Free-TV bosses waking up to world

Mike Hosking
Mike Hosking

Free-to-air telly continues its desperate struggle against Relevance Deprivation Syndrome.

In one breath TVNZ and TV3's bosses are talking about rejuvenating their audiences – in the next, they're betting the ranch on baby-boomers like Paul Henry, TV3's news and current affairs hope, and Mike Hosking, the magic bullet charged with saving the blushes of the flagging Seven Sharp on TV One.

If it is really thought that such frontmen would lure the youth audience, then it's a wonder the channels haven't gone the whole hog and recruited Vince Martin, who is still giving us his annual Christmas tyre songs more than 25 years on.

Reading between the lines, the thinking now is to restore the audience – any audience – and forget the yoof schtick.

Recent statistics show TV-viewing is declining, full stop. Even older viewers are relishing the internet's wares, as well as forsaking free TV for pay TV and DVDs.

For Seven Sharp, the sad reality seems to be that old-fashioned TV just can't do "cool", even when it tries really hard.

Young viewers will nominate their own favourite media figures, irrespective of the networks' dark arts, and chances are they won't be from either network, or even on an actual TV programme, but from the internet.

This is not being ageist. It's just the way of the world.

Media bosses are only just seeming to figure out that while they've been wasting their efforts on the younger demographic, they've been losing a chunk of the oldies on whose money the old-fashioned TV advertising income model is still founded.

Ads for cars, travel and the like are what's likely to keep network TV alive. Time to win back the baby-boomers, apparently.

It's a dead cert Hosking will restore some old-fashioned current affairs to TV One's evening mix.

He's too impatient an operator to sit at the Seven Sharp bench cracking pre-manufactured one-liners.

He's a great rapid-fire interviewer, and the ideal alternative to the emoting, right-on effusions of John Campbell on TV3.

Poor John has a further foil, in the form of Henry, who has never gone in for the, shall we say, industrial-strength empathy of Campbell Live.

But even given his polarising persona, Henry will be intent on demonstrating his interrogative skills.

His abrasive humour may not be everyone's cup of tea, but he's a seriously good interviewer.

So three good interviewers striving for our attention has to be good news for viewers – of any age.

Here's a faintly ridiculous thought: quality current affairs might over time have both the yoof and the fogey market tuning in regularly to old-fashioned TV.

Nothing else has worked, so intelligent content has got to be worth a try.


The Story of Science – Who are We? BBC Knowledge, 8.30pm

Science journalist Michael Mosley continues his voyage through the frontiers of human physiology and neurology, tonight traversing different medical disciplines' views of the brain.

The Dominion Post