January 19, 2010
They get prominent and interesting NZers to share motivating wisdom and experience in daily installments that can be viewed and shared in all kinds of places.
Genius! Check it out.
I really enjoyed chatting to Nick and James, they are on to it individuals. They have come up with a couple of great formats -- and really understand where telly-type content is going.
Director -- Simon Pound, DOP -- Clayton Carpinter, Editor -- Sacha Childers, Producer -- Phil Wallington, host -- Russell Brown, Media 7 on TVNZ7
December 9, 2009
Sometimes the really interesting stories are locked up in less interesting sounding language. When the Government announces that the Tax Working Group is giving a symposium on Tax Regulatory issues to Tax experts you can be forgiven for thinking it will be about as much fun as moving house with a hangover.
But inside this Working Group a couple of interesting proposals were to be found.
The reason they pulled this together is that our tax regime is not as fair or efficient as it perhaps should be.
For example – if you are wealthy or own your own company there are many ways that you can legally structure your affairs to benefit. You can put your assets into trusts to gain a lower tax rate, you can put your income that might have attracted 39% tax through your company at 30%, you can claim back costs associated with your work – -there are a great many things you can do to not have to pay the full tax rate.
If however you are earning PAYE there is remarkably little you can do to duck your taxes. You pay your rate – with one massive exception – -you can buy an investment property and through a couple of mechanisms can offset your tax liability with losses from that property. To very simplistically state things the idea here is that instead of paying tax you spend that money on the interest and depreciation associated with owning and buying a rental property. And you hope that you can then sell that property at a profit. And if that does happen there is no tax on that profit. When people talk about a capital gains tax and how we don’t have one, this is a good example of that. People make a capital gain from the property and pay no tax on that profit.
As the system is people are mad if they don’t take this up. Instead of paying tax they increase their asset base and get a chance at a tax-free windfall if they sell that property at a profit. Genius.
This has been so widely taken up that it was said that NZ has $213 billion invested in rental property. This is 5 times the size of our stock market. Recording a tax loss of $500m. So as a nation of investors we must be the worst business people in the entire world. If that $213 billion was just in the bank gathering interest you’d think it’d be good for at least a good couple of billion back to us. Losing half a billion off $213 billion is amazing.
But of course it isn’t a loss – -these people are making their money from capital gains and the tax they don’t pay. It is a total utter rort.
If you then add to this situation the wealth transfers of benefits and supperannuation – that take enormous beuaracratric costs to administer and distribute you have a very inefficient system. What I mean here is that benefits and pensions take a lot of money to give out as the rules are changing, complicated and byzantine.
So – into this morass steps the Tax Working Group.
One of the members – Gareth Morgan has presented an idea that he calls the Big Kahuna. It is a lovely idea – massive, huge and yet simple and possible.
Gareth Morgan is well known and liked for his work as an economist, as a kiwisaver provider, as a man who rides motorbikes all around the place and as the father and early investor of Sam Morgan – who with trademe became super rich. Morgan got about 40 million himself from the sale and gave it to charity. So he is a pretty decent guy. With a mean moustache. What he says is not seen as a left/right battle – he is relatively apolitical.
He recommends (thanks to Bernard Hickey for the story linked to there) instituting a Comprehensive Capital Tax that would be set at 1.25 percent on all land, buildings and machinery. This would generate 19 billion dollars odd and be very difficult to duck or avoid. It would also be quite progressive as the more you have the more you pay. It would remove incentives to put money into property above potentially productive investments.
He would then make the company, trust and personal tax flat at 25%. No incentives to have trusts or companies – very simple- pretty much wiping out the tax industry.
But the dramatic idea is that he would guarantee a minimum income of 10,000. This would replace all benefits, pensions etc. It would also mean that if you earnt 40,000 or less that between the 25% rate and the guaranteed 10k you would pay no tax. So workers would go from being the only people who do pay all their tax to being to only people who don’t pay any. How awesome would that be – -the very people who spend and stimulate the economy would have more to spend – more to live on more to make NZ hum.
It has been raised that the 10k may be too little for beneficiaries and for penisoners – so maybe that figure might need to change for those categories. And by adding a very simple per child top-up of that figure you could help parents.So some tweaking may be desirable.
But overall – as an idea that actually might change our terrible economic performance due to the over-inflated housing market and an idea that might change our massive bureaucratic culture as most of WINZ would be unnecessary and most of the IRD redundant – — man – it sounds awesome to me.
That and the fact that the current suckers will emerge the winners and the current rorters will carry their share.
What do you think?
December 2, 2009
Aside from sounding like an awesomely bad film in the vein of Robocop – the 2025 Taskforce woo-haa should have caught your attention for good reason this week. It has been everywhere.
The 2025Taskforce was a group that made a report into ways that NZ could catch up to Australia by 2025 as judged by a series of economic measures. We used to be similar to Australia as a country in these measures but are now around 30% behind them is the way the story goes. This is obvious in some things – like wages and wealth and people leaving.
The basic reason the taskforce was set up goes like this: National and ACT got elected last time around. In doing so National promised not to sell, privatise, slash or burn most of the stuff Labour enacted in their nine years of office. ACT promised to destroy everything they possibly could – and a lot of this comes down to their philosophical belief that it is big government that is holding NZ back. At base a lot of National people believe this too. But seeing they promised not to this term they can’t act on this.
So –in order to keep ACT happy National agreed to convene a taskforce to look at what could be done to close the gaps between Australia and NZ in terms of Government actions. This is a typical get-a report approach to not wanting to actually do the stuff. This way National can gauge the public reaction without getting kicked out of office if the public don’t like it. If it stinks they just ignore it. Like they appear to be.
Somewhat predictably, seeing they composed the taskforce out of hardened right wing economically libertarian ideologues it came back with pretty much the ACT manifesto.
National – before the report was even fully released had already said that they can not and will not enact any radical measures.
And the report they got back sure was radical. It called for Kiwisaver Government contributions to be axed – tax to drop to 20 odd percent, student loans to have interest put on, welfare to be seriously reformed and a bunch of other measures to bring govt spending back to pre 2005 levels and then keep it there.
These ideas are radical insofar as they were radical twenty years ago when Roger Douglas first aired them. Aside from that they are all depressingly obvious.
The widening gap is a serious problem – -but just cutting and burning is not going to fix this. Cutting stuff does not create new things. It may create space for new things to happen – but if we are this far behind surely we need some new exciting actually radical ideas to work with.
I mean I’m no Dr Don Brash -but just off the top of my head I can think of a couple of ideas that are more ambitious and radical and likely to transform the economy than the ones he presented.
Change the electricity grid so that it accepts power back from people as well as delivers it. If people could sell power back to the grid then there would immediately be growth around private generation -perhaps meaning that expensive and environmentally impactful (hate that word) developments may not be needed. As with all these ideas obviously not perfect but think about the scale of this idea -NZers are an ingenious bunch – how many people would put up turbines and solar panels and their own turbines and I don’t know what else but if you made the grid flow two ways we’d soon find out.
Reform ownership. Make it so that all employees became partial shareholders in the companies they worked in. Ten percent of every company would legally need to be disbursed amongst employees relative to their experience, service and seniority. Overnight it would go from ‘us’ and ‘them’ to ‘us’. Would change the culture and lift productivity by aligning goals and increasing business knowledge and sympathy. Would increase financial literacy and the country’s asset base without diluting too much ownership. Just an idea people but at least it is radical.
Become a world leader in renewables. JFK decided they would go to the moon and they did. Why not make NZ a tax free R&D destination for anything relating to renewables in return for a patent share for NZ of just 5%. Every patent generated by the scheme would earn the country money. Investment would flock, the economy would upskill. Set goals around solar power for example – to make it affordable to have on every single roof in the world. Perhaps even feeding back into the grid…. This would change the world.
