Prime TV’s “Back Benches”: 13 June 2016

July 12th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

From Back Benches:

THIS WEEK ON PRIME TV’s “BACK BENCHES”: Watch Wallace Chapman, Hayley Holt, the Back Benches Panel and special guests discuss the week’s hottest topics!

A BIT WARMER THAT USUAL:  While most of us aren’t complaining about our extended summer and mild winter it is just further evidence that our climate is changing—redefining coastlines and weather. The Environment Commissioner has said it is our largest environmental issue. So, what can we do to combat climate change? Is it about re-evaluating the ETS? Can we reduce our emissions? Will it make a global difference? Restricting farming practices? Or working with farmers to create new, better farming practices? What are the knock-on effects if we do nothing?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US—HERE’S A HOUSE: As Labour celebrated the party’s 100th birthday, they launched their housing policy promising 100-thousand affordable houses to first home buyers, cracking down on property investors by tightening the rules around capital gains, and revamping Housing New Zealand. But is their two billion dollar plan the solution we’ve all been looking for? Will this plan bring the dream of a first home into reality for more Kiwis? Or is this just a tweak of the plans currently in operation leaving more of the same for New Zealanders?

FULL OF PRIDE: New Zealand just celebrated the 30th anniversary of Homosexual Law Reform and this week, Uni Q at Victory University is celebrating Pride Week. How have we changed in the last 30 years?  Is it time to reverse historic gay sex convictions? What more needs to be done?

There are two ways to get in on the political pub action:

First, you can join the live audience in Wellington’s iconic Backbencher Pub on Wednesday, 13th of June at 6pm. Filming begins around 6:20pm.

Or watch us that night on PRIME TV at 10:30pm!

Plus, Follow us on Facebook (BackBenchesTV) or on Twitter @BackBenchesTV.

Our Panel: Green Party MP Jan Logie, Labour MP Louisa Wall, National MP Chris Bishop, and United Future Leader Peter Dunne.

Holt joins Backbenches

May 12th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Political series Back Benches is returning to television screens with a new co-host, Hayley Holt.

Holt, a popular member of the The Crowd Goes Wild team, joined co-host Wallace Chapman for a few episodes of the political debating programme in 2015.

Holt is great on The Crowd Goes Wild, so will do equally well I am sure on Backbenches.

Viewers per dollar for current affairs shows

December 29th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Have been looking at how many people watch various current affairs shows on television, and how much of a subsidy they get from taxpayers through NZ on Air.

The funding figures for the four shows (from NZ on Air website) are:

  • The Nation $899,000 for 40 hours
  • Q + A $845,000 for 40 hours
  • Backbenches $606,000 for 20 hours
  • Media Take $482,000 for 10 hours

Cost per hour:

  • Media Take $48,200
  • Backbenches $30,300
  • The Nation $22,475
  • Q + A $21,125

Average viewers per episode (based on Nielsen data):

  • Q+A 99,000
  • The Nation 49,000
  • Backbenches 25,400
  • Media Take 1,900

So the cost per viewer hour is:

  • Media Take $12.68
  • Backbenches $1.19
  • The Nation $0.46
  • Q&A $0.21

It is hard to believe we are spending close to half a million dollars a year on a show watched by fewer than 2,000 people a week. In fact the taxpayer subsidy may be even greater than that as it shows on Maori TV, and they also get $55 million a year.

Q&A is the most watched show, and the one you can justify the easiest. The Nation has half the audience for a slightly larger budget. Would we be better served by having just one show, and giving it more resources so it can do more in depth?

I’m a big fan of Backbenches but an audience of 25,000 is pretty small for a cost of over $600,000.

NZ on Air funding should not just be about ratings, but on the other hand funding shows that fewer than 1% of NZ watches (or for Media Take fewer than 0.05%) suggests a problem.

Seymour on Backbenches

September 24th, 2014 at 8:12 pm by David Farrar

Attended Backbenches tonight and have to say ACT’s David Seymour was very impressive. He debated charter schools with ease against Chris Hipkins and Jan Logie, he showed some humour, and he also gave some rational answers on climate change which didn’t allow people to pigeon-hole him with a label.

If he can keep that up, he’ll have no problem surviving the House’s question time as a Minister.

Worth tuning into it tonight, if you weren’t there in person.

Backbenches 16 July 2014

July 14th, 2014 at 8:55 pm by David Farrar

From Backbenches:

THIS WEEK ON PRIME TV’s “BACK BENCHES”: Watch Wallace Chapman, Damian Christie, the Back Benches Panel and special guests discuss the week’s hottest topics!

