Hard decisions are facing the puppet-masters at TV3 following revelations that their flagship evening news bulletin is leaking ratings, not only losing overall market share to their rivals at One, but even taking a hit on their target 18-49 age group demograph.
The latest figures caused much trumpeting and metaphoric fist pumping over at Television New Zealand, where head boffin Anthony Flannery wasted no time in deriding TV3’s performance, claiming it relied too heavily on presenter Mike McRoberts.
“A news and current affairs operation has to be about more than one person,” chipped Flannery. “It needs to have strong and experienced
editorial teams. It needs to be more than smoke, mirrors and big marketing campaigns.”
Flannery’s TV3 counterpart, Mark Jennings, fired back with interest, claiming TVNZ “was dreaming” with its claim of a representative $5.95m revenue loss and that his channel’s news advertising was “98.5” per cent sold up to September.
But there’s no doubt there must be concern at TV3, after the Nielsen survey suggested One News had increased its share of the 5-years-and-older audience by five percent (to an average of 665,110 viewers), and that 3 News was down 15 per cent to 375,190.
The figures come at an interesting time for New Zealand television news and current affairs, following a couple of startling attacks from media commentators and former broadcasters, Dr Brian Edwards and Janet Wilson.
Edwards wrote in his blog recently that both channels’ news bulletins had begun resembling an old time music hall, and that viewers were now exposed to the “most relentless trivialisation and cosmetic enhancement of news, current affairs and information programmes” in New Zealand television history.
Wilson claimed the channels were using young females with no reporting talent as eye-candy – and that some of them were there only because they looked attractive and spent most of their time regurgitating stories from the daily newspapers.
It would be easy to agree with both of them, but I’m not sure I do. The modern television news is far more entertaining than it was in the past, and there are many of us who enjoy the banter and asides among the newsreaders, even if they are a bit contrived sometimes.
And as Jennings said in response to the claims of Wilson, she was once an attractive blond television reporter herself. You have to be careful not to judge people on their appearance, either way. A good female reporter shouldn’t be penalised because she’s easy on the eye.
Having said that, 3 News probably do have a tough decision to make with McRoberts, whose dual role as both foreign correspondent and news anchor was singled out by Edwards as a possible flaw in the operation.
McRoberts is the best foreign correspondent in the country, particularly now that Cameron Bennett has left TV One. The problem for TV3 is that he’s not just a top news anchor – he’s also forged a particularly impressive partnership with the excellent Hilary Barry.
The Nielsen survey seemed to be saying, break that partnership at your peril. Over to Jennings.