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CBB gets back in the game

The Coalition for Better Broadcasting (CBB) has launched its website, giving it a less ephemeral point of contact for those who don’t frequent Facebook. Sensibly, the launch is accompanied by a recruitment drive – join for free, for $20, for more if your wallet’s a bit heavy this week.

The organisation, originally formed as Save TVNZ 7, has lost a lot of steam and profile – at least in the public eye – since the demise of TVNZ 7 on 30 June 2012. That was understandable and the campaigns’ leaders have done well to continue on. Single issue campaigns (and campaigners) often run out of energy once there’s a resolution to the issue around which people came together to support or oppose, for better or worse.

During the original campaign, many ideas were floated as to how to save TVNZ 7, alternatives were proposed, several people with considerable profile within the industry were drafted in to create or support various options. It was a hard sell beyond the industry and the latte-sipping twitterati along Ponsonby Road.

TVNZ 7 offered intelligent, thought-provoking, entertaining and educational fare – and that was its main problem.

The quality of TVs has improved in recent years ... not so much the content, argues the CBB Image: Evert F. Baumgardner

The quality of TVs has improved in recent years … not so much the content, argues the CBB

Image: Evert F. Baumgardner

Regardless of the argument over the erroneous viewer numbers the then Minister for Broadcasting Jonathan Coleman trotted out to support its view that the channel should not continue, TVNZ 7 was always a bit smart-arsey. It delivered few belly laughs, little sport, plenty of static camera shots lasting more than three seconds, hardly any naked flesh or rap music, and no adverts whatsoever.

In short, it offered absolutely bugger all that a young TV viewer has been weaned to expect from a remote.

If that seems patronising, here’s the lead from an article in today’s Herald

Forget cinematography, editing, directing and all that boring stuff those other movie awards think are so important.
It’s the MTV Movie Awards today…

The MTV Awards includes gongs for Best Kiss, Scared-as-S*** Performance, Shirtless Performance and #WTF Moment.

WTF indeed.

In the two years leading up to the demise of TVNZ 7, TVNZ was all about the youth. It killed off kids channel 6 almost a year before its funding expired to replace it with youth channel U and was full steam ahead developing its online strategies. U has since been abandoned. Commercially successful online strategies for media organisations remain few and far between.

One Network News newsreader Angela D'Audney in 1982 drama The Venus Touch

One Network News newsreader Angela D’Audney in 1982 drama The Venus Touch

The old folk, those most likely to pine for plummy-accented newsreaders and commentary not soundbites, those most likely to tune into 7, were being pushed off TVNZ’s radar. TV One’s preferred viewers fall into the 25 – 54 demographic. During the campaign to save 7, it was suggested more than once that those numbers might refer to IQ as much as age.

Towards the end of the fight to retain TVNZ 7, when it had become clear that the fight would be lost, the campaign leaders took aim at a larger target and flagged a shift to the aim of achieving “better broadcasting”.

It’s the opposite of the clear, single-issue aim of “Save TVNZ 7”. The Campaign for Better Broadcasting is an undefined and undefinable aim, although it is aspirational. The marketers should be able to do something with that.

Whether the campaign will be able to focus on more positive message of seeking something “better” is not clear. TVNZ makes an easy target, “more crassly commercial than the privately owned TV3” according to the CBB. It’s easier to attack something, and it usually generates more media coverage.

This year being an election year, the CBB should find friends and media coverage reasonably easy to come by. Opposition parties will seek to attack the National government’s record to try to gain votes and there’s little to be lost by associating with opposition parties. Regardless of any financial constraints on its activities in government, National remains ideologically opposed to the concept of public service broadcasting.

Victoria University’s much-respected media studies lecturer Dr Peter Thompson chairs the CBB board, along with a number of people whose day jobs do or did involve TV production and broadcast. They include former producer and director Chris Cooper; ex-MP, producer and director Sue Kedgley; and social media guru and graphic designer Chris Parry.

Director Myles Thomas (Mitre 10 Dream Home, Sensing Murder), who led the Save TVNZ 7 campaign, continues as CEO.

Given the broad remit, the CBB has a list of 10 more specific intentions, top of which is to try to persuade government to lift the freeze on funding for Radio NZ, the focus of today’s CBB media release.

The CBB website is here.

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