Bill Ralston blogs;
Your entire faith in the veracity of the media can be destroyed any time you read a news story when you, yourself, have some inside knowledge of the true facts.
I spotted two news items this week that bore no relationship to the reality of the issue in question and they were either blatant “beat ups” after a long internal discussion between the reporter and their typewriters (ok, computers) or the reporters were dumb enough to be sucked in by the PR spin of someone with a vested interest.
Fantasy Story One: In the NZ Herald John Drinnan breathlessly reports, “Henry Poised for Bigger Role at 7pm”.
No, not Graham Henry, although a story staying the All Black coach would front Close Up makes as much sense as Drinnan’s claim that “Television sources say momentum is gathering for a change” and “the debate is whether TVNZ will wait until Mark Sainsbury’s employment contract runs out in late 2010 before making the move.”
No additional evidence or sources were given.
Tim Murphy, editor of the Herald, might like to ask his reporter where he got the information from because it is just plain wrong.
First and foremost Mark Sainsbury does not have a term contract that expires in 2010 even though Drinnan states that as fact.
He does not have a term contract that can be terminated at any time.
Sainsbury is a permanent employee of TVNZ.
As a full time permanent employee his position would have to be made redundant – whereby we have the insane situation where there is no presenter or anchor job on the programme – or he would have to significantly be shown to have failed to reach his KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).
That would be a tough call for TVNZ management as Sainsbury’s programme, Close Up is performing well in the ratings and over the previous couple of years he picked up the title Best Current Affairs Presenter.
You don’t get better KPI’s than that.
Even Drinnan, last month, was conceding that Close Up “was pushing the right buttons”.
In short, thanks to New Zealand employment law, Mark would have to be caught on camera snorting Class A pharmaceuticals from the navel of an underage Asiatic boom-boom girl in the middle of Queen St before TVNZ’s HR department might be able to make a case against him for dismissal.
This scenario, I hasten to add, is extremely unlikely.
A clue to where John Drinnan could have picked up this blatantly incorrect story comes in his phrase that “Television sources” told him.
Note: He did not use his favourite phrase “TVNZ insiders” that he favours whenever someone from the state broadcaster bitches to him about something.
No, Drinnan must have got this from one of TVNZ’s competitors (hence “television” sources) and I detect the fingerprints of TV3 PR spinner Roger Beaumont. I doubt if it was TV3 News boss Mark Jennings as he’s overseas.
It’s in TV3’s interest to rattle the cage of both Close Up and Breakfast as these two shows are winning well against TV3’s Campbell Live and Sunrise.
Destabilising TVNZ’s two top hosts by promoting a feud between them makes sense for the hard-pressed TV3.
All you have to find is a reporter silly enough to run the story.
Fantasy Story Two: In the Herald on Sunday Rebecca Lewis writes, “TV Stars face further salary cuts.”
She rang me when she was writing this story. It appears she, or someone at the HoS, had noticed some top UK and Australia TV celebrities were having pay cuts. Was it happening here?
The short answer was no. It would be hard (if not impossible) to cut news presenters salaries without their agreement (and fat chance of them giving that).
Undeterred by the facts, the intrepid Rebecca found some “industry insiders” to comment. For that, read someone who works somewhere in the TV business in any position from janitor upwards.
The nature of TVNZ’s salaried employment contracts largely prevents wage reductions and even with fixed term contracts it is almost impossible (As I and TVNZ found to our cost in the Susan Wood employment case).
TV3’s Roger Beaumont (blameless in this particularly story) said he’d heard of wage freezes there but nothing about salary reductions.
TVNZ’s Megan Richards was also unaware of any presenter pay cuts there.
Basically, there is not an iota of evidence to back up the HoS story when it claims, “The salaries of our key on-air presenters could be on the chopping block as television networks continue to cut costs.”
However, I do know of a couple of reporters who write about television who should have something put on “the chopping block” for writing this kind of garbage.
Bottom-line: I cant help but wonder if these two stories, the facts of which I happen to know something about, are so abjectly wrong what other rubbish is being pedalled by the papers? Is everything we read in the press of a similarly flimsy and false nature?