Rusty Viewer's blog

Hi. I've been an avid NZ TV fan for many years, having been brought up in the single channel, black and white days. I don't like some of the unnecessary changes for the sake of "competition" over the years and the bad attitude of some broadcasters that has been the cause or result of this, nor the loss of innocence in program content. This is where I am or will be coming from in at least some of my blogs.

Canterbury TV began broadcasting widescreen as of 10am Tuesday 11th January on their analogue frequency. This is in preparation for going onto the freeview platform later this year, though a date for this has yet to be confirmed.

Technically, what this means for CTV viewers:

 – if you have an old 4:3 screen tv, not much you can do, the picture will appear a little sequeezed but you’ll get use to it. Eventually you’ll want to buy a new widescreen TV in any case.

 – if you have a 16:9 widescreen TV, then you should be able to change the aspect ratio using a button on your TV remote, something labelled “Aspect” or “P Size” or some ilk (look up the TV manual if you can’t figure it out) and pressing the button consecutively until you get the 16:9 ratio.

Note that the format for CTV is not yet consistent for every program, and you may have to change the aspect depending on what you are watching. For instance, I’ve noticed the DW broadcasts work better with Zoom1 aspect. However, these inconsistencies should probably be ironed out in a few weeks. Also, when switching to other analogue channels, you may have to change the aspect ratio again. This is because other analogue channels still broadcast in other formats at this stage.

Living in Canterbury, I do not know the progess towards widescreen and freeview for local channels in other areas. Anyone from another part of the country who wishes to give an update on this, please do so here.

I noticed that Australia has recently started its own freeview youth-orientated channel 11.

Since TVNZ has announced that freeview channel 6 will be converting to a similar format in March, I’m not sure whether they were inspired by Australia or not, but perhaps by glancing at the Australian channel we can guage an idea of what to expect – mainly an awful lot of reruns from the 60s to the 90s.

See http://eleven.com.au/

I’ve personally seen most of those shows already and have also seen some of them in 5 day a week reruns and am either pretty much bored with them and/or have some of them on DVD. Therefore from my perspective it is more of the same.

However, I am in my early 50s and this is supposed to be a YOUTH-orientated channel, therefore perhaps that is a little unfair. Kudos on recycling shows that most of the yound generation won’t have seen very much if at all. Maybe they WILL enjoy watching them for the first time.

However, also a rant AGAINST 5 day a week, otherwise known as “strip” programming, in general. It’s not just that it’s lazy programming, but many of those programs to orginally designed to be shown once a week. And frankly, that’s what will give them some worth. It can be a case of too much of a good thing, after a while, people will switch off from even watching the best quality programs played in such a format – it becomes a case of overload and breaking out of feeling trapped in a daily viewer routine. Good programs are cheapened – a slower feeding of each episode would build better appreciation wouldn’t it?

Variety would be better – different programs every day. Anyone remember those times?

I”m pretty sure the new channel is still in the planning stages for TVNZ and its not too late to add more variety into the daily viewing than Australia’s version has. Could TVNZ please consider this?

Currently programming on nearly all channels at the moment is pretty much the same during weekdays right until 7:30pm at night. That is to say, each channel plays indentical programs each day in each time slot without any deviation or variation. I would personally like to see this changed, or at least set a new (or is it old) trend by being different with TV 6. Different programs each day during the day as well as at night. Is that too much to ask? Or would it confuse the dumbed-down viewers too much now? Will they end up feeling disorientated if they don’t get the same feed of shows each day? I mean – REALLY?

 

 

What is wrong with the network TV programmers these days? Are they all just a bunch of morons with a lack of imagination to dare try anything new? I’m talking about how they seem hell-bent on putting the same-type shows on against one another and think that is somehow clever competitive programming. There’s nothing clever about it, it’s idiotic and a frustration to viewers.

There are ample examples of what I mean.

At 5pm on Saturdays, both TV1 and TV3 both show the ONLY fishing shows currently on schedule at exactly the same time.

7:30pm that same night and both TV1 and TV3 have renovation shows.

Tuesdays at 7:30pm, not just two, but THREE networks – TV2, TV3, and Prime all have cooking shows on at the same time.

Does it not occur to the stations that they are actually shrinking the potential audience by appealing to the same interests in these time slots? Doesn’t it occur to some of them to swap it up a bit and mix things around so there’s more variety, thereby actually increasing the overall number of viewers all round?

There was another annoying clash a couple of years ago – when Ghost Whisperer was up against Medium – the same type of supernatural show. One station changed the night and would you believe the other changed theirs to the same night and so the clash continued. No imagination see.

