Monday, March 21, 2005

Why Bill Ralston is a clever man.

The media has flourished in the last 24 hours. Bill Ralston, TVNZ's head of news, came out swinging viciously about his 7pm time slot rivals suggesting suicide for Prime's Chief Executive Chris Taylor and that TV3 had made "a major cock-up" in replacing John Campbell as news reader prior to the launch of Campbell Live, which starts tonight. While Prime and TV3 cried foul over Ralston's comments in Sunday's papers, talkback radio was been full of opinionated callers who were also unimpressed with his outburst. Meantime, Bill Ralston must be rubbing his hands together with glee.

While Paul Holmes on Prime has not drawn the initial numbers it had hoped for, TVNZ's Close Up at 7's numbers haven't been anything to cheer about either and after the weekend press, those who haven't been watching may certainly be wondering what all the fuss is about. And if Ralston has his way, they'll all be tuning in tonight to find out.

With this 7pm current affairs slot being so hotly contested, each of the networks is going to have to start implementing some creative tactics in order to stay ahead of the field. While Ralston's comments are certainly less than endearing on his character, he must take round one for drawing such fervent attention to his show. Whether it pays off in the long term is another story but the war is on.

Via email

Sunday, March 20, 2005

It's war

Bill Ralston has come out with the following personal attacks just before John Campbell's current affairs show is launched:

On Prime:

  • "If I were [Chris Taylor], I'd be shooting myself. I'd be pouring petrol over myself and throwing myself off Auckland's tallest building."

  • Mr Ralston said Prime had waltzed in "talking big", but had failed dismally to register with viewers. Prime was desperate and "dumb".

  • He also claimed Holmes and his team of "no reporters" rarely broke stories and Close Up showed them up every night. "Night after night after night we break stories and we treat them originally."

  • On Prime's exclusive Cave Creek interview last week, Mr Ralston said: "Yawn, yawn, yawn, yawn, yawn."

  • He criticised Holmes' Suzanne Paul exclusive before going on to say: "It's crap. You know it's crap, I know it's crap and the viewers know it's crap."

On TV3:

  • He was critical of the decision to change TV3's 6pm newsreading team. "It's a major cock-up... it's a strategic blunder they will live to regret. It is going to cost them money." The network has lost about a 10% share in the Auckland market in its target 18-49-year-old bracket. Mr Ralston claimed TV3 would be "wetting themselves" over the figures.

  • "TV3 are saying they can create an entirely new current affairs slot. They would need to take more than half the audience of Close Up, and half of Paul Holmes - which admittedly isn't hard because they have only got one or two watching. That is not going to happen. I don't believe that Campbell can do better than The Simpsons or better than TV3 news is delivering... They will not make it."

Prime's response:

  • "Bill Ralston holds a very senior position in a government-owned entity as head of news and current affairs for this country's state broad-caster. It saddens and surprises me greatly that anyone in this business in his position would stoop to that level of talk. That's a sad day. We're not down, we're not out. And we're not going to give up." Chris Taylor.

  • "When you look at the Close Up product and their resources, where are their stories? That's what Bill ought to be talking about. But I notice, gosh, he's still talking about me." Holmes said Mr Ralston must be "very worried" and he recommended he continue "taking his medicine".

  • Chris Taylor cannot believe the tirade, and says anyone who makes recommendations of suicide is completely reckless and he is lost for words.

TV3's response:

  • Mark Jennings dismissed the comments as "reckless". "In two years we won't have puddles of water under our desks. We're certainly not wetting ourselves."

From the Herald on Sunday


Via email:
A while ago on your blog you posted about the Close Up Gay Poll being misleading. Not sure if you noticed, but TVNZ have now responded to the complaint:

TVNZ has washed its hands of responsibility for the misleading 'ripple effect' created by its 'Close Up @ 7' phone poll on the Civil Union Bill last year, which the network implied showed public opinion overwhelmingly against recognising gay relationships.

In responding to a complaint made by media watchdog group GayWatch and to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, TVNZ's programme standards manager David Edmunds again acknowledged that the poll was unscientific, but thought it 'patronising' that GayWatch and could suggest that the general public were unaware of this. 'It is our belief that viewers understand that by their nature they are not scientifc polls,' he wrote. 'We do not feel the necessity to spell out their unscientifc nature each time one is conducted.'

Edmunds also dismissed evidence presented in the complaint to show the 'ripple effect' created in other media by TVNZ's reporting of the poll, which was presented on TVNZ's website as indicative of how the population was feeling rather than how many calls were received. 'What news media outlets elsewhere made of the telephone poll is of no relevance to a formal complaint investigation about a programme broadcast on 2nd December.'

As a final barb, Edmunds called into question the integrity of the complainants. 'We venture the view that this complaint would not be before the Authority (nor even lodged with TVNZ) if the final numbers in the poll had been reversed.'

The BSA has requested a final response from GayWatch and before it makes its ruling.
Is it patronising to make plain the limitations of poll results to viewers? Each time a scientific political poll is mentioned on the news, they correctly mention the margin of error in the poll. Each time a nonscientific poll is mentioned, they should also mention the limitations of it.

There's huge problems with phone in polls, as mentioned on your website earlier. I don't think it is patronising to assume that people in the general public don't know these problems.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Talking about local productions...

Via the comments:
Geoff Steven, the former TVNZ executive has now left the building and is trying to resurrect his photography career.

His bio page on the site says:

"As a television executive he has Executive Produced many of New Zealand's most successful and innovative programmes and series. These included launching the first international broadcast of the New Zealand created 'Popstars' TV phenomenon. He commissioned 'Once Were Warriors', the highly praised New Zealand feature film and the feature films, 'Scarfies' and'Stickmen'. He recently received an Industry award in recognition of his work in Executive Producing and promoting the documentary in New Zealand television culture."

Question - if he was so great, why isn’t he still working at TVNZ?