Mining. Maybe NZ has to look at mining in a way that the Taskforce was trying to say – but didn’t really make clear – -Australia is rich because of mineral extraction.Over there mining and minerals make up say 20% of GDP here it is 5% (I am making this up as it is for the purpose of discussion – if anyone has real numbers that would be interesting too…) We need to catch and pass their figure if we want to catch up. I’m not saying I necessarily support this but if the report was about radical ideas it should have said we need to do ten times as much mining. That would have got people thinking.
Taxes: If lowering tax is such a great idea – how about you let everyone in the country have a tax holiday for one year. Chart the change in habits and determine once and for all if it is tax that determines productivity. If it is linked then from then on tax consumption instead of income. Sorted.
Windfalls. Why not give everyone in the country $50,000. It sounds silly but with the amount of welfare we pay out each week and the amount that the Americans spent on bailing out Wall St etc these kinds of mass wealth transfers happen all the time. Why not target it and see what that sparks. Gotta speculate to accumulate.
Why not target the people you want to keep – -young people leave and young people fuel economies – -in part they leave becuase NZ is small and there are more exciting things for young people overseas. Sydney for example has 2 million odd people between the age of 20 and 40. People don’t just go there for money – they go there for fun. So give young people here incentives to stay. In Oz you get 5k plus for having a baby – make it 10k here. Give all 20 – 35 year olds a more favourable tax rate. By the time it runs out they are settled. Anything that means that the young energetic and bright stay. It takes targeted ideas to tempt people to stay and build the economy – not interest on the loans. That is just going to make people leave. Really – this Taskforce is pretty dim.
Anyway – there are a few imperfect ideas – but at least they are new and aimed at change rather than some kind of terrible time machine or idea-set on a loop that by its very nature is more or less of the same. We need something entirely different.
What do you think? Have you got any ideas to add, please do. Whatever we have has to be an improvement on what the economic undead, these economic gravediggers like Dan Brash have served up.
November 4, 2009
There is a new tech gadget recorder thing out here called the Flip.
It is about the size of a cellphone and can record an hour of high quality video footage. There is even an HD model. The selling point is that it also has editing, sharing and management software on the device and you ‘flip’ up a USB stick out the top of the thing and just plug it into your computer (mac or pc) download the software and then all in one ready to go Bob’s your uncle just like a bought one.
And it is true. I’ve had a play on it and made it work, so it can’t be too complex.
They launched this in the states a couple of years ago and have sold millions. It totally revitalised the camcorder market that had flatlined according to the sales guy that I spoke to at their launch thing.
I’m shooting a story about it on it for Media 7 – should be ready for next week’s show. We shot a story on the flip on a flip type thing. Zany.
The thing that I find kinda cool, and also kinda terrifying is that this means that full HD recording isn’t far off being available in normal phones. What is this going to mean for our silly moments?
If cameras had been more prevalent as I grew up and did silly stuff then there would be video evidence to repeat of all my foolish moments – of which there were many and a steady stream of ongoing material is added all the time- there is some video around of some silliness as it is. As kids grow up now with all the sexting and the rest then they are going to find it very hard to live down youthful transgressions. That shit lasts for ever.
Like, with GW Bush. Everyone knew he used to be a coke-head. But because he found God etc he could still be Pres. But I reckon that if there was video footage of him nailing a rail of a stripper’s tits then he would have been well outta luck.
And that to some extent is what the prevalence of video is going to have to change – our acceptance of fault and ability to forgive and move on. Because one day it may no longer even be newsworthy that naked pics have emerged of a famous person because at the rate things are going every person in the world will have taken nudey rudey photos and maybe we’ll all be sharing them on danglybitsspacebook.com. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? As is so often the case, I have no idea.
September 29, 2009
Hone Harawira has come out with a new approach in his long campaign to get tobacco out of Aotearoa.
He is running an inquiry into the impact of tobacco on Maori through the Maori Affairs Select committee. He is trying to get the bosses of the big tobacco companies along to testify.
He has a point pursuing this issue this way. As the Herald pointed out in an excellent editorial – although only 25% of the general population smokes 50% of the Maori adult population smokes and amongst young women the number is even higher. It also states that 30 % of all preventable Maori deaths come from smoking.
So – he has good reason to wrangle this inquiry. But is his overall goal to rid NZ of smokes any good? Is it even possible to do this?
The first argument against doing so is always that it will criminalise ordinary people and feed the black-market. More on this later – but I reckon that, with some radical thinking, this could be avoided.
Let’s look for a second at what the upsides might be. And what a sensible ban might look like.
Me and my mate Steve Adams had a think about some of this stuff the other night, and from that I’ve come up with some ideas….
Imagine that the ban is on selling smokes – so you can’t buy them at any bar or dairy or service station or supermarket or any one of the thousands of places that they are currently available for the simplest and quickest purchase.
I know from hospitality experience that the ability to have smokes only a purchase away is a very valuable thing to ciggie companies. Especially the ability to sell to people at bars. If someone who is trying not to smoke does smoke then the tobacco companies win the chance to suck them back in in their moment of weakness.
As an ex-smoker who used to smoke a fuck-load – -and tried a number of times unsuccessfully to quit before I really hiffed the habit I know how this psychology works. It only takes a moment of drunken weakness and you buy a pack and then you wake up with the pack in your pocket and just kind of start again. This may sound weak and silly, but then so is smoking in general (this may sound harsh – but ask any smoker if they want to smoke – -most say ‘no’ – but they continue to do so – so they are weak and silly).
Anyhow – imagine if this option was not around – you just couldn’t buy those smokes. The vast majority of occasional or wavering smokers would simply stop. The hard-core would seek them out through other means.
This is where in the normal course of an argument about this that the gangs come in. It is often said that by pushing drugs into the black-market you not only strengthen gangs and encourage law-breaking – but you also inadvertently bring people who seek out those drugs from gangs in contact with ‘worse’ drugs – like ‘P’ is said to have spread in part through tinnie house networks and weed smokers migrated to the harsher drugs.
This may well be true. But let’s think about ways around this. What if you made it so smokers still could buy ciggies – but just not through any stores. Make it so they have to get a prescription through their doctors. Or that they have to mail-order customs to buy them – and you could make them buy them in $500 increments just to add another barrier to entry. In this manner committed smokers could still access their ciggies legally and far fewer people would get hold of smokes in order to take up the habit.
You could treat it like BZP – make is a C class drug – and fine the bejesus out of anyone who sells smokes through their stores.
In terms of the illegality and black marketing – -the kinds of smokers who are keen enough to choose to get smokes from gangs or criminals over saving up or going to their doctor probably already had access to gangs or criminals to get their weed.
We have a lot of weed smokers in NZ. And they aren’t all roughnecks. And they are already in contact with the gangs. When I was a 14 year old middle class kid I knew where up to ten tinnie houses were at any one time. You don’t have to be Jake the Muss to get hold of weed from a gang associate.
So – why not do something super-brave. Why not try to counteract the increased power that a ciggie ban would give to gangs. Why not take away some of their power that they get from weed. Why not make growing and possessing small amounts of Marijuana legal at the same time you make selling smokes illegal.
Now that would bamboozle things. Ban smokes and legalise tokes. That has a ring to it.
This whole issue is one I find conflicting. I can see the value. When the smoking in bars ban came in a few years ago I opposed it as a breach of property rights. But as a bar worker I was stoked when it actually happened as it really did make a difference to my quality of life – even though I was a smoker I still appreciated the cleaner air. Most people in a similar situation to me that I spoke to around that time felt the same. But it still doesn’t sit well removing a right without replacing it with something. Which is why the pot idea appeals to me and I’m not even a pot smoker – although weed does appeal to a lot of people – half the country has smoked the herb – and about 18% regularly do according to Norml.
