There’s a lot of anger about TV coverage of politics and current affairs at the moment – sparked by the threats to Campbell Live. But there’s also humour and some interesting solutions.

In terms of satire about the plight of TV3's Campbell Live, the most cutting and clever is, unsurprisingly, by Steve Braunias - see his Secret diaries of Campbell's nemeses. Braunias has also published The secret diaries of Paul Henry and Mike Hosking.

Andrew Gunn is also pointed in his satirical explanation for how the new Mediaworks boss got the job, despite knowing little about broadcasting - see: Mark Weldon's job interview at Mediaworks. See also his caricature of the greatest broadcaster alive: The world deserves more Paul Henry.

Or is John Campbell really "a psychopathic megalomaniac intent on nothing less than scrambling his way to the top of the Beehive to eventually become Prime Minister of New Zealand"? Andrew McMillan's blog post, Compromise reached for Campbell Live envisages a scenario in which TV3 and Netflix have "commissioned an initial series of a New Zealand version of House of Cards, with Campbell taking up the lead protagonist role".

The political conspiracies revisited

The various political motivations discussed in my previous column, The politics of axing Campbell Live, have been directly addressed in a number of places. Paul Thomas rejects any political involvement - see: Campbell's plight fires up conspiracy theorists. However, Thomas does see some important political debate at stake: "In a wider sense, this is a continuation of the long-running debate between those who see the media as the fourth estate, an unofficial institution with a responsibility to 'keep the bastards honest', and those who see it as just another commercial enterprise".

But it's gossip columnist and "friend of the right", Rachel Glucina, who makes the most effort to address what she calls "the over-reactions" to Campbell Live's plight - see: Will John Campbell go to Radio NZ?.

Glucina is scathing of any idea that politics is involved, and points instead to the commercial realities facing Campbell Live. The column is characteristically gossipy and full of putdowns. She also suggests that Campbell would be better housed at Radio New Zealand, where his friend and former colleague, Carol Hirschfeld, is now Head of Content.

Her argument against political conspiracies might, however, have had the opposite effect - NBR journalist Nick Grant (@Nof_Grant) tweeted in reply: "I'm having to reconsider previously dismissed political interference theories, now Rachel Glucina's weighed in...".

Similarly, the PM's dismissiveness towards Campbell Live may also have backfired - see: Prime Minister John Key labels Campbell Live entertainment.

Herald media analyst John Drinnan has been leading much of the debate about the demise of Campbell Live, and gives some credence to political motives: "Is there any chance Campbell Live can survive? It will be hard to overcome the ill-feeling surrounding the show, including claims political meddling is behind moves to shut it down. In my opinion, MediaWorks chief executive Mark Weldon and director Julie Christie both have a personal antipathy to the programme, perhaps mirroring feedback they get from their pals" - see: Historic photos in legal limbo.

Drinnan also apologises for some incorrect information in his previous column, Why John Campbell's face no longer fits at Mediaworks.

Former TV3 broadcaster Rachel Smalley is entirely dismissive of those who blame politicians - or even TV3 bosses - for the threat to Campbell Live , saying viewers are the problem: "Enough of the conspiracy theories too that John Key is on the phone to Mediaworks management telling them to axe Campbell Live, because Mediaworks and the Government didn't kill current affairs in this country, the public did" - see: The fickle old world of TV.

Smalley is also scathing about the public's lack of interest in proper news and current affairs, based on her own experience of a "fickle" audience: "I was exasperated at how disengaged this country is sometimes when it comes to major new events. We get exercised about cutting down a kauri tree or we rage about stroppy x-factor judges, but when it comes to real news, big issues and global events, we often disengage. It's the Kiwi way".

She proposes her own solution for TV3: "I'd do what they do in the UK. I'd have a shorter news bulletin, and I'd give Campbell a 15 minute slot within that 6-7pm hour. Whatever the interview of the day is, he should do it. I'd lose a news anchor too. You don't need two talking heads".

Will Campbell Live survive?

The ratings for Campbell Live have now surged. The most comprehensive analysis of these are in Andy Fyers' The numbers behind Campbell Live.

As Martyn Bradbury points out, "Campbell Live is the top TV3 show that is pulling more viewers in their time slot than any other show. Claiming their top show isn't rating well enough is simply not true. Campbell Live takes a greater percentage of viewers than 3 News, Paul Henry, TV3 and the midday news" - see: The Campbell Live ratings lie, Key becomes a TV critic & how TVNZ rigs the game.

But will this be enough to save the show? An article by Matt Nippert suggests that TV3 management have essentially already made their decision, revealing that they have already chosen to forgo a full-year sponsorship deal with Mazda, in favour of one that ends next month - see: Campbell's sponsor cut months ago.

Bill Ralston is quoted as believing such a "short-term deal was highly unusual and only made sense if a decision about the future of the show had already been made".

Ralston, who is a former TVNZ head of current affairs, has written about the demise of "true current affairs" programming in his latest Listener column, 'A long plastic hallway ...' (paywalled). He says that TV3's handling of Campbell Live is "one of the most spectacular failings of broadcasting human resources practice since I committed similar bungles at TVNZ more than a decade ago".

