Bryan Bruce: NZ Public Television (NZPTV) giving Kiwis power and place to share our stories!

Interviewed by

Liz Gunn

Bryan Bruce: NZ Public Television (NZPTV) giving Kiwis power and place to share our stories!

Bryan Bruce discusses the November 2017 launch of NZPTV: NZ Public Television. He defines it as being an independent channel for everybody.

It’s 'Our Place’, to do our thing. Kiwis can put quality-made programmes up on the site. He says it asks of Kiwis “What are you going to DO with this new resource? You can MAKE things with this. You don’t have to ask permission” .

Bryan explains the problem with our current NZ media: a producer has to go through the gateways of the commercial television channels who really are trying to assess your programme on the one question of : “How big an audience can you bring to the commercial gaps?”.

It has always been thus. And if you’re good at that, then they will buy your next programme. It’s not about how good a programme is, it’s about what kind of audience? and how big will it be? to cater to the advertisers in the commercial gaps - and it all comes down to producing money instead of quality. Bryan says the main channels are going to self-edit. They're not going to take a programme that is not going to fit well with their sponsors.

The other side of it is we tend to think of government - funded broadcasters as being more independent, but that is not true either, because they are not going ‘to bite the hand that feeds them’ and stand up to their government money-source.

If mainstream media gets money from a business, then that piper calls the tune.

Bryan then explains that the idea for this came up about 3 years ago when he walked out of TVNZ one day having had it explained to him that his programme on health was probably going to get lots of ratings but “Really we’re not necessarily into the business of doing programmes in the public good. They have to be commercial because we might sell ourselves off one day” .

Bryan walked out of that building and thought: “ Well, if these guys aren’t going to do NZ public television, maybe I can.”.

Bryan registered a company called ‘NZ Public Television Ltd”, and he talked to friends: “ If you were starting television today, you wouldn’t do it in the way that the BBC told us how to do it all those years ago - no big dishes, sky satellites, large building. How would we do it today ?”

He says the answer is clear: we’d use the World Wide Web.

And how would we put our programmes up?

When Bryan talked to servers, they had gleeful visions of making lots of money out of this being a version of Netflix. But Bryan instead saw it as a bus station. You, the viewer, come to NZPTV to be pointed in the right direction of a programme that someone else is hosting on Vimeo or YouTube or other sites. So NZPTV is a curator of quality programmes with NZ content. He then says that the producers and their websites - the people who own the copyright to their own work- will be acknowledged .

At the same time, NZPTV will also make its own programmes and put those up on NZPTV Vimeo and direct viewers to that content also. So Vimeo might be the host of a programme but NZPTV will direct traffic there.

At its core, the aim is to work out how to make cost-effective television and then also make it a People’s Channel which says - Look , you might see Bryan Bruce or others doing an introduction but it’s not his channel, it’s OUR channel. NZPTV will also help producers. Bryan says he has been to see NZ on Air and asked how many eyeballs a week does NZPTV need for independent producers to be able to be funded to make and put their programme up on this new platform. “ They couldn’t tell me” he says.

He then states “ This is a new world for them !” NZ on Air don’t know what the numbers might be so NZPTV will educate them on what the numbers CAN be.

Bryan then talks of his own motivations in programme making: “What I try to do in a programme is say “ Here’s a problem. How did we get to this? Let’s unpack it a bit and look at some solutions”. That’s where hope arises - rather than leave people in a dark place with overwhelming negative story-telling “

When he made ‘The Investigator’, each case involved some element of The Law that needed further examination - for example- David Tamihere was identified while wearing handcuffs outside the courtroom . Was this a correct identification? And what are the rules for identifying someone? The Defence said this was unfair. The Court allowed it- so now there are new rules that apply to each of us. Bryan also says when making a programme it’s important that you’re not just doing it because ‘crime rates’. Why are you upsetting people and going through all of this misery again for the families that were involved for no good reason?

So Bryan says he encourages producers to ask ‘Why am I making this? What is the outcome I want to have from it?”.

Then he asks the big question that we all need to ask. “ Who owns the media now? Who owns the way that our attitudes and our opinions and our thoughts about life are formed?” .

The Big Questions to ask are “ Who-How-What-Where-Why”. He says those questions are often not being asked in journalism today. “ It worries me. I watch reporters ask very simple questions - even, are you having a nice day ?”.

Bryan sees Free Media and True Democracy as connected .

At the start of the last century, the total number of people you could address verbally was on a street corner through megaphone. But the end of the 20th Century, you could address the whole world through the various media and now with the internet, you can reach places that don’t even have broadcast facilities but have telephone lines. “If you can control the means of talking to people, whether for your private ends or for the government’s ends, that’s a lot of power. That’s actually a means of accumulating power."