It sometimes takes some bravery to make a difference – to really change our smoking habits it will take an amazing shift. And maybe banning all sale of ciggies and at the same time relaxing marijauna laws might just be the trick. You could treat both as a health issue.
As a an almost final thought – I said how I used to know where tinnie houses were. I don’t anymore – though I can tell you where all the best wine shops are – because these days that is how I like to socially share a relaxing intoxicant. My one overriding niggly thought is that if smoking does get banned without some kind of countervailing loosening of culture – then it will be the drink that they come after next. And they would have good reason. In terms of social harm booze is far worse than smokes. But even with a little concern that it is a bad thing to give governments a taste for banning things I reckon that instead of worrying and taking little steps we should just maybe try something a bit radical. And get rid of smokes overnight.
*** As a trouble-making aside – -all this is predicated on the assumption that it is better for New Zealand not to have smoking. This is generally taken as fact, but may not be the case. If your main concern is longer lives for your citizens then it is desirable to have less smoking (longer lives is my main concern for example). But if the argument is that treating the illnesses arising from smoking is a burden on a Country and costs the country money – well, this may not actually stack up. Check this story on a report that Phillip Morris made for the Czech Government. They said that widespread smoking amongst the people saved the country money because having citizens die younger meant they had fewer years that the State had to look after them. Unbelievably callous – but it makes sense – -if people die ten years earlier than they might have due to smoking then they would probably die closer to 60 than 80. They would therefore need less years of support on pensions and in health care while not earning. Re-fucking-markable.
Anyway – what do you reckon – is it worth trying something radical?
September 23, 2009
So – this week being Fashion Week and all – -here is a themed media angle.
I went and talked to Neville Findlay yesterday, who, together with his wife Elisabeth Findlay (the lead-designer of the label) runs Zambesi.
They are commemorating 30 years in the business this year. They have the usual next-winter show that ran Tuesday night, then on Saturday a retrospective show of their 30 years.
I went to ask Neville about the change in the media environment over that time. I suspected that things were very different when they began. And yes, they were.
He told me that 30 years ago there was no chance that designers’ work would be included in the news. He even rang up the news one night as an international supermodel had worn Zambesi – and there response to him was -’who are you? who is Zambesi?’
He singled out the magazine Cha Cha as an exception – although not a mainstream publication it was one of the mainstays of noticing the local creative scene. Might be a story in that for another day I think.
He reckons that it wasn’t until Zambesi showed successfully at the Australian Fashion Week of 1997 that they started to get properly followed in this country. That led to mainstream media taking notice and it has snowballed from there. So for the fist 18 odd years the mainstream media just didn’t want to know, by his telling.
And my, how it has snowballed. From no coverage to the wall-to-wall takeover of the bulletins.
Neville and Elisabeth were true pioneers and if anyone has a right to deserve coverage it is them. So it was interesting that Neville was at pains to say that although they appreciate it, and that is a better situation than not being covered, that maybe there is a little too much at times, maybe it focuses on the shiny rather than the substantial, and maybe that there might even be other stories out there to celebrate.
He said that he wonders if perhaps there aren’t some scientists or other people out there who are doing as much, if not more, to earn the country money and prestige, that might deserve some of the attention that they get as designers. Which is a fascinating point. I’ll bet you could name five NZ designers in a heartbeat – but could you name five NZ scientists?
This is something that we have looked at on Media 7 - like in this panel with Sir Peter Gluckman, if you are interested.
But back to fashion, talking to Neville (who was tremendously calm and cool, especially considering he found time to talk to us on the day of their Tuesday show; he was thoughtful, relaxed and chill – and a total fucking dude) he also wondered if that perhaps instead of focusing on celebrities, celebrities with boobs and models falling off runways that the media could look past the glitz and talk about the clothes – the processes that the designer used, the innovations or new takes, the subtle details, the emotional stories informing the design- there are all these things that media could cover – but instead it is all goody bags and front row seats and famous people and shiny superficiality.
Neville also said that there were upsides to all this – as the good media coverage means that sponsors wish to partner with designers. It is through these partnerships that designers are able to put on the epic kind of shows that they want to. Having been to the show on Tuesday night I can see what he means.
Without sponsors there would be no way that they could have had so many people – the Sky City Theater has a capacity of 700 – and all the people there were drinking for the hour before and the 40 minutes it the show was running late. The sound design, 30 odd models, make-up, hair, styling, lighting design it goes on and on but everything was done exceptionally well and doing things exceptionally costs an eye-watering amount. Neville said that being able to do shows is a very important part of Elisabeth’s creative process – a punctuation point for all the planning, designing and crafting that goes on season to season. Without doing a show it doesn’t have a creative end to the process – and seeing that things like fashion design creativity never really have a finish it is important to segment the ranges by doing shows.
It also creates a quite wonderful sense of drama around the range. The show on Tuesday was epic and romantic and mysterious and compelling in a way that most theatre could only dream of. Not bad for what could have just been a bunch of skinny people walking around in circles.
So, if there is one upside to the endless inane vacuous gushing embarrassing coverage all over all the news shows all week – -it is that, in part, that coverage is helping designers like Elisabeth Findlay realize her creative vision on a scale that NZ just couldn’t support without the sponsors that are drawn by that very stream of silly stories.
The interview with Neville will be running on Media 7 this week, first screening 9 10 on Thursday on TVNZ7, and I will post it up here on Friday.(UPDATE_ it is there now).
And here is a game to play for the rest of the week – -try to see how many of the stories actually talk about the clothes, rather than the rest of the rubbish. Actually, this would make a good drinking game – for every cliche used or superficial angle taken you could have a skull. I reckon your liver would fail before the week was out. If you have any suggestions for making a drinking game – please add them below.
September 17, 2009
This is a Media Moment on Comedy that appeared on facebook and throng.co.nz. It set off a wee bit of debate about the funding model and what might be missing in terms of development channels for comedy
Last week on Media 7 we did a show on NZ comedy.
In it we touched on FOTC- -because it is impossible to talk aboutcomedy in NZ without doing so – their mega success has changed the game.
Their cool, cult, high-production-value kooky comedy that explores awkwardness and the spaces around relationships has left many wondering why we can’t make that kind of thing here on NZ TV.
Many have moaned that TVNZ missed the comedy boat – -or have used the fact that FOTC had to go overseas as evidence that TVNZ are clueless.
It is a matter of legend that TVNZ turned them down.
Well, on the show we were able to go behind this legend.
It turns out it is kinda true – and kinda not.
TVNZ were keen. They asked the FOTC fellows to come up with a project.
As with most NZ produced stuff they would then take the idea to NZ on Air to get funding.
I’m not sure everyone knows how NZ on Air funding works – but here is a basic guide.
The Government has decided it is a good thing to get NZ content on screen. The basic market model won’t produce much of this content because it is nearly always cheaper to buy in an international show, regardless of how much it cost them to make in the first place, than it is to try to make something decent here.
TV costs heaps. Even some of the most successful local shows – like Outrageous Fortune –still attract NZ on Air funding to make them. So even very popular shows are sometimes still not economically possible if left to compete against international fare.
Now, how the funding is allocated is through a relationship between the networks, independent producers and NZ on Air.
A typical way a show is developed may work like this:
A producer goes to a network to try to get a broadcast commitment for a show idea they have. This means that if the show gets made then the network will put it on the telly on their channel.
They then together go to NZ on Air and ask for money.
If NZ on Air like the look of the project and think it ticks one of
the boxes they have decided need ticking, then they fund it.
These boxes change depending on the season and fashion. NZ on Air will actually put a call out for things they are looking for at certain times – like gay themed tv or teenager fare, serious docos or drama.
Soooooo – -in short – for something to get made there are a number of parties who all have to be interested.
