Campbell Live should have moved with the times, pundits say
A co-presenter or a change in format might have saved Campbell Live from a "fickle" public, media pundits say.
Like it did with Helen Clark's Government, the public may just have become tired of John Campbell, Canterbury University broadcast journalism tutor and former TVNZ and Holmes journalist Jo Malcolm said.
"I think it's interesting people get up in arms about this but the ratings have been going down for a while, so are they actually watching the show?
"Ratings matter, and if all these people were watching maybe he wouldn't be facing the axe. If he had taken on a co-presenter or changed the format, it could have made a difference."
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It would be a sad day for investigative journalism if the show ended, but the 7pm slot was incredibly competitive - especially if people had been viewing the news on their devices all day, she said.
"I'm not surprised to be honest, I had heard this was in the wings for a while and it's no secret that the big bosses weren't fans of Campbell. I think it's sad, and I think it's sad for this kind of advocacy current affairs. He really did take issues and push them, and he was the voice for people who didn't have one."
With the announcement on Thursday that Campbell Live is to be reviewed, sources close to the programme say it comes as no surprise given the "toxic," atmosphere at Mediaworks over the past several months.
Public address blogger and media commentator Russell Brown said chief executive Mark Weldon and board member Julie Christie are not fans of the broadcast journalist, and had made their feelings known. "The atmosphere in the building is not good, with Weldon and Christie on one side and news on the other. There's quite a conflict there."
In an unusual step, reality television producer Christie was on the board as well as being part of the management team. "It is a slightly unusual position, but it obviously shows the esteem in which she is held there. They are very much set on this strategy of event television - big shows like The Block and The X Factor - which allows them to build advertising into the programmes."
Asked if the review had anything to do with Campbell Live clashing with the political outlooks of Mediaworks bosses, spokeswoman Rachel Lorimer said "absolutely not."
"The review is being undertaken to improve commercial performance of the 7pm TV3 time-slot in a changing television market."
There had been no political pressure on the show, she said.
Mediaworks was proud of its investigative journalism, displayed by its plans to broadcast slot 3D Investigates within 3D (formerly 3rd Degree), she said.
"While NZ on Air is supporting the 3D Investigates strand, the majority of the funding for 3D is provided by MediaWorks as a commercial entity."
She did not answer questions about whether the public petition would make a difference to the review, if the decision was purely ratings driven, what public response Mediaworks had received, and what replacement shows were being considered.
Weldon was unavailable for comment.
Campbell Live reporter Ali Ikram said he was not able to comment. "We're involved in a confidential process so far in terms of looking at the show and tossing ideas back and forth and those kinds of things."
Asked whether the team had any indication the review was imminent, and how they felt about the outpouring of support for the show, Ikram said: "It's not a great time for me to comment...I'm in the middle of an employment process so I really can't help sorry."
Producer Pip Keane did not return calls.
In a statement earlier, Mediaworks said there was no truth to rumours the Jono and Ben show would replace Campbell Live.
"This seems to be based on a fabrication by the Herald and has unfairly led to significant negativity towards Jono Pryor, Ben Boyce and the rest of the Jono and Ben team....Jono and Ben had never once been mentioned in any MediaWorks management forum, discussion or document as a possible replacement for Campbell Live."
NZ on Air last week announced funding for a new investigative journalism strand within 3rd degree, named 3D investigates. The $567,000 of taxpayer funding would pay for 10 half an hour segments.
Spokeswoman Allanah Kalafatelis said it had never been asked to fund Campbell Live.
"The issue with Campbell Live is one of ratings and that's not something public money can fix. We are focused on specialist current affairs (mostly through the Platinum Fund) and funding a nightly current affairs is programme is currently outside our funding ability.
"We are open to good ideas but would need to understand a broadcasters strategy in this space before we would consider it."
Campbell has worked in broadcasting since 1989, following a stint as a share trader. He began reporting for TV3 in 1991 and became a weekday anchor in 1998. Campbell Live was launched in 2005.
Former New Zealand stock exchange boss Weldon was named as Mediaworks chief executive in August. He has no media background. Weldon owns and runs Terra Sancta, a Central Otago winery, in conjunction with his wife and business partner, Sarah Eliott. A former Olympic swimmer, his celebrityspeakers.co.nz profile also lists him as having worked as an attorney in New York, and as a senior adviser to Fortune 500 company CEOs for McKinsey & Company. He was awarded a Queens Service Order in 2012 for services to business for leading the Government's job summit and its Christchurch Appeal Fund.
The reality television doyenne is a Mediaworks board executive and also acting manager of TV and video strategy. She set up her own production company, Touchdown Productions, in 1991, and quickly became New Zealand's biggest producer of reality television - with hits including My House My Castle, DIY Rescue, Treasure Island, and Game of Two Halves. She sold Touchdown to Eyeworks in a multi-million dollar deal, staying on as CEO there until 2012. Christie was made Officer of The New Zealand Order of Merit for services to film and television.