A better future for TV3?

As a low pressure system approaches, a barometer reading shows a fall in atmospheric pressure. The steeper and bigger the fall, the more potent the approaching bad weather is going to be. Thus the plunge of any barometer in Mediaworks over the last two years must have been one of the bigger and more terrifying records of this nature.

In the period that Mark Weldon was C.E.O., TV3 suffered a cataract of disasters that hugely damaged the station and its owner Mediaworks. So much so that when he resigned on Tuesday night and the news broke early Wednesday morning few staff if any bothered to hide their delight. The display of joy might not have seemed so proper from a coldly professional standpoint, but given the depth of the complaints about TV3’s performance, the alleged links to the Prime Minister of the C.E.O., the sacking of so many hugely talented staff and abortion of respected programmes certainly it is not surprising that such a reaction happened.

So, where to from here for TV3, a channel that used to have the best news and the best childrens programmes, but which slowly faded into medocrity?

Unfortunately in the immediate future, with the barometer reading having accelerated its plunge in the last few months, the direction is down hill – quite simply from having too much inertia behind the motion. Perhaps by the end of the year, barring further damaging announcements, the depression will bottom out before beginning to rise. The effects of losing household names such as Mr Campbell and more recently Hilary Barry, the axing of programmes such as Mr Campbell’s Campbell Live and the 3 News programme have further caused a huge dive in ratings. The loss of confidence in it, and other media outlets by the Reserve Bank for breaking a publishing embargo, the establishment of a steady stream of reality television that few New Zealanders want or care about was like a train wreck in slow motion and Mr Weldon was the driver.

Mr Weldon is now gone. But the train wreck that is his legacy is still in motion, and only when it comes to a final rest, will salvage work be able to commence. But letting the train wreck come to a natural stop is not appropriate. Aside from taking too long and causing potentially catastrophic long term damage, given the depth of the existing changes, would it even get that far?

It will be a long hard road back to respectability. It will need a C.E.O. who is the complete antithesis of what Mark Weldon was and what he stood for. That C.E.O. has a monumental job ahead of them and a number of tasks that all need to be done quickly:

  1. First and foremost calm the staff down. Until this happens, nothing else can be done. Get down to their level and talk to them one on one. Don’t make promises or assumptions. Find out what they want and need.
  2. The new C.E.O. will take some time to appoint, but a caretaker one needs to be appointed immediately with a rough idea of how long they are going to be the one whose desk the buck stops on.
  3. Determine whether there is anything salvageable from the Weldon agenda or whether it should be dumped outright.

Good luck to whoever the new C.E.O. is. It will be a baptism of fire in many respects, but one that will show your character – or lack of.


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