The Prime Minister may have been out of New Zealand - or possibly flat out with the demands of 24/7 forex trading - when New Zealand television news and current affairs was in its heyday.
The nightly Eyewitness News, for instance, where insightful political editors such as TVNZ's Richard Harman reported in-depth on events of the day from the Beehive revealing the seething discontents of the Lange Government and canvassing in detail Rogernomics; the incomparable Frontline which certainly got under the skin of Governments of the day and challenged the status quo.
The fine television journalists and producers who took the risky step and founded TV3 ensuring it too produced first-class current affairs programmes that were not entertainment and did hold governments to account on major issues.
It was a different world then.
But the producers of those shows - and the media bosses at that time - would not have dissed the Campbell Live programme of this era in the way Key did yesterday when he was reported as telling NewstalkZB that Campbell Live's prime role was "to entertain rather than hold the Government to account ... it is to entertain its viewers and follow news stories. A great many of those don't involve the Government, some do".
Key is possessed of several of life's fine arts. In this case the ability to mirror perfectly the concerns of his audiences and interviewers.
But it's doubtful that the redoubtable Mike Hosking and the journalists who contribute to rival Seven Sharp would have been overly stoked by Key's comment that more people were interested in "light entertainment" - such as Seven Sharp - at that time of day.
The two drivers - news and entertainment - are not mutually exclusive. But the resultant furore over the Campbell Live review has focused attention on the support that the 'free to air' networks already get for programme funding including now for current affairs investigative journalism shows.
New Zealand On Air pumps around $80 million a year into funding the production of local television programmes which appear on mainstream and regional free-to-air channels: TV One, TV2, TV3, Four, Prime and Maori Television.
Much of the money is devoted to making shows and investing in major documentaries that television networks will not - or cannot - find all the funds to underpin themselves. It's not a free pass. Producers have to show they also have broadcaster equity and third party funding where appropriate in the latter case.
That's arguably important when there is not a dedicated "public broadcaster" in this country (Maori TV's range is not sufficient for it to truly claim this category to itself).
TVNZ - while state-owned - is run on commercial lines.
But both TVNZ and MediaWorks (TV3's owner) have become increasingly reliant on taxpayer funded grants from NZ On Air's Platinum Fund to help support their flagship weekly current affairs interview programmes - Q+A to the tune of $845,356 this year for 40 60-minute shows, and MediaWorks got $899,260 to help fund 30 shows of The Nation.
Recently it was announced that NZ On Air will also fund a new investigative journalism strand for TV3 called 3D Investigates to the tune of $567,420 .
This move to underpin TV3's new offering is interesting, particularly as it had since been announced 3D Investigates will feature in what is currently the TV news hour on Sunday evening.
The news segment will be cut back to 30 minutes and the remaining 30 minutes occupied by the new current affairs show.
This is a credible and smart use of the Sunday "news hour" by MediaWorks management.
Campbell Live's future was still (excuse pun) up in the air at the time this column was written.
But NZ On Air's chief executive Jane Wrightson has questioned whether her organisation would step up with funds to underwrite the show.
"Is there a gap in the overall television schedules of a programme of that type? Would we support it? Which broadcaster would we support it for? Would we be in the highly competitive scheduling zone for it? It's a big debate to be had," Wrightson told RadioNZ yesterday.
In this age of media convergence where more and more people are "watching" programmes through digital ondemand platforms, the question has to be: why should such contestable funds be reserved for free-to-air broadcasters whose very raison d'etre is frankly commercial?
Why shouldn't the fund be renamed New Zealand on Media, made fully contestable and opened up to news producers from across the spectrum, including print and digital companies which can also boast large-scale audiences?
NZ on Air is required under the Broadcasting Act 1989 to reflect and develop New Zealand identity and culture. "We do this by ensuring a range of broadcast content is available to New Zealanders," the organisation's website says.
When Wrightson announced the 3D Investigates funding, she said: "Investigative journalism is fundamental to a strong democracy and national debate. It is becoming increasingly scarce in New Zealand due to the commercial pressures faced by broadcasters and the news media generally in a small country.
"When NZ On Air established the Platinum Fund we had a specialist current affairs programme in mind, to broaden the content options for New Zealanders.
"It is clear that the logistics of a weekly stand-alone investigative journalism programme are not viable, so funding a segment within an existing series makes sense."
It also makes sense that other competitors - including clearly print and digital proprietors - which Wrightson acknowledges face similar commercial pressures, have the ability to compete on the same basis.
If the Campbell Live furore has done one thing it is to ignite a useful debate on this score.