The reaction of the mainstream media to the axing of Campbell Live was predictably superficial. No deep analysis nor compassion.
must include the almost constitutional – if only we had a constitution – role of independent media in a democracy. Do I give away my age when I remind you that the media were once called the Fourth Estate in our democratic system of government after the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. We even had a top shelf media focused TV program of the same name.
Independent media are ranked so highly because the central part of this balance of power system the legislature, that is the exercise of the will of the people through free elections of Parliament, relies on the people being informed and knowledgable about the issues and candidates. This information can only be delivered objectively and impartially by independent media.
According to neoliberal dogma this function of the media is best delivered – you guessed it – by the market. Competition in the television market will ensure that we get the information we are looking for. The list is long of what we should and want to be informed about like the effects of government policy on say child poverty, health, education or simple government abuse of power, secret service spying on citizens, secret ‘trade’ negotiations affecting our sovereignty.
With the demise of Campbell Live the only source of timely more in-depth information on television on these important issues is gone. Going to be replaced by entertainment focussing probably focussing on Kim Kardashian’s Arse.
In other bigger countries the media landscape might be diverse enough with niche channels giving you the information you want and need. In New Zealand with only two main television companies this choice is extremely limited if not non-existent if you regard the jokers Hoskins and Henry as the alternative.
This failure of the ‘market’ to deliver information , which holds the government to account is of course not acknowledged by our great leader. John Key is on record saying that Campbell Live’s primary role was to entertain rather than hold the Government to account.
Let’s make no mistake the lack of critical reporting on television is a sign of an authoritarian system. Just imagine our indignation if that were to happen in Rumania, Zimbabwe or Russia! However, it seems to be just fine for our neoliberal government with it’s hallmarks of secrecy (‘trade’ negotiations, GCSB, deployment of troops) and abuse of power (dirty politics, using the secret service to help a job application of a senior minister) to name only a few. What we have is a clear policy failure when television does not any longer fulfill in any meaningful way it’s crucial constitutional role in a democracy to hold power to account. However, it’s all part of the plan.
The compassion is not with John Campbell but the people he has given a human face. The people who are now without a voice. The victims of Pike River or the Canterbury earthquake; the children in decile one schools with empty lunch boxes; the child victims of the soul and community destroying school closure policies in the aftermath of the earthquake; the mother and true hero of a most recent report raising four children on two jobs coming home at midnight leaving her with less than 5 hours sleep every night; the victims of insurance companies’ actions or rather inactions; the kids with horrendously malformed teeth, who got life changing help through Campbell’s campaigning and even the wonderful people of Samoa getting their first All Black test match ever in their home country. They and many more will disappear from our screens and our minds.
The most disappointing aspect was the willingness of most of us to unquestionably accept bogus economic logic behind the move even if that was clearly an excuse and smokescreen. Ratings were never the issue as shown when ratings went up without any effect on a decision done for ideological political reasons.
However economic imperatives are used because they are sacrosanct these days. To question them is heresy. A convenient device to suffocate all discussion of the fundamentals of our economic system.
Nobody dares to say that “the market” i.e. ratings should not determine if we have a democracy in which voters can make an informed choice, that television news and TV current affairs are different to a can of baked beans. Nobody dares to say that we need public television funded by taxes as a costs of our democracy. Nobody dares to say that media ownership might come with social responsibility. The neoliberal dogma does not allow for such heretic thoughts as public good, social responsibility or even democracy.
I am not blaming the new overseas owners of TV3. They are not called a vulture fund for nothing. They do what they do without any loyalty or social conscience picking over the corpses in this case of MediaWorks.
The blame lies with neoliberal governments over the last 30 plus years who told us the well packaged web of lies. We must at least since the world economic crisis have realized that we have been fed bullshit with the biggest lie being that there is no alternative.
I blame us for having become docile and obedient under the onslaught of neoliberal propaganda. This again shows my age as you have to be truly on the wrong side of 50 to even remember a time when greed was not good.
Sorry John, Kim won pants down.
by Dr. Hans B. Grueber
Recommended reading: Positive news : Campbell Live is going – RadioNZ next