A respected children's media expert is lamenting that kids have been sacrificed to sleaze under New Zealand's TV standards system.

Ruth Zanker is a lecturer at Christchurch Polytechnic and a researcher who has specialised in children and the media. She has noted a change.

"There is a general sexualising that has gone on with tabloidisation of media - sex is the easy way of making a hit and it boosts ratings.

"Children are being sacrificed on the altar of ratings," she says.

Zanker has noted an increasing level of sexuality creeping into early prime time as the TV networks chase ratings.

It is a difficult time and parents are either unwilling or unable to police their kids' viewing.

Zanker says New Zealand's broadcasting laws have created the problem.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority acts on complaints. But few complain and the BSA has steered at freedom of speech rather the protection of children, she says.

"It may be that if you looked at a lot of the programming that runs before the adult watershed, it breaches standards."

Zanker's comments might be easily downplayed if she were part of the Christian or moral groups.

But she is mainstream. She works with the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology's broadcasting school and takes an active interest in the media.

Wednesday night's early prime time offers an example of sleaze TV that belongs in adult viewing time.

C4 shows Family Guy each weeknight at 7pm. The show has references to sex including incest and bestiality.

On TV2 at 7.30 Two and Half Men focuses on the sexual conquests of a errant philanderer played by Charlie Sheen.

That is followed on TV2 by Cougar Town, about voracious older women.

That is before TV even starts to show the adult-rated material.

BEEB BOPPED

The BBC has been looking at buying the Documentary Channel and shifting production from Auckland to Sydney, industry insiders say.

Owner Richard Driver recently played down sale talk, saying the Doco channel "is doing very well as part of the basic package Sky TV and is not for sale".

He declined to comment further. But it is understood BBC Worldwide - the commercial arm of the BBC - has been in talks and ownership changes may be announced this month.

BBC Worldwide spokeswoman Louise Alley said any commercial discussions about the BBC purchasing of a channel would be confidential.

Worldwide owns the BBC World news channel and UKTV that run on Sky. The company has a base in Sydney and its factual channel BBC Knowledge - featuring non-fiction series material - on Foxtel and Austar. Sky obviously has an interest in any sale.

Driver said that Sky would automatically be told of any change in ownership to an independent channel.

Sky spokesman Tony O'Brien said: "From time to time we hear rumours that channel providers are interested in selling.

"Ownership of the channel is much less of a concern than the continuation of service.

"When we have contracted with someone to deliver a channel, our main concern is that they continue to deliver the service that we have contracted for."

Sale of the channel is far from complete and it is not clear whether the Beeb is interested in the New Zealand channel alone or using the channel format overseas.

SKY POLICY?

Sky Television says it has ticked off a staffer who sent a surprisingly heavy-handed letter to its independent installers telling them they are not allowed to put Freeview into homes.

The Sky letter, titled "Action Required Immediately", tells installers: "Due to company policy, Sky Network Television Ltd require you to remove your business name and contact details from the Freeview installer database", setting a deadline for five months later.

It adds: "Failure to do this will result in immediate termination of all Sky Television installation and service work until your details have been successfully removed from the database."

Sky spokesman Tony O'Brien said the letter was a one-off and had not been sent to other installers.

It should not have been sent, and installers were not banned from working on free-to-air Freeview installations, he said.

But Sky did ask installers to consider the amount of work it had provided over the years when setting priorities for work, O'Brien said.

Freeview general manager Sam Irvine said that he was aware of the case and was talking with Sky.

He said that around 75 per cent of customers installed Freeview themselves, but the approach was surprising given the Government push to get people on to digital so that analogue signals could be switched off.

HIP HOP HITS

US sales for Savage's hip single Swing illustrate the upside of being placed inside Hollywood blockbusters.

The Dawn Raid hip hop musician sold more than two million copies of the song in the US after it appeared in the Hollywood movie Knocked Up and was also on the soundtrack for Step Up 3D.

Dawn Raid founder Andy Murnane says New Zealand hip hop bands have an advantage winning placement in Hollywood films for the simple reason that the prices are much cheaper for the studios than US acts dominated by bigger companies.

Clearly it also helped that Swing had a great hook. But Murnane says that the diaspora of Pacific people - especially on the West Coast - also provided a ready market in the US.

Dawn Raid recently signed a deal with San Francisco-based independent label SMC Recordings/Fontana, the independent distribution division of Universal Records.

The deal allows for up to six albums and Murnane says it provides a direct path to the US market - not only for Dawn Raid artists, but also for other New Zealand labels looking for a chance in America.

BEERY CHRISTMAS

Lion Nathan looks set to froth up its "Heartland" brands Lion Red and Waikato. But it will be waiting until after the traditional pre-Christmas marketing push before it pumps more into their media profile.

The brewery confirmed this week it had moved advertising accounts from Publicis Mojo to DDB for Lion Red and Josh and Jamie at Assignment, for Waikato. Lion bosses acknowledge that the profile for promotions resources for both had slipped in recent years.

MAGAZINE LICENCE

Adland was caught by surprise this week when Pacific Magazines effectively pulled out of New Zealand, signing a licensing deal for APN's New Zealand Magazines to produce New Idea, Girlfriend and That's Life.

Pacific Magazines did not reply to calls, but the change takes effect on October 1.

New Zealand Magazines publishes New Zealand Woman's Weekly, the NZ Listener, Creme, Simply You and Simply You Living.

Ad agency Media360 described the deal as turning New Zealand from a three-publisher market to two with NZM competing against ACP.

That does not take account of Fairfax Media and up-and-coming Tangible, but it is still a big change.

APN Group publishing chief executive Martin Simons said the deal was part of a growth-based strategy, not an exercise in consolidation of publications.

The titles would maintain separate content teams and continue to compete in the market with existing NZ Magazines titles and ACP, he said.

There would be some synergies in market approach to advertisers with an expanded NZ Magazines commercial team, including bundling opportunities.

ACP New Zealand chief executive Paul Dykzeul - once a senior executive with Pacific in Australia - described the deal where APN will pay a fee to produce the titles as "an elegant solution" for Pacific Magazines, which had lacked scale in the New Zealand market.

He hoped that the change would end what he said was a period of competitive discounting by APN and Pacific.

The terms of the licence arrangement are commercially confidential.

Advertising consultant Martin Gillman expected the deal would increase the profile of magazines within APN, which publishes the Herald.