US election coverage lacks depth

Last updated 05:00 10/11/2012

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For the second time in two weeks much of our attention was focused on the east coast of the United States.

Last week was Superstorm Sandy; this week, the presidential election, with Barack Obama winning a second term.

This must have been the most [over] analysed election of all time. We had a choice of CNN, Fox, Sky, and the BBC, among others, as well as TV One and TV3 showing live specials with studio panels and a reporter or two in the United States.

In the end, we watched CNN, which had the quickest and most comprehensive coverage, even to the extent of having the Empire State building lit up with red and blue lights to reflect how their votes were going.

Bearing in mind that many readers don't have Sky TV, however, I recorded the live coverage of both TV One and TV3 to compare how they performed. It was a rerun of last week actually, with TV One giving a much better service.

The star of either network was undoubtedly Jack Tame, the US-based correspondent for One. A youthful-looking man, he has star written all over him and again it showed what a difference it makes to have someone permanently stationed in the States.

TV3 wheeled out Guyon Espiner to anchor its studio coverage in New Zealand, and for some reason the network thought the best way to complement him was to get a couple of expat Americans to offer their bit.

But the panel discussion was flatter than any pancake. We're no longer impressed by American accents and neither columnist Tracey Barnett nor Massey pro-Chancellor Ted Zorn offered much in the way of insights. To be fair, it's not that easy from over here, so why bother?

Mike McRoberts and rising star Patrick Gower were in the States, with McRoberts at Romney's base and Gower at Obama's. Neither looked entirely comfortable, although perhaps Gower had an excuse. In the end he admitted someone else from another network wanted his spot and he had to go. Interestingly, he also failed to last the distance with Rachel Smalley on Thursday morning, because a Polish television network wanted his spot as well.

They were used sparingly, with a lot of TV3's coverage coming from Sky. Overall it was unconvincing and felt as though we were getting secondhand information - and we were. Espiner's laid-back style didn't help and as soon as I switched to One, you could sense the presence, urgency and sheer excitement that host Simon Dallow managed to impart.

Former US correspondent Tim Wilson was a good foil for him, along with political scientist Jon Johanssen. Talking about the impact of social media on the election, "Twitter-holic" Wilson, as Dallow introduced him, memorably described Twitter as "like being in a room full of teenagers who are all drugged".

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To prove the point, there were lots of silly tweets and Facebook comments broadcast throughout the next hour which proved just how accurate that description was.

Again, it was TV One 10, TV3 0.

While on the subject of TV3: If you're going to secure the rights to show the Melbourne Cup live on free-to-air telly here, leave enough time to show the whole event. The actual race is obviously the main part of the transmission and TV3 wisely kept the input of its rugby commentator Hamish McKay to a minimum, preferring to use the impressive coverage provided by Australia's Channel 7.

But this was no ordinary Melbourne Cup - there were a couple of HRHs present - Prince Charles and Lady Camilla. They were honoured guests and she, having more equine characteristics than Chas, was to present the cup to the winner. It was only five minutes or so, but for those of us who watched TV3, we got about 45 seconds. Then on came Hamish to tell us that "Unfortunately we have to leave the Emirates Melbourne Cup there, with Home and Away coming up at 5.30". And that was it. A case of premature ejection if ever here was one.

One to look out for is the return of Nurse Jackie this coming week [TV3, 9.40pm] on Monday. Although we didn't continue to watch the first few series, mainly because it was hard to empathise with her when she was getting away with all the bad stuff she was doing. Mrs B reckoned she was effectively prostituting herself by giving Eddie the sleaze-ball pharmacist at the hospital of bit of nookie in return for some pills. Edie Falco (ex The Sopranos) is great in the lead role, but with her now having to face the consequences of her actions in this new series, it becomes a bit more equitable - and watchable.


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