In the second half of the 1970s, the golden era of television in NZ, the rule was “competitive but complementary” programming – no clash of same genre allowed – and it worked really well. Did no one learn from this?

The final insult, or ultimate utter stupidity of pointless programming, which is what finally prompted me to write this, is the memorial servce this afternoon, Granted it’s a sad event for the country but could you tell me what the point was of THREE networks all broadcasting exactly the same live feed of the event? TVNZ had some sort of sole right of camera access; therefore the feed was identical on TV1, TV3 and Prime. It’s not like the other stations could show the service from a different camera angle at least. Oh no. So what was the point of the other channels feeling under some sort of obligation of simulcasting the same thing? What was the point? Did it never occur to them that not everyone wanted to watch it? Perhaps there were some that found it too sad, or that it wasn’t something worth wallowing in. My point is, TV3 and Prime should have stuck to their regular programming. They weren’t going to get any more viewers by doing what they did since just about everyone who wanted to watch the memorial would have been tuned to TV1. There was absolutely no point in them simulcasting the TVNZ signal. What a waste of broadcasting air and yet one more example of moronic program decision making.

Trackside has started broadcasting today on Freeview Channel 11. However, for those with MHEG-5 format TVs and PVRs, you have to press the channel number manually. It currently will not appear on the channel list due to non transmission of MHEG-5 program data. Those using MHEG-4 devices however, will have it added to their channel list.

 

 

According to an anonymous source, Paul Henry has been in secret negotiations with TV3 over the weekend for a resurrected Sunrise-type breakfast show. This is apparently the real reason for Paul Henry’s resignation, to pave the way to appear on the rival channel with a breakfast format which would be more flexable to his outrageous spontaneous presentational behaviour. The source claims that TV3, not being a state broadcaster, doesn’t have to be quite so held back about what is and isn’t poltically correct and saw the current controversy as a great opportunity to approach Paul while the iron was hot and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

TV3’s most recent foray into breakfast TV, Sunrise, failed in the ratings because they did not have the personalities to match Paul Henry. However, by actually snatching the people’s most popular choice personality out of TVNZ’s hands, they now feel they have a clean shot with a ratings winner.

They have yet to decide whether the new breakfast show will actually be called Sunrise – they may decide to disassociate from the previous incarnation. However, whatever the format and name, it appears that with Paul Henry at the helm, they have a decent chance at finally dominating the morning slot.

An official announcement is expected in a few days.

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NB: The above article is a satirical piece, in case you hadn’t figured it out.

This article was originally written in 2006 for a journalism course I was on. However, in light of the 50 years of television celebtrations, I think it is quite relevant. It waxes nostalgic about the past and wonders whether more channels is actually a good or bad thing.

In a recent press announcement [2006], a joint venture between the government, TVNZ and Can West has been revealed. Each will contribute $25 million dollars towards a digital satellite, which will transmit up to 18 channels from as soon as early next year. The net result of this will be that TVNZ and Can West will have an additional 4 channels to add to their 2 existing ones, and a third 6 channels will be distributed by BCL as they see fit, some of which they have in fact already signed to other existing channels including Maori TV and the TAB network.

 

So, what will be broadcast on the new channels acquired by TVNZ and Can West? Neither company wants to reveal anything at this stage as it is considered to be “commercial-sensitive” information; however, one clue from TVNZ is that high-quality programs often relegated to late-night slots for whatever reason can now be shown in prime time. Another hint is that some news and/or current affairs shows will be repeated more than once a day. A possible 24-hour local news channel is foreseen and also easier access to the New Zealand film & TV archives – some kind of interactive pay-per-view perhaps.

 

This all sounds very exciting and one presenter during the press announcement even pointed out how this was the biggest thing since the implementation of colour TV, though personally the introduction of the second channel seems closer to the mark for me. It depends on whether you are looking at it from the point of view of higher quality picture (which digital is) or more choice (which digital also is).

 

But here’s the problem for me – do we really need MORE channels – or LESS?

 

This is my concern. In the last several years there has been the emergence of one of many problems among young people – something called ADS. No, I don’t means as in TV ADS though that’s a problem too, but I mean Attention Deficit Syndrome.

 

You see, many people have problems focusing more than one thing at a time anymore. And I have a theory about this – it’s the overload of choice we now have. Time is a limited resource and I think there is a subconscious, or even conscious, fear that, no matter what we are doing (or in this case watching), there may be something better going on somewhere else. Therefore, there is this confusion in the mind whether or not what we are doing at any given moment is perhaps the best and most enjoyable thing we could be doing.

 

And now, as a background to what I am trying to say, here is a little history about New Zealand television from my perspective.

