TVNZ cuts – one finger now, but soon the heart?

March 17, 2009

So the axe is falling again at TVNZ. Yesterday’s announcement that TVNZ management will shave $25 million from the national broadcaster’s budget was not a surprise.  In some circles it’s what we might call a “pre-emptive buckle”.

That is, the organisation has chosen to chop off it’s own little finger, rather than have the Nationals’ Razor Gang do the job. The Yakuza has a similar punishment ritual, it’s meant to demonstrate iron discipline, instill fear and, through fear, loyalty.

Understandable really. Better to be in charge of your own destiny, even if it’s the death of a thousand cuts. At least when hacking into your own flesh (if it’s not a death wish) you can have a decent first aid kit on hand to stem the blood flow.

On paper (on screen?) it looks like the cuts are evenly spread.

The top executives have agreed to a pay-freeze (head-shaking, “Why?”). I guess this demonstrates their commitment to the organisation and it’s supposed to send a signal that the pain is being shared and that the top rung is leading from the front.

Though, if you’re lemmings heading for a clifftop fall, who wants to be in the front line. Tired cliche I know and lemmings don’t actually rush head-long off clifftops, but why let the truth get in the way of a good urban-myth-as-metaphor line.

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National – acting in the interests of shareholders on TVNZ cuts

March 6, 2009

New Zealand public broadcaster TVNZ is facing more staff cuts as it struggles to continue paying a dividend to the Government. One might think that given the public service aspects of TVNZ’s Charter that the government, as the major shareholder, might forgo some of its dividend in order to help the organisation weather the current financial storm.

Not so says Broadcasting Minister Jonathon Coleman.

According to news reports TVNZ is facing a $25 million budget cut and could shed upwards of 100 staff. At the same time the network’s advertising revenues are down $30 million, so the size of the black hole is fairly obvious.

Richard Wagstaff, PSA National Secretary was on Morning Report today outlining the situation from the staff point of view. What’s ominous in this is that redundancies won’t be voluntary, but rather strategically targetted. That has to be a worry for a number of reasons.

The Broadcasting Minister was also on Morning Report and he defended the government’s decision to insist on a “return on investment” from TVNZ – that is another large payout to shareholders for the current financial year.

Jonathon Coleman’s rhetoric is interesting. He was focused on the commercial aspects of TVNZ which highlights the problems you have when an erstwhile public service broadcaster is also treated as a commercial entity. The contradictions are huge, but Coleman stuck to the line that the government would insist on the dividend.

Background at NZ Herald

His argument – that it would set a dangerous precedent for other companies – is totally hollow. The idea that if the government allowed TVNZ to drop the dividend it would set a “dangerous precedent” for other businesses is just verbal twisting. While the government is prepared to offer “bail out” funds to other businesses, and incentives to retain jobs, it is prepared to let TVNZ cut to the bone an essential public service.

The idea that taxpayers should get a “return on investment” for the money given to TVNZ is philosophically suspect. Governments run public services on behalf of the public, not as business enterprises. The return for the taxpayers of New Zealand in having a strong public broadcaster is a quality news and current affairs service, innovative and entertaining programming and a national conversation that benefits all of us.

The idea that governments should run profitable enterprises is a hang-over from neo-liberalism, but it should be no surprise that the National government wants to run things this way.

Cuts to TVNZ are part of Nationals’ slash and burn policy towards the public sector. It is an ideological agenda designed to cut deeply into social services.

But as far as TVNZ is concerned, there’s a bigger worry.

A weaker news and current affairs service is less able to critically report on government policies. The regime of cuts also makes TVNZ politically vulnerable to interference.

Knowing that the budget is tight and that further cuts are likely, is TVNZ less inclined to criticise National and its coalition partners – a sort of silencing by stealth and fear?

End of the day update: For some history Chris Trotter’s Bowalley Road has a good piece today. TVNZ to be bled white

Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody

July 12, 2008

Not true – Moac and I are off the the “thee-ate-‘er” anytime soon to see Cat on a hot tin roof – irresistible.

Before we go, just a quick hat tip to Lisa Owen, TVOne news reporter and in a tough spot. Lisa is the reporter covering the Tony Veitch affair.

Lisa, you have made this story worthwhile. You are maintaining some integrity for TVNZ in this crisis.

I think you were brave tonight to name Anthony Flannery because TV3 didn’t do that. The December meeting revalations made today by both TVNZ and the Radio Network add a new and needed dimension to this story. It’s not easy being in your position – inside the organisation that’s caught up in it.

You did a gutsy report on Wednesday too. You are part of the future and the recovery of the network’s news credibility.

I acknowledge you are also a colleague and friend to Tony Veitch – there was something in your eyes tonight that captured some pain (maybe my flighty imagination!). The conflict is there and you are at the frontline of journalism on this story.

It’s not a comfortable place but I admire your principled position – all power to you.

I’m sure there’s more to come out here – it’s become an ugly mess for everyone.

It’s interesting that we haven’t yet heard from the Dom Post on why they broke this story; who there sources were, or any deals that may have been done.

It seems that Ms Dunne-Powell might not have been consulted, but her family is saying very little. Was there an invasion of privacy here? Who confirmed to the Dom Post the existence of the confidentiality agreement? Was that done with Ms Dunne-Powell’s knowledge or not?

Friday’s Dom Post editorial did not answer these questions, instead it concentrated on nit-picking TVNZ.

However, I did enjoy the NZ Herald‘s Friday editorial, particularly this line, which I had rehearsed much earlier in the week:

The myth of the role model has never been more evident than in this case. Veitch, for all his ability to talk, could never have been regarded thus. Nor, for that matter, could the errant All Black Jimmy Cowan and numerous others whose personal failings have spoiled their professional facades. Could anyone seriously name a child or adult who looked up to these individuals in any kind of aspirational way?

[Leave Veitch for the police]

So to end the week’s frenzy – boquets and brickbats. Recipients know which award they’re to collect. Ladies and gentlemen, form an orderly queue to my right.

This has to hurt:

Veitch strife gets the Tui treatment

The lads go nutty about sport – no comment

July 12, 2008

I couldn’t help it. I saw the promo for the TV One sports quiz show Game of Two Halves [GoTH] on Friday evening and decided to tune in. I thought I should take a look at the programme that was previously hosted/moderated by suspended presenter Tony Veitch.

The promos were a big tease.

In the first promo,  fronted by the show’s star performers, Marc Ellis and Matthew Ridge, was the promise to tackle the big question of the week in sport – but it wasn’t “Does Tony Veitch have a future?”, it was a lame joke about the All Blacks test against the Springboks. It ended with a female v/o: “The lads go wild about sports.”

The second promo in the next ad break was worse (in a sense). It was a similar format, but this time the “question” was about netball. Who would win he weekend semi-final between the Swifts and in Marc Ellis’s words: “those other birds” . The tag line voice over had been changed: “The lads go nutty about sport.”

indeed, the lads are “nutty”. they’re also reasonably offensive, childish, violent, sexist, homophobic and totally not funny.

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ONE News interesting coverage of Tony Veitch

July 10, 2008

So the Radio Network has suspended Tony Veitch, pending an internal inquiry and the police have announced there own investigation. The doors are slamming shut on Veitch’s career.

An interesting result on a New Zealand Herald online readers’ poll today. It’s split 50-50 on whether or not Tony Veitch should keep his job at TVNZ.

I haven’t seen tonight’s news on TV One yet, but last night (Tuesday) the coverage on his own network was pretty negative.

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