RIVERS-CLEAN ENOUGH TO SWIM IN: The Green Party has launched their Clean Rivers Policy-promising to make rivers clean enough to swim in. Their plan would include giving some of the rivers the same protection as National Parks, strengthening regulations, a pollution cap and restricting dams and irrigation schemes. But National has called the policy “costly and impractical.” There are some 425,000kms of rivers and streams. Can we afford to put them all to swimming standards? Is it unfair to our agriculture industry? Can our farmers afford it? Are the Greens anti-growth? And if not the Greens policy, how would Labour and National clean our rivers and streams?

RAPE CULTURE: What is a rape culture? Does NZ have one? Many say yes. Is it in the language we use? The actions we condone? If we do have a rape culture, how do we stop it? How do we clean up our act? Would naming and shaming of sex offenders do any good? And is it time for a public sex offender registry?

There are two ways to get in on the political pub action:

First, you can join the live audience in Wellington’s iconic Backbencher Pub on Wednesday, 16th of July at 6pm. Filming begins around 6:15pm.

Or watch us that night on PRIME TV at 10:30pm!

Plus, Follow us on Facebook (BackBenchesTV) or on Twitter @BackBenchesTV.

Our Panel: Labour MP Phil Goff, National MP Claudette Hauiti, and Green Party MP Gareth Hughes. 


Backbenches 2 July 2014

July 1st, 2014 at 2:19 am by David Farrar

Backbenches announces:

THIS WEEK ON PRIME TV’s “BACK BENCHES”: Watch Wallace Chapman, Damian Christie, the Back Benches Panel and special guests discuss the week’s hottest topics!

ON THE ROADS, AGAIN!: National pledges to spend $212M in a roading and construction package if they are back in Government after the September 20 election. The projects will be focused in the regions such as Otago, Gisborne and Northland. The $212M spend-up is on top of the $360M already pledged for regional roads. Is investing in roads just an election bribe or necessary to improve road safety and connect the regions with the larger cities? Is this just about roads? Will it be enough to bolster regional development? And what about alternative forms of transport?

OUTBREAK: A measles outbreak in Hamilton (80+cases) and Auckland (100+cases) while a few more have appeared in other North Island cities. The highly infectious disease has forced schools to postpone all sporting, cultural and academic events for the remainder of the term and there are concerns it could appear in the South Island. The outbreak may be been made worse by parents neglecting to immunise their children. So, do we need to make immunisations mandatory? Or should immunisations be required to attend school? Should parents on welfare have immunisation tied to their benefit?

WHAT GETS THE VOTERS OUT?:  What gets voters to the ballot box? Is it parties? Specific politicians? Policies? If voters feel the election is a fait accompli-will they not bother? How do we get out the vote?

There are two ways to get in on the political pub action:

First, you can join the live audience in Wellington’s iconic Backbencher Pub on Wednesday, 2nd of July at 6pm. Filming begins around 6:15pm.

Or watch us that night on PRIME TV at 10:30pm!

Plus, Follow us on Facebook (BackBenchesTV) or on Twitter @BackBenchesTV.

 Our Panel: Labour MP David Clark, National MP Joanne Hayes, and Mana Party Leader Hone Harawira.


Backbenches 18 June 2014

June 16th, 2014 at 2:44 pm by David Farrar

Backbenches announces:

THIS WEEK ON PRIME TV’s “BACK BENCHES”: Watch Wallace Chapman, Damian Christie, the Back Benches Panel and special guests discuss the week’s hottest topics!

A LICENCE TO TICK OFF A LOT OF PARENTS: A liquor store has opened across the street from a school in Mangere. The school and local board are considering their legal options while restrictions are in place for the liquor store owners such as closing between 3-4pm on school days and prohibiting the sale of RTDs. But do these restrictions go far enough? Should we put more restrictions into where liquor outlets are allowed go? Is alcohol far too available? Especially in poorer communities? Should this be up to local councils or the Government?

THE TOP 10%: Oxfam NZ reports that our top 10% are wealthier than the rest of the population combined. Is inequality worsening in New Zealand? The Government says it has not worsened over the last decade and says they spend billions on support for low income kiwis. How do we combat inequality? Is it about throwing additional money at the problem? Or is it about targeted support? And will the upcoming G20 summit in Melbourne have any solutions?

There are two ways to get in on the political pub action:

First, you can join the live audience in Wellington’s iconic Backbencher Pub on Wednesday, 18th of June at 6pm. Filming begins around 6:15pm.

Or watch us that night on PRIME TV at 10:30pm!

Plus, Follow us on Facebook (BackBenchesTV) or on Twitter @BackBenchesTV.

Our Panel: Labour MP Jacinda Ardern, National MP Jacqui Dean, Maori Party Co-Leader Te Ururoa Flavell, and Independent MP Brendan Horan.


Back Benches 4 June 2014

June 2nd, 2014 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

Backbenches announces:

THIS WEEK ON PRIME TV’s “BACK BENCHES”: Watch Wallace Chapman, Damian Christie, the Back Benches Panel and special guests discuss the week’s hottest topics!

