The man who narrated Police Ten 7 for 12 years – and who became a walking thesaurus with his descriptors of “morons”, “scumbags”, “murderous thugs”, “mindless lowlifes” and “gutless goons” – has three more words to summarise the show’s demise - “wokeness” and “political correctness”.
Former Detective Inspector Graham Bell told Media Insider that he was sad but not surprised Ten 7 had been axed by TVNZ and says political figures should be doing more to help identify and solve causes of crime, rather than criticising a television show.
“Wokeness and political correctness have just killed it in the end,” said Bell. “You can’t hide from reality.”
The “allegation” that Māori and Pasifika communities were a focus was “nonsense”, said Bell. “All it focused on was the people who were committing crimes or getting into trouble with the police from day to day. The police have never picked the colour of the people they deal with.”
Police Ten 7 – more recently called Ten 7 Aotearoa – finished last week, after 21 years and 29 season our screens. While it remained one of New Zealand’s most popular television shows – and a successful export to Australia – it has been subject to critical media commentary, political heat and major academic research.
Many critics argued that it emphasised negative cultural stereotypes and marginalised specific communities.
Although it has been almost a decade since Bell presented the show, his old-school policing style and language were seen by some commentators as symptomatic of a show past its prime.
Bell officially retired in 2014 and was replaced by serving police officer Rob Lemoto. It is understood, even back then, that the show’s producers and police were looking for a softer approach.
Bell had been on the show for 12 years by that time, and his departure, he said, was a “particularly traumatic time”.
The former Detective Inspector said it hadn’t been the police’s idea to have a serving officer take over, but the show’s producer Screentime liked Lemoto. Bell believed Lemoto, as a serving police officer, did not have the same freedoms as he did.
Bell said his descriptors came naturally – they weren’t scripted.
He’s still often approached in the street by people shouting the likes of, “Have you seen those mongrels yet?”
He didn’t think he’d ever used the specific term “mongrel” – although a quick internet search reveals at least one occasion.
“I used all sorts of other epithets like ‘germs’ and ‘ratbags’ and ‘hobos’ … all sorts of weird and wonderful expressions. I didn’t search for them [in his head]. That’s me. That’s the way I speak.”
Occasionally, he said, “messages come down through the pipeline from either the police or TVNZ to tone things down”.
The show has been cited by police for resolving almost 1000 cases over the course of its more than 700 episodes.
In March 2021 then Auckland councillor Efeso Collins and Race Relations Comissioner Meng Foon said the show over-represented the Māori and Pasifika communities.
“He [Collins] was attacking it from the wrong end of the issue,” says Bell. “If people like him are so concerned about people committing crimes, and being on TV for doing so, what are they doing about it?”
An academic study that looked at 24 episodes of the show – from season 14 to 28 – found Māori and Pasifika appeared in about 70 per cent of the cases depicting aggressive crime. Police data showed people from those communities were involved in 53 per cent of aggressive crimes. The study authors were also critical that crimes on the show were not placed in context.
A TVNZ review, by AUT Dean of Law Khylee Quince and media consultant Karen Bieleski, said production staff had worked hard to ensure communities weren’t denigrated. However, some people had trust issues because of the language and tone, especially early on.
Duncan Greive, writing on The Spinoff, described it as a television powerhouse, but whose time was up. Bell’s “anachronistic barking is also why the show became completely untenable”.
“Despite recent efforts at reform, it has been unable to keep up with changes to what is now a vastly different society from the one it debuted into in 2002,” Greive wrote. “Depending on how you slice them, crime rates rose for the first few years of the show but have experienced steady decline across both total charges and serious offences for more than a decade now. At the same time, macro contributors to crime such as poverty and housing insecurity have become far better understood.”
In 2020, also on The Spinoff, columnist Emily Writes questioned whether it was still acceptable to build reality TV around vulnerable communities.
“Police Ten 7 purports to help solve crime. But police seem unwilling to properly confront bias towards Māori. Why should they get a weekly slot to place rose-tinted glasses on the viewing public? Maybe it’s time Police Ten 7 went the way of Cops: to the scrap heap with a focus on actually keeping communities safer – together.”
Bell points to the solution rates as proof the show worked and was an important policing tool.
“The number of times that they would put a guy’s face up. And then there’d be a phone call from a pub somewhere saying, ‘Oh, that guy’s here in the pub’.”
Bell himself was a decorated police officer before joining the show in 2002. He is now fully retired having curtailed his work as a public speaker for health reasons. He spends a lot of his time now with family, including motorhome trips with his wife.
He led the investigation into the Beverly Bouma murder case – the Reporoa mother-of-four who was slain in her own home in 1998. Bouma’s killers were caught five days later in Kaingaroa - David ‘Blue’ Poumako, Dillon Hitaua and brothers Mark and Luke Reihana.
Bell does not envy officers today.
