Current affairs show 3D is presented as TV3's news at its most aspirational: flagship journalists like Michael Morrah, Paula Penfold and the less alliterative Melanie Reid taking on thorny yet important stories.
On Monday night, it covered two health stories, using individuals to provide a view into an issue bigger than them.
A 17-year-old spoke of her cancer diagnosis, a golf-ball-sized brain tumour, which was heart-rending in a way these things always are. "My hair was going to fall out," she said, "which was the worst thing for me as a 17-year-old girl".
Prior to chemo, she had surgery to harvest some ovarian tissue, so that one day she might have children if, as frequently happens, the treatment rendered her unable to bear them without assistance.
We appear in a lab, looking at some tubs of liquid nitrogen, with labels like "PRIVATE SPERM ONLY", before parsing the question, "Who owns these ovaries?" Morrah's story was smart, sensitive and thorough, and opened up an issue visually in a way long-form television journalism can do near-uniquely.
The half-hour aired, though, at 9.30pm on a Labour Day Monday, a time when many would already have stumbled, exhausted, to bed.
This is not its original timeslot. In April, TV3's longtime head of news, Mark Jennings, said this about the show, in announcing its 6.30pm Sunday scheduling:
"We know Sunday night is a good place for current affairs. People are increasingly time-poor and we believe 30 minutes of news plus 30 minutes of current affairs is a winning formula for this popular time slot.
"This way we can guarantee a pacy, high-quality product that will be appointment viewing."
The appointment wasn't kept for long. As of October, the show moved to the late slot on Monday. This follows an earlier shrinking, from an hour at a premium 8.30pm Wednesday position for its predecessor 3rd Degree last year. Along with the axing of Campbell Live, to be replaced by Story over just four nights a week, the implication is that current affairs has become less important to TV3 as a channel - if not a newsroom, which remains rock solid - over the past year.
That has coincided with Julie Christie and Mark Weldon's new reality TV-heavy strategy, and many have conflated the two occurrences, leading to the risible boycott campaign this year.
That aside, the ratings for most of the reality TV vehicles have been soft, but at 6.30pm Sunday, 3D was an exception. It rated a dead heat with last year's 3rd Degree, bringing in an average of 203,000 viewers aged 5+.
After the mystifying move to late on Mondays, ratings have cratered, with just over 81,000 5+ viewers on average over the four episodes since the move.
Why does this matter? Aren't private companies free to do as they wish with their programming, even if it does vastly diminish the public audience for these important stories?
It matters because while TV3 parent MediaWorks is indeed a private company, 3D is made with public money: $567,420 from NZ on Air's platinum fund pays for 10 special "3D investigates" episodes a year. Which is all well and good if the programming created is treasured. But being shunted around the schedule so carelessly suggests otherwise.
This in turn begs a question - self-serving, perhaps, but also logical - that I first posed in a 2013 story for North & South magazine: Why do TV and radio continue to be privileged above all other communication media when it comes to public subsidy.
TV news' audience is certainly no larger than that of the Herald or Stuff.co.nz, and both NZME and Fairfax have a much longer and more sustained commitment to current affairs than TV3. I imagine both organisations would crawl over broken glass for $500,000 a year in subsidy to carry out long-running investigations.
The day must be looming when the audiovisual stranglehold on subsidy for journalism is broken, and TV3's shabby treatment of the otherwise excellent 3D can only accelerate its arrival.