#SaveCampbellLive, Reality Television, and a Discourse of Elitism

Some issues have been fomenting in my head for a while, and tonight, they finally came to a head. There was a similar discourse around the time of the cutting of funding to TVNZ 7, and I made some similar comments then, but these ideas seem to be fiendishly difficult to put down.

Some context: one of the few remaining current affairs shows in New Zealand that still does relatively “hard” journalism, Campbell Live, has come under review by its network, MediaWorks, with the underlying implication that it is likely to be cancelled soon. Campbell Live has been a force of advocacy journalism, championing those who have suffered in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake, and been a loud critic of the government on issues such as child poverty.

The prospect of the loss of Campbell Live is nothing short of tragic. It is one of the sole places in primetime in the New Zealand broadcast spectrum where key issues related to the public interest are raised and discussed. While there have been a couple of occasions when these may have had a political bent, for the most part John Campbell and his team have been about speaking truth to power, no matter who that power is, and standing up for those who are not able to stand up for themselves. Sometimes this is about the individual, and other times it is about entire segments of the population who are without a voice.

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Sky Television, the English Premier League, and Coliseum: Some thoughts on the NZ Television Industry

The announcement that Sky Television have lost the rights to the English Premier League (EPL) coverage for New Zealand, with the rights going to a company who will stream the material online, has been met with a little confusion. No one is quite certain what it means, what it means for business, what it means for viewers, what it means for the future of sports coverage in New Zealand. I make no claims to be an expert in this field, but I wanted to put together a couple of ideas about what we might see from this.

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Amazon’s Kindle Worlds

This has been dashed off fairly quickly, I may add to it in 24 hours, as I think of other elements I want to address.

NB – I am a scholar, with a scholarly interest in fandom. I am not a lawyer, nor am I a publisher. But the opinions expressed below are based on things that I have read from people I respect, and people who *do* seem to know what they’re talking about.

A day or so ago, Amazon announced their newest project, Kindle Worlds, an attempt to monetise, and ‘legitimise’ fan fiction. Almost immediately, my social media lit up with response. Some people were raving about the potential for this to see creators and fic authors get compensated for their work. Others were far less positive, and saw a number of concerning aspects to this move.

My immediate instinct was that something *felt* wrong about this idea. But I was really struggling to construct an argument that actually laid out the problems with it.

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The Joy Of Sharing Pop Culture

For me, there is a distinct pleasure in sharing items of pop culture with people. I love the act of introducing people to something they haven’t come across before, and then seeing them getting joy from it, perhaps discovering a new favourite. But when I was thinking about this the other day, I realised that the things that I often recommend are not necessarily my absolute favourites – there are things which I love that I would never think to recommend to people, because I assume that most people would have come across them already. But there are certain things, lesser known, indie, obscure, or just forgotten, that I find that I champion over and over again. So, I thought I’d put a list together. Please feel free to engage with this selection in the comments, or to recommend your own 🙂
I’ve tried to provide some sort of A/V material of each of my choices, obviously that’s not always possible.

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The launch of Quickflix

I have a blog post on Hacktivision.org which was initially intended to discuss NZ’s impoverished position in the world of digital distribution. However, the announcement and launch of Quickflix in the past few days gave me pause for thought. However, I’m not sure that this offering, at least at it’s initial stage, is going to be the holy grail that we seek. In fact, I’m not sure that a holy grail is actually possible under the current global distribution systems, and they are showing no signs of changing!

A caveat, first up. A lot of my inspiration to discuss this came out of a Twitter discussion I glommed onto, between @ellenstrickland, @radiowammo and @paulbrislen. My thoughts are inflected by that discussion. I also don’t want to discourage people from signing up to this service. I will sign up just as soon as I can afford to (even $9.99 per month is a lot to an impoverished grad student), and I encourage any and everyone to do the same. Competition needs to be encouraged. Having said that, when you do sign up, make your voice heard. Let them know what you want.

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“Law and Order” as cultural history

I have recently begun the slightly odd project of watching Law and Order start to finish. Although I have watched the most recent several seasons of L&O, as well as the various spin-offs, the earlier 10-15 seasons really passed me by. I’m well aware that L&O is almost ubiquitous on US cable TV (I had a sick day in a US hotel where I watched nothing but), but in New Zealand, re-runs of earlier seasons have been fewer and further between. However, one of our PayTV networks recently started from season 1, episode 1, and seems to be intent on just running right through them. That, combined with a DVR, encouraged me to go back and experience the whole lot. A fool’s mission, maybe, but one I’m finding quite interesting.

What has struck me, 3-ish seasons in, is the way that L&O operates as an artefact, as a cultural historical record. Early seasons are filled with references to AIDS, to DNA, to mobile phones. Incident reports are being completed on type-writers, a foot cop runs to a pay-phone to call in a crime. Sexual harrassment seems to become a common trope as the series progresses. Females serving in the police force and the military becomes a theme. Homosexuality becomes more and more in the public eye, as does racism. I’m struck by the number of derogatory terms used in the show’s early seasons, especially n***er, which seems to be used in every second episode.

This is not the world’s greatest show. And as it is still a work of fiction, it answers more to the storyline than to culture. But I feel that the 20 years (running from roughly 1990-2010) saw massive shifts in technology and culture in the US, and L&O seems to be marking the importance of various issues as they come up. I expect to see more concerns around new technology, around the rise of the internet, around concerns of identity, around sexuality, race and gender, around politics and the rise of the religious right, around corruption, around terrorism. And I really feel that I am in some ways getting a glimpse back into the US’s cultural history, seeing the issues that were preoccupying people at a given moment, and seeing attitudes change and shift.

Sexuality and Idol paper

Following the excellent Gender Cultures and Reality TV symposium held in Auckland this past weekend (a follow-on from one held in Dublin earlier this year), I thought I would post the full text of the paper I presented. Obviously, I actually talked around it a little, and it is written for oral presentation, but I’m always interested in getting further feedback. The full text is after the jump. The suggestion was made that there might be enough of an idea here to work up for publication too, so that is also floating around in my mind.