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Underpaid presenter leaves with the show

It is a small, insular industry very hard to be accepted into. But once in, it is a close family even if they punch each other in the head and feud occasionally. 

Cathy Odgers
Sat, 01 Dec 2012

Mark Sainsbury presented his last show Friday, as did Close(d) Up. 

He was at TVNZ longer than many staff members have taken breath. 

An admirable effort in any job, least of all Sainsbury is not that old. It is a painful watch as Sainsbury maintains complete professionalism where most of us knowing what a root canal the day would have been might be tempted to call in sick.

Earlier in the year I cited evidence that Sainso was getting ripped off, comparing his salary relative to viewers to Paul Henry and Anderson Cooper's:

Anderson Cooper's 360 show pulls in 522,000 viewers. Cooper pulls a last reported salary of US$4 million (NZ$5.019m) or $NZ9.614 per viewer per annum.

Mark Sainsbury's show, the top rating Close Up pulls on average 476,000 viewers an episode. On the Anderson Cooper scale Sainso should be earning NZ$4,576,712.64 per annum. I don't think he does.

On the Paul Henry scale of pay ($100 a viewer) Sainso should be earning $NZ47.6 million. I don't think he does.

The bottom line is that 7pm on TV1 will always have an audience following the news. 

I am willing to bet the revamped show will drop in ratings and we will all be wishing Sainsbury and Close Up was back come March next year because the new offering will be a shadow of the old.

Bloggers and onliners, with few exceptions all seem to hate New Zealand television with a passion. 

The bile is often written by those who have not managed to create successful careers in it themselves after decades because they are  uncommercial as a personality, because they do not really have an original one. Even if everyone older dies, they still will not be half as successful as Sainsbury.

I do not hate or dislike New Zealand television current affairs and news so will take a little longer in a post to explain why what you are were watching is currently pretty bloody good and you should be grateful. Also, I will be honest, what focused me  further was that it was Friday night, raining and cricket practice was cancelled.

Everyone has their own opinion on New Zealand current affairs and television, as do I having spent a fair amount of the time you all do spending quality time with your families, actually watching it. A bit like giving politicians advice, we all feel instantly qualified as experts to comment and a sense of ownership in the deal.

I would never want to be a part of it because you have to be far too well-groomed, toned-down and moderate, but I love watching television being made and the chaos and often great skill that goes with it. 

The best part of television is that people bust their arses to work in it and the crew are often paid terrible money per hour behind the camera, which I have never understood but slightly admire. People seem to want to go to work and make something they put their name to in the credits.

I was lucky enough to have a large client in the industry at the start of my offshore career and have a fair idea of what goes into it as I have spent several days at a time in studios in the USA and UK to watch it all put together from start to finish.

I have gone in with friends when they have appeared at TVNZ and TV3 to be interviewed and know a few of the people at the stations. 

They all work silly hours, which means many end up releasing the monster by drinking like fish, r**ting like rabbits and partying with the energy of teenagers. Which makes most of them great fun.

Judging by the ones I know, they are all without exception extremely intelligent, perhaps not qualified but there are some incredible minds creating television, in front of, behind and even holding the camera.

It is a small, insular industry very hard to be accepted into. But once in, it is a close family even if they punch each other in the head and feud occasionally. 

Like lawyers, at the end of the day they all close ranks, see nothing. 

No charges are laid and everyone gets back to work. Only now carrying a tradable legend.

New Zealanders of a certain persuasion run down and belittle shows like Close Up and presenters like Sainsbury, Paul Holmes and Paul Henry because they do not understand the easier the television product looks the better the people doing it actually are. 

Sainsbury had the longevity of Holmes as they are both the sort of characters on screen your grandmother or elderly mother gush over.  It is no accident Paul Henry used to drag his mother on The Breakfast show as did Holmes on his.

The audience the advertisers want to manipulate to buy their product are generally not cynical blog readers or politically aware or highly educated people. People like myself are not allowed near focus groups. 

They are targeting normal Jo and Jane Bloggs without higher education who most of us do not understand how to communicate with or in my case, do not really want to. 

People easily manipulated by advertisements and group think. Sheep to be pitched to with open minds. 

If news and current affairs was made for blog readers and those of us who spend all day connected online, it would not be sustainable as most of the public would not understand it.  It has to be "dumbed down" but I do not like the label, as like writing, explaining difficult concepts in a simple manner over a short time period is much harder than speaking to those on the same level as you.

Any economist can talk economics for an hour with another, it is much harder to explain the Laffer curve in five minutes to your mother and how it may impact on her life or the same on Close Up to several hundred thousand people in two minutes and keep them awake throughout. 

