It's not unusual these days for the chief executive of a television company to be new to broadcasting. Rick Ellis came from an IT background to head TVNZ. His protege Jason Paris, a marketing guy, had only two or three years at TVNZ before becoming CEO of Mediaworks TV. And Jim Mather, the widely-respected CEO of Maori television, is an accountant and former army officer.
As Steve Kilgallon noted recently in a Fairfax profile of Ellis' successor at TVNZ, Kevin Kenrick, Kenrick has been relatively shy about talking to the media since he was hired last May, declining interviews about television "until I know more about it."
It's understandable Kenrick, whose background includes senior executive roles at Telecom and the House of Travel and the lead marketing role at Lion Breweries, would want to get his thoughts in order before sharing them. (Although he did talk to Throng last year.) His is literally a very political role -- one that requires him to answer not only to his own board, but to a Parliamentary select committee. Other media have an interest in TVNZ that goes beyond simple business reporting.
And no one has been harsher than former television professionals. In a lacerating blog post last month, titled Crossing the Rubicon, (I'm not sure if that was really the metaphor she was after) Janet Wilson accused Kenrick and senior executives Andrew Shaw and Jeff Latch of of meddling where they had no place in the embattled Seven Sharp. (It seems only fair to note that TVNZ news and current affairs has not exactly been a heathy editorial operation itself in recent years. It could be argued that it needed shaking up by some hand.)
But, anyway, he's talking and he has accepted our invitation to come on Media3 this week. His personal commitments tomorrow mean we'll have to begin recording an hour earlier than usual, at 5pm. So if you want the live preview, we'll need you to come to the Villa Dalmacija ballroom, 10 New North Road, by 4.45pm at the latest. (Regulars, we can still let you in after that for the panel discussion.)
We'll be reviewing the current crop of current affairs shows with former TVNZ deputy head of news and current affairs, and the founding director of Al Jazeera English's Asia bureau, Trish Carter, and Joe Nunweek, whose magnificently-titled My Life in the Bush of Hosts on The Pantograph Punch provided one of the more able critiques of Seven Sharp.
It's customary to complain about a lack of commitment from television to current affairs programming, but right now there is quite a buffet set out for news grazers: 3rd Degree and Seven Sharp have a mandate to try new things and the resources to do so, Campbell Live continues its run of form, Native Affairs began strongly last week with new host Mihingarangi Forbes and Face Television's Citizen A and The Beatson Interview are attracting attention. It also easy to forget that we still have, Sunday on TV One, 20/20 on TV2 and 60 Minutes on Prime, pursuing more familiar formats, and that Susan Wood is back on screen as host of Q+A.
Personally, I'm more interested in the fact that a pretty stale orthodoxy in the format of TV current affairs is being shaken up a little than that some of those attempts at shaking up haven't immediately worked out. We'll also have some video of TV3's 3rd Degree spin-off The Vote (a live debate format in which Linda Clark will play the role of "referee"), whose dress rehearsal I'll be attending tonight.
I, for one, am not about to complain about having plenty to talk about.