And one other important point: because the pot of money available is limited each spending decision impacts on every other decision. For example they aren’t going to give funding for three comedy productions to TVNZ and nothing to TV3 if they can help it – they like to spread it round a bit.
There is also the basic opportunity cost – if they fund one thing then there will be no money to fund another thing.
Right – so this is important because when TVNZ asked the FOTC to come up with something they came back with an idea that was very different to what they ended up successfully making in New York.
It was a concept called something like ‘Folk the World’ – and it was like a history of music where the FOTC boys were inserted into each period.
It was going to need a lot of CGI work – and was going to be an
expensive undertaking. $300,000 for 90 minutes. Which is quite a lot in NZ for a one-off TV special. Quite a lot but not unheard of.
TVNZ maintain that they really liked the idea. But that it was going to be too much in one hit to get the idea past NZ on Air.
I can’t tell you if they ever put it to NZ on Air to check – -the
producer who was developing the idea with FOTC says that the NZ on Air people seemed keen and it wasn’t taken to them to even check– but there are those other factors at play – maybe
TVNZ thought that if they took this project to them then they wouldn’t get other projects over the line – -or maybe they thought there was something else that they wanted to spend that chunk of money on – going back to the opportunity cost idea.
But what we do know is that it wasn’t a simple case of TVNZ turning them down and then they took the same idea overseas and look –now they are massive stars and how dumb is NZ.
TVNZ was never in a position to make anything that would have
been anything near as cool as what did get made.
This is for a bunch of reasons:
For one – -budgets. If they were stressing about 300,000 then the amazing set design, art direction, and crew who worked on FOTC in America would never have made it. I mean they had Michel Gondry directing episodes!.
Two – it is in Amercia. The idea is that they are Kiwis in NY. Can’t do that in Auckland.
And Three – -interference.
At the HBO they make lots of different kinds of shows. FOTC is very culty. It actually doesn’t rate very well here. Moon TV rates better.
If TVNZ were to use a great big chunk of their available money supply on a project they would probably, understandably, want it to appeal to the greatest number of people. Imagine if they had done this to FOTC– there would be mainstream comics in there, fart jokes, etc – it would be a mess – they’d get writers in who worked on every other show and it would be like every other show.
This would have meant that had TVNZ gone and done it it probably would have sucked.
So in many ways – TVNZ actually did everyone a favour by not trying to make this show.
We talked to lots of comedians to try to find out what it does take to make good comedy – and the answer we found is a mixture of trust and freedom.
We need to make more cheap comedy – so we can try more things that don’t need to appeal to everyone. When only making a few things programmers will need them to appeal to everyone from Nana to Grandson. The whole of our telly will look like Full House if we do this.
So we need to make more risky little productions – -like Wayne Anderson or the Night at The Classic show in production now.
And we need to leave the comics to it. Often networks interfere and have a say in what jokes are ok and which aren’t. Network people don’t know and have to stay out of this. They need to trust comics. Too many cooks and all that. As a number of comics said – they are the ones out every night doing material in front of crowds – -they know what works and what doesn’t.
Another thing to emerge was the lack of training and development grounds NZ has. In the UK for example they have a lot of radio comedy being made. The BBC develops people by giving them first a shot on radio – then TV. In fact – -the FOTC first made a great BBC series before the HBO series. There aren’t these outlets in NZ.
I spoke to Jon Plowman when he was last here. He was the head of BBC Comedy for many years – and oversaw everything from The Vicar of Dibley to Little Britain. He said that the recipe for success is that he is able to make enough comedy, and enough failures to have a few successes.
Wise words. In NZ if we have a failure we let it poison the future – -like Melody Rules. We still talk about it and let it stop us from attempting stuff because we say – -‘we don’t want another Melody Rules’. Well, maybe we need a few more of them, and a few more Welcome To Paradises – -just so we can get over them and make better stuff.
There is some hope at the moment. With the digital channels there is real room for more comedy. They are doing a great job in getting quality special interest arts, books, politics, media and children’s programming (disclaimer: I work on a digital channel show, so I would say they are great…) but there isn’t much comedy – -that could be improved upon.
These channels are the natural home for edgy, less commercial, risky comedy.
So – we have a recipe – -more trust, more freedom and more attempts will hopefully make more hits.
And now, from here we can do two things. We can stop endlessly talking about FOTC as if we missed the boat and could have done anything except fuck it up be making it here – and also stop talking about Melody Rules. It was a step on the way, not the end point, it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t much worse than some of the American stuff we happily wallpaper our screens with.
What do you reckon?
September 16, 2009
Seeing this excellent piece on how the baby boomers are screwing us in the Herald this morning reminded me I should post this story up.
It is a Media Moment that followed the budget and generated a great response on facebook, where I gave it a rather more incendiary title:
Baby Boomers are C*nts:
You may have seen a bit in the media about Super, which is short for superannuation – the pension the Government pays you once you hit 65.
There has been a decision to stop putting money into the Super Fund – also known as the Cullen Fund. This fund seeks to invest in order to grow the amount of money we have available to pay for everyone’s retirement.
Also there have been a few voices saying that the present age at which people qualify for the pension may be too low at 65 and may need to be raised.
Now – although these may seem like quite dry stories and ones that don’t apply to anyone under 50 because they are about the retiring oldies – this couldn’t be more wrong. Super has distorted and messed with our political landscape more than you might think. In some ways many of our biggest problems in NZ can be linked to Super and the political auctions that arise around it and our inability to sort this out so that it can function reasonably –and in the Country’s best interests.
Sir Robert Muldoon, for example, bought an election in 1976 with a promise of raising the Super to a level of 80% of the average wage. This decision helped to bankrupt the Country. It also allowed him to ditch the fledgling Superannuation Corporation – -a Labour intitative that is kind of like today’s Cullen Fund. Brian Gaynor of the Herald reckons (in an excellent piece) that this decision was the worst economic decision ever made in NZ. The ruined economy was found out by Labour only after the Lange Government beat Muldoon in the snap election of 1984. As a result of our bankrupt country they then instituted Rogernomics – a series of policies that are still hotly debated today. Thanks, in part, to Super auctions.
Super was the sticking point of Shipley’s Government, Jim Bolger broke a crucial promise over a Super Surcharge – -everywhere you look Super has been a huge issue we have never got to grips with.
And then there is Winston Peters. He was a politician that rode Super sentiment more than any other past his mentor, Muldoon. He even managed to get the ruinous regime lifted – to 66% of the average wage. And all at a time when the population is aging. So – it has bankrupted us, divided the country and increased the sale of pinstripe suits and bryll-cream. Not bad for something that seems innocuous – what could be less scary than an old-age pension? But the bad news is the worst is yet to come.
Right now we are mortgaging the life out of our country so our parents can keep getting a pension, regardless of their wealth, for as long as they live. The rate at which life-expectancies are rising means that some will receive a pension for almost as long as they worked. Our debt burden is forecast to rise so high that tax hikes and cuts to core spending on health, education – and all the other things the people who actually pay the tax need -seem inevitable just to fund it. Things are bad and are getting worse. National in the most recent Budget announced – to some surprise – that they have now decided not to put anything aside to help pay for Superannuation until 2020 or later.
So not only are we saddled with a debt that is increasing more than it ever has before – -we are now doing less to pay for it than we ever have before.
But where are the stories challenging the status quo? Where are the politicians fighting to do something to address what is the biggest future drain on our economy. They are all going along with the current rort.
That’s where they are – in the drivers seat. This is because Superannuation is a political issue that is used to buy elections. No politician can get elected in our system without the support of the old. They actually vote. And of course they vote for their self-interest. And at the moment – they are screwing us. The media and the political classes are not longsighted enough to remove Super from the realms of the petty political and attempt an approach that will benefit the Country. This is because oldies vote in disproportionate numbers. They also buy newspapers in disproportionate numbers. And very soon – they will be in disproportionate numbers to the rest of us.