CARBON TAX vs. ETS:  The Green Party has proposed replacing our ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme) with a carbon tax to better combat climate change. Instead of the ETS-all sectors would pay $25 (agriculture pays $12.50) per tonne on carbon emissions. While the new tax will see all of us paying more for petrol, food and electricity an accompanying tax cut would leave us, according to the Greens, $319 better off every year. Unless, of course, you’re a dairy farmer. Currently, farmers don’t have to pay for carbon credits despite being responsible for nearly half of our yearly emissions. National’s Climate Change Minister Tim Groser questions the Greens inclusion of our farmers, one of our largest export markets, into the scheme. Is it time to re-evaluate our ETS? Does the Green party have the answer? And will any of these programmes actually save the environment?

MMP: IS IT A RORT?: The Internet Mana Party alliance is the latest political deal, similar to the Government’s deal with United Future & ACT, that has some calling the MMP system a rort. Are they right? Are these smaller parties gaming the system in order to squeeze into Parliament when the ballot box would never, otherwise, get them there. Do we like MMP? Is it the best way to make sure all voices in Parliament are heard? Or is it too easy to game the system? Are deals like these dirty deals? Or just the way it is? Do they turn the average punter off voting? Do we need to get rid of the “coat-tail” rule? Or change the threshold?

There are two ways to get in on the political pub action:

First, you can join the live audience in Wellington’s iconic Backbencher Pub on Wednesday, 4th of June at 6pm. Filming begins around 6:15pm.

Or watch us that night on PRIME TV at 10:30pm!

Plus, Follow us on Facebook (BackBenchesTV) or on Twitter @BackBenchesTV.

Our Panel: Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter, Labour MP Andrew Little, and National MP Paul Foster-Bell.

Backbenches 28 May 2014

May 26th, 2014 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

Prime TV announces:

THIS WEEK ON PRIME TV’s “BACK BENCHES”: Watch Wallace Chapman, Damian Christie, the Back Benches Panel and special guests discuss the week’s hottest topics!

ASIAN INVASION?:  A survey from the Asian NZ Foundation highlights the growing resentment from Maori towards Asian immigrants. Competition is at the heart of the matter-competition for jobs and cultural funding but also to blame, the survey says, is a lack of understanding of the Treaty of Waitangi. Is this a fair observation or a skewed perception of reality? Are Maori more important than other kiwis? While some political parties are looking to restrict immigration and immigrants from buying NZ houses-there is a call for NZ to become more multi-cultural & multi-lingual. Do these policies mesh well?

YUP-WE’RE STILL REALLY FAT: New Zealand is STILL the 3rd fattest nation (behind Mexico & USA) in the OECD. That is 1.2 million fat kiwis. So, what are we to do about it? National announced $40million in the budget for anti-obesity initiatives. But how will that money be spent? Is it about teaching communities how to eat better? Or get more exercise? Is it just a drop in the bucket considering we spend $700m on obesity through diabetes and heart disease? Is it now a bigger health concern than smoking?

GENERATION “Y I DON’T VOTE”:  Our under 30s are as likely to vote in the next election as they are to win the lotto. An exaggeration, perhaps, but more than 800,000 kiwis didn’t vote in 2011 and that is expected to be worse come the 20th of September. How do the political parties get the youth of today to get involved? Many say their vote won’t matter but with just under a million non-voters that is a very influential group, after all.

There are two ways to get in on the political pub action:

First, you can join the live audience in Wellington’s iconic Backbencher Pub on Wednesday, 28th of May at 6pm. Filming begins around 6:15pm.

Or watch us that night on PRIME TV at 10:30pm!

Plus, Follow us on Facebook (BackBenchesTV) or on Twitter @BackBenchesTV.

Our Panel: Green Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei, Labour MP Grant Robertson, National MP Tim Macindoe.

A co-leader, an aspiring leader and a whip!

Backbenches 21 May 2014

May 19th, 2014 at 5:56 pm by David Farrar

From Backbecnhes:

THIS WEEK ON PRIME TV’s “BACK BENCHES”: Watch Wallace Chapman, Damian Christie, the Back Benches Panel and special guests discuss the week’s hottest topics!

SUPERMARKETS-SUPER BULLIES?:  The Commerce Commission is investigating charges that the supermarket chain Countdown used blackmail and extortion on its suppliers. The allegations were brought to light by departing Labour MP Shane Jones. Is it time for a compulsory code of conduct for the supermarkets?  How do we make it fairer for suppliers and consumers?

