Executing John Campbell & the dying art of being Pākehā #SaveCampbellLive

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.

Bloody Marvelous.

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33 thoughts on “Executing John Campbell & the dying art of being Pākehā #SaveCampbellLive

    1. I’m with you Marlene and it certainly feels to be a bigger issue than just the ratings of one show.

  1. “Journalism is printing what somebody else doesn’t want published. Everything else is just public relations.” William Randolf Hearst, US newspaper magnate.

  2. Thanks for this thoughtful and insightful piece. Campbell is the Everyman other a powerful broadcasting tool that most of us do not have. Hence his importance. Hence the importance of his show. Hence the corporate rollover.

  3. John has to stay with us. He is the only man for the people. More than you can say for John Keys..

  4. Politics and or politicians hate being targeted by JC, people who love to bully others and get caught by JC, people who rip off people and the system get exposed by JC, JC and his people get into the community for community issues, “COMMUNITY ISSUES” what the hell does Jono and Ben do for community, they aint funny, they just men trying to be “comedians”. Take JC off the air, and who is going to speak out for the underdogs, certainly not Jono and Ben, certainly not the Politicians, and certainly not the “Fat Cows” of Mediaworks. Why do they keep bringing up, “John Campbell is getting scrapped”. There must be some people out there that must feel very afraid.

    1. Kia ora, the more reporting on this issue the more obvious that Weldon and Christie are running a particular commercial model that has no place for investigative journalism. They are running some very good people and reporters into the ground. Now more than ever we need a true public broadcaster.

  5. John Campbell leads a current affairs program that stands alone, champions the causes of the ordinary New Zealander like no other, it would be a travesty to take Cambell Live off the air

  6. Campbell should really be on a quality public broadcaster, but TVNZ isn’t one. So we have a problem which was inevitable and predicted by Ian Johnston about 20 years ago, after the dumping of the TV license fee. That started the rot and lead us to a ratings driven race to the bottom. I don’t watch TV anymore. How many others feel the same?

    1. Kia ora Phil. We actually don’t have our tv regularly in the lounge as we don’t want our children to sit and watch it every day. We normally bring it out on Monday for Native Affairs, sometimes during the week if we’ve seen a post about an interesting item on Campbell Live and quite often on Fridays for 7 Days. So we are not very avid TV watchers, and with the advent of streaming TV and movies even less so.

    2. The really interesting and courageous solution here would be for Maori TV to pick up John Campbell to run a thoroughly good current affairs programme consciously presenting Pakeha views providing intelligent contrast and discussion – not to take over the Maori channel but to enrich it. Failing that, could he go back to Radio NZ but add a vibrant online debate component including video and written content?

  7. A government that does not support public critique is undemocratic – when our government refocused public broadcasting from public service to being a profitable business they effectively furthered the attrition of democracy in this country.
    We have been fortunate to have a commercial TV channel that was prepared to present such a programme as “Campbell Live”. Somehow, we must retain it – it will not be enough to see the programme reassigned to another time of day or channel. And we need to retain that inclusive, yet critical content – not the frivolous stuff that is presented elsewhere under the guise of current affairs.

  8. My suggestion for John Campbell would be: Leave mainstream media, and start your own channel. If you start your own show online tomorrow, you will instantly have lots and lots of viewers without any doubt, and you could do your part to open the eyes of more people to the fact that mainstream media are not a good source of information if you want to really understand the world and think and act as a responsible member of society. Best of luck!

  9. When Campbell goes we will be switching off. Another good journalist to be sacrificed on the strength of a shonky survey result. Caring for others has become uncool. Every time we loose a public presenter who confronts the injustices in our land, we are each more at risk of being exploited. Keep John Campbell.

  10. Thanks for this. Michael King was my dad. He’d be pretty heart-broken about so many things going on today. I wish he was still here to speak out about them.

    1. Kia ora Rachael, thank you for your comment. Your father has been an inspiration to me both as an academic and as a community member. If I was to summarise his inspiration from his dozens of books, papers and interviews it would be that he helped me hope we could be a better country and better communities, and always taught me not to fear difference. I can imagine he would deeply saddened by our society; I can see echoes of what might have been his disappointment and his challenge to us in the writing in the last five years of Dame Anne Salmond. Thank you for sharing your father with us in Aotearoa New Zealand; I don’t imagine that you had much choice, but I am sincere in thanking you. I wish he was still here too.

  11. Striving for individual freedom shouldn’t be a crime. I care for my fellow man and society but I never signed a pact as you put it. We are individuals not tribal. Help your neighbour when they need it but don’t take away their right to strive by dressing socialism up under the banner of caring.

