TV3 owner MediaWorks is questioning if the nightly Campbell Live is sustainable on its present ratings.

Insiders say it might benefit from a shake-up of the early-evening schedule but management are unlikely to take that risk.

TV3 chief executive Jason Paris would not be drawn on the future of the 7pm magazine and current affairs show.

He praised the hard-working team and presenter John Campbell, saying that he was "a good interviewer - better than Mark Sainsbury on Close Up".

Which is true. But it's clear that something has to change - and on a short-term basis they are looking at introducing a second presenter.

It would be a crying shame if the show gets canned later in the year.

Over the past couple of weeks it has gone back to solid current affairs.

But under private equity ownership MediaWorks is up to its neck in debt and is under pressure to keep costs down.

A behind-the-scenes insider said Campbell Live was not meeting expectations and its "sustainability" was unclear.

Ratings for both Campbell Live and Close Up are said to be "soft".

One option would be to can Campbell Live and replace it with a much cheaper comedy - like The Simpsons - which might deliver similar or smaller audiences for less outlay.

Part of Campbell Live's problem is the 7pm slot and the diminishing channel loyalty.

After an hour of news, who wants to hang around for another half-hour of Campbell Live? Even news junkies are looking for light entertainment.

I understand the idea is still alive to reduce 3 News to half an hour followed by Campbell Live at 6.30. That is the way the news hour works in Australia. But a TVNZ source said that option had been "virtually ruled out". It would be too risky for TV3 to do it alone.

Halving One News and 3 News would save money but budgets would be down 20 per cent, not 50 per cent.

Campbell Live won a reprieve at the start of the year when temporary MediaWorks TV boss Ian Audsley called Campbell back from holiday for an urgent meeting about the show's future.

It's understood that the results since that goal-setting exercise have not met expectations and the pressure is still on for TV3 to cut costs ... even though private equity owner Ironbridge has restructured its way out of some of its debts.


One News presenter Simon Dallow got into trouble with TVNZ for telling a gossip columnist "I don't speak leso", referring to his estranged wife, Alison Mau. But TVNZ is less concerned that he "doesn't speak Polly".

TVNZ was embarrassed last Friday when Dallow proffered a dead-wrong explanation of the Australian political system for an election special.

In the aftermath, One News editor Paul Patrick talked with the producers concerned as well as correcting the mistake and apologising to viewers.

"Paul is satisfied that systems are in place to prevent a similar mistake," said spokeswoman Andi Brotherston.

"It was a very regrettable error but we are all human and mistakes do unfortunately occur."

Which is true, even taking into account the scale of the stuff-up. But nobody is talking about how Dallow - who is promoted as a wise newscaster - read the description without blinking an eye.

It appears he had no idea it was wrong. It's a reminder that, despite the hype, he is little more than a talking head.


More changes are coming on the Government-appointed board that runs TVNZ, with chairman Sir John Anderson's term ending next year.

Longtime board member Sir John Goulter leaves about the same time. Terms are also drawing to a close for two members - June McCabe and Bryan Gould - at the end of the year.

There has been speculation that Anderson will be replaced by Joan Withers - recently appointed deputy chairwoman in place of Rob Fenwick.

However, yesterday she was appointed chairwoman of Auckland International Airport and last October made chairwoman of state-owned Mighty River Power.

Withers, who is less lauded by Bill English than by some others in the Cabinet, brings a strong background in media as a former director of John Fairfax & Sons and chief executive of Fairfax Media NZ.


Appointments of new chairmen at TVNZ have traditionally coincided with changing strategies for the state broadcaster.

Labour appointed Brian Corban as founding chairman of the newly profit-focused organisation back in the late 80s and strongly supported chief executive Julian Mounter. Under Corban TVNZ kept the fledgling TV3 and Sky at bay, in part by aggressive hoarding of content.

In the mid-90s Norman Geary halted TVNZ's overseas expansion and focused attention on delivering dividends to the Government of the day, an approach that led to the exit of chief executive Brent Harman.

Rosanne Meo was the steward of TVNZ in one of its flamboyant eras when she was acting CEO for a period in the late 90s.

Her reign coincided with cost cutting to prepare TVNZ for privatisation. MMP blocked a sale, and Meo was unpopular when Labour got in.

Dr Ross Armstrong was Labour's appointee when the charter was introduced and the avuncular chairman weeded out management deemed off-message with Labour's plans.

Armstrong left suddenly after offering "first mover advantage" access to the Government for public-private sector partnerships.

Next was Craig Boyce. He was a well-meaning chairman for a weak board in a dysfunctional relationship with management. Chief executive Ian Fraser left after just three years when TVNZ woes dominated headlines - alleging meddling by board members and airing TVNZ's dirty washing in Parliament.

Experienced director Anderson has been a "go-to" man for both parties. He is credited with dragged TVNZ back from the abyss, re-establishing firm governance and distancing the Government-appointed board. He has been helped by a National Government that has freed TVNZ from its limited non-commercial responsibilities.


MediaWorks is considering a fibre-optic link as it plans to share infrastructure with TVNZ, TV3 chief executive Jason Paris has confirmed.

This column has reported in the past that the TV3 owners have been looking at TVNZ's TVC South building in Hobson St, accessing the new digital play-out facility and reducing costs.

It's understood that the proximity to TVNZ headquarters is a problem for the content-producing side of the business - working under the shadow of the Big Brother state broadcaster.

Then there would also be the issue of finding a buyer for the existing studios in Eden Tce.

But Paris said shared infrastructure such as combining capacity for the on-demand services was on the cards. Both he and TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis were interested.


SkyTV annual results last week show subscriber growth for the Fatso joint venture in which it holds 51 per cent of shares.

Fatso subscribers went from 12,348 to 15,186 with improved returns to Sky.

Clearly there is a market for a subscriber DVD service, but how big is it? As a media columnist I recently received a six-month free trial of Fatso and found it useful but limited.

In the days before I relented and subscribed to Sky the DVD subscriber service would have been good - avoiding the $10 a week and outrageous overdue fees of video shops.

For someone without Sky it makes sense. But pre-ordering movies has its downside. Sometimes you want to watch the movie that takes your fancy at that moment.

You want to choose your movie on the spot, not a few days or even a week ahead.