IMPOSSIBLE TO LIVE ON THE CHEAP?: The budget had a lot of lollies in it but not for housing and, certainly, not for first time homebuyers. National pledges to keep lower interest rates but Labour says this doesn’t go far enough to address the housing crisis, particularly in Auckland. The added burden of the reverse brain drain and foreign migration will see even more people trying to find housing in the big smoke. What is the best way to deal with this? Some in the opposition suggest a ban on foreign buyers. Is that the solution? What about a capital gains tax? Or do we need to rely on local councils to do more? And how much of an impact will a tax break on building materials offer?

I ALWAYS FEEL LIKE SOMEBODY’S WATCHING ME:  Are we all under surveillance ALL of the time? Auckland’s CCTV cameras are the start of a national system which may include facial recognition technology.  The new network would be available for Police to access and, in some emergent cases, control. Proponents of the system say there will be “real-time crime prevention.” While civil liberty advocates oppose the move saying our privacy is at risk.  In this day and age-is there a thing such as privacy? Is safety more important than privacy?

There are two ways to get in on the political pub action:

First, you can join the live audience in Wellington’s iconic Backbencher Pub on Wednesday, 21st of May at 6pm. Filming begins around 6:15pm.

Or watch us that night on PRIME TV at 10:30pm!

Plus, Follow us on Facebook (BackBenchesTV) or on Twitter @BackBenchesTV.

Our Panel: Labour MP Shane Jones, National MP Paul Goldsmith and New Zealand First MP Andrew Williams.

Shane Jones also gives his valedictory speech that day, so this may be his last media appearance as an MP.

Bad timing

August 28th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar



Had a fun night last night celebrating Kiwiblog’s 10th birthday party. The Kiwiblog RTDs have become collector items! Thanks to all those who made it, and big thanks to Kensington Swan, Ideas Shop, Independent Liquor and Wine Seeker for sponsoring the event.

Was a pretty late night/morning so slow day today. The bad timing is that tonight is the final episode of Backbenches so will be two big nights in a row!

Backbenches appearances

June 5th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I recently inquired as to which MPs have appeared on Backbenches, and how often. I was actually more interested in which MPs have not apeared. Anyway a few interesting stats for appearances since the 2011 election.

  • Labour 33 times
  • National 32 times
  • Green 28 times
  • NZ First 18 times
  • United Future 4 times
  • Mana 2 times
  • Maori Party 1 time

And in terms of individual MPs who have appeared more than twice:

  • 5 – Andrew Williams
  • 4 – Catherine Delahunty, Peter Dunne, Tracey Martin
  • 3 – Brendan Horan, Chester Borrows, David Bennett, David Parker, Gareth Hughes, Holly Walker, Jan Logie, Louise Upston, Richard Prosser

What I was really interested in was which MPs have never gone on at all since the 2011 election. I am excluding Ministers. By party they are:

  • Greens – Mojo Mathers
  • Labour – Nanaia Mahuta, Clare Curran, Darien Fenton, Ruth Dyson, Raymond Huo, Rajen Prasad, Ross Robertson
  • National – Paul Hutchison, Eric Roy, Tau Henare, Jacqui Dean, Lindsay Tisch, Shane Ardern, Jonathan Young, Bakshi Singh, Katrina Shanks, Melissa Lee, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, Jian Yang, Simon O’Connor, Mike Sabin
  • NZ First – Barbara Stewart, Asenati Lole-Taylor

Hopefully we’ll see a few of them on over the next couple of years.

Backbenches to return in 2013

September 13th, 2012 at 9:09 am by David Farrar

Sky TV has announced that Backbenches will return in 2013. It will be primarily funded by NZ on Air, part-funded by Sky, produced by TVNZ, broadcast live on Wednesday evenings by Prime TV and shown delayed on TVNZ Heartland channel.

A great collaborative effort, which should mean it is seen by far more people than was the case on TVNZ7.

Funding at this stage is for 20 one hour shows.

As I said when Backbenches finished on TVNZ7, I’ve been a big fan of the show. However there are some format changes they should consider to make it better when it relaunches.

Backbenches funded by NZ on Air

August 14th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Back Benches looks set to live on after the demise of TVNZ7 with NZ On Air committing funding “in principle” to the programme running on Prime.

NZ On Air spokeswoman Gina Rogers said the agency was having talks with Prime about its financial contribution to the show.

It also wanted a shorter season than the planned 50-episode series for next year. Parliament sits for only 30-odd weeks a year, but Back Benches does a New Zealand summer tour.

Ms Rogers said NZ On Air wanted to see Back Benches work. “We’d be really excited about its return.”

I’m very pleased with this. Good on Sky TV for agreeing to broadcast it, and NZ on Air for funding it.

On Prime TV, which is free to air, it will have the potential to get a much bigger audience than it had on TVNZ7.