We are about to see the start of the baby boomers hitting our pension system. What this means is that the people who had free education, free healthcare, no means testing – they are about to start retiring and we are going to foot the bill. These baby boomers –who invented excessive consumption and the consumerist middle class and as a result spawned advertising, global warming, an unstable Middle East, gas-guzzling cars, strip malls and student loans for us to deal with are now also going to saddle us with enormous debt as we pay for their retirement.
Truly the most selfish generation in History. And the media and political class are doing nothing. Less than nothing – they are making it worse.
It doesn’t help that the Leaders in these sectors are the same group that are set to benefit. A very sensible idea to lift the entitlement age from 65 to 67 has been shot down, Never-mind that when the pension was set to kick in at 65 the average life expectancy actually meant that most people didn’t live long enough to collect it. Yet these days of course life expectancies are into the late 70s – they are collecting longer and longer.
The media – instead of dispassionately looking at this as a economic issue that will cripple the Country instead approached it as an emotive issue to help tug-heart-strings and sell papers. They ran stories of how 65 year old manual labourers were gutted they might have to keep working. They dug out veterans who said they didn’t serve their Country to get this treatment. This is regardless of the fact that the proposals were mooted to come in long after these codgers would have retired.
It also ignored the idea that the proposal could involve some kind of opt-outs to make sure the manual labourers wouldn’t be disadvantaged – like letting doctors allow some to still retire at 65 if they were unable to continue with strenuous work because of age. The media went for the lazy and emotive route. It isn’t like it is difficult to find an oldie to complain, and they may just have helped cost us, the young, Billions. The mere step of lifting the entitlement age could save us an inordinate amount – an amount that will continue to rise as the cohort ages. But we won’t look at sensible steps.
I mean 65 for many is not that old. Many work into their early seventies. People like Don Brash are in the odd position of being extremely well off and also still rather busy when they start to draw the pension. He donated his to charity when it kicked in while he was leader of the National Party. After it kicked in he went on to contest the General Election and very nearly win. He also reportedly was carrying on an affair, not bad for a guy we pay $364 a week or so because he is considered too old to look after himself.
But politicians are too scared to face this battle. In fact they are so scared that they are putting the discussion out of any kind of hope of happening. John Key has even pledged to resign if his government tampers with the age entitlement or the amount that it is benchmarked to the average wage. He did this so that he could gain the votes of the elderly with confidence – because if he did not pernicious politicians from the other side would surely have attempted to run a whispering campaign saying that slippery John was going to shaft them of their rights. Well – -fuck them.
They had their party. We are left with a ruined planet, ruined balance book, student loans, seventies rock and now the legacy of having to pay them money they don’t deserve for too long. It is time some in the media and politics stood up and addressed this issue. But like hell they will – all the parties and all the media outlets are too scared to ruffle some grey hairs. Because so often now it is only these grey-hairs that media can count as their readership. And as they let down the rest of us, and as the newspapers whither and shrink, do you think they will stop and wonder why we aren’t picking up their papers?
So concludes the old Media Moment. Soon after Bernard Hickey wrote this interesting and well researched blog on the Herald that generated heaps of discussion.
I’m yet to see the matter properly addressed though by the politicians – and it won’t be for as long as they are held hostage by all the oldies.
September 16, 2009
Throng.co.nz is an internet site where people talk about and celebrate their love for everything TV.
The owners, Rachel and Regan Cunliffe had their first major success with when they set up idolblog -- a site for fans to talk about NZ Idol.
They followed this up with Streettalk - for Shortland St fans, and then throng for everything TV. They have branched out overseas -- with throng having a presence in Canada, Australia and the UK also.
I’ve met them a number of times -and have always been impressed with how onto-it they are -- and how committed they are to TV. They really love it.
So I was excited to see the teasers emerging for their new venture -- Throng TV.
They showed a lively and engaging show with some cheekiness, vivacity and preternatural confidence that promised to be awesome.
I went out to do a story on them to Parakai to meet Regan and the three hosts of the show at the Cunliffe residence.
The hosts responded to an ad throng placed to find presenters -- but they ended up getting more than just front-people. Hamish Coleman-Ross, Ben Kettell and Dayna Boase are writing material, coming up with stories and helping produce the show from what I saw. Especially Hamish who has a background making Cow TV and Studentville.
I was struck by how astoundingly confident they were -- and with fair cause. They have made an awesome, energetic show that has real spark. It may be that they are part of the generation raised on Reality TV but it was kinda scary how they so naturally talked straight to the camera and slotted into the role of giving a good performance. I’ve been seeing this more and more -- check out this page of auditions from tiny kids to present for the Erin Simpson Show to see what I mean -- - I find it a bit terrifying how they are slotting into adult MTV/Reality TV conventions so naturally.
Anyway. Maybe pointing this out means that I am officially old, which my be true as if the old test is right -- that you think cops look young. Maybe I am old as I saw a cop the other day and thought,
‘my, doesn’t he look young….’
But, right, anyway -- -the presenters were very sharp -- and Dayna, in the D List segment -- where she plays a ditz trying to make the A List, has a real x-factor. Like knocks the screen around X-factor.
Hamish is the guy making most of the running on the show though. In his interview with us he came across as one of the most confident people I have ever taped. His answers as to what they were doing -- -essentially that they were stepping in because no-one else is doing it right and they will do it best -- were pretty fierce. And he made the interesting comment that they want to be E with bigger balls. Which would have just been so much talk if it wasn’t for the smashingly frank interview he conducted with Mark Jennings.
Jennings is head of TV3 News. He is a big player in the industry and all that. He doesn’t go out to be fearsome -- but he commands a lot of respect because he is a real journalist and a strong boss and defender of his team. And a tough taskmaster by accounts I have heard. He is a very straight talker too. Now, in Hamish’s interview he walks in there are pretty much says to Mark (and I paraphrase):
“Why have you guys made so many mistakes and do any of you know what you are doing.”
And he followed that up with another couple of ballsy questions. Barefaced check makes for great interviews!
Jennings had good answers, but the point here is that it takes a certain kind of confidence to want to ask those questions. It should make for an interesting series.
Check out the whole first episode at throng.co.nz here. I’m really looking forward to the rest of them. I know that they have an interview with Julie Christie coming up and am quite excited to see what their tremendous keen-ness is going to shake out. Let me know what you think.
September 15, 2009
Bill Ralston has blogged about the news-filler -- the pointless live cross. I feel similarly.
Which reminded me I should post some of my older stuff on here -- this is a Media Moment I did a while ago on that subject that led to a story on Media 7, that I’ll post at the bottom and the Media 7 panel discussion that followed
First Up -- - Behind the News Part One: The Pointless Live Cross
The PTC or piece-to-camera is an unusual beast.
It used to be that the rule of reporting was that the reporter was not to put themselves in the story at all unless there was a very good reason.
Accepted reasons were:
1 -- There were absolutely NO other possible pictures to use to make the point.
2 -- If the reporter was at a place people had to see to know they were actually there – like on Mt Everest or something similarly impressive.
And that was it. Otherwise you were meant to use pictures that added to the story. That has rather changed, in fact now it is pretty much mandatory for reporters to wander all over the story.
Once upon a time (up till about two years ago) the point of news was that people had spent all day gathering the most pertinent pictures and expert comment together into a package that told the story with the greatest economy and authority. It could then be reviewed before transmission by senior journalists and exist as an example of the very best communication that the station could produce – harnessing the talents of camera operators, editors, reporters, producers etc.
This approach makes a lot of sense.
Even if the product is often nonsense it was carefully assembled nonsense. Now though, with the current rage and compulsion for live crosses this is all out the window. Completely.
Now, rather than look old fashioned with a carefully researched and complied account they will cross LIVE to someone to tell us what happened. To ‘tell’ us. As opposed to ‘show’.
