Radiation by Fiona Rae

Banging on

$38 million is a lot of money for sure. You’d get around nine series of the Insiders Guide to Happiness out of that and they might even be able to afford an apostrophe.

For that $38m – which is TVNZ’s dividend to its one shareholder, the government – you’d get at least 70 series of Eating Media Lunch. It makes you wonder what the they’re waiting for doesn’t it? Paul Norris wondered in this opinion piece in the Herald too: “Should not TVNZ be using this money to make more and better New Zealand programmes?” he asks. “TVNZ thinks so; the Minister of Broadcasting, Steve Maharey, says there will be negotiations.”

It sounds so simple, but I don’t think it is (and if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I’ve banged on about this before). TVNZ would probably love the money, just as the idea was once floated that TVNZ should get all the NZ On Air money. Thankfully, that idea seems to have died in a ditch somewhere, shot down by the independent sector which sees it as very dangerous indeed.

The sector really doesn’t want TVNZ to be the gatekeeper of all television production – effectively, it would make Tony Holden, TVNZ’s general manager of commissioning and production, the most powerful man in the industry. Quite possibly, he is already. In a speech at last year’s Spada conference, the Gibson Group’s Dave Gibson made it very clear why he thought TVNZ shouldn’t get all the NZ On Air money, namely that the independent sector should have available to it a number of funding doors and if the NZ On Air funding went away, overnight TV3 would pull out of local production, immediately closing two doors. He believed that in-house production by TVNZ would also be a threat to the independent sector.

In an interview I did with Tony Holden last year for the Listener, he pooh-poohed the idea, saying that TVNZ doesn’t have the in-house facilities to produce drama and that independent producers would always be used by TVNZ. A year later, we’ve seen bugger-all drama, except for the Insiders Guide – made by the Gibson Group incidentally – but we have seen more documentaries and lifestyle programmes made by independent producers, Eating Media Lunch, for example.

Holden was forthright about TV3 however. This didn’t make it into the story, but in my transcript he asked: “NZ On Air’s investment into TV3 – does that money come back into the pool, with a dividend to the government, or does it go to CanWest in Canada?” The answer is, of course, that if TV3 didn’t receive NZ On Air funding, they’d hardly make any local programmes at all – that’s funding that wouldn’t go to producers/directors/writers/lowly 3ADs and runners. I’m sure you know someone in this category who is enjoying a sporadic career in the film or television industry. Caterina De Nave, head of drama at TV3, said in another interview I did:

“We would be making some local, but we would be making a different kind of local. We make very broad local now, broadly across the range of genres. We couldn’t afford to do drama. It costs millions and we couldn’t afford to do it.”

TV3 has recently been funded for Outrageous Fortune, a series about a Westie family.

So what should happen to the money? I think I’d rather see it go to the government and then see NZ On Air get a whole lot more funding to play with. It’s a system that works pretty well (nothing’s perfect you know). In the meantime, the industry awaits a review of broadcasting funding across the board.

Good news everyone: TV1 is going to play Angels in America, the series starring Meryl Streep and Al Pacino that won all the Emmys. Starts 7 November. In other good news, Mike King is finishing soon. I’d been maintaining a professional interest in it (switching over after Sex and the City actually), but I swear I can’t take any more. He was so offensive the other night when he had Erika Takacs, Louise Wallace and Fiona McDonald on, you could just see them gritting their teeth and thinking “this is 20 minutes of my life I’m never getting back.” Rule number one, Mike: don’t insult your guests. Rule number two: when your guests are women, don’t talk about tits.

A couple of interesting things: Henry Rollins is doing his own film show. Wonder if anyone’s given him that hug yet? If you scroll down in this story, it claims that Survivor producer Mark Burnett has done a death with Martha Stewart for an Apprentice-style show. It would be huge wouldn’t it? She’s obviously a mean bitch and like Tupac and Snoop Dogg she’s done time man.

Comedian Jon Stewart has a show on Comedy Central called the Daily Show, which is a kind of faux news/talk show. He recently appeared on CNN’s right-wing talk show Crossfire, called one of the presenters a dick and asked them to “stop hurting America”. It’s pretty good watching, downloadable from ifilm.com. Stewart then has a couple of things to say about the exchange.