This shows that public broadcasting is not dependent on TVNZ7 – a channel which had minsicule ratings for most programmes. The NZ on Air model allows local broadcasting to be funded across all broadcasters.

TVNZ7 was a failed experiment. TVNZ can not be both a commercial and a public service broadcaster.

Personally I would sell TVNZ and use the capital to set up a proper public service broadcaster, combined with Radio NZ. But the operating costs of that could be too high in our fiscal times, so for now the NZ on Air model is working well.

Will Backbenches be saved?

July 6th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

John Drinnan writes at NZ Herald:

Plans for TVNZ to make Back Benches for Prime TV will deliver good public relations results all round and a pleasing result for the show’s loyal audience.

The politics programme, which is one of the last vestiges of television in Wellington, has screened on TVNZ 7 until it was discontinued last week.

It does not fit with TVNZ’s aims of making profit at all costs, so TVNZ is not interested in picking up the niche-interest show for TV One.

Prime TV is prepared to run a weekly 10.30pm show – a time when it should not be too encumbered with advertising.

So now TVNZ, which owns the intellectual property, has sought taxpayer funding from New Zealand On Air to make the show in-house and sell it to Prime.

This is a win-win-win. Worthy souls will applaud the survival of Back Benches. TVNZ and New Zealand On Air will do something to keep the legacy alive.

NZ on Air has to agree to the funding request, but I certainly hope they do.

As I understand it the bid is a co-operative exercise between TVNZ and Sky, and it would probably also show on a TVNZ channel at a delayed time spot.

The good thing is this bid, if successful, will open up viewership to a potentially much larger audience than TVNZ7 had.

The final TVNZ7 Backbenches

June 27th, 2012 at 10:35 pm by David Farrar

Just finished watching the final episode of Backbenches, well on TVNZ7 anyway. I watched in on TV, as the Speights Ale House was crammed to capacity. A fair bit of the show ended up being filmed on the pavement outside after a fire alarm went out, providing an exciting end to the show on TVNZ7.

It is possible the show may get picked up by another broadcaster, but for now anyway it has ended after four and a bit years.

In the main, I’ve greatly enjoyed the show – both as a viewer, and occasional participant.    The after show drinking sessions ending up at Hummingbird have also been good!

I thought I would first start with the good. The two producers – Caroline and Mary-Anne – are always friendly, always professional, put together an excellent production and two really great people to boot.

The combination of Wallace and Damien worked well. Damien’s humour and Wallace’s engaging style produced a very watchable show.  I said to Wallace some years ago that one day I could see him on Close Up. I still hold to that view.

The floor manager and technical staff did an excellent job of live broadcasts from a non-studio. The Backbenches pub was a great venue for the show, as has been Speights Ale House for the last three weeks.

I think it was a great thing that we had a show, where any member of the public could turn up at the pub, and see four MPs debate the week’s issues, and meet and chat to them before hands and afterwards. There are few countries that have their MPs so accessible. I recall one show on a day the House rose early, and there were over 40 MPs at the Backbencher.

I also think the show was great for MPs, especially well backbenchers. Previously some MPs would never have to debate on live television until they were a Minister – and normally only if they are in the crap! It’s good training for MPs.

So many good things about Backbenchers, and I will miss it. But there were two or three issues which did detract from it.

The first is the behaviour of some in the audience. We saw this tonight where they booed and hissed as Peter Dunne got introduced. I will heckle (hopefully something humourous) an MP when they say something worth heckling, but would never ever boo or hiss an MP – as would be the case for most people. But the partisan activists who regularly jeer, boo and hiss those they disagree with did the show a dis-service. And if no other broadcaster does pick up the show, then I happen to know their behaviour has been an element in that. Certain broadcasting executives have commented on some of the appalling rudeness.

Linked to that, is the composition of the audience has changed over the four years. There has always been a hard core group of activists from the right and left who have turned up, which is good. But there used to also be a lot of non-activists turn up, who just wanted to experience the show. Over time it seems there were fewer of those, and the audiences became more and more the partisan activists.

Another issue for me has been the composition of the panels, since the 2011 election. The formula has always been one MP per party. Up until the 2011 election this would normally mean two Government MPs and two Opposition MPs. After ACT lost all their backbenches in 2011, the result has been almost every panel has been three opposition MPs and one Government MP. It could have been worth allowing two MPs from National, or alternatively having just three MPs on the panel, so it is slightly less lop sided.

As I said, it is possible Backbenches will continue on another channel. I hope it does. While I have highlighted some issues (I’d solve the booing issue by having the cameras do close up focuses on those doing it), I definitely think overall it has become a fun part of New Zealand politics.

Backbencher gutted by fire

June 8th, 2012 at 8:17 am by David Farrar

Photo by Kent Blechynden, of the Dom Post.

Stuff reports:

Firefighters were called to a fire at well-known Wellington landmark the Backbencher Pub this morning.

