John Drinnan in the New Zealand Herald revealed Campbell Live is under threat of being scrapped by Mediaworks. The options paper presented to Campbell Live staff apparently included replacing the current format with a Jono and Ben style comedy show (NB as opposed to actually being replaced with Jono and Ben, so don’t hate on them). The reaction on Twitter and other social media is electric; John Campbell is one of the genuine people of conscience in our media today, and he has put his reputation on the line time and again to challenge the powers that be and to rally support for people in need here and overseas.
In the weeks and months to come we will no doubt hear more about ratings, about the public’s appetite for current affairs, about the new trends in news reporting, about the role of news in our media today. What we may not hear more about is the threat of a good example that John Campbell and his team represent to the active and considered project by our current government and their corporate masters to dismantle what is left of our unity, of our social contract with each other in favour of allowing the free market to reign unfettered.
Briefly, the social contract is the theory that our moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon our contract or agreement with each other to form the society in which we live. We don’t just live for ourselves as individuals; we negotiate some level of equity and justice for all of us to have a society worth living in. Yet the past seven years have seen a redoubling of efforts to dismantle this pact by a government committed to absolute individual freedom moderated only by its contribution to growth and profit in a capitalist economy. Their reforms have recast all of us in relation to our contribution to our economy; the less you contribute, the less you are worth. John Key, Gerry Brownlee, Simon Bridges, et al. are the dominant class, the dominant identity. They call themselves Kiwis or New Zealanders, never Pākehā, the ongoing victors in the long war for the resources of the country and its people.
John Campbell has lead an investigative news team that flies in the face of this. They have highlighted the plight of the poor, the damaged and the Other not as an object of derision but as people, like you and me, worthy of sympathy and love. John and his team are committed to the unity of our society; they celebrate difference not as a threat, but as an opportunity for new relationships in our wonderful country. I wonder if the motivation is obvious in how John and his team view themselves; they are (predominantly) Pākehā. Not Kiwis, not New Zealanders, but Pākehā in the same sense that Michael King was Pākehā:
In identifying my own culture as Pakeha, I do so as one who has always taken it for granted that I belonged in this land…. After several generations of my family’s occupation of this land, my own sense of belonging to it and hence the flavour of my own culture, includes the following ingredients: a strong relationship with the natural world…; an engagement with the history of the land…; a relationship with the literature of this country…; and a relationship with Maori people, Maori writing and Maori history, which affects my view of all the preceding ingredients. (Michael King)
John Campbell is in the best tradition of what it means to be Pākehā in Aotearoa New Zealand. John Campbell is a representative of a culture and an identity that is relaxed about not dominating others, instead willing to be connected and related to the other cultures in our country. Campbell Live, every evening, shows us a country that all people can be a part of, in which Pākehā partner with Māori, Pasifika, new immigrants, everyone for the good of each other. Every evening you leave it thinking, it’s going to be alright, we can do this together.
The show is an anathema to the free market because you leave thinking the dollar is not the point of the journey and that those who worship it are a bit disturbed. For Mediaworks, for the government, for other corporates, the message of unity of Campbell Live is a heresy; their ratings and profits depend on our disunity and desire to climb over each other to the goals they set. And so our country sits on the edge of a knife.
With an environment under stress from a changing climate and ham-fisted management of its resources, an economy too dependent on dairy and the mis-use of our land, geopolitical relationships that fly in the face of our belief in a fair go and an independent foreign policy, a society of haves and have nots and a disengagement in our population from politics, we are facing a fundamental change for the worse. If we follow the roadmap given us by our government and their partners, we are on a road to a society that is held together by fear: more surveillance; greater use of violence against the brown and impoverished; less care for each other.
John and his team on Campbell Live have been some of the voices of conscience asking, pleading with us to forge a different pathway to a society held together by unity of purpose; of identity; of hope. Those voices of conscience include prominent Pākehā such as Dame Anne Salmond, Michael King, Sir Paul Callaghan, David Moxon, to name a very few. Aotearoa New Zealand still has the opportunity to achieve a future where Māori, Pākehā, Pasifika, and all others can meet and acknowledge each other not for our monetary worth but for our essential contribution to building this society together. We can do something quite special together which is why some are working so hard to keep us apart.
Campbell Live has consistently brought us together. So now let’s come together for Campbell Live and the wonderful John Campbell. #SaveCampbellLive.