Media: The Walking Shadows

by Damocles NZ
Kiwis who (like me) lived through the 1960s and early seventies may remember the media landscape in those faraway times.
We had one television channel (NZBC Television), which reached half of the population between 6pm and 10pm each night. Television programmes were hotly discussed over morning tea, with participants secure in the knowledge that “everyone” would have been watching the night before.
We had just 25 commercial radio stations across the country, each government-owned — no more than two in any area. Young people in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch had ZM stations; otherwise, your listening pleasure was a ZB or similar community network station, crammed with news, sport, advertising and a light sprinkling of music.
We had two daily newspapers in each of the four main centres: a morning paper and an evening paper. Newspaper journalists were steadfastly objective, recognising that they had a duty to uphold the credibility of the fourth estate.
And we had three mass-market magazines of any significance: the Listener, NZ Woman’s Weekly and the Reader’s Digest. Each catered to hundreds of thousands of readers.
Such is the media environment in which most Kiwis Over 50 grew up, and in which our expectations of media behaviour were formed. Scandal and gossip belonged to that era’s Truth and perhaps the Saturday night 7 O’Clock (Dunedin) or 8 O’Clock (Auckland) newspapers. The Sunday News, when it came along in 1964, was another publication not read in public.

Little wonder, then, that we elder (and not so elder) citizens are bemused and horrified in equal amount by the scurrilous antics of today’s media. Opening a copy of the NZ Herald or the Dominion Post today is like going along to a Symphony Orchestra concert and being ambushed by a Miley Cyrus guest appearance.
Are we simply being old-fashioned, to expect decorum and taste, facts rather than fallacies, objectivity rather than activism in our daily media consumption?
It seems so. In their quest for eyeballs at any price, today’s “mass” media have abandoned the objectivity which once was their most prized possession (yet still they cling to the pretence that it guides their editorial efforts).
Why the obsession with populism?
Because their traditional role has been usurped by the Internet. As the accompanying chart shows, Kiwi consumers now spend a total of 5 hours a day online, according to TNS Connected Life (July 2014), out of a total of 8.5 daily media consumption hours.
On average, Kiwis now spend just 12 minutes a day reading newspapers, an hour a day listening to radio and 2.3 hours a day watching television.
No wonder old media rush around headless screaming “look at me”, “look at me”.
Alas, as the latest round of poll results demonstrates all too well, they needn’t have bothered. Nobody’s listening.
Macbeth was right: theirs is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

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