 

Back in the 60s (when I was growing up), choice was pretty simple. We had just one TV channel, in black & white, which went from 5pm to 11pm. And it was broadcast locally – the Christchurch channel was called CHTV-3. (The others were WNTV-1, AKTV-2 and DNTV-2 – you figure it out). When the programs arrived in New Zealand, we weren’t the first to see the episodes. They were shown in Wellington, and then shipped up to Auckland for the following week, then they were shown here, and finally in poor old Dunedin who got them last. One cool thing was, when you looked at the TV listings in The Listener (The Listener had exclusive rights to TV listings at that time – no other weekly publication could publish them) you could see what episodes were coming up in the following weeks by looking at the Auckland and Wellington listings.

 

Let me emphasise – it was broadcast locally (there was no network), and there were no video recorders so we had to watch everything live. And guess what? We enjoyed what we watched. We were focused. We relished the experience. We were not distracted, even by the ads.

 

But, human nature being what it is, we wanted more.

 

We wanted colour. And we got it. And, once the novelty wore off, and over the years, with hindsight, some of us realised there was something about the surrealness of black and white which some how seemed to make programs more absorbing than the too-realistic colour.

 

We wanted a network. We needed a network. I mean, you’ve got to pity, for instance, the poor local businessman who regularly has to travel around the country, and who is continually confused and confounded about which episode he is watching of his favourite program while in his hotel room– he sees some more than once and misses others. So that was solved. Now everyone saw the same episodes at the same time. Fine. Except…slowly we noticed the wonderful local fun and feel we had begin to evaporate, particularly as “cost cutting” and efficiency meant any local content (including local news) dissolved over time. I remember one Sunday night in the mid-seventies when the network was accidentally knocked out for a few hours and they had to hastily play some programs they had on hand locally. TV was suddenly fun again, an adventure, and a gentle reminder of just what we were beginning to miss. The network came back on all too quickly, cutting off an old episode of The Jack Benny Show in mid-stream; I never did see the end of it and that program has never been played since. Whatever was being played on the network that night was simply nowhere near as interesting.

 

Then we wanted a second channel. Damn it! We needed a second channel. We needed to watch something else when a boring program came on. That made sense didn’t it. And after dithering around for years (a second channel was first touted in the early 60s) and changing the concept more than once (originally it was going to be a private channel run by Gordon Dryden but then the government changed hands and came up with a “competitive but complementary” concept), we finally got it in mid ‘75. And thus we entered what is now considered the golden years of NZ television, as there was a sudden surge of local production and it was exciting for a little while until the government interfered and killed most the fun by turning it into tweedledum and tweedledee, otherwise known as TVNZ. This was actually a politically motivated decision by the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Muldoon, who was, to be perfectly frank, intimidated and fearful of two competing news networks which might actually be bold enough to question some of the government’s policies.

 

So naturally we wanted a third channel. Of course we wanted a third channel. We had to have a third channel. And, once again, the government dithered around for years, finally setting up a tribunal, which then processed applications. The application process was open to anyone, not just private interests, so that TVNZ itself could apply for the third channel – and did of course. This process included the applicators having to “prove” that they “deserved” the TV licence by showing the kind of programs they would have, even to show specific schedules; this normally commercially sensitive information created the ludicrous situation of giving TVNZ the extremely unfair advantage of knowing what the competition was about and had plenty of time to counteract what was coming, which included stealing the best ideas naturally. The process was further complicated by applicants being allowed to object to other applications, which of course, just about everyone did to everyone else, causing horrendous delays while TVNZ continued to reshape it’s channels for the impending TV war which included buying up an almost insurmountable amount of programs just so the competition couldn’t get them; this mountain which would be virtually impossible to find the time to air became legendary amongst the corridors of broadcasting personnel and thus New Zealand was robbed of some presumably high quality viewing. No doubt the TVNZ board spent most the time at their meetings during this era rolling on the floor with laughter.

 

This reshaping of TVNZ came in the main, from the completely unnecessary import of a man called Julian Mounter. I cannot think of someone who did more damage to the personal identity of New Zealand television than this man. He is the biggest waste of space to New Zealand that we have ever had. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a go at him as a person; he’s probably quite a success in his own country, but he just wasn’t suited for New Zealand. He was completely out of touch with the New Zealand viewers and our unique tastes, for having already lost some regional identity under networking, we now began to lose our national identity – that is, programming decisions based on overseas trends. We didn’t need overseas trends dammit – we had our own. But they have inundated us with these types of schedules ever since and beaten us down. They’ve forced overseas trends upon us until a new generation (that’s most of you) rises that knows no other trend. They’ve changed the trend to that of overseas behaviour deliberately.

