Hard News by Russell Brown


Media 7

I have a TV show. It's called Media 7 and it will launch on TVNZ 7, the new digital channel, in April. Finally, I am allowed to tell you this. I have the official groovy-things-to-say-about-TVNZ-7 cheat-sheet and everything.

The show has its roots nearly a year back, when TVNZ CEO Rick Ellis appeared on the panel at one of our Great Blend events in Auckland (he got a bit of a grilling). Afterwards, I was having a drink with Rick and Brian Holland of Top Shelf Productions. Russell should have a TV show, Brian told Rick. I can't recall what Rick said, but I'm sure it was polite.

You don't get a TV show by buttonholing the CEO. You put together a prop and present it to the surprisingly large group of people who make programming and commissioning decisions, and you wait. With Top Shelf's assistance, I did just that.

The original prop was very much a televised Great Blend, over an hour. We even had a band playing at the end. But it's all about what people need, and the idea involved into a 26-minute media programme.

I'm very happy with what we got: a panel show, recorded "as live" in front of an audience, hosted by myself and punctuated with short, sharp videotape elements and injections of information. There will be a regular archive slot and, in the post-Daily Show era, elements of humour. I have some clear creative ideas.

We've hired Jill Graham to produce it and Simon Pound (formerly of Agenda and presently of bFM's Sunday Breakfast show) as reporter and researcher, and have a list of some clever people to help with writing, and a broad roll of likely panellists. I go on the payroll a week from today. I'm very excited, and only a bit daunted by the rather short time until launch.

Yes, it's on Freeview, and reality dictates that the broadcast audience will initially be limited. But TVNZ ondemand was an important part of the prop from the very first draft. You'll get to see it one way or another.

Ironically, I'm at liberty to tell you all this because some of it has been broached in a column in the Herald's business supplement on Friday morning. The first I knew of it was in an email from a reader that said: "John Drinnan seems to imply you have the programme because you support the Labour Govt and the EFA."

John and I have had a frank, but personal, exchange about the story. He insists there was no such implication, and I take him at his word. But the Electoral Finance Act still seems an odd and arbitrary thing to associate with the show, which is part of my professional life: not "founding host of Mediawatch", or "made panel discussions sort of hip" or "wrote 'digital future' papers for public media agencies", "won the first Qantas award for blogging", or even "blagged the beer for Kiwi Foo Camp", but …the EFA?

And it's not even true to describe Hard News as a "a strong supporter of the Government approach to the Electoral Finance Act". My opinions can hardly be a mystery here, but I haven't even written about it very much, largely because the issue is so viciously partisan. I do support the aim of transparency, and I have characterised some of the opposition to the law as hysterical. But I have also described the government's approach as a "shambles" and a "debacle". Whatever. Welcome to TV politics, I guess.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to getting air. As was the case when Tom Frewen and I launched Mediawatch on National Radio, Media 7 might take a short while to find its voice, but I'm flattered and motivated by the good, long season we've been allotted. We're going to be there a lot this year. I trust you'll like what we do.


John Aravosis has a post responding to complaints about advertising on AmericaBlog, including those from Republican groups. It's worth reading. Advertising and editorial are separate, he says, and he can't be drawn into vetting every ad for editorial compliance. He doesn't even know what ads are coming most of the time. On the other hand, he will veto ads he considers racist or sexist.

It's much the same here. A reader emailed me recently:

Russell, can you please take that offensive ad for Jack's Point off your blog. This development is one of the worst imaginable - destroying a pristine lake edge so a few absurdly wealthy individuals can play golf in their backyards.

Sorry, just can't. The ad, like many of the agency campaigns placed here, are a response to our reader profile: well-off and well-educated. The buyers don't exercise a "chardonnay socialist" category, although they probably should.

What does bother me sometimes is the quality of the creative, especially in the case of the cost-per-click ads that fill space when there's nothing sold. I'd do it differently, but that's not my gig. Although you shouldn't be seeing again the banner that read "One of Your Friends Thinks Your Hot Find Out Who!". A chap has to have some standards.


Until Saturday, I'd been a fan of James Milne's various musical ventures without once having seen him play live. I was glad to remedy that with a visit to the King's Arms to see Milne, back for a summer break from London, play in a variety of guises.

The first act up -- and the only one in which Milne didn't play -- was the oddball pop of the Nudie Suits. They set the tone for an evening in which everyone who took the stage was, let's say, quite a character.

Lawrence Arabia is Milne's vehicle for darkly comic social observation, most notably in 'Talk About Good Times' and most recently in the "song about Grey Lynn -- and all the Grey Lynns of the world," 'The Beautiful Young Crew'. [Milne's current reading is listed on the Lawrence MySpace as Evelyn Waugh's Men at Arms (Sword of honour).]

Playing with a band that included EJ Barnes (yes, Jimmy's little girl), Milne kicked off by breaking a string ("it's been a vexing day") but just borrowed a guitar and played on. Breaks between songs were opportunities to spend two minutes shambling around and musing out loud about the progress of the gig. He seemed to enjoy the air of chaos this produced. At one point, he tossed a coin to determine which of his bands would take the stage next.

Which turned out to be the Reduction Agents, Milne's vehicle for dazzling wall-of-sound pop. They kicked off with the supremely upbeat '80s Celebration', which you may know from the Eagle vs. Shark soundtrack, and forged on into a set marked by infectious melodic inspiration and whole new heights of shambling. There were conversations with the sound engineer about foldback and spontaneous onstage hugs. Shit occasionally broke.

"You need a roadie!" chirped someone in the crowd.

"We need a lot of things," Milne shot back.

The set culminated with the anthemic 'Waiting for Your Love'. Several young women in the audience wrestled down a microphone and bawled the chorus into it. Two of them got on stage and danced. The bass-player -- a card-carrying freak who probably works for the Freak Foundation as a day job -- finally fell over. Andy and I laughed ourselves silly. Just when it seemed to have irrevocably fallen apart, Milne gathered the threads and led an a capella coda of the song's refrain, the crowd joining in. The man's a genius.

With work to do in the morning, I made the prudent decision to leave at 1am, which meant missing Milne's Paul McCartney tribute band, Disciples of Macca (no, I am not making this up). But I'm confident life was affirmed and a good time was had by all.

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