John Drinnan 's Opinion

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan: It's the Shane Jones show

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Shane Jones has become a ubiquitous figure on TV3 since the Labour leadership contest.
Shane Jones has become a ubiquitous figure on TV3 since the Labour leadership contest.

Mediaworks and TV3 are starting to sound like the Jones channel in covering the Labour leadership campaign.

But I am betting it is about ratings and advertising dollars rather than a political bias.

3News political editor Paddy Gower has been plugging Jonesy while Duncan Garner talks him up on RadioLive.

Both played key roles in reporting rumblings against David Shearer, and they've been shown to be right.

The latest ode to Shane Jones was Guyon Espiner's interview on 3rd Degree, where Espiner played driver and barbecue chef at his home in Kerikeri.

It's the nature of prime-time current affairs shows that they are soft in the manner of women's magazines.

Jones performed well because he is, after all, a good performer.

Espiner's postscript was odd, though. He praised Jones for taking part and implicitly chided his competitors Robertson and Cunliffe for declining.

Espiner insists it was not a set-up when in the middle of filming Jones made a call to David Cunliffe, who asked him not to take part in a TV3 interview - a gesture that TV3 promoted heavily in the run-up to Wednesday's show.

Jones, Jones, Jones

TV3 dominates TV news and current affairs and often takes politicians to task.

But on this story MediaWorks journalists have been part of the story.

Other media have been impressed by Jones' emergence in the leadership contest and finally delivering on his undelivered promise as a politician, though odds are low that he will win.

TV3 news and current affairs director Mark Jennings said 3News was not tied to 3rd Degree and there was no bias to Jones.

"We don't care who wins," he said. Which is true, no doubt, But Jones is great copy and has a sense of humour.

He adds colour to what could be a long and dull story until the Labour Party chooses a winner. TV3's current narrative of Jones, Jones, Jones is about ratings, not politics.

What's next at Maori TV?

The Maori Television board chaired by Georgina Te Heu Heu has tied itself in knots deciding who should replace Jim Mather as CEO.

Despite deep concerns among staff about the process leading up to the selection of finalists Paora Maxwell and Richard Jefferies, MTS is pushing ahead and was due to reinterview them yesterday.

In my opinion, Te Heu Heu might avoid widespread worries that have led to a petition of concern from more than half Maori TV's staff if she were to be transparent about the governance procedures. Parliament has heard this week that she was a close friend of Maxwell.

Labour broadcasting spokeswoman Clare Curran asked shareholding minister Bill English if he thought it was strange that the board turned down the opportunity to be briefed by TVNZ about the tenure of Paora Maxwell when he was head of its Maori and Pasifika unit.

English said these were matters for the board to deal with. The office of Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said if he became involved it would not be until after a CEO was appointed.

Maxwell did not return calls.

Willie Jackson - a Maori broadcaster who co-hosts a show with John Tamihere on RadioLive - was recently appointed chair of the Maori Electoral College, which oversees Maori TV obligations to promote the Maori language and which appoints four of the seven members on the Maori TV board.

He was concerned about how the board went from a shortlist of four to two finalists and understood that parties outside the board had been involved.

More VOD

Video-on-demand service EzyFlix.tv launched in New Zealand this week offering 2000 titles mostly for download and some for streaming.

The Australian brand - owned by new firm Access Digital Entertainment - is the latest over-the-top service to launch here and follows in the footsteps of iSky, Quickflix, Coliseum and Igloo.

Titles will be released in a video-to-buy format with TV series including Grey's Anatomy, Castle and Vampire Diaries.

The service will need to boost the library to boost numbers.

Chief executive Craig White is a former sales director for distributor 20th Century Fox and says there is untapped demand for downloads of TV series and he sees the advent of ultra-fast broadband (UFB) with fast download speeds as providing a big boost for video on demand services like Ezyflix.tv.

The firm does not have any arrangement with an internet service provider to be linked with an unmetered broadband plan. Such plans are credited with improving uptake of video-on-demand services.

First look

Weta Digital part-owner Richard Taylor is also a part-owner of Pukeko Pictures, which is moving from children's programming to adult drama and has signed a first-look deal with international distributor Fremantle Media.

The five-time Oscar winner is an investor in Pukeko along with Tania Rogers, Martin Baynton and chief executive Andrew Smith.

Smith says Fremantle has first right of refusal with options on five stories of The Maid, based on a novel by Kimberley Cutter.

Craig Pearce - who worked on The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge - is writing the script.

From its formation in 2008 through to 2011 the company has focused on children's programming and has enjoyed some success with Jane and the Dragon, a 26-episode, half-hour animated series, and the Wot Wots, which has 78 11-minute episodes aimed at preschool children.

Pukeko Studios is based at Weta in the Wellington suburb of Miramar and Fremantle.

The company signed the first-look deal after looking at the studios and the capacity to get props through Weta Workshop, but Smith insists it is not wholly tied to Weta projects and Taylor, who owns one-third of Pukeko.

Welcome back, Greg

Who will replace Greg Boyed as a presenter of Seven Sharp?

Those of us with memories of creditable performances on Q+A and Tonight will welcome his return to journalism.

And I'm sure Seven Sharp is using the mutually agreed split to take it even lighter.

As one TV insider said: "They started poorly and built up to a solid rating but it's still well below what Close Up was doing."

Seven Sharp had high targets, and now they would be trying to achieve it, said the source, who is familiar with TVNZ thinking.

TVNZ indicated that it intended to keep the three-person line-up format.

In my opinion the choice of Boyed's replacement will indicate how far the TVNZ bosses want to get away from journalism.

Hiding the cost

Prime Minister John Key says it's a "win-win".

But in my opinion the Government deal of cuts to dividends from TVNZ is a dodgy way for it to hide subsidies for SkyCity Entertainment buying land for the convention centre.

We have no idea how much that subsidy amounts to.

Under the deal SkyCity paid $10.6 million for TVNZ land at 85 and 91 Hobson St to be incorporated into the new convention centre.

But TVNZ did not want to sell because of the extensive cost of refurbishing and making room at the TVNZ network centre, which it had been considering vacating for lower-cost, less-central accommodation. That decision has been made for it. Under its deal the Government has promised relief in the dividend it pays over the next three years so TVNZ can pay the costs.

This year TVNZ saved $10 million from dividend relief, but the full cost of the refurbishment is not known and the dividend relief does not appear to have been capped.

Taxpayers' contribution to the convention centre has been hidden away, which fits with most of the way this controversial deal was put together.

- 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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