Putting aside for the moment the idea that we should pick on poor Nicky because of her poor dog simply because we can (fish, inna barrel), let’s talk about TVNZ’s obligation to its viewers, TVNZ’s obligation to its charter and TVNZ’s obligation to its advertisers.

First, the viewers. Close Up is a news programme, a current affairs show dedicated, so the ads tell us, to getting behind the news, behind the stories and looking at the big picture issues. From the show’s own website:

With Close Up, it is the story that counts. The emphasis is on providing high-quality, reporter-driven, current affairs stories about New Zealanders and what matters to them.

Like missing chihuahuas.

Next, TVNZ has signed up to the government mandated Charter which demands a certain level of responsibility. To quote from TVNZ’s own website:

The TVNZ Charter provides a guide to our broadcasting responsibilities and makes it clear that TVNZ’s role is to reflect and explore what it means to be a New Zealander. To New Zealanders, this unique and special responsibility means quality television that educates, informs and entertains through local home grown programming and the best of international programming.

Finally, the advertisers. They pay top dollar for space in Close Up. It’s one of the highest rating shows in the country and it’s on five nights a week. They pay top dollar for two reasons: one, the viewership is high and two, they want to be associated with a certain brand.

I don’t believe Nicky Watson and Cricket delivers on any of those needs. I think TVNZ has failed in its duty on all three fronts and I am appalled at what can only be described as another nail in the coffin of journalism in New Zealand.

Not impressed.

(Hat tip to Mysterious Dave for alerting me to this travesty)

but someone should really stop Nicky Watson from appearing on TV any more.

Not only is she rich, an ex-model and on every channel, but she’s also astonishingly stupid. Not, however, as stupid as the network exec who decided to spend more than six minutes in a 30 minute NEWS SHOW covering the loss of her pet dog Cricket.

That’s right, instead of foreign affairs, domestic politics, business or crime, TV One’s Close Up ran an entire segment on this woman’s fruitless search for her missing dog.

I’m not sure which is more appalling, her lack of ability to spell (she’s hunting for a small dog, breed (apparently) ‘chiwawa’ according to her poster), the decision to run a story on Cricket’s disappearance or this snippet which has been carefully included for your viewing pleasure. You be the judge.

Television does the internet

November 18, 2007

I’ve long been an advocate for distributing TV over the internet. There are those that say there’s already a perfectly good medium for TV, it’s called “television”, and there’s no need to bother with this pesky new medium.

They’re morons and we should not bother ourselves with them any longer.

OK, that’s a bit harsh. What they’re talking about (as far as I can tell) is that watching TV on a computer is not a good experience and I’ll agree to that. They also seem to be people who, for the most part, don’t actually watch TV so they don’t see the point to downloading TV shows online.

That’s cool – it would be boring if we were all the same. But I do like TV. I spend a lot of time with my TV and I don’t like watching TV on my computer (small screen, annoying chair) either. So I don’t. I burn it to disk/download it to a thumbdrive/ wireless connect it to the back of my big screen plasma TV (well, I would if I had one).

The point about TV on the internet is not that I can watch it on a poky screen, it’s that I can watch any episode of any given TV show whenever I fell like it, rather than waiting for a TV network I can pick up to air it. With ads. And with edits. When it suits them. Y’know, later.

Case in point, TVNZ‘s decision to break The Sopranos with four episodes of the penultimate series left to screen. Why? Who cares. I don’t, and I wasn’t alone in being outraged by this. So I voted with my mouse and watched them online.

A word about watching TV online – it used to be tricky with all those P2P file sharing apps to download and torrents to seed and so on. Not any more. First, who can be bothered and second, the ISPs are all busy blocking/shaping/throttling the ports that P2P run on.

Joox, on the other hand, does not use different software. It’s a highly illegal website that simply points visitors to illegally downloaded TV and movies. This is bad.

It’s also good, because it means I can simply stream the show I want, save it as a DIVX file and watch it with any free DIVX player I like. Because it’s just a website, it transmits data back and forth over the usual ports so suspicious ISPs can’t do much about it.

I have downloaded and watched the latest series of Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica, and will no doubt get the new Bionic Woman (just for old time’s sake), Life on Mars series two (why wait) as well as The Professionals and The Sweeney (I was too young to watch it first time round). I’d do the same with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series if I could find it and, here’s the catch, I’d pay for it as well because frankly I think all these shows are worth watching and keeping and I can’t be arsed waiting for TVNZ or Prime or TV3 to get its act together, realise the AC Neilsen set-top box system of ratings for viewership numbers is fatally flawed and start branching out beyond games shows/cooking shows/reality shows/”blockbuster movies” we all saw years ago and the news.

Today I see this story in the New York Times and thought, “Almost, but no. Still getting it wrong.”

I don’t want to watch a show in eight minute segments on my PC via MySpace. I want to watch a full-length episode delivered to me by whatever means I want and watched from my over-stuffed recliner in the lounge.

Instead, I think the internet approach will work well for two extremes – shows like Top Gear which have a worldwide following and shows like Firefly which didn’t gel with the network.

Top Gear has around half a billion viewers worldwide. If everyone one paid a dollar an episode … well, let’s just say Clarkson could buy the Isle of Man and possible the Isle of Dogs as well and turn them both into his own personal race tracks.

Top Gear is an established brand that would not only survive but, I think, flourish in an online-only world.

The other end of the spectrum is Firefly, the show that Fox (bastards) cancelled after half a series because they didn’t get it. Joss Whedon went on to make a movie instead of season two but frankly I’d rather he’d gone online and made the shows to air via the ether. I’d have paid, and so would enough people (I believe) to have made it worthwhile. I’d even have bought the DVDs as well, because there’s something visceral about holding an entire series in your hands.

So, early days yet, but one thing’s for sure: the network’s hold over the viewer has gone the way of the dinosaur (much like the video shop). However, just like the dinosaur (and the video shop) network TV stumbles on, convinced it’s still alive and vital and completely oblivious to the fact that its head has been cut off.