Therefore doing away with the thing telly is most useful for – pictures – and replacing it with a live shot of someone stuttering, and scared witless while trying to convey complex information while put on the spot in front of hundreds of thousands of people.
And what of worth is ‘live’ about this? Surely live crosses are only actually useful, if something is happening. There is no point crossing live to the scene where something happened hours ago. Sure, it is a live shot – but to a dead area. The ‘live’ shots that they once filmed during the day and compiled into a report are more ‘live’ than some person standing in a spot where something happened hours ago. And without stutters, mistakes and that possum-in-the-headlights look that reporters have when they are getting hit with the big fuck-off truck of half a million people looking at them and judging that they know is happening as they try to remember what they are meant to be saying.
Just what exactly are they trying to communicate – that they managed to get there way there, but that getting back to the office was a bit beyond them?
I love live crosses – love them to pieces- I collect them. One of my favourites was when a ship got into trouble at sea. They crossed live to the shoreline and a reporter in a news jacket pointed at the water and said: “2 kilometers that-away a ship is in trouble.” They may as well have stayed at the newsroom and pointed in the direction and made it three kilometers that-away.
Ha – sounds crazy – but in actual fact, that is exactly what they do do sometimes. Often they will cross live to their own newsroom to speak to a reporter. Very rarely is this for new information. Often they will cross from the news-anchor to the newsroom – a matter of feet away. They do this to then be told that the reporter is on top of the story and following developments. Actually, that is what the viewers are doing. Why don’t they just cross to a viewer while they are at it?
Dallow: “We’re now crossing live to Margaret who is in her kitchen preparing dinner. Margaret, you’ve been at the scene today, how are the spuds looking?”
The pointless live cross is being elevated to an artform – to the extent that now, not content to do them one at a time they now make little grids of reporters all around the Country. They line them up like celebrity squares or the opening titles to the Brady Bunch just to show us that they have lots of people standing around at 6pm around the country. Thank you for that information.
Live is meant to mean immediate. So when the Swine Flu cases were suspected amongst Rangitoto College pupils it made very little point for Wendy Petrie to be live outside Rangitoto College at 6pm. Especially seeing that at 6pm nothing happens at a school. And doubly especially seeing that the kids in question were in quarantine and specifically not allowed to go near their school. So in actual fact there was no place in the world less sensible to be ‘live’ if you were doing a story on the kids.
Dallow: Crossing live To Wendy now.
Petrie: Hi Simon . I am live from the one place we absolutely know the kids will not be. As you can see they aren’t here and for some reason no-one else is at 6pm either. Back to you Simon.
As stupid as this sounds, this is what they did, except they actually had Wendy cross live to another reporter somewhere else similarly vital.
Soooooooooooo -- - next time you see a live cross ask your self if it was necessary, helpful, had any point, added a single thing or was just for vanity and attempted relevance?
The use of the live cross has grown up for a bunch of factors – building a sense of immediacy -- -building individual reporter ‘brands’ up, and, also I think that once they spend all that money on a live eye system they then have to use it to justify it.
So they end up using it for nonsense. Maybe it is like traffic cops having a quota. Anyway -- -If you have any examples of your favourite pointless live crosses I’d love to hear them?
So -- -this rant led to this piece:
And then this panel discussion here where Paul Patrick of OneNews explained that they feel that the audience like the approach. He believes it is best, and I like Paul and believe that he believes that. But my 2c is that it is this kind of stuff that may be leading to people switching off from the news. Your thoughts?
August 25, 2009
Everyone knows that he global market for music has shrunk, beset as it is by piracy and technology changes. (Check out this dinky visualisation to see how by how much.)
To make up for the financial losses the music industry has decided to try to wring as much as possible out of charges for the public performance of copyrighted materials.
That means, pretty much, the music played in public spaces like bars, retail stores, rugby games and wherever else the public might go and someone wants to play music to them.
What this means is that people that play music in or around their business are about to see the costs go up.
Here in NZ we have recently seen talk over the increase at gyms and health clubs – -if we follow the Australian model the levies may rise by 4000%.
Which may seem rough – but it is hard to imagine a bodypump class conducted in silence.
Again you can’t have a nightclub without music – and at current levies it could be argued that in some cases the music costs the bars less that the electricity that plays it.
But – some people are concerned by the way that the music industry enforces copyright infringements. It doesn’t have a great record of going easy.
There have been cases here- like the private investigator going in to a designer’s office and deciding the mp3 player playing to staff and the showroom warranted a 155 dollar public performance payment.
The guy ignored a request from a Law Firm acting for PPNZ – the record industry collection body. They wanted to know if he was playing music in his showroom. He didn’t help them, they sent the investigator, he decided that the designer was playing music audible in the showroom – right down to naming the songs as Beyonce and MGMT. Once the designer then accepted that he would have to pay the fine the PPNZ people decided that they would rather continue taking him to court. You can only conclude that this was so they could make an example of him.
Pour encourager les autres.
This is reminiscent of other industry moves – like the perceived heavy handed mass legal actions against teenage downloaders and the like. For an industry that is based on making people like things, like artists and music, the record industry really don’t seem to know how to act so people will like them.
Or, maybe, they don’t care. Perhaps they figure that their image is so bad that it can’t get worse and they may as well charge ahead and lift the levies as much as they can right away in order to help stem their hemorrhaging of cash.
This is an interesting debate – and we will be getting into it on Media 7 tonight with Kristin Bowman, Managing Director of Phonographic Performances NZ,
Damian Vaughan of Independent Music NZ and Luke Dallow, Director Chapel bar & bistro; Sale St.
It’s accepted that rises may be necessary – -but the question is – how much is too much – and how roughshod will the enforcement be?
And, extra for experts -
McDonald’s is waaaaaaaay off the money in its internet presence.
I was alerted to this site called 365Black.
It is a McDonald’s site that reckons it is repaying the Black community for the great custom by, well, patronising them and hastening type 2 diabetes as far as I can tell
The site has the tagline ‘Deeply Rooted in our Community’ which doesn’t travel particularly well to NZ.
And the site manages to hit all the wrong notes – in trying to be super authentic it is just
For serious. They actually say ‘nourishes’. Amazing
This is a quote from the video on the opportunities page:
“We all know and love ‘. That’s where we get some of our favourite foods like Hamburgers, premium chicken, McRiddles and of course, the fries. But we’d like to give you a deeper look into our corporation to show you all the business opportunities going on beneath the arches.”
It is like something from The Simpsons.
You wonder how it is that one of the world’s biggest companies can make something so cringey. But it gets better. I went and had an explore on their main site and found a whole bunch of pretty interesting videos – the ones on how to make an Egg McMuffin for example, were fascinating.
What was this trying to accomplish? It felt to me like footage from a movie where the vegetarians took over the world and had show trials of the animal murderers and this video was their clinching evidence.
Honestly – it is almost a parody. There is something kind of inhuman and Aushwitzean about the whole thing. Or is that just me?
August 19, 2009
So – -Cadbury have backed down.
Good. I heard that they went from 60% market share down to 43%. What a drubbing. And Whittaker’s rose to 43%. All because they wouldn’t listen. That’ll learn ‘em. They are going to need a lot of drumming Gorillas and mutant children to get them out of this hole.
And – -District 9. It ruled.
I am fussy when it comes to blockbusters.
I hated Transformers. I thought Minority Report sucked. LOTR was just Xena Warrior Princess on acid to me. I thought that King Kong was one of the most boring films ever made with 43 too many endings. The Curse of Benjamin Button was one of the worst, trite, pointless, aimless, muddled, manufactured cute-siness waste of times I have ever had the displeasure to watch. I hate obvious, false self-important films. And pure spectacle isn’t enough either. Films have to have heart and a brain for me to engage.
