John Drinnan 's Opinion

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan: Media highlights of 2013

3 comments
People and events have signposted changes this year as the media revolution rolls on at full speed

The NZ music industry has never known the likes of Lorde, whose song Royals was top of the Billboard charts for nine weeks. Photo / AP
The NZ music industry has never known the likes of Lorde, whose song Royals was top of the Billboard charts for nine weeks. Photo / AP

The media revolution rolls on, and many in the mainstream industry are walking a cliff-edge as they look to the future and changes in the way people use media. New Zealand starts 2014 with analogue TV channels switched off, journalism on the run and ties between old and new media becoming closer. Here are some of those on the cutting edge of change.

John Campbell - TVNZ's abandoning of current affairs is good and bad for John Campbell. His Campbell Live monopolises daily current affairs, and with no competition he has delivered a tour de force this year. Campbell has campaigned for Christchurch and against child poverty, state surveillance and rampant oil exploration, while dealing with a dozen consumer maladies. But like Paul Holmes before him, Campbell is a man people like or dislike. The downside of TV3's free rein at 7pm is that it has resulted in diminished self-analysis, illustrated by Campbell's botched interview with John Key over the Kim Dotcom debacle. The show remains a jewel in the crown for television at a time when journalism is under intense pressure. For Campbell, the pressure will grow next year, as TV3 bosses assess whether ad revenue for Paul Henry's 10.30pm show gives an adequate return, or if Henry makes more commercial sense than Campbell at 7pm.

Kim Dotcom's eccentric readiness adds colour to the news palette. Photo / NZ Herald
Kim Dotcom's eccentric readiness adds colour to the news palette. Photo / NZ Herald

Kim Dotcom - A book by Herald journalist David Fisher has ended a super-sized year for Kim Dotcom. The Secret Life of Kim Dotcom tracks the saga of the raid on Dotcom's home and subsequent moves to extradite him to the US. The German founder of the Mega file storage site has become a cause celebre for many people who are suspicious of a spreading surveillance society and sceptical about the New Zealand Government's subservience to US commercial interests. For media, Dotcom's eccentric readiness to play to the camera adds colour to the news palette. My only quibble is that in lionising Dotcom, the media seldom mention the root of the dispute about Mega - the accusation that its business model amounts to breach of copyright.

Lorde - Even those of us wary of groupthink and the Kiwi hype machine will be nodding sagely, now that singer-songwriter Lorde is indeed a phenomenon in the global music industry. That is partly due to the nurturing she got from the local offshoot of Universal Music, which made deft use of internet marketing. The New Zealand music industry has never known the likes of Lorde, whose song Royals was top of the Billboard charts for nine weeks. Is she a new Lady Gaga or a flash in the pan? Universal will be pleased with good radio play in the US and New Zealand for her second single, and more singles will come next year, as will appearances at events such as the Glastonbury Festival. Some people say Lorde's success, following that of Kimbra, means NZ remains on the radar for multinational music marketers, and underpins the Universal Music operation in New Zealand.

Cameron Slater - Bullying and hectoring can make entertaining reading - if not for the victim - but Whale Oil publisher Cameron Slater also performed a public service exposing the actions of Auckland Mayor Len Brown. One question facing media at the end of this year is whether blogs that both bully and expose should enjoy rights under the Evidence Act, which allows news media to withhold the identity of sources. In a decision on a defamation claim by Auckland businessman Matt Blomfield, Judge Charles Blackie decided Whale Oil should not get that protection.

Bloggers who have criticised Slater circled the wagons against this raid on their rights, and some mainstream media - including the Herald - have suggested the judge was wrong. Support may be magnanimous as new media and old media develop a symbiotic relationship, but it risks placing the comments of an individual with no oversight on the same level as those of a regulated media practitioner.

Willie and JT - Talkback hosts often say outrageous things, but it appears only Willie Jackson and John Tamihere have suffered the consequence of being taken off air for an extended time. The witch-hunt is a sign of the growing influence of social media, and the appeal of attacking media coverage of issues, rather than facing the problems. First there was the Roast Busters and reports of youths boasting of their sexual attacks, and major issues about police handling of complaints. Then came Willie and JT's appallingly conceived interview with Amy, an apparent friend of a Roast Busters victim. A high profile blogger notified advertisers, with the implicit threat of a boycott, and bumbling RadioLive management took the pair off-air, for fear of further financial losses. The upshot was that a discussion on rape was closed down and people were scared to step out of line lest they also be declared "rape enablers".

Mihingarangi Forbes. Photo / NZ Herald
Mihingarangi Forbes. Photo / NZ Herald

Maori TV - There must be questions over whether Native Affairs and Maori Television will be be able to continue their tradition of independent current affairs when a new chief executive is appointed.

A Native Affairs series fronted by Mihingarangi Forbes, exposing management of the Kohanga Reo trust, led to a Government review and marked a coming of age for a show that had already built a solid platform for current affairs. Some Maori leaders such as Tariana Turia complained that Maori TV had become Pakeha-fied, beating up on Maori. But the Kohanga Reo probe involved bravery - taking on the Maori establishment at a time of controversy over appointing a new chief executive at Maori TV.

Whoever is appointed to the top job, it is to be hoped the spirit of independence survives at Native Affairs.


Mental notes

• Editors and staff at APN magazines titles sold to Bauer Media find out today whether they will retain their roles. There is particular interest in who will wind up editing The Listener.

• Chris Laidlaw is leaving and Geoff Robinson is on the way out. Look for more changes next year at National Radio, including at Morning Report.

• TVNZ's magazine show Seven Sharp is under review after failing to meet optimistic targets. The state broadcaster is paying for downgrading the importance of news and current affairs in an attempt to attract viewers.

• Two journalists have taken defamation action against authorities. War correspondent Jon Stephenson mounted an action against the Defence Force, and photographer Bradley Ambrose is taking a claim against Prime Minister John Key over his comments on taping the Epsom cup of tea with John Banks. In my view, the moves are a response to a more aggressive approach towards media from some in authority.

• A privileges committee inquiry into the shambolic Henry inquiry into the early release of an inquiry (got that?) into the Dotcom raid fiasco revealed state surveillance of Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance and a laissez faire approach to media independence.

• Credit is due to Rebecca Macfie for her book, Tragedy at Pike River Mine. The investigation makes compelling reading, and illustrates the power of journalism in book form.

• Decisions about an Ernst & Young inquiry into whether Len Brown used council resources during his extramarital affair are expected to lead to changes in the swollen list of spin merchants and PR consultants working for the Auckland Council.

- NZ Herald

John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan is the media writer for the New Zealand Herald. A business journalist for twenty years, he has been editor of the specialist film and television title "Screen Finance" in London, focussing on the European TV and film industry. He has been writing about media in New Zealand since the deregulation of the television industry in the late 1980s. He is focused on the business side of the digital revolution in media.

Read more by John Drinnan

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 28 Dec 2014 23:37:17 Processing Time: 950ms