And now what NZPTV does is give the power BACK to the People and says “ YOU are in control of the stories” .

This is a Wake Up. it’s more than just a channel. “ We’ll grow as much as the People want to do it. My call is out to independent producers. Our gateway is much wider than any of the public or private broadcasters. You can come to us with a programme provided that it is professionally made , something you might see on a commercial channel in terms of its quality of production. For example, if you have made a programme about the TPPA or Water Issues, and you’ve done your homework and kept to the Broadcasting Standards Authority issues of fairness and balance .

He then explains balance in the context of his programme 'Jesus, the Cold Case' which was criticised because Bryan talked to certain theologians but not others. He says that the ‘balance’ is that, on any given day, a viewer can turn to the Christian channels and hear the opposite view.

It’s equally so for NZPTV, which would make sure that, with a controversial programme, then somewhere there is the counter view shown, or NZPTV itself would run the counter view so the viewer could see both sides.

He then states, that it’s not true to say there are NO editing gateways to go through, but they relate more to the legal ones- you cannot defame people , and if it’s an argument for one viewpoint, it must be well though out , or if it’s science-based, it must be peer -reviewed.

NZPTV is not going to say to a producer “ It doesn’t quite fit with our sponsors” (because there are no sponsors of the channel)- or “It doesn’t quite fit with our ‘brand’ “ (which is commonly heard in Mainstream Media ).

In fact The NZPTV ‘Brand’ is Independence ! “If it fits with that, we should have it “.

Bryan then underlines that “If we don’t hold on to life rafts like this , we’re all going to drown”. That public education has taught questioning and yet we have a media that tried to manipulate people who are actually very intelligent .

“I’m always amazed at the wisdom that comes out of people from whom, at face value, you wouldn’t assume that wisdom”. He continues and gives an anecdote from a programme he made called “Stand By Your Man’ about three women whose partners had committed major crimes. “And she said “ They never fixed his drug and alcohol addiction - and that was his problem.” And you’re just about to move from this interviewee, when suddenly they come out with this absolutely insightful gem about what we’re NOT doing for men or women in prison. We’re not addressing the issues that have led to them being IN there!”

Then Bryan outlines that one of the ways that governments gain power over us is: if they don’t collect data on, for example, how much Chinese money is coming in to the country, then they can pretend it isn’t a problem. No one knows! “ Oh”, they say “it’s all just anecdotal. You’re just bashing the Chinese”.

Bryan says "NO!  I’m saying: let’s collect the data! You’re giving away visas to very wealthy people - gold visas. If you have ten million you can buy a residency in our country . But what are these people DOING for our country ? And where is that money going ?”. And the answer comes back from the government: “I’m sorry we don’t know because we don’t follow the money trail” . He then suggests that one of the roles for NZPTV is to encourage independent producers to pick a topic, investigate it, and bring us the data that the government is not collecting because it’s' inconvenient ‘. “The last thing that governments want is inconvenient truths”.

Evidence shows that if you DO your homework and collate the data, then policy changes” .

This interview also covers the effect of his programme ‘Inside Child Poverty” which went out on TV3 the week of the election in 2011. "There was a debate about whether it should have been screened in election week, driven by right wing commentators like Sean Plunkett who said Bryan Bruce should not be funded to make programmes like this! Then a marvellous thing happened. The National Government which had initially said “ This is made up by a left wing journalist”, then started to change its tune and admitted “ Well it might exist but we can’t measure it”. Then the Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills said “ Ok, I’ll get a group off academics together and we WILL measure it” They put out an amazing report. It could not be ignored any more. The word “child poverty’ became part of our vernacular. And by the NEXT election it was an election issue” .

So Bryan uses this example to say that this is what we can do as media people: we can investigate, we can collate data, we can inspire people. He credits The Child Poverty Action Group with inspired him to make the programme . He says they had been doing their work for years and he thought “ Well maybe I have few skills in terms of taking complicated things and trying to make them understandable - and that was my role. Something like 580 thousand Kiwis watched that programme and then the Public started asking questions. I had offered the programme to TVNZ and I seem to remember someone saying “ Who’s going to watch a programme with ‘Poverty’ in the title?” ( and 580,000 viewers is up there with All Black fixture numbers in terms of ratings ) “ .