Like I say, I am fussy when it comes to blockbusters. I also like to be contrary. But with District 9, well, I’m with every other fucker in the world that likes it.
Man, what a great film. It transported me more thoroughly into another place than any blockbuster I can remember. It was relentless, unusual, political without being preachy, clever, ridiculous, style-perfect, had heart and the CGI wasn’t the parlour trick in search of a use that it normally is.
One reason I’m excited about the film is that they did this relatively cheaply. It shows that Peter Jackson’s down-and-dirty make-cool-shit-happen spirit is alive and well.
I know this wasn’t at question really, but considering that he is doing the NZ Film Commission review it is nice to see what kind of stuff he is wanting to back when given the chance. Let me explain what I mean by that.
District 9 is a cheapie in the Jackson scheme of things. The film came about after the Halo adaption fell to bits. Jackson and Fran Walsh had picked Neil Blomkamp to be the director and when the film fell apart they were all very disappointed. Blomkamp is only 26 – maybe even 25 when that happened – and they really wanted to make a movie with him. So they decided to develop a short he made called Alive in Jo’Burg into a feature. (watch the short here)
They went out and secured 30 million American for the film. By comparison – LOTR cost around 300 million to make, and Seperation City cost around 6 million NZ, So about 4 million American shall we say…
So 30 million counts as a low budget film in the Jackson world. And Jackson just let Blomkamp make whatever movie he wanted. Pretty much total trust. He didn’t even visit him during the 6 month shoot as far as I can tell from reading the articles around the place. He let it run without a script and be mainly improvised(!). He let a 26 year old make a massive movie about Aliens as an Apartheid analogy with no stars, no hype and no pressure to do things in a safe manner. If you’ve seen the film you’ll know that there are moral ambiguites galore, gore and uncomfortable moments that a fearful producer would avoid. Like DIY alien ‘abortions’ to name just one concept you might not see in your everyday Number One at the box office film.
Now – this is awesome. Jackson took a gamble backing a creative approach and won. The movie made more in the first weekend of release than it cost to make. Add a couple more days and it should cover the advertising too. Then from here every day at the cinemas, every DVD, every Video game, every everything is pure gravy.
And remember – this was a low budget gamble in that world and this is where I come back to why this is exciting in terms of the NZFC review.
One of the big gripes in the NZ Film landscape is that not enough films get backed. This is because we have a small budget available to foster talent. There will always be a lack of funds compared to the number of projects wanting funding.
But the way we use those funds and to what end is always up to question – and under review at this moment by Peter Jackson and David Court.
One of the main ways we currently foster feature making talent is to make short films. We make some of the world’s best short films as a result. There is also a comprehensive development program that oversees scripts and tries to move projects towards funding as full budget features. There a lot of ideas in development – a lot more than the commission can afford to end up funding.
Some, like producer Ant Timpson have said that there is a development stage between shorts and full-budget features that is not funded that perhaps should be- the low-budget digital feature. He started this interesting debate here.
He, with production outfit Headstrong, made the low budget feature The Devil Dared Me To the last time that the NZFC tried to foster low-budget digital features.
The Commission does not currently have a specific low budget digital feature development program, though it is open to developing them if someone comes to them with a good enough idea.
I think that what District 9 might mean for the review is that we may see a change to have a dedicated low-budget, risky, experimental populist style film-making component to the industry.
Something that would be ready, maybe, to back a film like Jackson’s own Bad Taste. I’m not sure that the current set-up is looking for films like Bad Taste, or if that film would get made – maybe someone more knowledgeable could advise if this film could make it through the system today? My feeling is that it wouldn’t.
Obviously you wouldn’t want to sacrifice the excellent Short Film infrastructure and experience that has been built up. Outside of France we are the Country that has had the most shorts accepted into Cannes and we don’t want to lose that kind of success. But when low budget features can light up the whole world like District 9 has I can imagine that the New Zealand equivalent of a low-budget risk taker could be just the kind of thing Jackson might want to introduce into the NZ landscape.
This is of course pure conjecture and a bit of wishful thinking at play here. And in terms of a NZ low-budget we would be talking more 300,000 (or maybe even 200,000 American) than 30 million, but I think the overall idea is valid – watch out for some kind of low-budget creative led populist initiatives coming out of the review – or at least cross your fingers for them.
I wonder – would half the people currently in development through the Commission be happy to take half to one third the budget they are after in return for actually just getting a chance to make their idea? Or would a whole new bunch of ideas be needed?
August 11, 2009
The Telethon took place over the weekend. Reports say it attracted half of all viewers at one time or another. 53% of all over fives.
That is an amazing achievement in today’s fractured media environment. It was well received, people seemed to respond to the cause, and nearly 2 Million bucks were raised. But in the wash from this questions have emerged, questions about how much KidsCan spends on promoting itself, and paying it’s staff versus how much gets delivered to the needy.
Seeing that it is a Charity the financial records are available on the Charities Commission Website.
Russell Brown had a look at these figures and worked out that only 19c of what people donated to Kids Can last year actually went to the people in need. Over 80% goes to admin, staff and marketing.
I had a look and came up with about 25 cents in the dollar getting through. But either way the point is that less than a quarter of what you donate to Kids Can goes to help the people in need. (EDIT – the 19c figure is correct and for the whole group – I was looking a only one company…)
The rest goes on staff costs, event costs – that’s those fancy balls and things, advertising themselves – PR, printing fancy brochures, office hire and so on.
Here are some numbers: $341,668 in wages for six full-time staff and two part-time, “Events and Promotions” at $293,768. $60,000 odd on advertising and $45,383 on PR.
A total of $357,354 went to the charitable programmes themselves — Food for Kids, Raincoats for Kids, Stand Tall, and Shoes for Kids.
Now, quite a few charities have high overheads – and I’m not suggesting any laws have been broken – but is it a good look to have this proportion of donations people give going to paying staff and putting on flash events?
I understand that sometimes to make money you gotta spend some – -and undoubtedly with the near 2 million haul from Telethon they made some money – -but I would love to see some kind of promise that with that money they just cleared more than 25 cents of the dollar will go to the needy.
I wonder if they ever would have got 2 million if more of the people donating had any idea that only a quarter went to the programs
For a comparison – Oxfam are pretty much the direct opposite - -they manage to spend 78cents of the dollar actually helping and only 25cents of the dollar on the rest.
Oxfam work all over the world – -and if they can manage to keep their costs so low then surely an organization working within NZ can manage that too, you’d think.
This story is still evolving – -as on the website where Russell pointed this out – publicaddress.net the Chair of Kids Can happens to be a reader.
He has asked Readers to submit questions to him and he will answer them in a post on the site on Wednesday afternoon (perhaps). This is a great use of social media to engage with problems as they emerge.
I will be very interested in what they have to say and have chucked in a few of my own questions there too – -like asking what the raincoats actually cost them – -you can buy one to donate for 35 bucks – but I’d love to know what Adidas makes off each one.
And I also asked if they can give us a guarantee that only a certain percentage will be spent on admin and marketing
. If the same three quarters plus system applies then half of NZ just helped the organizers get a very handsome 1.5 million dollar admin payday.
I’m not going to go into the merits of giving corporate raincoats and corporate food to kids – -I think there is a real need and they seem to have come to this way of doing things by finding and answering a need. If it has a bit of corporate flavour to get there then that is ok with me. But I would wonder why the Government can’t be funding the nutrition part of their efforts. Perhaps the Education ministry ought to fund a breakfast club in all low decile schools – I’d be heaps happier if the Govt was paying for porridge than having to throw telethons to buy kids these packaged corporate food items
I guess Kids Can have a choice now to work out what kind of charity they will be – -Is it the kind of charity that provides important services to the needy – or is it the kind of charity that provides celebrity and branding friendly photo opportunities at a high cost along the way.