“The whole of society has changed irrevocably in so many awful ways. Good things have happened in society, no question about it. We live in a much-improved world, but as far as behavioural standards and in the way crime is committed and the effect of drugs on our society it’s been awful.
“I think I would do it all again because for the most part, I loved it. There were times of extreme frustration when you were brought to tears. I don’t mind admitting that there were times when I got so frustrated with court procedures that I would go home and shed tears.
“That’s the way the so-called justice system works. It’s interesting that some years back they changed the name from the Department of Justice to the Department for Courts, which I think was really appropriate.”
He thinks a Crimewatch-type show might return one day, but the reality segments that made Police Ten 7 so famous – or infamous - will be gone.
“I enjoyed narrating the reality footage that came in all the time. Like the people putting their heads through the fence in Christchurch … It’s just unbelievable, but the shows showed the public the kind of outlandish things and unbelievable things that the police have to deal with every day.”
TVNZ chair to depart, sounds warning
The chairman of TVNZ has confirmed he is leaving the organisation and says it is critical the broadcaster’s new business strategy is implemented to avoid a “Kodak or Nokia moment”.
Chairman Andy Coupe will leave the role on June 30, the same day as CEO Simon Power and likely several other board members.
He said he advised officials a year ago that he would be stepping down. The TVNZ board has signed off a “whole-of-business” transformation plan, outlining the investment and digital and consumer strategy needed to compete against the likes of Netflix.
“It’s critical we embark on this, otherwise we’ll have a Kodak or Nokia moment,” says Coupe.
The full, exclusive Media Insider interview with Coupe can be found here.
Regional News Network’s $5m quest
One of my great mentors, Rick Neville, has always said two of the most critical roles, if not the most critical, in any media organisation are those of a reporter and an advertising sales rep. One brings in the stories, the other brings in the money.
Obviously, business models have changed over the years, and all manner of new roles have been developed, but a basic maxim holds true.
Fledgling news outlet Regional News Network is building its new business model - and has started talking to potential journalists for, eventually it says, up to 17 regions across New Zealand, filling what its principals see as a gap in fearless local authority and community news coverage.
But there are questions – quite a lot of questions – over its planned funding arrangements and just how it might fit into the media eco-system.
While it says it is not setting itself up to compete against the likes of NZME, Stuff, RNZ and TVNZ, there is some consternation in an industry already facing considerable revenue and cost pressures.
In an interview with Media Insider, RNN’s leaders Peter Newport and Tim Martin revealed more details of their plans and the mission behind them.
Martin says they need about $5 million to start and keep the operation running “through 36 months and to a stage where it’s sustainable and profitable”.
They also revealed they might not be operating until later in the year – even after the general election – as they seek to confirm funding and complete the technical build of editorial and commercial IT.
They won’t launch in all 17 regions to start with – more likely eight, they say. It is understood those regions are likely to be Northland, Waikato, Gisborne, Taranaki, Manawatū, Canterbury, Queenstown and Otago. RNN is being born out of Crux, the news website run by Newport out of Queenstown for the past five years.
Under the model there would be three key people in each designated region (though not necessarily in the same town) – a senior journalist, a junior journalist and a sales rep.
But questions persist over the proposed funding sources including government, advertising, private sector investment and the likes of Google and Meta.
It is understood some Government public officials have raised their eyebrows at some of the media comments of RNN. Right now, there is no confirmed public money to contribute to the targeted $5 million – but RNN is pushing hard.
Martin - the founder of streaming services RugbyPass and Colesium Sports Media - and Newport say they have had “really positive conversations” with the likes of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the Department of Internal Affairs and even the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
NZ on Air’s controversial – and sadly, widely misrepresented – Public Interest Journalism Fund has come to an end. “As you know we cannot discuss applications prior to funding decisions or even confirm if we have one,” says NZ on Air’s Raewyn Rasch.
“We can say that we are aware of the Regional News Network proposal, however NZ On Air has not had any detailed discussions with Peter Newport regarding the project. Additionally, as the PIJF has now come to a close, NZ on Air is not mandated or funded to provide additional large-scale journalism projects.”
This may change, of course, if the Government or the likes of the MCH’s policy unit so decree, and expand NZ on Air’s mandate. On May 29, Newport and Martin will present their vision to Broadcasting and Media Minister Willie Jackson, in what is shaping as a critical meeting.
Jackson and his officials have also been busy drafting proposed legislation to force the likes of Google, Meta and future major tech players to the table to thrash out financial deals for New Zealand media companies. RNN sees itself as a beneficiary of this, alongside other big and small players, although there are questions over the timeline and just how much they might receive given the likes of Meta might pull out of hosting New Zealand news altogether.
The balance of private v public money is not yet known. “The mix of those things has a degree of flexibility,” says Newport.
On private investors, Martin says: “There’s quite a lot of money out there that I would call, disaffected, rich white guy money. You know, they don’t like the government, or they don’t like something that’s going on and they would quite like a media channel so they can influence that.