    1. Kia ora for your comment. Your statement “we are individuals not tribal” is in ignorance of history and current geopolitics. Individualism is a philosophical creation of the past 150 years, an offshoot of industrialisation which saw the specialisation of roles and the rise of capital as a form of exchange and economy. It serves an economic purpose, but is fundamentally flawed in forming a functioning society. You may not want to sign a pact with your ‘fellow man’, but nor, I suspect, do you want a group of individuals living alongside each other in which the only arbiter of their behaviour is individual conscience. I imagine (though correct if I’m wrong) that you broadly support the rule of law and natural justice within a society; which is what a social contract describes.

      Socialism is a quite different concept from the very broad political philosophy of a social contract, as it addresses the political arrangements in a society. Socialism is not a political arrangement of ‘caring’; it is the collectivised ownership of the means of production by the workers within those means of production. In and of itself socialism does not negate individual achievement, but it does mean that the benefits of achievement are shared collectively. Our current society is not by any stretch of the imagination, socialist. I wonder if perhaps you have confused socialism with the debate as to whether in a capitalist society we should tax the profits of capitialist success to share that success communally on social, health and education or allow successful capitalist owners to retain those profits without regard for the contribution of the state, the workers and the consumers in their success.

  12. Well written! We must not lose Campbell Live. He speaks for all who have no voice and those who care.

  13. Just have to stop watching TV 3 altogether. It’s a joke, really. It is not just a programme, not even what they are replacing with, it is about cheapening the integrity of journalism in the name of commercial success. They are lowering their standard by 99% if they do this. I for one will stop watching TV3 altogether!

  14. These are strange times . I have no doubt John key was brought back to nz further his ‘contract’ with his paymasters essentially the federal reserve bank in the USA: privately owned since 1913 where he was once a director . More state sale offs, the profits then invested into private irrigation systems to help further the poohing mooing dollar . The 4pm horse race results that got sold on at 9am the following day at merrill lynch happened when he controlled the trading desk for all of south East Asia pacific . …one must wonder how his conscience is settled on that one let alone badgering Michael Cullen 4 times on transrail being sold back on account of his personal interest with regard his own shares . With media works ex employee in Cabernet and j k close association this would all be planned . Thank you graham for beautifully written piece . I don’t watch main stream anymore for news. Once every 20 sitting would be a truthful set of news pieces . It is so full of propaganda on a large – large scale that the 99% of us are getting numbed into mind controlled submission: it’s not worth the noise and mind pollution . My interest was from this piece sent to me via an email .
    Lovely touch Rachel king coming in for comment .

  15. My honest opinion is that john campbell and his program rarely did current affairs beyond shock journalist rubbish so I will be glad to see the back of him. Also I would love to see tvnz sold so Maori tv would have to sink or swim. It would sink and nz would be one step closer to the unified nation intended under the treaty.

    1. I get the impression Kevin that a “unified nation” would mean one run without the annoyance of diversity and with Māori knowing their proper place in this world. Yawn. You may have got me at a bad moment as I often try to be more gracious, but frankly you and a couple of other trolls’ comments I deleted are retrograde racists whose passing from the political realm will not be mourned by anyone. I will not be approving any more comments of this nature; fools don’t deserve a platform. Stick to the Letters to the Editor pages in rags like the Weekend Sun, or get your own blog and rave away to like-minded, indeed small-minded individuals. I’m sure the three of you will have a grand time.

  16. Thanks for your article Graham and to the worthy comments of most of the contributors. It is heartening to see that so many New Zealanders are not prepared to put up with mind numbing rubbish on TV. More and more people are turning to social media to be heard these days so we need people like you to do the filtering. Yes, we must keep Campbell Live! He is our voice and the voice of those who have been hammered by the government and corporate clobbering machine.

  17. He speaks what the general population can’t. He can broadcast on behalf of the people and says nothing but the truth and expose s crook’s for what they are. He’s nothing but genuine

  18. Excellent article. The threat to can Campbell Live fits with Thorstein Veblen’s ‘strategic sabotage of industry’ by dominant capitalist coalitions, i.e. the power to inflict ‘discretionary idleness’. The sad state of news and current affairs is also the result of long-range planning by key elite planners, as is explored in “A Poorly Understood ‘Bargain’: How Democracy and the 60s Movements became Orphans in the ‘Free Market’ Era” at: http://snoopman.net.nz/2013/08/31/a-poorly-understood-bargain-or-how-democracy-and-the-60s-movements-became-orphans-in-the-free-market-era/

  19. great article graham. We need more like this……nz is becoming an intellectual wasteland, at least in the public eye.

  20. I sent an email to TV3 and have signed the petition. No response from TV3 but I did say that if they replaced Campbell Live with Jono & Ben then I wouldn’t watch TV3 again.
    I think this has nothing to do with ratings but is more a personality clash and the higher ups in TV3 don’t like John Campbell. 7 Sharp is a trivial programme, not worth watching.

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