Cracker by Damian Christie


ALTered States

Unlike some people, I might not get invited to the awards ceremonies these days, but it's still nice to hear (via Russell's blog) that we've won the Netguide Awards. So 'thanks' to everyone who voted for us.

Last week I floated the idea of shutting down Comalco's Tiwai Pt smelter as a way to solve our energy crisis, and as often happens around here, I was impressed by the responses I got, pointing out the various holes in my argument. Most notably, it would seem, even if Comalco stop using the power (which they get at a cut-rate price, thanks to some smart negotiating way back when), there's not really any way to get it to Auckland. Which clearly, is all I'm worried about.

In a case of 'be careful what you wish for', now Comalco's people are talking about just that – shutting down if the Government goes ahead with its Emissions trading programme. One the one hand the company is talking about the loss of thousand of jobs to the region, on the other, they're threatening to take all the skilled workers overseas with them. So which is it? And if they're skilled in running an aluminium smelter, and we close down our only one, are they really a loss to the labour market anyway?

I'm not denying it's going to cost the country jobs, or money. But you know what I say to a company that receives cheap power, doesn't pay tax here, takes the profits overseas, and now says it doesn't want to pick up the tab for its pollution?

Fuck 'em.

If we're going to try and do something to save the planet –and I'm one of those freaky people who reckon it probably does need saving– we can't kowtow to threats from big business. Of course they're going to say they'll close. Of course they're not going to accept extra costs to their business without making some noise. And if they end up going to China, well so be it. We should no more be trying to undercut China in environmental terms than we should offer cheaper labour.

I follow with some interest, but mostly just amusement, the development of Alt TV's current affairs since Oliver Driver's been at the creative helm.

Typically, when Driver starts doing something, he blusters off a few press releases saying how he's going to show the mainstream media what-for, all other news is shit, get ready to see how real current affairs is done, and so forth. He said it when he teamed up with fellow conspiracy-nut Mikey Havoc for the ill-fated and inaptly-named Quality Time (once described by a mutual friend as "The Abu Ghraib of Television"). He said it when he joined Alt TV, and he said it once more for good luck when announcing his own interview show, Let's Be Frank.

The message ahead of last night's premiere of the Naked News Flash was altered somewhat (it's hard to pretend a topless stripper from Hamilton reading the news is 'how it should be'), but the tone was still there:

'We want to take the piss out of the news because the news is crap. Have you seen the news lately? Especially television news. It's Jin the missing otter, it's Nicky Watson's lost dog.' But Driver insists it's not going to be a joke. The news content will be 'robust'..."

Which is why the lead story last night was "Great tits do well in warm weather". It was about a breed of bird surviving climate change, but still.

Oliver Driver needs to get real, and be honest with himself. He's putting a woman with a bad boob-job on TV and getting her to stumble through poorly written scripts with about as little animation as her breasts. Driver might be a smart guy, but we're not stupid either, and it's pretty clear what the point of the show is. He's not making some brilliantly ironic point about how crap other news is, he's putting tits on TV, as Cate Brett put it in the SST last week:

It's just a shame Driver feels obliged to offer some deeper justification for his naked news stunt, suggesting it is some sort of ironic comment on the woeful and debased nature of the modern commercial news bulletin.

What he also needs to realise, is TV news isn't all "Jin the otter and Nicky's lost dog." For a start, Jin the otter was 2 years ago now. A quick look at some 6pm news stories from the last couple of days: A great story last night (watch it here if you haven't already) on a couple of small-town dairies happily selling vital ingredients for making P – and in at least one case, doing so knowingly; Vast amounts of coverage of the tragedy in Myanmar (including hidden camera work across the border from TV3's Mike McRoberts); the election run-offs in Zimababwe; the Government's buy-back of the railways; the Greens new list candidates; Comalco's potential closure; the closure of PPCS; Bob Clarkson not standing again in Tauranga... get the point. There might not be the number of stories about vapour trails, pharmaceutical cover-ups and a one world order led by reptilian shapeshifters to please some people, but it works for me. And not an otter in sight.

What's disappointing is that Driver is a smart guy, and you can see this in his interviews on "Let's Be Frank". But what he doesn't seem to realise, is talking to Peter Dunne for half an hour, (a FULL half hour, sans commercial breaks), is not ground-breaking current affairs. Especially when the lighting is bad, the audio appalling and the picture quality equally shoddy. Yes, these things do matter. (Mind you, I wouldn't want to watch Peter Dunne for half an hour non-stop even if it was in HD with dolby surround sound.)

Perhaps if Driver just kept his head down and honed his craft, one day someone (other than him) might turn around and say "Hey, that's some great current affairs he's got going there."

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