This new media initiative, Bryan says of the NZPTV, is that it is not competitive - but rather, co-operative. “We could make a programme that is of great public interest and make it in a dynamic way. We could take the online rights and a mainstream media outlet could take the broadcast rights. That would be an adult way of dealing with different kinds of distribution.“

He further states that it is no accident, that one of the longest running programmes in this country is called ‘Fair Go’. He feels that deep down, most Kiwis believe in a fair go and many of felt terribly betrayed by 1984 and the adoption of Neo Liberalism and being told it was the only way we could go. “ Well it wasn’t, there are about 30 different kinds of capitalism in the world and if you look at what happened in Scandinavia, they took a deep breath and paused - and then they adopted certain elements ONLY. They fenced off policies to do with children, the elderly and housing, and then they said they would allow OTHER policy to be more entrepreneurial .

Whereas in New Zealand, the government said “ ALL of that is wrong and this new evangelistic way is right, and there is now only ONE way to do this”.

Bryan cites David Lange’s book which shows he later realised this was the worst thing he did. In fact, he may not have fully understood it and “ To be fair, I’m not sure that many of us understood it at the time. I certainly didn’t” says Bryan. “ I did up one house and sold and got a better house. What I didn’t think about was that 20 years down the track, other people’s children would not be able to afford a house because of what I was doing - and many of us were doing. We were just doing the best by our families and we were encouraged to think that that’s what you should do.

Even Roger Douglas may have thought he was doing the right thing. I’ve never spoken to him. I’d like to interview him. But the reality is; it WASN”T the right thing. It created a HUGE inequality. When the National Party came in afterwards and created The Mother of All Budgets under Ruth Richardson, then ALL of the childhood diseases that relate to poverty, skyrocketed. And that’s nothing to be proud of. That should have told anybody who had social concern that there is something fundamentally wrong with this economic system that is creating this.” 

Towards the end of the interview, Bryan discusses the structure of NZ Public Television.

Saying one of the ways it will benefit producers who have good product, is that they give that programme to NZPTV for free for 7 days and then it goes to the ‘Pay Per View’ section . But all that money goes directly to the producers, not to NZPTV. (This is also a reminder to viewers to check the weekly offerings on NZPTV as there is a brisk turnaround of programmes).

Finally Bryan says the whole idea of New Zealand Public Broadcasting is to return to an early idea of television: namely , using it to communicate with one another, to talk to each other.

To find out more, go to nzptv.org.nz or sign up to Bryan Bruce on Facebook

List of Bryan's many documentaries:

