For whom the gongs toll in TV land

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It was hard to argue with the judges of the Qantas TV and Film Awards the other day.

TV One hasn’t just dominated news and current affairs over the past year, it’s made all its
competitors – or at least both of them – look distinctly ordinary in comparison.

Say what you like about the Government broadcaster, but 11 out of 12 gongs ain’t bad.

None was more deserved than Q+A’s recognition as the country’s best current affairs series. The Sunday morning slot might still grate for some but the content has been undeniably substantial since it debuted in May.

If you can accept that you’ll never again need to watch One News on Monday and Tuesday evenings because of the content double-up, it’s well worth the investment.

For the second consecutive year, One News beat 3 News for the most coveted prize, Sunday beat 20/20 and 60 Minutes in the weekly current affairs category while also picking up the Investigation of the Year Award – and Close Up repeated the dose in the daily current affairs section, with its reporting team of Robyn Janes, Louisa Cleave and Corinne Ambler combining to win Journalist of the Year.

And just to cap things off nicely, TV One Breakfast host Paul Henry – the self-proclaimed “best in the business”, who only a week earlier had insisted he should have been given the Close Up hosting role ahead of Mark Sainsbury – was left squirming on his chair with nothing.

Which was kind of perfect really, given Henry’s stated reluctance to use public transport because “I hate thinking that other people’s arses have slid over the seat that I’m about to slide on”.

A couple of Scene spies said they found themselves wondering afterwards whether a decision not to award a prize to someone has ever been greeted so enthusiastically.

They reckoned Fair Go host Kevin Milne, who won Best News or Current Affairs presenter, was either the most popular man in the world or that the audience was simply overjoyed at the realisation they wouldn’t have to listen to Henry thanking himself.

For all that, the only genuinely bright note for TV One’s competition was when TV3’s Amanda Gillies was named Best News Reporter for her work covering the Victoria Bush Fires.

She was a worthy winner but the reality of the situation is unlikely to be lost on her employers: TV3 is dragging the chain.

It hasn’t kept up with its main rival in terms of news and is now well off the pace when it comes to current affairs. Revealingly, Campbell Live wasn’t shortlisted in any category.

With that in mind, and amid TVNZ’s ongoing celebrations, it will be interesting to monitor TV3’s reaction.

Former Holmes producer Pip Keane has recently been headhunted to replace long-time Campbell Live puppet-master Carol Hirschfeld and industry sources say changes can be expected – which is a good start.

But, as the Qantas judges seemed to suggest last week, the channel still has a long way to go.