Something I’ve noticed this year is the endless tears over the loss of Campbell Live and now 3D. “We’re losing quality journalism”, we’re told.
Quality news and current affairs, and journalism, has become like the ballet, or symphony, or orchestra. Adored by a passionate few but for the rest of us, we’d be unlikely to ever attend. At the same time, however, we wouldn’t be too happy to see them gone as we can acknowledge their cultural significance.
Since the beginning of 2014, it was no secret to anyone that both 3D and Campbell Live were struggling with their audiences. Campbell Live, against a rejuvenated Seven Sharp spent all of last year taking steps backward after a significantly good year in 2013. Every week, the story that was being painted was looking bleaker and bleaker. Come 2015, the show was given a lick of paint in the form of new branding but this was hardly the solution to what had been an obvious problem.
After months of publicly reported bad ratings data, the show was put into review. The response from those who had a soft spot for Campbell was hardly any different from someone who’d decided to quit smoking the minute they’d been told they had terminal lung cancer. It was too little, too late. The threat of extinction was the only significant reason the audience had to tune in with the numbers that they did. Even then, it would appear that the Mediaworks executive saw through the numbers and that the loyalty to the program was similar to what I described above in regards to the ballet etc.
Six months later, after a whole lot of energy had been spent on whinging about Mediaworks apparent lack of care over journalism, and their last remaining long form program has been binned. Why? For exactly the same reason as Campbell Live. The ratings for 3D have been an even bigger failure than Campbell Live had been, and that was with a large amount of taxpayer cash to keep the show afloat. While part of the problem was TV3’s endless meddling with the schedule, the noisy few who continue to moan about the demise aren’t part of the majority who clearly weren’t interested in tuning in.
The last two months where 3D screened at the later time of 9:30pm on Mondays saw the average audience break 100,000 only twice. The writing was on the wall. There were numerous reports in the media as to the appalling ratings and yet the very same viewers who appear to have incredibly short memories, weren’t able to connect what had happened with Campbell Live to the inevitability of 3D and choose to tune in to ensure the shows survival.
Mediaworks had moved 3D into Sundays in the hopes that it would finally find its audience there. Considering Sunday does so well for TV One, there certainly appeared to be an appetite for it. Once again, with the opportunity in the viewers hands, the half hour of current affairs delivered lower ratings than what 3 News had been doing.
NZ On Air believed in the format and handed Mediaworks a sizeable chunk of cash. Mediaworks took that cash to enable them to produce a show and fund the quality journalism that all those involved in the program believed in. Despite all those best intentions, the audience levels ended up lower than what 3D had replaced. Can you blame Mediaworks then, for wanting to pull the pin? It has nothing to do with the quality of the journalism the show produced but simply that the audience didn’t buy in.
If you want to know who is at fault when it comes to the demise of quality journalism in New Zealand, it’s not those that are actually producing it. It is in fact the audience’s, who would rather watch cat videos or know what Richie McCaw had for lunch etc etc etc.