Documentaries

The following documentaries made by Bryan Bruce are lodged at The New Zealand Film Archive and can be found here.
  1. Nothing to Live For : A 50-minute documentary on suicide for TVNZ.
  2. Peter Blake (yachtsman) : A 50-minute documentary for TVNZ on the life of winning Whitbread Skipper Sir Peter Blake
  3. The Tour Ten years On : A 50-minute documentary for TVNZ on the civil disorder surrounding the SpringbokTour of 1981.
  4. Whina Te Whaea O Te Motu : A 50-minute documentary for TVNZ on the life of the late Dame Whina Cooper.
  5. Water A 58-minute documentary (International Co-production with PBS Dallas).
  6. Breaking Barriers: A 48-minute documentary on the life of pioneer filmmaker John O'Shea (director).
  7. 17 : A documentary for TV2 about teenage life in New Zealand
  8. Stand By Your Man : A 46-minute documentary for TVNZ about the dilemmas women face when their partners are imprisoned.
  9. You're Soaking in It!: A 46-minute documentary on Social Change in New Zealand for TVNZ, using old television commercials to tell the story.
  10. Serious Fraud: A Inside NZ documentary for TV3 about the life and times of three of New Zealand's biggest fraudsters.
  11. Beyond A Joke: A 46-minute documentary for TVNZ on the Kiwi sense of humour.
  12. Murder They Said: A 90-minute Inside NZ drama documentary for TV3 about the investigation and trial of David Tamihere.
  13. The Coach: A Inside NZ documentary for TV3 about two sports coaches.
  14. In Cold Blood: A 90-minute Inside NZ documentary on mass murder, featuring similarities in the lives of mass killers Thomas Hamilton ( Dunblane Scotland) Martin Bryant (Australia) and David Gray (New Zealand).
  15. Twisted Tales : 24 minute hour animal stories for Animal Planet and Natural History (NZ) Ltd.
  16. First Impressions: A 44-minute Inside NZ documentary about how we make up about our minds about people in the first few seconds of the encounter.
  17. Heavy Petting: A 45-minute documentary for TVNZ on the psychology of pet ownership.
  18. Shaky Beginnings : A 45-minute documentary for TVNZ on New Zealand's Geology and geography.
  19. The Trouble With Ben : A 44-minute documentary about a mother trying to look after her intellectually disabled boy at home.
  20. State of Mind : A 44-minute documentary for TV3 about the deinstitutionalisation of mental health in New Zealand
  21. Workhorse to Dreamhorse : A 44-minute documentary for TVNZ about the history of the horse in New Zealand.
  22. The Bughouse : A 44-minute documentary for TVNZ about the bugs that live in our houses featuring entomologist Ruud Kleinpaste.
  23. The Bridge : A 43-minute documentary for TVNZ on the history of the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
  24. The Last Place on Earth : A 55-minute documentary about New Zealand geology, flora and fauna
  25. The Lost Dinosaurs of New Zealand : A 52-minute documentary about the discovery of New Zealand dinosaurs by Dr Joan Wiffen.
  26. The Sir Howard Morrison Story: A 50-minute autobiographical documentary about the life of entertainer Sir Howard Morrison for TVNZ.
  27. Trial By Ordeal : A 70-minute drama documentary on the trial of John Barlow for the murder of Eugene Thomas and his son Gene.
  28. A Question of Justice : A 93-minute docudrama on David Bain who was convicted in 1995 of the murder of his family. TV1 Highest rated NZ On Air funded factual programme in 2005
  29. Monsters of the Deep: A 52-minute TVNZ and International documentary on the identity of a huge carcass hauled up off the New Zealand coast.
  30. The Investigator: An 18 part Cold Case Crime series for TVNZ.
  31. Inside Child Poverty: A 45-minute documentary for TV3.
  32. Jesus: The Cold Case: A 90-minute documentary for TVNZ. Won AFTA for Best Documentary plus Silver and Bronze Medals in Religion and History categories at The New York Festivals Television and Film Awards. Awarded despite apparent initial TVNZ reluctance to release, and subsequent criticism from some reviewers.[16]
  33. Who Killed The Crewes?: A 45-minute documentary for TVNZ on the controversial unsolved murder of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe in Pukekawa 1970
  34. Mind The Gap : A 45-minute documentary for TV3 on the social effects of the neoliberal economic revolution in New Zealand.Gold Medal Winner at The New York Festivals Television and Film Awards.
  35. World Class? Inside New Zealand Education : A 45-minute documentary for TV3 on the social effects of the neoliberal economic revolution in New Zealand.Bronze Medal Winner at The New York Festivals Television and Film Awards.

References

  1. Jump up ^ ISBN 978-1-86953-614-5
  2. Jump up ^ ISBN 978-1-86941-977-6
  3. Jump up ^ ISBN 978-83-61444-63-3
  4. Jump up ^ ISBN 978-1-86979-197-1
  5. Jump up ^ ISBN 978-83-7705-043-9
  6. Jump up ^ http://www.listener.co.nz/issue/ 3517/features/9729/who_killed_kayo.html – 20k -
  7. ^ Jump up to: a b https://www.newyorkfestivals.com/winners/2015/pieces.php?iid=482517&pid=1
  8. Jump up ^ http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/winners/2014/pieces.php?iid=464115&pid=1
  9. Jump up ^ "Jesus The Cold Case". newyorkfestivals.com. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
  10. Jump up ^ "INSIDE CHILD POVERTY". scoop.co.nz. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
  11. Jump up ^ "Jesus The Cold Case". afta.co.nz. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
  12. Jump up ^ "2008 Finalists, Qantas Film & Television awards". Qantasfilmandtvawards.co.nz. Retrieved 7 September 2008.
  13. Jump up ^ "New York Festivals". Newyorkfestivals.com. Retrieved 7 September 2008.
  14. Jump up ^ "Banff Rockie Awards Nominees – BANFF 2003 – Print-Friendly Version". Banff2008.com. Retrieved 7 September 2008.[dead link]
  15. ^ Jump up to: a b http://www.lonely.geek.nz/kiwitv
  16. Jump up ^ http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/tv/4897546/TVNZ-sits-on-controversial-Jesus-doco For one of numerous examples of critique: http://www.beretta-online.com/wordpress/2011/jesus-the-cold-case/ http://tvnz.co.nz/close-up/jesus-christ-ultimate-cold-case-3446019

 

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Liz Gunn

Liz Gunn

Liz Gunn has worked as a lawyer, a teacher , a broadcaster (ten years with TVNZ and with RNZ National) and as a full time mum.

As a professional communicator with the learning from parenting and marriage disappointment, Liz has repatriated with the express intention of contributing to a kinder, more connected New Zealand society.

Liz sees the wider power of the female being akin to a fine red wine; better with age and maturation. With much to offer from the rich soils of life’s sometimes harsh lessons.

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