John Drinnan 's Opinion

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

Media: SPCA joins with Jackson

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Peter Jackson has fought back against claims animals were mistreated on 'The Hobbit' films. Photo / File
Peter Jackson has fought back against claims animals were mistreated on 'The Hobbit' films. Photo / File

Peter Jackson is said to be enthusiastic about monitoring off-set conditions for animals used in film productions.

His reaction comes amid threatened protests over allegations of mistreatment of animals used in his The Hobbit films.

The SPCA - which supported Jackson over allegations about inadequate accommodation for animals - is promoting a voluntary agreement or new regulations from the Government.

Chief executive Robyn Kippenberger is presenting a scheme to Jackson and his company, Wingnut Films - maker of The Hobbit - which would oversee accommodation for animals before and after filming. This would be as well as the oversight during production by the Hollywood-affiliated American Humane Association.

"Peter Jackson wrote to me and said he was very keen for this," Kippenberger said. "Peter has been caught by not having anybody to say welfare standards were monitored by an independent person."

She said critics complaining about treatment of animals on a farm used to house The Hobbit animals had "run roughshod' with allegations, and this reflected negatively on New Zealand. Kippenberger has elsewhere criticised complaints about the treatment of animals, saying accidents affecting animals "could happen anywhere - at a pony club".

Because of the time gap between the alleged issues and the complainants going public, no one could say whether incidents did or did not happen, she said.

"If production companies have an independent body that can say something did or did not happen it provides protection.

"They [Wingnut] have been protected by the AHA [American Humane Association] but not over things like paddock conditions."

She said that once the off-set monitoring system was established, Wingnut or other production companies would have to pay the SPCA for it.

TRIANGLE IN THE SKY

Public television is moving to pay TV. Auckland regional channel Triangle will be renamed The Face and move to Sky TV, but will remain on analogue TV in the meantime.

Founder and chief executive Jim Blackman says he is still trying to make it available on digital free-to-air, but the Government has made no provision for cash-strapped regional channels.

Sky TV says it is "gifting" access to bandwidth on Sky channel 89, and claims it will be losing money on the gesture to public service TV. But a counter argument is that rescuing a struggling public channel is cheap, effective public relations for Sky which has escaped non-commercial obligations commonly applied in other countries.

Face TV will start on February 1. Blackman has been a leading light in promoting public service television and regional broadcasting.

Previously, he ran the public channel Stratos on Freeview and Sky which was forced off air because of high charges by the state-owned communications company Kordia.

Asked if Sky would continue to provide the pay frequency if Triangle/Face found a place on Freeview, Sky TV chief executive John Fellet said there would be no need and the frequency would revert to Sky.

FLAT SPOT IS A WINNER

Commercials that raise a smile are rare enough. So DDB and Westpac deserve congratulations for the new "flatties" commercials showing the perils of getting old and not owning your own home.

DDB executive creative director Andy Fackrell said: "We've all been in a flat full of morons that we want to escape from - a lifetime of niggling among flatmates - and had warnings about the looming flat meeting. In our mind it was also about changing the typical bank ad which featured happy couples with balloons and rainbows.

"It's got a cross section of people like [a] guy on drums who can't give a damn about others, the prissy women always miserable and one doing the washing - and the anal retentive guy with his special milk marked in the fridge," Fackrell said.

Another bank marketer was not sold on the connection between the "flatties" ad and Westpac's big branding campaign. But he acknowledged it was a good start for Westpac which has had three ad agencies in as many years.

It abandoned Saatchi & Saatchi for Colenso BBDO then was abandoned by Colenso which left to pick up BNZ. Now Westpac's new home is at DDB.

SHALLOW TALENT POOL

New Zealand On Air is betting that Kiwis have a lot of talent, but after one season you wonder if New Zealand's Got Talent will be scraping the bottom of the barrel.

After gaining strong ratings and advertising revenue for the first series, TVNZ is seeking taxpayer funding for a second.

The application is being examined by NZ On Air, and although some of this year's contestants had appeared in previous shows, TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards says they are not running out of talent.

"We would not have backed the show if we did not believe that."

TVNZ has already announced the show to advertisers, so it must be confident of getting the money.

But it would a big step for NZ On Air which has said it funds only one big budget project a year.

This year, it gave TV3 $1.6 million for a New Zealand version of the talent show X Factor.

In mid-December, NZ On Air is expected to reward TVNZ and New Zealand's Got Talent for its commercial success.

Fans of the talent show genre will welcome the double act of X Factor and a new series of NZ's Got Talent.

But it illustrates the propensity for NZ On Air - and taxpayers - to bankroll commercial and competing TV shows for the networks.

Increasingly it has raised eyebrows among programme makers, who say the funding agency has become a hand-in-glove partner with the TV networks, helping them make shows that help them to sell ads.

One producer, who would not be named, said taxpayers were increasingly paying for competition between TVNZ and TV3.

NZ On Air chairwoman Miriam Dean declined to discuss the NZ's Got Talent application but rejected a suggestion that funding another series would breach her agency's internal rules against duplicating content because it was "very different" to X Factor.

"X Factor is a fantastic show to bring forward young musicians to train and mentor,"she said.

She rejected any suggestion the funding system lets networks off the hook in paying for such programmes.

IWI TV

Legislation changing the ownership of digital TV frequencies for television for Maori could open the way to tribal TV channels distinct from Maori TV.

The Maori Television Restructuring Bill is in its early stages, but it is causing friction between Maori with some questioning whether Maori TV has been successful in promoting the Maori language.

Labour MP Shane Jones says the change gives more power to Maori language activists and could undermine the current Maori channel.

Under Treaty of Waitangi obligations, television for Maori has been allocated spectrum allowing up to 10 standard definition channels or three high definition channels.

Jones warned the bill would vest control of the frequencies with the Maori broadcasting electoral college rather than Maori TV, and they might be used for advocates of iwi channels that would have few resources.

Purist ideas about the use of Maori language programming did not take into account the challenges faced by a small channel like Maori TV, he said.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said that the bill would ensure Maori TV had access to the frequencies it needed.

But with the capability for 10 channels there would be surplus capacity and that would be controlled by the electoral college.

Electoral college chairman Tu Williams said that if there were surplus channels, they might be made available for organisations seeking to broadcast in te reo Maori, and that might include iwi TV channels.

If not they could be sub-leased to non-Maori and the revenue used to boost te reo Maori.

A source said one view was that progress promoting te reo on Maori TV had been limited, and some Maori wanted iwi to have a greater role in television.

- 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.

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