 

Anyway, in light of all this, poor TV3 didn’t stand a chance. With all the good programming monopolised by TVNZ, and horrendous delays including ones of their own before transmission finally began which probably cost them a fortune, plus, in fairness to TVNZ, bad programming decisions on TV3’s part including not gauging the average New Zealand viewer themselves by also relying on overseas trend (and the idea of head to head news at that early stage was also a bad move), they went into receivership within five months. It was a disaster. It took them years to recover.

 

And to add salt to TV3’s wounds, government policy changed. They suddenly announced an auction of frequencies that would be sold to the highest bidder. I mean, good grief! Why didn’t they do that about five years beforehand and save TV3 and others a lot of time, money and tribulation through the tribunal process?

 

Anyway, here’s my point. The innocence has been lost. The fun has been lost. The simplicity and the focus have been lost. Sometimes I think it would’ve been better if they’d simply kept the old NZBC channel as it was and maybe created another in the same mould. But they mistakenly felt it necessary to change…and change…and change. I think I’d like to go back in a time machine to about 1967 and just watch a TV for a while, viewing of which would include some “lost” TV shows and episodes that have been permanently destroyed from the archives, never to be seen again.

 

And so to the present. Now we have several channels, including some regional ones though I have to say it doesn’t feel the same somehow. Viewership is fractured. Our attention is fractured. It’s harder to concentrate on one thing at a time, don’t you think? And the programs that we watch, do we enjoy them the same? Do we still live “in the moment” of the current program or is a part of us impatiently waiting for the next one, or are concerned we might be missing something better on another channel? Which brings us back to Attention Deficit Syndrome.

 

So tell me. Do you suffer from ADS? Do you feel overloaded with choice? Do you have trouble concentrating on one thing at a time? Will the advent of Freeview digital make things worse, or better, or make no real difference at all? Let us know.

 

Author: Rusty Viewer

Dated: June 2006

 

 

In spite of most shows now being filmed in widescreen, why are several of them being shown as 4:3 on Freeview? Is this some sort of cost-cutting measure?

This shows I’ve noted that are doing this include:

TV2 – Two and a Half Men (only when repeated?), The Amazing Race, Tyra

TV3 – Project Runway, America’s Next Top Model, Models Of The Runway

C4 – South Park

Any other shows you know about where this is happening?

 

 

 

I’m puzzled why reruns of Two and a Half men on Wednesdays and Fridays are inconsistent in display. Wednesday’s reruns are in 4:3 and Friday’s are widescreen. But – and here’s the kicker – the widescreen reruns on Fridays are from season 2 but the 4:3 reruns on Wednesday are from a LATER season. What gives?

Don’t you think that after 20 years of competition that TVNZ might have grown up a bit? Well, apparently not.

I’ve been looking at tonight’s listings on TV One and 2 and they’ve made some dramatic changes to their ususal overnight lineup. On TV One is a blockbuster movie followed by a couple of comedy marathons into the early hours (instead of the ususal BBC World) and on TV2 they have blockbuster movies all night! Competition is one thing but this is TELETHON.

I remember the earlier days of telethon when it was nationwide community thing, and a time when competitive channels (the friendly competition between TV 1 & 2 in the 70s) put aside their usual squabbles to share their celebrities in one great big charity effort. But not any more.

The big exception to this was, when TVNZ ran the 1990 telethon, they wouldn’t allow fledging channel TV3 to play, though TV3 offered. There were so many complaints about TVNZ’s arrogant attitude over this whole issue that year that the last telethon, in 1991, involved all channels once again.

Maybe the problem is TV3 didn’t invite anyone else to the party, I don’t know. But these TVNZ programming moves appear to be beyond normal competitiveness but are instead, IMO, an attempt at some kind of revenge, to sabotage telethon as a failure, sink it out of existence, so the state broadcasters can then point the finger and say “See, we told you telethons don’t work anymore.”

It also struck me as suspicious the sudden changes to the 4:30pm line ups on TV2 in the last couple of weeks to blockbuster, high-star family movies. Would this be when TV3 was using its afternoon show to generate interest in telethon money-making activities?

As regards to TVNZ news, to the best of my knowledge, not one iota of a mention has been made about, what in the past, has been a major news event.

I haven’t followed Prime news enough to know if they’ve made any mention of it – could someone let me know. But at least Prime haven’t made such sweeping, albeit temporary, program changes.

I’m afraid, therefore, that this telethon will not be as it was. Nationwide it may be, but within a niche. Until TVNZ gets off its stupid high horse over this kind of thing, and all channels can learn to at least declare a cease-fire for one 24 hour period, any telethon will always lack what it once had – a united nation of communities and celebrities all in agreement, focused on one charitable cause, and having an immense amount of unmitigated fun along the way.