“That’s not for us. If we were to go down that path, you’ve lost half your potential audience straight away.”
Martin says they want to get to a position quickly where they’ll be “stopping burning people’s cash”.
“The object of the business is not only to do great news and tell the stories of the regions that need to be told … it’s to make profit.
“This is a profitable venture.
“I can tell you what it isn’t. It’s not going to be one of those media businesses that just shoots out to get as big an audience as possible and then tries to figure out how to monetise it after.”
While they say it would be “suicide” to compete directly against existing media players, this does not quite reconcile with some of their positioning.
They’ve already started advertising for journalists – or seeking expressions of interest at least, with some highly competitive salaries. And there will still definitely be competition for advertising and government sector money, no matter their target market.
The response to the advertisements for journalists has been “overwhelming”, says Newport. “We’ve had over 100 applications but most importantly, about 36 of those I would rank as a high-quality shortlist of people who are currently in very credible media roles, who are keen to make a move, not just because of the decent salaries we’re offering, but because of some of the other aspects.”
He’s had Zoom calls with 12-15 of them. “Even though these are expressions of interest, I would bet personal money that many of them are actually going to end up working for Regional News Network.”
The journalists have not been employed yet; RNN wanted to confirm the demand for roles.
Newport says there has been a journalistic retreat from the regions over the years, with the closure of community newspapers in some areas. “We don’t want to start a business trying to do something that somebody else is already doing. It’s a space where we could do a really good job.
“Our view is that we’ll fit into the New Zealand media ecosystem quite nicely. We’re not going to be eating anyone’s lunch necessarily.”
He says the digital model is also fundamentally different from a traditional community newspaper. “You don’t need to publish stories if nothing’s happening. Our audience forgives us ... if nothing’s happening, they don’t expect us to write anything and they come back 100 per cent.”
He speaks forcefully about the importance of local journalism and holding councils – especially – to account. “We need to bring power back to journalists. We need to get a bit scary, we need to frighten people. But that goes with the responsibility to behave well and write really solid stories. If we’re partisan, we’re partisan towards the community.”
Hustle & Bustle PR director leaving
Two of Auckland’s best-known PR directors are heading their separate business ways.
Gemma Ross and Andrea Hammond set up Hustle & Bustle 10 years ago – Hammond stepped back from the business about three years ago, to become executive director and is now shifting gear again, to focus on her own consultancy work, predominantly in the arts sector.
She will still contract to Hustle & Bustle, but is stepping down as a director.
Ross will remain managing director of Hustle & Bustle, a boutique firm with around half a dozen staff.
“We are good, we are close,” Hammond told Media Insider. “I’ll still be contracting, I’m a huge supporter of Hustle & Bustle.”
She sent Media Insider a statement after we spoke on the phone: “I have decided now is the right time for me personally to step down as a director and focus on independent projects, arts sector roles and my family.
“I couldn’t be more proud of what Gemma and I have achieved together in 10 years. An enviable client list, dream team and collaborators, and a body of work that reflects the huge effort and care that’s taken to deliver results for much-loved clients. I’m excited for the future of Hustle & Bustle under Gemma’s vision and leadership and looking forward to continued collaboration with the team on projects now and in the future.”
Ross echoed those sentiments to Media Insider, and then on Instagram.
Hustle & Bustle’s clients include Moet Hennessy’s stable of brands (including Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, and Cloudy Bay); Louis Vuitton; Bumble and personalities including sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke and All Black great Dan Carter for his DC10 Fund.
Media moves – football, shopping partnerships
Three significant strategic moves from four of our biggest media companies this week:
- Sky and Stuff have announced a new content and commercial partnership around the Fifa Women’s World Cup, a deal which will be observed closely by competitors. The partnership sees Stuff live streaming 26 of the 64 matches to be played in New Zealand and Australia, including all of the Football Ferns matches, and the final.
- NZME and the NZ Herald have launched a live online shopping show. The Selection Live Shopping screens every Tuesday at 12.30pm on nzherald.co.nz, showcasing a variety of products. Each event is hosted by Mike Puru, and will drive viewers to a featured client’s e-commerce site. The Herald teamed up with The Warehouse Group for the first episode this week – The Warehouse has committed to four events in the first eight weeks.
- In a similar vein, Are Media’s Your Home and Garden magazine has launched a shopping portal to showcase products, art, furniture and other items. shop.yourhomeandgarden.co.nz is designed to allow readers to see, love and buy items “in a manner of minutes”, says magazine editor Fiona Hawtin.
One Good Text
Some helpful financial advice this week, from one of the media and marketing industry’s best-known names and now New Zealand Banking Association CEO Roger Beaumont.
From the LinkedIn machine
* Editor-at-Large Shayne Currie is one of New Zealand’s most experienced senior journalists and media leaders. He has held executive and senior editorial roles at NZME including Managing Editor, NZ Herald Editor and Herald on Sunday Editor and has a small shareholding in NZME.