John Drinnan 's Opinion

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan: Maori funds for The GC

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It would be ironic if show's second series got funding from Te Mangai Paho after gripes about lack of cultural content.

The first series of The GC, which includes Arapita "Alby" Waititi (above) in its cast, got $420,000 of funding from New Zealand On Air. Photo / Supplied
The first series of The GC, which includes Arapita "Alby" Waititi (above) in its cast, got $420,000 of funding from New Zealand On Air. Photo / Supplied

TV3 is waiting on taxpayer funding for another series of The GC - about a group of taut, terrific and telegenic young Maori living on Queensland's Gold Coast.

It is understood that TV3 and producers have sought funding from the Maori broadcasting funding agency Te Mangai Paho (TMP) and an application will be decided soon.

Last year New Zealand On Air was criticised for giving $420,000 for series one of The GC amid gripes about its style and lack of Maori cultural content - which NZ On Air initially conceded was less than expected.

It would be ironic if series two had a similar level of Maori content and got funding from a Maori cultural agency.

Opinions on series one were mixed. Producer Bailey Mackey said some critics just did not like to see young Maori being successful. The show had drawn respectable ratings and it was notably high among Maori.

It was light, bright and aspirational - some might call it tabloid TV.

TV3 confirms a second series is "in the pipeline" but declined to comment further.

Mackey did not return calls and TMP would not say whether The GC has sought cash. It is possible TMP will want changes to meet its Maori language focus.

But they would have to be balanced by TV3's need to ensure it is light and accessible enough to attract a sizeable audience.

COMMERCIAL SUBSIDIES
The decision on the show's funding will highlight how far public bodies are prepared to fund commercial content aimed to boost networks' bottom line.

In an ideal world TV3 should pay for its own content rather rely on a handout from taxpayers, don't you think?

TMP might enjoy having a prime-time hit, but that may be taking money away from worthy shows that would screen off-peak and get a smaller audience. If it backs The GC, some worthy non-commercial content may not see the light of day.

New Zealand On Air did not receive an application for series two. Like TMP, it is meant to fund shows deemed not commercial but is under pressure to fund commercial content for the TV networks to boost profits. The danger is a fall in quality control.

PLUNKET NEWS
Michael Laws will step down as nine-to-noon host on MediaWorks RadioLive next Thursday, to be replaced by Sean Plunket the following Tuesday.

That might hand the hard-nut talkback listeners to Leighton Smith on Newstalk ZB.

But in my opinion Plunket will be a game changer in Auckland talk radio - much more so than Duncan Garner on RadioLive's drive time show. I'm picking he'll draw people away from Kathryn Ryan on Radio New Zealand National.

CROSSFIRE
The Vote starts next week and will run monthly in the 3rd Degree 8.30pm Wednesday slot. The first debate will be about a tax on unhealthy foods.

I was one a bunch of journalists invited to a dress rehearsal last week. At least TV3 is trying to be serious about current affairs. It reminded me of CNN's Crossfire, with Linda Clark acting as a referee.

Last week Clark was among Chapman Tripp advisers for Solid Energy - including chief executive Don Elder's appearance at a recent high-profile select committee hearing. Clark acknowledges she is not a journalist and she will notify TV3 about any potential conflicts of interests with her Chapman Tripp role, but in my opinion she is the wrong person for this role.

Rachel Smalley would have been good, if she was not already flat out ... or maybe Plunket.

BBC-BOP
New Whybin TBWA New Zealand executive creative director Toby Talbot thought his New Zealand experience, overseeing the Sky TV ad account for DDB, would help him in his UK role, running the advertising account for BBC.

"But it is not at all comparable just in terms of the scale of the place," he says.

Talbot is returning from his role as group executive creative director for the London ad agency RKCR/Y&R - which last year was ranked second London ad agency for winning business.

It was a buzz pitching in London, he says. "My main client was the BBC," he says. "After Sky I thought I knew a thing of two, but the BBC was an eye opener because of the scale and the complications of different stakeholders."

Talbot was involved in relaunching BBC's digital radio and latterly current affairs through BBC World news. He spent time at the BBC headquarters during the earlier days of the Jimmy Savile scandal. "It was kind of like the Salem witch hunt ... police going door to door at the BBC interviewing people of a certain age who had been around the BBC a long time."

As for the London business scene, the expatriate Englishman who has returned to New Zealand said the global financial crisis had been harsh on Britain.

"Looking around at the empty shops, it's like a face with a couple of teeth missing."

FUTURE SHOCK
Talbot worked with NZ Lotteries Commission chief executive Todd McLeay on the Lotto account, now McLeay is chief executive of Whybin TBWA.

McLeay is not the first marketer to run an ad agency, but he interrupted his progression for a shortish spell in the media where he was chief operating officer at APN News & Media - publisher of the NZ Herald.

It just seems as each year goes by the pace of change in the media increases and in the past 15 years we have never reached the stage where everybody sits back with their cigars, McLeay says. Media are facing disruptive models, and that is going to affect more and more industries, McLeay says.

It was challenging for industries to work in the middle of that change, he says.

"If you hold back and hope that everything will be clearer, then it is probably not going to happen and you are going to wind up in a worse position. The biggest risk is in not doing anything."

As for his marketing experience, he repeated the common view among outsiders that advertising people should not get caught up too much in the awards culture. "Advertising people like to talk a lot about their work. There is a high emphasis on awards and I am not sure that clients care that much. On the client side I have yet to see where awards are included in the KPIs," he says.

ALAN SHARP
A belated mention of the death last month of New Zealand resident scriptwriter Alan Sharp, who died aged 79.

He was perhaps best known in the movie world for writing the script for the 1995 film Rob Roy starring Liam Neeson. He wrote the script for the NZ-British co-production Dean Spanley directed by Toa Fraser in 2008.

New Zealand film producer John Barnett said Sharp - who divided his time between New Zealand, Scotland and Los Angeles - was a real player in the business. He wrote for films by John Huston, Sam Peckinpah and Arthur Penn among others.

Barnett says that while Sharp was a mentor to some local writers "it was a shame he was not recognised more in New Zealand".

New Zealand Film Commission chief executive Graeme Mason says Sharp was "a good guy, very helpful".

An obituary in the New York Times said Sharp's script for Arthur Penn's Night Moves "epitomised Sharp's dark vision and caustic wit".

- 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

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