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Just One Good Channel

Entry 621, on 2007-10-10 at 18:19:07 (Rating 3, News)

I listened to a podcast from Radio New Zealand today which discussed the way one of our national TV channels was being run. TV1 is in the unenviable position of having to be a viable commercial entity while also fulfilling a public service role. The end result is that it doesn't do either particularly well.

Commercial television seems to sink to new lows every day. OK, there are a few programs that are reasonably entertaining, and there is a small amount of useful information in news and current affairs, but as far as ever having a reasonable percentage of genuine quality material is concerned TV is hopeless. I used to watch documentary programs but now they also seem to have been reduced to inane, superficial nonsense so now I usually just don't bother.

And that's just the programming. The endless repetition of tedious advertising is even worse. I agree that many ads are very creative and worth watching a few times, but after 100 times I really can't be bothered any more. No wonder so many people use time shifting technologies, such as DVD and hard-disk recorders, to record programs so they can skip the ads. If I cared enough about the programs I would probably use my recorder more but given the quality of the programs themselves its hardly worth the effort!

So what is the solution? First we must remove the business focus of one channel. You can't produce quality programming and make money as well, we certainly see that in endless cases of various channels around the world. So one channel should be state funded (and maybe supplemented with limited advertising) so that there is a chance of getting some material which has intellectual and emotional content better than the pathetic junk we have now.

Radio New Zealand already fills this role really well for radio so TV1 should do the same for TV. And once the commercial pressures are removed we need to see the programs available for download as well. Just like I mainly listen to National Radio through podcasts I would also watch National TV mainly on an iPod or computer. That will happen anyway so why not take the chance to make it happen now?

Whether this will happen or not I don't know. When we switch to digital TV there might be a better chance to do it, but it will probably also depend on the politics of the country in the next few years. Many people believe that only private enterprise can do things "properly". Clearly this is total garbage but its a fallacy that is currently popular so its hard to get past.

I suppose there's always Internet video sites, which are becoming better all the time, but I still think there's a need for just one good TV channel as well.

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Comment 1 (912) by JJ on 2007-10-11 at 19:42:31:

Yes we all know TV is junk but why do you think letting this government run it will make things any better. Are you for real?

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Comment 2 (922) by sbfl on 2007-10-15 at 03:07:31:

I agree with *almost* all of this post. I'm not so sure about this Utopian TV channel being run by the government though. What you find intriguing, intelligible and thoughtful won't necessarily be the same as what others think (even other intellectuals!). But there will be a lot of common ground and plenty of good documentaries and current affairs programs to be had (bring back Face to Face with Kim Hill!).

The main contradiction though is that this charter needs to have a certain percentage of NZ made programs. The current affairs stuff will help but documentaries are expensive to make and it may be more realistic to buy overseas ones. As you know our dramas and comedies suck no end and any minority stuff will have a minority target audience. Tough one.

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Comment 3 (934) by OJB on 2007-10-15 at 12:31:11:

The government doesn't really need to *run* the channel. They just have to provide most of the funding (!) and offer some guidance. There are similar channels working in Australia and Britain.

I don't see why documentaries need to be expensive. Obviously we wouldn't want a celebrity like Paul Holmes fronting it (first because he would need to be paid too much but for other reasons too, which I'm sure you can imagine).

And I don't agree that NZ comedy and drama is that bad. Well its no worse than most of the American stuff anyway! But buying foreign programs is OK, as long as they are better quality than the junk we get now. In fact the popular junk we get is probably more expensive than the more intelligent stuff just because it has a bigger audience.

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Comment 4 (941) by sbfl on 2007-10-17 at 06:06:07:

Re para 1: OK, fine.
Re para 2: I believe they tend to be, but I could be wrong.
Re para 3: Well it is (IMHO), and I took it from you post slamming NZ TV that you thought so too! Even in your comment "than the junk we get now".

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