Ralston also predicts that a current affairs show will survive on TV3, but that it's likely to be very different. His conclusion is worth reading in full: "Maybe the review will not see the end of nightly television current affairs; perhaps TV3 will shrink its news to 30 minutes and run a half-hour current affairs show off the back of it. Perhaps even Campbell may front that, but somehow I doubt it. The leadership at TV3 prefer entertainment they think will bring in viewers, and at best, they'd want some kind of tabloid, Fox News-style show. Seven Sharp is a light magazine show and seems to hold on to One News viewers, but it's not true current affairs. That, it seems, is on its deathbed and that's the saddest part of the story. The curious thing is Campbell and I are on opposite sides of the political fence yet I support him and what he does. It's called giving viewers a choice where soon none will exist".

In the latest Listener TV reviewer Diana Wichtel also rails against the idea of axing John Campbell: "If he goes, and they do seem to be gunning for him, it's our loss. Somewhere it's been decided that the culture and values we reflect back to our children through the media should be composed of commercial, cynical, blithering crap.... Axing a programme that calls power to account, effects change for those without a voice and has items about a chicken befriending a kitten amounts to national, electronic bad parenting. Yes, it's just television. But it represents something worth standing up for. It represents the final straw" - see: More than a feeling (paywalled).

Other TV reviewers seem to agree. Mike Kilpatrick says "If John Campbell and his worthy team do disappear from our screens they'll leave a massive hole and an even bigger legacy" - see: Campbell Live the last beacon of investigative hope.

Kilpatrick bemoans the continued rise of reality TV, saying that "investigative journalism is out of favour and destined for the scrapheap", and "Campbell Live isn't perfect but I believe it's the best that we've got for current affairs". Similarly, see Michelle A'Court's Campbell Live saga: Television eats itself.

Newstalk ZB's Tim Fookes also ponders the question: "Is there still a place in this country for serious current affairs?" - see: The End of Current Affairs?. In terms of Campbell Live, he says "People rely on it for more in-depth investigations, for advocacy journalism where they find an issue and fight for it. So it has people watching, but just not enough. It doesn't rate well up against Seven Sharp yet I personally think the quality of Campbell Live is far superior".

It's the tackling of the "big issues" that leads Moana Maniapoto to endorse the show - see: In defence of John Campbell - time to get some 'brown' on the job.

Meanwhile, Matt Heath simply endorses Campbell's sartorial style - see: Clothes maketh the man, especially suits.

But perhaps the strongest personal tribute comes in the latest Metro magazine editorial by Simon Wilson: "Here's the thing about Campbell: he embodies so many of the things we value about our culture: enthusiasm and critical thinking, support for the marginalised and promotion of the talented, kindness and curiosity and intelligence, and a moral code that can distinguish right from wrong. And, by no means the least of it, he loves his sport" - see: John Campbell and the Ugly Australians.

But will TV3 really replace Campbell Live with a soap opera? Not only does it seems unlikely and, according to Nick Grant's investigations, a new soap launched at 5:30pm could even save Campbell Live - see: No show of new soap replacing Campbell Live.

The Big picture in broadcasting

The demise of current affairs and news on television is due, according to media academic Peter Thompson, to the media policies of successive governments, which are no longer attuned to the realities of the market - see his article, Outrage over Campbell Live overlooks a more fundamental issue.

Thompson calls for a re-think of broadcasting regulation and funding, with an emphasis of the needs of democracy: "But if commercial logic is allowed to drive the entire television sector, we will likely be left without any regular, substantive current affairs in prime time. That would be a tragedy for democracy. We have a right as citizens to a robust fourth estate and news and current affairs that holds those on power to account. If the market cannot provide this, the Government must take some responsibility and explore how it might establish a multi-platform, public service free-to-air channel to provide genuine diversity and quality in the digital era".

The problem is that broadcasting policy hasn't really been part of recent political debate, says Paul Thompson, the CEO of Radio New Zealand - see: Campbell Live threat exposes seismic change.

According to Fran O'Sullivan, part of the problem is that "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" - see: Campbell Live row ignites useful debate.

And recently, the CEO of TVNZ, Kevin Kenrick, has candidly expressed his opinion that the state broadcaster is not actually a public broadcaster, saying that the term is an "out dated" and "ill-defined" concept - see Corin Dann's TVNZ boss: 'Public broadcaster' an ill-defined term.

Unsurprisingly, there are now further calls for better public service television - see, for example, Josh Fagan's news report Public broadcast group calls for government to lift funding.

In reply to this David Farrar asks: Have they not heard of Maori TV or Radio NZ?. He puts the case that the state already heavily funds public broadcasting. He does, however, say "I'm not against there being a combined public service TV and radio broadcaster. But they would have to operate on the current combined funding for NZ on Air, Maori TV and Radio NZ".

The idea of a combined TV and Radio public broadcaster is occasionally proposed. For Brian Easton, it's simply a case that Radio New Zealand should be allowed to start broadcasting with RNZTV - see: Does Radio New Zealand Need a Television Channel?.

There are also calls from politicians for more government funding for news and current affairs - see TV3's Labour: News should be funded.

But isn't there a significant problem and conflict of interest when the state becomes the main funder of news? This is an issue raised by John Drinnan: "The question now is how much funding agencies like NZ On Air should pick up the slack and act as a facilitator for networks commercial strategies and whether we want to have a Wellington-based state funding agency getting more involved in the oversight of current affairs" - see: NZ on Air didn't know grant would mean TV3 news cut.

All of these issues are likely to be discussed and debated on Friday across the country - see: Save Campbell Live rallies this Friday.

Finally, for the original popular critique of media and politics on TV - see the video of Gil Scott Heron's song The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.