Lack of TV satire a threat to democracy

04:33, Jun 27 2014

I had occasion yesterday to seek out some old episodes of Eating Media Lunch and I wish I hadn’t.

Not because they haven’t aged as well as I’d thought they’d might, but because it makes me mourn for the lack of quality satire on New Zealand television.

For those of us with extremely deep pockets there is Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on Soho, and for those of us with slightly less disposable income there is The Daily Show with John Stewart on the Comedy Channel.

And for those of us with an internet connection there are full versions of some of master UK satirist Charlie Brooker’s shows, including the phenomenal 2012 Wipe.

But this is an election year and both the main parties and the assorted smaller parties are ripe for lampooning.

It’s sad that the only decent satire by New Zealanders is online, like The Civilian and Neetflux and on Twitter feeds.


I believe satire is an essential part of democracy - the ability to hold up buffoons like Colin Craig, John Banks and the like to ridicule is a valuable tool to expose what the satirist believes to be worthy of criticism.

Unfortunately there are a couple of things, I believe, which stop the next Jeremy Wells from stepping up to the mark.

The first is Craig’s ability to threaten legal action against people who say things about him he doesn’t like, even if they’re clearly satirical.

The leader of the Conservative Party is the poster boy for satirists in this country - from his unwilling to take a position on the moon landings to his frankly ridiculous images of him lounging on grass in a suit - it’s easy meat for those with a satirical bent.

Unfortunately he’s also rich and this means people are often forced to back down than take a chance with the costly court system.

The second is that back in 2007 the New Zealand Parliament voted overwhelmingly (only six members of 121 MPs voted against) to ensure television footage shot in Parliament cannot be used to satirise, denigrate or ridicule MPs.

What a bunch of precious tossers!

They are paid out of the public purse - the least the public should be allowed to do is take the piss out of them - particularly when they spend a good amount of that time doing nothing except, it appears from my watching of proceedings, jeering at the opposition and shouting.

And is there anyone in New Zealand worse at their job than speaker David Carter? We’re paying him to be useless and we can’t use television images of him doing it to hold him up for ridicule.

Now there is a glint of hope on the horizon.

Wells, alongside Leigh Hart and Jason Hoyte, will be starring in The Late Night Big Breakfast, which starts on TV 1 on July 17th.

I’m pretty sure the former Newsboy can’t be tamed so I’m expecting biting takedowns of the usual faces.

But whether that’s the majority of the show or just a small part of a wider comedy show it’s not obvious yet.

I look forward to reviewing Late Night Big Breakfast in a few weeks. Until then it’s back to the internet I go.

P.S I heard a new book about John Key has just been released. How did they manage to write a whole book about his life when he seems to forget most of the important stuff?

P.P.S - I didn’t say I was good at satire.