That is why Holmes took off when it was the first of its kind. Even as a primary school student I could understand it and it covered my attention span. 

Armchair critics sneer at reporters and people involved in making television because everyone thinks they can do it better or the dreadful pseudo-intellectuals who claim it should be more "intelligent" and the taxpayer should fund dreadful esoteric niche television that only a few thousand people will ever be interested in. 

As part of a health purge routine at the gym each day, I made myself watch Media 3 on as it was after The Nation. Russell Brown has permanently scarred me for life from the experience. The show after some promise with sleazy tabloid man David Fisher but then it progressed to replicate identical effects from the first half an hour of a hangover before you get yourself together to organise some water and the Advil with ice pack kicks in.

It is not until you live in a country that does not have good current affairs television especially in the language you speak such as Hong Kong, that you appreciate what New Zealand news and current affairs achieves in a small country. 

I do not have a clue what is going on here in Hong Kong until the next day in the paper. It gives you a sense of detachment that you cannot have in New Zealand as news is all around you and accessible to all for the best part, for free.

As I have explained before, it is why I still get my news from New Zealand and not overseas websites.  I think New Zealand's is better and easier to navigate.

New Zealanders do not realise or appreciate just how good New Zealand news and current affairs actually is and, I think, always has been. 

The success I think can be put down to the fact that many of the people in it and leading it have been in their jobs for even my lifetime. 

Close Up was a part of that as was the Holmes Show which was the first info-tainment style show.  Political bloggers can claim reporters and stations are inherently bias all they like. 

Wrong they may get it sometimes, but the allegations of bias is I think confused with a lust for anarchy. Anarchy makes news happen and creates content. Anarchy gets you an audience watching a train wreck.  

Any decent blogger must have anarchial tendencies regardless of their political persuasion and we have all been guilty of being a bit naughty occasionally in creating online anarchy. Sameness is boring, standing still is going backwards. I have not met a reporter yet who cannot and will not sniff a story left or right if it is juicy enough. 

Say what you like about him but, for example, Patrick Gower hunted David Cunliffe at Labour's conference.

He even had a good go at Kim Dot Com when visiting Wellington. Those criticising Gower for "becoming the news" do not actually understand his job. 

If he is pushing hard enough, he will be the news. The same as those who criticised Sainsbury for "soft" interviews or Close Up for chasing stories of Gardener of the Year. That is their audience. 

The powers that be now wish to attract a new audience. Instinctively I will add my 10 cents worth and say that as a high-spending, high-earning female in their 30s that is part of the new demographic TVNZ seems to wish to attract to the show, I am not sure this audience at 7pm in New Zealand even exists. 

New Zealand news and current affairs when I grew up in the 80s and lived in the country never lacked quality local content and professionals in it.  It is uncharitable to say it does not have quality people and product. It may not be local content or people that you like but it is there. 

Everyone can criticise, politicise or claim that they can do it better, but I think canning Close Up was a mistake that TVNZ will regret unless they replace it with something similar or build on Close Up and make it better.

My Generation X and that younger just do not watch TV at 7pm and we may never do again. We are on the internet, at bars and restaurants, studying or more likely still at work trying to pay the bills. We have iTunes and watch or listen as news is happening, not passively. 

At 7pm it is too late as we already know what has happened in politics through reading it online on websites or blogs. We are connected somehow through news alerts or twitter all day. If Close Up had an interview we wanted to watch, we drag it down from the net later when it is convenient to watch. That is where you now find us.

Which makes me wonder why they are canning Close Up in the first place. What market research has been done to suggest this rumoured "magazine" show will reach to the younger demographic? Will it alienate and p*ss off all the grandmas who want to see Gardener of the Year.

This show will have a focus of not intelligently "dumbing down" current affairs and news but actually unintelligently "dumbing down", already dumb enough fluffy Breakfast type material. All to get to an audience that I do not think actually wants to watch television let alone at 7pm. I don't get it.

All TVNZ has done here is give John Campbell and his team the chance to pitch and pinch the current Close Up audience. TVNZ has listened to all the "news and current affairs in New Zealand is bad mkay" speak from those who will never be a part of their target audience anyway and instead of making it better TVNZ has canned a large daily part of it.

No wonder Campbell cannot wipe the grin off his face. TVNZ has just given up its daily current affairs show where the ratings may show there actually was nothing wrong with it in the first place.

Hong Kong lawyer Cathy Odgers blogs as Cactus Kate.

Cathy Odgers
Sat, 01 Dec 2012
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Underpaid presenter leaves with the show