Fire Service central communications shift manager Murray Dunbar said firefighters were alerted at 4.45am when an alarm went off in the multi-storey Kate Sheppard apartment building, next to the pub.

It is understood the fire began in the pub’s kitchen.

Apartment residents were evacuated and eight fire trucks were sent.

Thank goodness no one was harmed, but this is still an awful thing. The Backbencher is an iconic Wellington institution.

Boycie and his staff will be devastated. Seeing the damage will be soul destroying, and their collection of political cartoons and puppets may be irreplacable.

I worked at the Red Cross on Hill Street in 1990 when the Backbencher opened, and went there on its opening day. So I’ve been going there for over 20 years, and it comes close to my second home. I just hope the damage doesn’t see it closed for too long.

On a more practical note, it means the Backbenches TV show will need a new venue for its final three shows on TVNZ7.

TVNZ7 programmes

March 7th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

As most readers will know, TVNZ7 ends in June. The funding given to it by Labour was for an initial period (was never made permanent), in order for it to become self-funding, and National has not decided to give TVNZ a subsidy to keep it going.

I don’t think the channel itself matters, as we have dozens of channels in NZ, and the value associated with a channel is becoming much less in the Internet age. I do think though there were some programmes on TVNZ7 which it would be good to have continue on. The three which I associate with being public broadcasting are the Court Report, Media 7 and Backbenchers. Important issues get discussed in a reasoned way (well on two of them anyway!).

Most of the other shows on TVNZ7 are imported or the hourly news bulletins, which are hardly essential. So my focus is on the three programmes above. There is also The Good Word.

Now to have a sensible discussion on their future, we need to know how many people were watching them, and how much they cost.

Neilsen have not been contracted to report ratings for TVNZ7. I think this is disgraceful considering the $15m a year that was spent on it. It should be a requirement of any use of taxpayer funds for broadcasting that the viewer data be made publicly available.

However we can get some idea of ratings. TVNZ7 is included in an “other” category. This excludes Channels 1 to 4, Prime, MTS, Box and Sky channels. Now last week “other” during the time Media7 was on got 0.6% AUD%, which is around 24,000 viewers. This means the number of viewers was somewhere between 0 and 24,000.

These level of viewers makes it hard to justify taxpayer investment. Public broadcasting is not expected to rate like Shortland Street as it is not commercial. But it is expected to at least rate. You should be achieving at least 1% of the population. It is quite possible no show on TVNZ7 has ever achieved even a 1% audience. I don’t blame the shows for this – I think the three shows mentioned are well produced and very worthwhile. If anything I blame TVNZ for not promoting them on other channels. TVNZ use their 6 pm new slot to often promote Q+A. They didn’t do this for any of the stuff on TVNZ7. How often did a story on TVNZ7 get picked up on TVNZ news the next day? I can think of many that should have been (such as Jim Farmer QC’s comments on the Supreme Court on the Court Report). So TVNZ failed to promote TVNZ7 programmes enough.

Next you consider how much these programmes cost. Someone out there may know, and I would hope it is public information as they are taxpayer funded. NZ on Air publishes funding details of the programmes they fund. We should be able to easily look up what the TVNZ7 programmes cost.

But someone in the industry has estimated for me that those programmes would probably cost $10,000/hr to produce or $5,000 an episode. So that is $250,000 a year. *If* those prices are correct, that is not an unaffordable amount of money. Now NZ on Air allocates $80m a year of contestable funding towards NZ TV programmes. It is not impossible to imagine that they could find $750,000 a year to keep Media 7, Court Report and Backbenches on our screens. However the real problem is finding the broadcaster to agree to host them.

TVNZ is refusing (so far) to apply to NZ on Air to keep any of those programmes going. Why? Well they don’t want to screen them on TV1 or TV2 during a weeknight, as they would lose advertising revenue. I can understand that, but I don’t see why they couldn’t apply for them to be shown on a Saturday or Sunday?

But lets assume for now TVNZ won’t agree to broadcast them. What about other broadcasters? Well this could be an opportunity for Sky. They could apply for NZ on Air funding to show it on Prime or on Sky News. Politically it could be useful for Sky also to be doing more public good broadcasting (they also did election debates etc), as their future in a converged broadcasting and telecommunications market is scrutinised. Sky would also have the ability to promote the shows to get more viewers.

Another possibility is to make (for example) the Court Report an Internet broadcast. NZ on Air already fund some stuff over the Internet. The sort of people who watch the Court Report will tend to be Internet savvy, and many would happily subscribe to it and watch on their iPads or PCs.

So the issues are much much wider than just funding for TVNZ7. It is a complicated challenge. I’ve always been of the view that TVNZ can not be asked to be both a commercial broadcaster and a public service broadcaster. However that does leave opportunities for others.

