Campbell furore shows how selective critics can be about government influence.

An unusual aspect of the campaign to save Campbell Live is the number of people who see political meddling as a factor in its likely demise.

Five years ago that notion would have seemed fanciful. In the current media climate, it is seen as quite plausible.

Prime Minister John Key is mostly polite, but has led the charge by accusing journalists of making things up.

Questioned about Campbell Live, he rejected the idea that its role was to hold the Government to account, saying the show was there to entertain.


Which is sort of right.

But the throwaway line said all you need to know about his disdain for the show.

MediaWorks, which broadcasts Campbell Live, has long been accused of being too close to National.

When the company went into receivership, Key took the unusual approach of responding to a question by telling Parliament he doubted that Inland Revenue would be able to recover MediaWorks' $22 million debt.

Since then the company has appointed as its chief executive Mark Weldon - a close friend of Key. Board member Julie Christie is close to Cabinet ministers Murray McCully and Gerry Brownlee.

Unlike Campbell Live in 2015, there were no petitions or marching in the streets in 2002 when the TVNZ board got rid of Shaun Brown, the head of television and former news boss who was offside with the then Labour Government.

The Government appointed a board headed by Dr Ross Armstrong, Ian Fraser was made chief executive, and promptly restructured and removed Brown's role.

Brown was effectively hounded out of the job by Labour. I mention this only to note that the left was not inclined to criticise when it was Labour meddling in state TV.


Life after TV3
Radio NZ is mulling over whether it would hire John Campbell if his TV show is scrapped.

Campbell said: "I am not in discussions with any other media organisation. The whole Campbell Live team is putting everything we have into trying to retain our programme." He did not respond to a query asking whether he had been in discussions with other media in the past.

If Campbell Live is scrapped and RNZ picks him up, what could it do with him?

He would shine on Nine to Noon or in the Saturday morning slot, but Nine to Noon's present host Kathryn Ryan is doing a good job and is going nowhere.

Saturday morning host Kim Hill has been a joy filling in for Susie Ferguson on Morning Report, reminding us of the days when that show was a standout example of articulate broadcasting with intellect.

What about Campbell on Morning Report? Even if he were interested, it is doubtful that he could work alongside current co-host Guyon Espiner.

Radio NZ has two big issues. It has to recover from a dramatic audience slide, and it has to get relief from a funding freeze in the upcoming Budget to avoid further cuts this year.

I doubt National would hand over more cash to RNZ if it were to hire John Campbell. And that is the tragic state of public broadcasting today.

Concerted effort
Radio NZ is meeting resistance to plans for a more commercial style of broadcasting on RNZ Concert.

Even among RNZ traditionalists, nobody doubts that changes are needed at Concert. According to staff who communicated with the Herald, RNZ plans more personality-based shows and chit-chat, with a maximum of 15 minutes an item, which would rule out broadcasting entire symphonies.

It is understood RNZ is aware of tensions, and plans changes to the management team handling the review. Radio NZ is required to provide a fine music station and - rightly, in my opinion - says it is important to boost listenership.

"The decline in audiences for RNZ Concert over recent years is a cause for real concern and this decline will not be addressed by maintaining the status quo," said spokesman John Barr.

Around the world
At a recent Maori Affairs select committee hearing, Maori TV chief executive Paora Maxwell forecast Maori TV would make a loss of $800,000 for the next two years, in part because of new technology costs.

That is despite the broadcaster having $12.5 million set aside for a rainy day. This raises a question: will this money be used to fund Maori TV's move out of Auckland, to Hamilton or Rotorua? The move is part of Maori Party policy, adopted by National. It would give conservative iwi organisations more influence over the channel, and some staff are resisting it.

Meanwhile, Maxwell has been flying high. He attended the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas last week "to identify future industry trends and meet with a range of manufacturers and suppliers, to assist with the selection of technology partners".

This week he is travelling to Turkey to attend the commemorative service at Chunuk Bair in a dual capacity, as liaison person for the host broadcaster and as editor-in-chief.

He will then travel to Britain to meet Welsh, Gaelic and Celtic language broadcasters and discuss collaborative opportunities.

Positive news on the negatives

RPA owner John Rogers' company was holding photos from 72 Fairfax NZ papers when it was put into liquidation. Photo / Brian Chilson, Arkansas Times
RPA owner John Rogers' company was holding photos from 72 Fairfax NZ papers when it was put into liquidation. Photo / Brian Chilson, Arkansas Times

No negatives for New Zealand photographs were sent to Rogers Photo Archive in the US, in its digitisation deal gone wrong, says Fairfax Media NZ.

That suggests New Zealand is better off than Australia, where the Age and Sydney Morning Herald have to recover archival negatives and prints.

The Herald has been reporting on the disastrous deal between Fairfax and RPA, which is now in receivership in Little Rock, Arkansas. Photographs from 72 Fairfax New Zealand newspapers are being held at warehouses operated by court-appointed receivers.

A court has been told negatives are included in the Fairfax claim to recover its pictures. But Fairfax says negatives for New Zealand photos never left the country.

The Fairfax legal claim is that RPA has not met the terms of their agreement, and it wants its photographs back.

All this has raised questions about the protection of historical archives and revealed the laissez faire approach by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, charged with protecting some of the Fairfax archives.

The ministry did not know of the move until it was told by the Herald, and appears to have had no role in verifying the financial status of RPA, which was raided by federal authorities four months after the archives arrived in Arkansas.