You had to feel for Close Up

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The elephant in the room during last week’s Qantas TV & Film Awards had to be TV One’s flagship current affairs show Close Up – which was conspicuous only because of its startling decline over the past 12 months. 

Voted best daily current affairs show at the same awards last year, Close Up failed to pick up even one gong at last week’s red carpet gala, being outgunned by its stable-mate programme Sunday and TV3 rival Campbell Live

Close Up’s
fall from grace represents a complete reversal of the 2009 pecking order, when Campbell Live was struggling so much for traction it wasn’t shortlisted in any of the news and current affairs categories. 

But, as we’ve been discussing recently in this column, Campbell Live has been making some serious headway since the headhunting of executive producer Pip Keane late last year, something that was reflected in John Campbell winning the best presenter award, and Brook Sabin the best current affairs reporting prize. 

Revealingly, while TV One again carried off the lion’s share of the spoils, including the coveted “Best News” category, none of the channel’s presenters were even finalists – that honour going to Campbell, 3 News team Mike McRoberts and Hilary Barry, and Sunrise host Carly Flynn. 

All of which raised the question – if One is judged to have the best news and current affairs shows, yet none of its heavy hitters rates even a mention in the presenter categories, how might its ratings be affected if it perseveres with the current arrangement? 

Close Up has rotated Mark Sainsbury, Mike Hosking and Paul Henry without success for a long period now, and the One News team of Simon Dallow and Wendy Petrie, while polished enough, seems to come across as a tad sterile and detached. 

In contrast, Campbell was thoroughly deserving of his award, having recovered from last year’s slump to re-establish himself as New Zealand TV’s most likeable and engaging host – not to mention being the current affairs presenter most likely to ask the hard questions. 

Having said that, Campbell must have been pushed hard by fellow news presenters McRoberts and Barry, both of whom have managed to win large followings through their willingness to be more personable and to engage more closely with their viewership – an important factor in today’s media world. 

Last year, TV3 won only one of the 12 Qantas news and current affairs awards and this time it won three of 11 – only a moderate improvement, admittedly, but a step in the right direction. 

And the way things have been going over the past few weeks, with Campbell, McRoberts and Barry excelling during the Christchurch quake coverage, and TV3 also lifting the lid on the Stephen Wilce deception and the David Garrett conviction controversy, the momentum only seems to be increasing. 

The only slightly discordant note at last week’s ceremony was the sight of the puerile Paul Henry picking up the so-called “People’s Choice” award. 

Just like the ratings, I guess, there’s no accounting for taste.