Backbenches tonight

November 23rd, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m one of four panelists on Backbenches tonight. Joining me are:

  • Morgan Godfrey, the NZ blogger with the most Mana
  • Professor Ana Gilling from Victoria University
  • Mark Unsworth, supremely evil lobbyist

Tonight’s show is not the normal one with politicians arguing their parties are great and good, but the four of us analysing the campaign and the election.

We will be talking about the highs and lows of the campaign, who has been most effective at getting their message across, what have been the big issues. We’ll rate each party’s campaign, and also talk about some of the scandals from the Tea Party to damaged hoardings to tactical voting.

If you are in Wellington, pop along to the Backbencher pub if interested. On air from 9.10 pm to 10 pm live on TVNZ7.

Back Benches 7 September 2011

September 5th, 2011 at 7:47 pm by Kokila Patel


CHRISTCHURCH REBUILD … A year since the first Christchurchearthquake and a lot has been accomplished but what more needs to be done?  Is the  rebuild of Christchurch  happening as quickly as it should and what about the people of Bexley?  The EQC has a huge number of claims to deal with plus their reserves are  exhausted with the Government saying repairing Christchurch will cost double the original estimates. Will the new city  look completely different and what time frame are we talking about?

PACIFIC FORUM … Starts Wednesday in Auckland.  It’s the 40th anniversary  with the first one taking place in Auckland  in 1971.  Prime Minister John Key says he’ll be “absolutely stunned” if Pacific Island  leaders have changed their position on Fiji.  Over the weekend a  number of leaders expressed support for Fiji wanting its membership of the  Pacific Forum restored.   In the past New  Zealand and Australia have been accused of  being bullies … is that valid?  Would it be more effective to keep Fiji  within the forum?  The other big issue is Climate change.  United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is warning if nothing is done the islands  of the pacific face economic and social instability.  Is this the real worry the ocean waves that are more dangerous than any army?  Is New Zealand  doing enough?  A number of Islands could  disappear will a lot more Pacific people be coming here to live?

Join us for a night of LIVE pub politics from the Back Bencher pub: Wednesday 7th of September.  Our Panel … Rahui Katene Maori Party, Labour’s Stuart Nash and Jacqui Dean from National.

Back Benches screens on TVNZ 7 Wednesdays at 9.05pm with encore screenings on Thursdays at 9.05am and 1.05pm, Saturdays at 10.05pm, Sundays at 10.05am and 2.05pm

Back Benches 31 August 2011

August 29th, 2011 at 10:36 am by Kokila Patel

THIS WEEK ON BACK BENCHES: IT IS THE SCIENCE & INNOVATION SPECIAL. Watch Wallace Chapman, Damian Christie, the Back Benches Panel and special guests!

“We’re a country of innovators. We’re known for and are proud of our No. 8 Wire mentality. It may get things done, but is it holding us back? Back Benches is answering your questions in this Science & Innovation Special on August 31st. Why is it important for us to move beyond the No. 8 wire? How do we transform the backyard inventor into a world class successful businessman?

How do we compete against countries like China and India where Sciences and Maths are a priority? What can teachers do to fight against the idea these subjects are boring? How do we make, as one Kiwi Scientist suggests, Science sexy?

How can innovations change our biggest industry—Agriculture? Improve Agriculture for the better—better for the environment, better for farmers, better for the bottom line, and most importantly better for our wallets? How do we become world-leaders?

National says their investing our dollars in Science & Innovation while Labour says it’s not enough.  Is it about spending more money or spending it more efficiently? Or is it really about making a huge cultural shift? We’ll find out as only Back Benches can with our MPs, experts, and you the audience.”

Join us for a night of LIVE pub politics from the Backbencher Pub: Wednesday, 31st of August. Our Panel: ACT MP Heather Roy, Green Party MP David Clendon, Labour MP David Shearer and National MP Dr. Paul Hutchison.

Back Benches – August 10 2011

August 8th, 2011 at 2:22 pm by Kokila Patel

THIS WEEK ON BACK BENCHES: Watch Wallace Chapman, Damian Christie, the Back Benches Panel and special guests discuss the week’s hottest topics!

CHOICE—JUST AROUND THE CORNER?: The filibuster’s been broken so is choice just around the corner? Will the Voluntary Student Membership bill pass? Could this be the death knell of University Student Unions? Or will this separate the wheat from the chaff? And what does it mean for Student media? How important is our student media? Does student radio and magazines need to be separately funded rather than through Student Membership dues?

SAVED!:  It was facing cuts up to 60% but the release of the Early Childhood Education Taskforce report means that playcentre and parent-led ECE services are safe from cuts. But what about other ECE services?

