Otago Daily Times

Real news gives way to TV1 pap and puffery

- Politics · Elections · United States of America · United Kingdom · Judith Collins · Arbeidersparty · New Zealand · John F. Campbell

THANK good­ness for RNZ Con­cert.

Civis sat down in front of the TV about 5.45pm on Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 17, elec­tion day (a mis­nomer, given that vot­ing had been in progress for some time). The last part of The

Chase was en­cour­ag­ing (ex­cept for the chaser) as the full house of con­tes­tants out­ran the chaser and took home their money, and Civis looked for­ward to the 6pm 1 News be­ing mer­ci­fully free of cam­paign reruns.

What a let­down! The first 10 min­utes of the so­called news pro­gramme was a pro­longed in­house ad­ver­tise­ment for TV1’s cov­er­age of elec­tion re­sults, due to start at 7pm: where each party would be of­fi­cially cel­e­brat­ing or con­sol­ing them­selves, and which ef­fu­sive pre­sen­ter (even John Camp­bell looked like a mind­less mar­i­onette) would be com­ment­ing on their re­ac­tions (as if that mat­tered). Then a two­minute pre­view of what was com­ing on the news, and two min­utes of other ad­ver­tise­ments, be­fore the news proper be­gan, 14 min­utes late. At 6.25pm there was an­other three min­utes of pseudo­news, con­sist­ing of a sum­mary of the first 10 min­utes of self­ad­ver­tis­ing, be­fore the sport news be­gan, about 10 min­utes ear­lier than usual.

As usual, Civis turned off the TV at that point, hav­ing no interest in mind­less in­ter­ro­ga­tion of fail­ing or up­com­ing rugby ‘‘per­son­al­i­ties’’ and pro­longed post­mortems of past games. But turn­ing it on again at 6.54pm, ex­pect­ing to see the weather re­port, brought more ir­ri­ta­tion: the next six min­utes con­sisted of even more navel­gaz­ing re­gard­ing the staff about to front the chan­nel’s elec­tion­re­sult cov­er­age. Clearly, the sport sec­tion, and, pre­sum­ably, the weather re­port, had been moved for­ward to al­low time for that pap.

Why? Does TV1 re­ally think that its pre­sen­ters are ob­jects of such mind­less de­vo­tion that view­ers are happy to sit and watch point­less self­pro­mo­tion in the guise of re­mind­ing them of what they al­ready know?

When a pan­demic, af­fect­ing mil­lions round the world, is resur­gent in many coun­tries and caus­ing ma­jor eco­nomic prob­lems; when, as the United States ap­proaches its own elec­tion, its ‘‘Ma­niac­in­Chief’’ en­dorses bizarre QAnon con­spir­acy the­o­ries, seek­ing sup­port from its ad­her­ents, and from racist mili­tias; when Bri­tain (it’s im­pos­si­ble to use the word ‘‘Great’’ of it now) brazenly leg­is­lates to break an in­ter­na­tional agree­ment it signed up to year ago (who’ll want to make agree­ments with it now?), and its buf­foon of a prime min­is­ter blandly wel­comes a no­deal Brexit; when cli­mate change is bring­ing ever more dra­matic warn­ings of ex­is­ten­tial dis­as­ter, with fires, cy­clones and melt­ing ice, does TVNZ re­ally think a line­up of smirk­ing pre­sen­ters is more im­por­tant than real news?

Civis is old enough to re­mem­ber lo­cal sta­tion DNTV2, with its blackand­white im­ages of Dou­gal Steven­son soberly read­ing the news from his desk — a talk­ing head with few il­lus­tra­tions. That was in­fin­itely more in­ter­est­ing and in­for­ma­tive than the so­called ‘‘news’’ on TV1 last Satur­day evening. TVNZ’s puffery had, for at least one cou­ple, an op­po­site ef­fect to that in­tended.

Self­im­por­tant com­men­ta­tors and pumped­up hys­te­ria were avoided by switch­ing to Chan­nel 51 (RNZ Na­tional had can­celled its re­quest ses­sion), and elec­tion re­sults left till morn­ing.

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Should politi­cians model vi­o­lence? Trump­lite Na­tional Party leader Ju­dith Collins was filmed demon­strat­ing, with en­thu­si­as­tic com­ments, an up­per­cut. Will some­one who kills an un­sus­pect­ing stranger with a ‘‘king hit’’ claim her ex­am­ple as a mit­i­gat­ing fac­tor?

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The Labour Party has made his­tory, with New Zealand’s first one­party ma­jor­ity of seats in the House achieved un­der MMP. Will it think for the fu­ture and work with the Green and Maori Par­ties to build long­term so­cial demo­cratic in­ter­party co­op­er­a­tion, in or­der to re­duce in­equity, poverty, and in­sti­tu­tional racism, to sup­port com­mu­ni­tar­i­an­ism (rather than Act’s self­cen­tred in­di­vid­u­al­ism and Na­tional’s paler ver­sion) and, above all, to slash car­bon emis­sions dra­mat­i­cally (re­mem­ber Ms Ardern’s 2017 ‘‘nu­clear mo­ment’’?) in the in­ter­ests of hu­man sur­vival?

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