Hedge money, hegemony and Campbell Live.

So Campbell Live is on the block. Not that Block (although given the strategic direction of TV3, maybe that would help). Instead Campbell Live is on a less sensational and far more terminal block that fires a warning shot across the bows of democratic process in New Zealand.

That may seem like a long bow to draw. But if you line up cultural theory with misguided political tweets and a board-level acknowledgement that all that matters is money, then Reality becomes reality and we should all be worried.

First things first, what’s hegemony?

Hegemony is a Greek word that means ‘leadership’ or ‘rule’. It’s about power and control, who’s in charge and how they stay there. In the early twentieth century, a bloke called Gramsci developed the theory of cultural hegemony. The basic notion is that those at the top exert influence by owning cultural conversations. This helps maintain the status quo. It’s all a bit pointy-head and Marxist. But the relevant bit is that those who control the news, control the country. And the axe hanging over Campbell Live makes it clear that ‘news’ is now controlled by bankers. As Rod McGeoch rightly points out, the business of news is business.

We put news on, but only because it rates. And we sell advertising around news. This is what it’s all about
— Rod McGeoch, MediaWorks chairman.

Money makes the world go round.

Regardless of what the Beatles would have you believe, money really does matter. It’s the fundamental carrot of capitalism. Ask any Hedge Fund manager and they’ll be proud to tell you about the money they can make by carefully investing the money they already have. But money is all they’re interested in making. It’s not about quality TV. It’s not a social service, it’s about pumping the ratings to pay the piper. And a quarter of a million Kiwis isn’t pumping them hard enough.

Why does Campbell Live matter?

Let’s be honest. John Campbell is a raving leftie. Like any good journalist he tries to cover it up, but he hasn’t got a right wing bone in his body. And that’s the point. Campbell is the only prime-time presence with an alternative point of view. He brings balance. As morning radio descends into the battle of the breakfast bigots and “news” is openly sensationalised to grab headlines, Kiwis are increasingly exposed to one point of view: if you work hard you’ll do well and anyone who doesn’t is either loopy or lazy – or both.

It’s a valid opinion. Not one I agree with. But I’d defend the right of the right to think the way they think. It’s a shame our youngest parliamentarian is a little less open minded:

No surprises that it’s only Labour Party MPs scrambling to keep Campbell Live running… #goodjobmikehosking.
— Todd Barclay, MP for Clutha-Southland

Hedge money, hegemony and Campbell Live.

So Campbell Live is on the block. Not that Block (although given the strategic direction of TV3, maybe that would help). Instead Campbell Live is on a less sensational and far more terminal block that fires a warning shot across the bows of democratic process in New Zealand.

That may seem like a long bow to draw. But if you line up cultural theory with misguided political tweets and a board-level acknowledgement that all that matters is money, then Reality becomes reality and we should all be worried.

First things first, what’s hegemony?

Hegemony is a Greek word that means ‘leadership’ or ‘rule’. It’s about power and control, who’s in charge and how they stay there. In the early twentieth century, a bloke called Gramsci developed the theory of cultural hegemony. The basic notion is that those at the top exert influence by owning cultural conversations. This helps maintain the status quo. It’s all a bit pointy-head and Marxist. But the relevant bit is that those who control the news, control the country. And the axe hanging over Campbell Live makes it clear that ‘news’ is now controlled by bankers. As Rod McGeoch rightly points out, the business of news is business.

“We put news on, but only because it rates. And we sell advertising around news. This is what it’s all about” – Rod McGeoch, MediaWorks chairman.

Money makes the world go round.

Regardless of what the Beatles would have you believe, money really does matter. It’s the fundamental carrot of capitalism. Ask any Hedge Fund manager and they’ll be proud to tell you about the money they can make by carefully investing the money they already have. But money is all they’re interested in making. It’s not about quality TV. It’s not a social service, it’s about pumping the ratings to pay the piper. And a quarter of a million Kiwis isn’t pumping them hard enough.

Why does Campbell Live matter?

Let’s be honest. John Campbell is a raving leftie. Like any good journalist he tries to cover it up, but he hasn’t got a right wing bone in his body. And that’s the point. Campbell is the only prime-time presence with an alternative point of view. He brings balance. As morning radio descends into the battle of the breakfast bigots and “news” is openly sensationalised to grab headlines, Kiwis are increasingly exposed to one point of view: if you work hard you’ll do well and anyone who doesn’t is either loopy or lazy – or both.

It’s a valid opinion. Not one I agree with. But I’d defend the right of the right to think the way they think. It’s a shame our youngest parliamentarian is a little less open minded:

“No surprises that it’s only Labour Party MPs scrambling to keep Campbell Live running… #goodjobmikehosking.” – Todd Barclay, MP for Clutha-Southland

So is this just a Leftie rant?

In part it is. But it’s more than that. It’s theory that plays out in practice throughout history. There are countries (like ours) where everyone is welcome to an opinion; where all viewpoints are valid and where politics is about balance. And then there are other places. I’m not suggesting that Campbell Live will finish and we’ll instantly turn into North Korea or Nazi Germany – but it’s a slippery slope. And if we believe Gramsci: ‘he who controls the media controls the people.’

Even that is extreme. I can almost hear Paul Henry’s over-hyped cackle as he makes me out to be a socialist twit. But that’s the point. He can do that. He’s got the megaphone. I’ve just got words on a screen that three people will read – and no one will really care about. It’s vital to keep a a balance of opinion in prime-time.

Bottom line: is it really just the bottom line?

Let’s be honest, Campbell’s goose is cooked. When your boss’ boss puts his cards on the table and none of them has your name on it, it’s over. But where does that leave MediaWorks? Is it really just about churning eyeballs through Reality to deliver a return? Or should there a place for corporate social responsibility?

And if we were to broaden the debate from current affairs to a question one of the fundamental pillars of democratic society – do the numbers still stack so badly? Our social seesaw only really works when there’s balance. And even though only 250,000 of us tune in to watch Campbell at 7, all of us will miss him if he goes.

How much are we willing to lose to save a little cash?

 

 

 

 
Michael Goldthorpe