Media interest in public interest media: #SaveCampbellLive

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By Carolyn Skelton.

One interesting aspect of the SaveCampbellLive demonstrations today throughout NZ, was the amount of media coverage of them.

Rally save Campbell Live K Rd April 2015
Protesters gather at the corner of Karangahape Road and Symonds Street, Auckland.

I have been on much larger protests (ones against the TPPA for instance) that have got far less attention. (Anti-TPPA campaigner, Professor Jane Kelsey was present among the small crowd at Auckland’s SaveCampbellLive rally today). As mainstream news articles have stated, the couple of hundred protesters today in Auckland were tooted by a large number of passing vehicles – all kinds of vehicles, buses, trucks, private cars, commercial vehicles.(Stuff Report here.)

A Māori TV crew were present from the beginning of the march, and covered the march along Symonds Street, to the Media Works Studios on New North Road.

Ruth Crichton speaks to crowd
Ruth Crichton speaks to crowd outside MediaWorks

The march was organised by a student at Unitec, Ruth Crichton.  Her lecturer, John Stansfield was also at the protest, reminding onlookers that Campbell live had given some pretty significant critical coverage to the awfulness of Zero Hour Contracts.  Speakers and protesters frequently pointed to the importance of public interest news and current affairs coverage for democracy.  Many lamented the fact that Campbell Live is one of the last bastions in NZ of such mainstream media coverage.

Stansfield noted that it wasn’t the mainstream media that broke the ponytail story.  One of the protest chants was “Speak truth to Power: save Campbell Live”.

David Beatson speaking at protest
David Beatson speaking at the protest

In his speech, David Beatson continued the theme of the importance of public interest media for democracy.  He ended by saying ‘Save John Campbell”.  This implies that if Campbell Live is not saved, there needs to be a future for Campbell elsewhere.

John Drinnan reports that RNZ is interested in taking Campbell should his TV3 programme not be saved.  Drinnan states that Campbell has said he is not in talks with another broadcaster.

Lisa Owen, whose TV3 programme, The Nation has been strongly criticised for almost no coverage of the Campbell Live issue, came out to observe the protest at Media Works, smartphone in hand (see for instance Bradbury’s critique of The Nation).. She did give this protest a fair amount of exposure by tweeting her video of John Campbell talking to the demonstrators.

Maori TV and Lisa Owen
Māori TV & Lisa Owen watch protest outside MediaWorks

Drinnan points out that Labour also made political appointments to broadcasters.  But such an appointment is only part of the current speculations.  There are accusations of possible politically-motivated interference by such an appointee with respect to programming.  And these concerns occur in a context in which there has been an extensive erosion erosion of public interest media under John key’s watch.  The mediascape is now thoroughly dominated by commercial imperatives.  The potential axing of Campbell Live is thus part of a significant moment in our media history – one that could take a turn for the worse… or maybe the betterment of us all?  Perhaps that is why there is so much media attention to the Save Campbell Live protests.

As Beatson said, Campbell Live (and public interest media’s importance) is not about delivering eyeballs to advertisers, but about its contribution to democratic debate.

Funds had been raised to produce a video to be included in one of Campbell Live’s ad spots tonight.  However, an organiser at the protest said TV3 would not broadcast it so they were going to put it online.  They hope it will go viral.

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Carolyn is committed to economic and social justice. She has researched and taught in film, TV and media studies, sociology and gender studies. Carolyn is actively interested in local history, and its impact on the present and future. Carolyn currently works part time as a research librarian in Auckland Libraries, which is part of Auckland Council. The views, analysis, and opinions she expresses on this site are her own, and not those of Auckland Council.

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