On the Other HandBy Russell Marshall
10th March 2010
For much of my life I have lived in places where there were two newspapers, each with an editor, chief reporter and other, often specialist, reporters. They covered local events, quite a lot of national stories and some of the major international news. As far as I know, nowhere in New Zealand are there still two daily newspapers. Furthermore, I think that every daily paper of any consequence is now owned offshore. We now have a dumbing down of what is left of our country’s papers, with very few specialist reporters and syndicated columns, too often of little substance.
For two or three decades after the introduction of television in the early 1960s, we had an advertisement free channel and relatively good current affairs programmes with strong interviewers such as Brian Edwards and Ian Fraser. Of recent years, TVNZ has been required to pay a dividend to its owner (the government), and the programme schedule of TV1 is driven by commercial imperatives. We have an hour of news coverage which, I am told, is longer than the UK or Australia or most other similar countries. One unfortunate consequence of so little news and so much time, there is a damaging preoccupation with the details of crimes against people, presumably because it lifts the viewer numbers. The advent of Maori TV gives a glimpse of what public television might be, as have the two newer TVNZ channels 6 and 7, (found at 16 and 97). Bizarrely TV6 and TV7 are publicised only by word of mouth, and not even in the Listener.
For quality and informed coverage of real news we are now basically left with Radio New Zealand, now being asked to squeeze its budget tighter. The modern era of quality coverage of news and current affairs begin with Morning Report in 1975, followed by the evolution of Nine to Noon. Radio New Zealand International resumed on a sound footing in the late 1980s. Then came the Saturday morning programme now in the hands of Kim Hill, and finally Sunday mornings with Chris Laidlaw. There is of course much more to Radio New Zealand than news and current affairs, especially on the National Programme, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, not to mention the Concert Programme. With such meagre pickings today from the rest of the media, Radio New Zealand must be enabled to continue playing fully what is now its unique role for New Zealanders.