The other face of prime-time current affairs

Face TV's Jim Blackman (left) with Sky chief executive John Fellet

The 7pm TV viewing slot is the talk of the town as TVNZ’s Seven Sharp gets set to take on TV3’s Campbell Live.

But there is another player in the game.

Face TV chief executive Jim Blackman says he will bring more local news programming to air for the prime-time position.

“What we’re aiming to do is build the current affairs aspect to an hour an evening during prime-time.”

The channel launches tomorrow on Sky TV’s channel 89.

Face TV will screen international current affairs during prime-time, as well as a range of local content already screened on Triangle TV.

New Zealand programming would include Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury’s Citizen A, The Beatson Interview, Pacific Viewpoint, In Conversation, Know Your Rights and Gay Talk TV.

International News services would include Al Jazeera News Hour, Euronews, PBS Newshour, ABC Australia Network news and Bloomberg TV.

New shows

Mr Blackman, who founded Triangle TV, says he has "huge interest" from producers for new shows, although they would not air until at least April.

“The primary thing is to get the channel to air and to build the audience so we have the profile to tackle other current affairs programmes.”

Mr Blackman says while he wants to provide more local programming, it is unrealistic to compete head-to-head with the 7pm spot.

“It will be 7.30 if anything, we’ll let the big boys fight out the 7pm slot – there’s no point for us.”

Mr Blackman told NBR ONLINE he targets  “the forgotten audience” which is older and “is looking for something different”.

Agreement with Sky

Face TV signed an agreement with Sky TV last November allowing it to broadcast on its digital network.

It will run in Auckland for free on UHF until the government cuts off the signal later in the year.

Mr Blackman was just four days away from closing Triangle TV when Sky TV stepped in with a proposal to form the new channel.

He says he is happy Sky TV had helped out in a deal he expected to last at least three years.

No conditions had been imposed on content and he is pleased to have access to half the country’s audience.

Sky TV’s motivations

Victoria University media studies lecturer Peter Thompson says Sky is trying to avoid criticism over dominating the broadcasting environment.

“Sky TV has an abundance of spectrum and is trying to make itself look like a socially responsible broadcaster.”

But Sky TV spokeswoman Kirsty Way says the company just wants to attract different audiences.

“We think there is an audience for a public service style channel with local and other niche content, as was shown by Stratos and Triangle.

“With news they didn’t have a digital future we were keen to ensure they did.”

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4 Comments & Questions

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It would be good to see a sensible current affairs programme.
This will be a good counter to the plethora of cooking and reality shows.
Let's hope they succeed.

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I don't see what's wrong with Sky providing current affairs if it's at a better quality than what is currently on TVNZ or TV 3?

Sky News Australia runs 24 hours a day on Channel 90 and the range and quality of debate they provide about Australian politics makes the level of insight we get here in New Zealand about our own politics look pathetic.

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About as inspiring as lettuce-and-parsnip soup. Sans seasoning.

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Anything with Bomber Bradbury is an instant turn off.

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