Hard News by Russell Brown

Going Live

The rumour is that Campbell Live has a killer story lined up for its launch programme on TV3 tonight - which is, of course, exactly the sort of rumour you'd want to be circulating at this juncture. Indeed, it's surprising how many media ventures have launched in the past year (Paul Holmes, the Herald on Sunday) without such a killer story.

It was certainly all the goss at TVNZ last week; spiced with the suggestion that the story was poached from 60 Minutes, where the team was a bit miffed. I have no idea what the story might be, but I guess it's not telling tales to report that John and Carol spent days in Dunedin a couple of weekends ago waiting for a key interview. Mark Jennings told me I'd find that story "interesting".

You can also expect to see a series of interviews from a preparatory road trip through New Zealand, Australia and the US strung out across the first two or three weeks of the programme. Personally, I'm encouraged by what I've been able to glean about the programme. Like John Campbell, I'm finding Close Up almost unbearably po-faced lately; sort of the North & South of early evening television.

Indeed, it would be a fine thing if Close Up ever displayed the pungent wit of the man in charge of it: TVNZ news chief Bill Ralston. I'm all for Ralston taking the opportunity to lord it a bit in the HoS yesterday. He has a lovely line in scorn, and, with 3 News taking a fairly sharp dip in audience share since the loss of the John and Carol Factor, he holds all the cards, for now. The subsequent telling off of the lot of them from the Prime Minister was quite funny.

On the other hand, I'm watching the flap over the televising of Parliament with a degree of bemusement: not least at the way that Rodney Hide, Winston Peters and Don Brash have been allowed to style themselves as defenders of freedom when all their parties were on the select committee that unanimously recommended the (ahem) "camera ban" in the first place. The background, I understand, is as follows:

A review of Parliament's Standing Orders was conducted by the Standing Orders Select Committee in 2003. It presented a report to the House in December that year. Its recommendations were unanimous and unambiguous. Members of that committee included representatives of New Zealand First (Peter Brown), Act (Richard Prebble), and National (Gerry Brownlee and John Carter). The select committee report reads:

The Parliamentary Press Gallery suggested to us that even if the in-house facility is established, television companies should still retain their free access to the Chamber to film proceedings. We consider this unacceptable. Having multiple sets of camera equipment in the galleries is physically intrusive. It has been tolerated only because the House has not produced its own feed until now. We are aware of no other Parliament that broadcasts its proceeding and, in addition, allows television companies to set up their own facilities in its galleries. We would not contemplate allowing that to continue once a feed is being provided to broadcasters.

So, attacks of amnesia notwithstanding, what is proposed is this: the job of providing a television feed of all Parliament's proceedings will be contracted out. There will be much more coverage of Parliament available than before, but individual news cameras will no longer be allowed. What won't change, as Tom Frewen pointed out in his Mediawatch comment yesterday, are the rules about the nature of coverage, which must focus on the debate at hand, rather than going for novelty or spectacle. This, of course, is a constraint on news organisations - and, it could be argued, an unfair one - but it actually has nothing to do with the new arrangement for collective coverage, as is provided in Australia, the UK and, well, most places.

In a column that has mysteriously disappeared even from the Google cache, John Armstrong ventured that National would be watching Sunday's One News Colmar Brunton poll with some trepidation - on the assumption that if it's not making ground now, it can't hope to close the gap on Labour in the six months before the election. Well, the news was pretty bad: in what is usually the friendliest of all the polls, National is down to 35% support and Labour up to 46%, wiping out National's gains in a promising poll last month. Labour will presumably feel it can manage a drop in economic confidence - and approval of its performance in government - given that, grumpy as they are, the people are even less inclined to see National as a solution.

More piercing wit from the Daily Show: this time on the White House's arrogant, insulting decision to propose Paul Wolfowitz as the new head of the World Bank. (On the basis, presumably, that he, er, has a bank account …). I see this as another episode in the war on expertise. I know that Hard News has in the past had readers at the World Bank - any anonymous comment on the mood inside the organisation is, of course, welcome.

BTW: Word emerging of a local take on the Daily Show (it had to happen), with Te Radar fronting …

And finally, people seem to be greatly enjoying The Expat Files. Volume 1, posted on Friday, is here, and I've added Volume 2 this morning. Probably two more to come … And I thought Rod Oram had a very good point to make talking to Linda Clark last week: that even working for a large company in New Zealand is likely to be a matter of being a skilled generalist rather than a narrow specialist. And that even if it means some sacrifice, being a skilled generalist has its distinct compensations. Yes, I reckon.