No tears over TV3 exit


TV3 boss Mark Jennings probably doesn’t see the impending departure of Campbell Live producer Carol Hirschfeld like I do.

Her leaving for the taxpayer-funded pastures of Maori TV could yet be a blessing in disguise – a win-win situation for both channels.

No disrespect to Hirschfeld. The one-time 3 News co-host hasn’t only established herself as one of the country’s slickest presenters but also as a highly successful producer of New Zealand’s longest-running current affairs programme.

She’s of Ngati Porou descent, speaks fluent Te Reo and will bring to Maori TV more than 20 years of industry experience. For her, and for her new employers, it all makes perfect sense.

Whether TV3 is as happy is rather more debatable. Together with John Campbell, Hirschfeld represented the corporate face of the channel and, at the risk of sounding sexist, it was not an entirely unattractive image.

For all that, rather than rue her departure, they might want to consider the opportunity they’ve been handed. As good as Campbell Live has been, the time is ripe for a revamp. And I’m not talking about redecorating the set.

Campbell Live hasn’t only become a shade tired, it seems to have moved well away from its 2005 roots. When the star 3 News hosts initially moved to the 7pm slot, there was the promise of just three stories a night – which enabled a more considered approach – and an executive style that would avoid the tears, sensationalism and ceaseless law and order stories that so dominated the efforts of their rivals. And they delivered. For a while, at least.

From the opening night story on fake driver licences being sold to Asians, to interviews with Al Gore, Robert Fisk and Tony Blair, Campbell Live was a huge success in the first couple of years, winning the Best Current Affairs Series award in 2006 on the back of a relaxed, youthful approach of the presenters, and the quality of reporters such as former Dunedin journalist Richard Langston and part-time comedienne Jacqui Brown.

Now? Well, they’re still not as bad as Close Up but they seem to have lost track of where they’re heading. Somewhere along the line, the principles of the original product went missing – almost certainly in pursuit of ratings – and with that, Campbell Live lurched from one bad idea to another.

It’s not unusual now for five separate stories to be shoehorned into the slot and crime stories continue to dominate. They’ve lost their soul.

Hirschfeld’s move should at least allow them to take a step back and reassess. There’s no doubt she’ll be missed at the channel’s Newton, Auckland, studios but hopefully they’ll all know it’s time to move on. Every cloud has a silver lining.