Good Night, John Campbell & Good Luck, New Zealand!

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It’s been a hard few months for my heroes.

In March one of my biggest literary heroes, Sir Terry Pratchett, succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease.

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Sir Terry was an evil genius of the highest comical order. The humour, pace, nuance, underlying morals and sheer brilliance of his Discworld books far surpass almost anything else in print.

When he announced that his brilliant mind was beginning to cloud and that he wanted to go out on his own terms, rather than let “this embuggerance of a disease” waste him away, I was shocked. Not on his stance on assisted suicide, but merely having some naïve hope that he would always be around – and his memory and works will be. It’s just so sad that we lost the man himself before his time.

Not Fade

April saw the one year commemoration of my Dad’s death.

And, just yesterday, it was announced that my journalistic / media hero, John Campbell, was leaving TV3 and his show, Campbell Live, would be no more.

It appeared as though Mediaworks, Campbell Live’s parent network, had tried to hide the cancelation announcement behind coverage of the government’s annual budget.

They failed MISERABLY!

After the outpouring of anger at the announcement Campbell Live was “under review” – due to poor ratings – by Mediaworks, the show’s “almighty ratings” soared. Yet it still wasn’t enough for the network’s executives.

TV3’s Mark Jennings claimed Campbell jumped of his own free will and wasn’t pushed.

Bullshit.

With almost Pratchett-level comic timing, on the same day that the bell tolled for John Campbell’s television show, the two lame-horse-race that is the “New Zealand Radio Awards” was honouring the host of Campbell Live’s direct network, content, moral and political leaning competition, Mike Hosking, with their “Best Talk Presenter” and “Sir Paul Holmes Broadcaster of the Year” awards.

At the same awards Hosking’s Newstalk ZB workmate, Leighton Smith, was awarded best talkback presenter and honoured for his “outstanding contribution to radio”.

Just what are the criteria for these awards again? The level of competition can’t be very high considering New Zealand broadcasting’s self-inflicted circumstances.

This “award winning network” is the same one whose “award winning announcers” have been publicly criticised for inferring, if not blatantly, outright flaunting political and socio-economical biases.

It’s not uncommon, to hear these “award winning announcers” use term like “Loony Left” and my personal favourite “Fellow Travellers” – because these utterances show just how behind the times, how close-minded, how biased and pre-historic their mind-sets are.

In what sort of depraved world do these sorts of egomaniac fossils deserve awards, but a person and show that helps raise over $800,000 for under-privileged children deserves cancelation??!!

Maybe it’s because John Campbell is too grounded, too humble?

Or maybe by helping the poor and under-privileged, he’s just too “Liberal”?

History is repeating once again. It is returning to an earlier, equally dark time in broadcasting.

During the 1950’s, when Cold War paranoia was just getting warmed up so to speak, those with views that were too “social” / “socialist” or “liberal” were ostracised and persecuted.

Those in the media were a particular target for the fear they could spread their apparent “Anti-American” sentiments.

Hardly “Land of the free, home of the brave” stuff…

One of this movement’s most vocal proponents, Senator Joseph McCarthy was taken to task by broadcaster Edward R. Murrow on the matter – Much like John Campbell took National MPs to task (when they actually fronted on his show.)

In Murrow’s case, sanity prevailed and McCarthy was consigned to history, quite rightly, as a bit of a nut-case.

This time round, we don’t appear to have been so lucky.

Here’s a speech Murrow made to the Radio and Television News Directors Association in 1958 – over half a century ago:

“This might just do nobody any good. At the end of this discourse, a few people may accuse this reporter of fouling his own comfortable nest, and your organization may be accused of having given hospitality to heretical and even dangerous ideas. But the elaborate structure of networks, advertising agencies, and sponsors will not be shaken or altered. It is my desire if not my duty to try to talk to you journeymen with some candor about what is happening to radio and television, and if what I say is responsible, I alone am responsible for the saying of it.

Our history will be what we make of it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes of one week of all three networks, they will there find, recorded in black and white and in color, evidence of decadence, escapism, and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable, and complacent. We have a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information – our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses, and recognize that television, in the main, is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture, too late”

Edward R. Murrow

You can’t tell me that’s not just as poignant and relevant today as it was back then!

Ka kite anō, Campbell Live!

Good night and good luck , New Zealand!

Let's NOT repeat the darkest days of McCarthyist broadcasting!

Let’s NOT repeat the darkest days of McCarthyist broadcasting!

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