Join us for a night of LIVE pub politics from the Backbencher Pub: Wednesday, 10th of August. Our Panel: ACT MP Heather Roy, Green MP Gareth Hughes, Labour MP David Parker and National MP Amy Adams.

Back Benches screens on Wednesdays at 9.05pm with encore screenings on Thursdays at 9.05am and 1.05pm, Saturdays at 10.05pm, Sundays at 10.05am and 2.05pm – TVNZ 7

Rape, Blame and Safety

May 27th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

National backbencher Paul Quinn has apologised for remarking “there is a real issue with young ladies getting drunk” during a debate about rape.

The list MP defended his comments by saying he misunderstood the question because of background noise.

And he was forced to issue an apology on Twitter after a storm of negative feedback on the micro-blogging network.

He posted: “Sorry I did not hear what she had said. So my answer was totally out of context and I know that short skirts are not provocation.”

It is very very noisy in the pub at Backbenches.  Adam Bennett in the NZ Herald reports:

Greens co-leader Russel Norman, who was sitting next to Mr Quinn, said the National MP had turned to him and told him he had been unable to hear the presentation properly.

“He seemed genuine,” he said

I think Russel’s comments make it very clear that Paul did not hear the context to the question.

In terms of the substance, I always find it useful to differenitiate between blame and safety. In terms of blame, the victim is never to blame for being raped. Nothing justifies rape = ever.

The Lady Garden blogs:

For the record, I could give a dude a blowjob in a bar bathroom, and if he then forced himself on me, it wouldn’t be my fault. Get it?

I agree entirely.

To use a well known example, if Mike Tyson invites you back to his hotel room at 2 am, and then has sex with you against his will, you are not to blame, he is. And in this case he was convicted of rape as he should have been.

However if a female friend of mine told me that Mike Tyson has asked her back to his hotel room at 2 am, my advice would be not to go – or at least not to go alone, as you might not be safe.

Likewise if you get invited to a party at the Mongrel Mob fortress, again my advice would be not to go. If you did go, and got raped, it would be entirely the responsibility of the Mongrel Mob rapists, but as we do not live in a perfect world, reducing risk is often a sensible thing to do.

This is not just about rape. If I was wearing a $20,000 Rolex and had $50,000 of cash on me, and attended said Mongrel Mob party, then there is an increased risk I’ll get beaten up and robbed. I would be the victim, and 100% not to blame. The muggers would be to blame. However I’d probably conclude not to attend any more Mongrel Mob parties with Rolexes.

It is NEVER a rape-victim’s fault that they were attacked. The responsibility lies with the criminal, and the criminal alone. Clothes, behaviour, what they’ve had to drink, their sexual past, proclivities, and promises are no fucking excuse, and don’t come into it at all.

I agree. They are no excuse, and all the blame lies with the criminal. It is atrocious that some men can’t accept this, and commit rape. It is a hideous crime.

However, and I say this with genuine concern, one does have to accept we don’t live in a perfect crime free world. And it is worth taking steps to minimise the probability of crime. No I don’t mean dressing like nuns and being a teetotaller. I do mean however being aware that if you get pissed, you may not be as able to prevent a crime occuring. So if you are getting pissed, maybe make sure you have a more sober friend with you.

Whn going home after a night out, consider the relative dangers of walking home vis a taxi. There are some suburbs that would not be particularly safe for either men or women to be going through at 3 am. if you get mugged or raped, of course you are not to blame because you took a short cut through (for example) Cannons Creek. But knowing we do not live in a crime free society, it might be a good idea not to do so.

It would be nice if we could leave our front doors unlocked and the car keys in our cars, without them being stolen. And if they are stolen, the thief is to blame. But generally I wouldn’t recommend people leave their car keys in their ignition.

Now again, I am in no way saying that women should not go out, should not drink alcohol, should not wear what they like, just to minimise the chance of rape.  All I’m trying to say is there are some evil bastards out there, and to use some common sense when out on the town – to look after each other.

Backbenches this week

March 28th, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar


  • David Shearer, Labour
  • Katrina Shanks, National
  • Heather Roy, ACT
  • Keith Locke, Greens


  • The cost of a University education
  • The increasing specialisation of Universities
  • Doctors flying to Aus for 8 grand weekends

9.10 pm Wednesday on TVNZ7 or live at the Backbencher

Backbenches this week

March 21st, 2011 at 5:32 pm by David Farrar

Special guest Emeritus Prof Jim Flynn – world renown for his work on IQ. Also the Childrens Commissioner.


  • Charles Chauvel (Lab)
  • Michael Woodhouse (Nat)
  • Catherine Delahunty ( Greens)

Topics: Libya, paid parental leave, NZ books and book month, and more..

Backbenches are giving away an e-reader wed night also.

Filed live in the Backbencher from 9.10 pm on Wednesday.