TVNZ News Falls Over, Did Anyone Notice?

January 27, 2018
2 mins read

How is it that the news can black-out for 30 minutes and there are no shockwaves and no obvious consequences? PAT PILCHER has his say.


You’d be forgiven for being mildly surprised and perhaps even slightly bored by news that TVNZ’s 6pm bulletin fell over recently because of an electrical fire. Viewers who’d tuned in were greeted by an on-screen graphic saying technical problems meant that they’d be back, and that was it.

This sad saga points to the woeful state of state funded media in New Zealand. When our national broadcaster cannot air a news bulletin because one of its studios gets knocked out something is very wrong indeed.

TVNZ have studios in Wellington and Christchurch as well as Auckland, yet they couldn’t get the news bulletin back up and running. They say this was because they couldn’t get the bulletin happening from elsewhere in less than 30 minutes.

So, what they’re really saying is that they’ve become so over-reliant on their Auckland studios that they cannot air a news bulletin from another location?

This points to the much bigger issue of TVNZ representing New Zealand in name only. An honest re-branding should see them trading as TV Auckland. That the bulk of their funding comes from the two-thirds of NZ’s population who live outside of Auckland is salt thrown into an already gaping wound.

Then there’s the question of why they couldn’t switch to another studio and run an emergency version of the 6pm bulletin. They say it would take more than 30 minutes to do this, but surely, they’d have contingency plans in place for such an event? It isn’t like they’re a tinpot third world broadcaster held together with rubber bands and sticky tape. Then again….

TVNZ frequently run vision and sound from other remote locations, so how hard is it to get news airing from another studio?

Having worked briefly in the Wellington TVNZ newsroom, I can say that there used to be some very capable journalists who could have easily run an emergency version of the 6pm bulletin. Sadly, since then TVNZ has gutted its non-Auckland operations and let a cost-cutting mentality run rampant. From a technical standpoint, all the equipment needed to switch vision and audio from Auckland to Wellington or Christchurch is still in place, it’s just that there’s hardly any people left to run it outside of Auckland.

The Aucklandisation of New Zealand’s media has been underway for quite some time. Successive governments from both sides of the political spectrum have treated TVNZ and Radio NZ as petty cash tins, and now it looks like Radio NZ is the latest state funded broadcaster to be given the move- to-Auckland treatment.

Saddest and perhaps most telling of all, many Kiwis remained blissfully unaware that their national broadcaster had fallen over until they read about it much later. Some newspapers carried the story. Some even rated it higher than stories about a pimple found in one of the Kardashian’s armpits. The reality is that few of us even give a shit.

When did TVNZ become so irrelevant? Could it be that outside of their core Auckland market there just isn’t enough content aimed at Kiwis living beyond the Bombay hills? Perhaps a kinder view is that a rapidly growing number of us are going online and getting our entertainment and news fix elsewhere. Either way, TVNZ needs to start lifting its game and acting like it really represents NZ. Netflix, Amazon and dare I say it, piracy means that political meddling, incompetence combined with equal measures of arrogance could see our state broadcasters left with no audiences as everyone migrates online, and that could spell their demise. Trouble is, once they’re gone, we’ll all be poorer for their loss.

Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

1 Comment

  1. The answer is a simple one. The National government abolished the public broadcasting charter and then proceeded to wreck TVNZ.

    People should have gone to jail for vandalism on that scale, but they didn’t.

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