UPDATE – - The Trust manager has said that the figures are misleading and that their split is more 70/30 than 20/80. Still won’t disclose salary details, I think all these questions are fair and that her just saying the accounts paint an incorrect picture is not really enough to clear this up. She has said that none of the Telethon money will go to admin. This is great – and it is very healthy that a level of scrutiny is applied so that they will make good promises like this.
August 4, 2009
First- Taito Phillip Field
This is a quick angry vent before we move to a more enjoyable topic – Homemade KFC packed full of MSG!.
This is a massive story – this guy has been found guilty of corruption, perverting the course of justice and bribery – -very serious charges. The most serious thing – and the saddest thing – is that Labour not only protected a man who was dodgy as all hell and abusing his power over the weak – -they actively helped keep his misdeeds quiet.
Imagine a guy who is the local MP dealing with immigrants who are wanting citizenship. Could there be a more vulnerable person?
They don’t live here, they don’t have the language, they can’t ask for help or protection. So they go to the MP. Bad move. He makes them work for nothing on his properties – and in return he gets them citizenship. What is this – medieval France?
The worst thing is that Labour were so desperate to keep South Auckland on side – the electorates that won them the 2005 election – -that they ignored official advice and any ounce of ethics they had left after nearly a decade in power and instead colluded with a power-abusing, bigoted dinosaur. Just to save their bacon.
What Labour did was steadfastly ignore the weight of evidence and then when it became too much to continue ignoring they commissioned an inquiry that had no chance of finding anything out and then when that inquiry came back and pretty much said ‘I think they were lying to me and this stinks’ they ignored that too and claimed it was all roses. Well, Fuck you Labour, you should be ashamed.
If you out there ever look at the National Government and think -
‘Oh shit, how did we end up with these clowns in charge?’
I can give you the answer – Labour became so corrupt, out-of-touch and self-serving that the electorate had no choice but to bump them out.
If this was a National MP doing this to the most vulnerable people in our entire country there would have been an enormous astounding earth shaking outcry..
It is really sad that Labour – who you would hope went in to power to help the poor ended up spending their third term defending the indefensible – Winston Peters’ and Taito Phillip Field. Every time you see National axe something dear to you or sell your internal organs to the Chinese – remember – Labour stood for corruption. What choice was there?
The secret recipe for KFC has been cracked, I can tell you this first hand as I made it the other night. This fellow Ron Douglas is a food detective – -he makes his living going around famous eateries and finding out their recipes then publishing them. What a dude! Anyway – after a lot of experimentation he figured he’d worked out the KFC secret 11 herbs and spices. This is what he came up with:
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons Accent (MSG)
Now – -that shows that of the 11 – -4 are salt (Garlic powder is pretty much Garlic salt), and proportionally those four are way out of whack to the rest.
I decided to make this for myself to try it out after seeing an amazing video on this site for a blog on the most esteemed of liberal publications, The Guardian.
In it a dude that is very Guardian – cool and reserved and English – makes the recipe, then tries it in a taste test against store-bought KFC.
On tasting it he just about has kittens – I thought -’well, fuck me, that’s a bit of me, I’m gonna make that’- a friend of mine described it as cute the way he gets so excited. Watch it to see.
Anyway – -here’s a couple of tips – - use soya oil. This is what Southern Food experts on the Chow site recommended. (Thanks Simon Farrell-Green for the tip). Also, marinate and poach your chicken in milk first – -for two reasons – to make sure it is actually cooked…as you don’t want to give your dining companions food poisoning (I’d hope) and because it makes it tender, tasty and awesome.
My lady and I made it with homemade potato and gravy, and coleslaw too, and it was a magic night.
We had Age and Huia and Shav and Liam around. Straight out of the deep fryer it was heart-stoppingly good. Much like the grease. Only thing I would change is that I don’t think you need all those salts. Drop both the MSG and the natural salt back and it will be heaps more manageable. And make sure you have some coke to wash it down. We were all drinking wine and being terribly civilised, until about two mouthfuls in and we were all like OMFG where is some COKE??? like thirteen year olds at Burger King. Salt’ll do that to you.
What this kicked off though was a lot of conversations about MSG. Which is the secret ingredient.
Pretty much everyone thinks that MSG is terrible. But few people actually know what they think is terrible about it. Why is it bad? What does it do to you? Do you know?
It has a bad reputation. Many are convinced that it gives you migraines, and headaches and cancer and shot JFK. But there is no evidence for any of this – check this awesome article also from the Guardian about why MSG got such a bad name, and what the truth is. Article Here.
The basic story is that Glutamate, that is what Mono Sodium Glutamate is out to replicate – -is an amino acid the body naturally produces. The Mono sodium just is a form the liquid is stabilised in – put into crystal form with a bit of salt. .
It occurs naturally in food – cheeses, meats, mushrooms, ripe tomatoes.
Parmesan Cheese has one of the highest naturally occurring rates of glutamate. So next time you make pasta and salt the water then grate Parmesan on – well – you’re making MSG fancy styles.
There is no evidence it is bad and plenty to the contrary – if it was bad then the whole East – where it is used ridiculously frequently, would be stuffed. A famous quote that sums this up makes up the title of that excellent Guardian piece -
“If MSG is so bad, why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache?” (attributed to Jeffrey Steingarten, American Vogue food writer).
So – -here we have a case of a bad media and worldwide reputation without any fact. Quite fascinating really.
The long and the short of all this is to say – don’t believe MSG is bad without knowing why you believe that, and if you do make the KFC recipe at home use a little less of all the salts.
July 21, 2009
Social Media is something we are hearing an awful lot about at the moment. It is the current holy grail of marketing.
Companies, desperate to be hip, down with the kids and groovy, are doing their best to use the new communication channels to their advantage.
Often the result is as cringe-worthy as the terms hip, down-with-the-kids and groovy might suggest
At essence for companies to make it work on social media they have to work to establish relationships and communication- this sounds pretty platitudinal, but is the crux of it – and why it is a lot harder for companies to do the whole social media thing – which is, essentially – a lot of two-way communication – than it is for them to do normal one-way communication.
It used to be that an uncool company could hire a cool advertising creative to come up with a campaign that would make them appear cool, even if they are not. This was kind of easy – -one good ad and people would think this. The company could continue being however uncool they were, and so long as they kept doing good ads, no image problem. They would only need, say, an ad a year.
For an example of this old approach – think of the Cadbury Gorilla ad. People love that ad. So think Cadbury is cool. And like they say in Scooby-Do, they would have got away with it if it wasn’t for the sneaky kids
Because the sneaky kids of social media have dealt a blow to Cadbury. When Cadbury decided to keep the same price but downsize their bars and add a different oil to them – websites and twitterers got going to combat the change.
July 15, 2009
You may have heard about the ‘Homosexual Panic Defence’.
It rears up in cases where gay people have been severely beaten, even to death, by straight people.
They claim, essentially, that the person’s gayness and the exercise of that gayness provoked them to such a degree that they were not fully liable for their actions.
One such case finished up last Thursday, 9 July.
It is the Ambach case.
The details are that a 32 year old dive master tourist met a 69 year old man in a bar. They decided to go back to the 69year old’s flat in Onehunga.They stopped to get alcohol on the way and security footage shows them to be enjoying themselves.
At some point back at the flat things turned and Ambach beat Ronald Brown to death and trashed his house. Reportedly “the furniture was upended and thrown through windows and the downstairs ceiling collapsing due to water flooding from where an upstairs bathroom vanity unit had been torn from the wall and broken in two.
The result was an attack which saw Brown repeatedly beaten with an exercise weight and a banjo which broke in the attack with the broken neck still used as a weapon and found stuffed in the dying man’s mouth.”
Ambach sustained no injury and in the first police interview said that no sexual assault had taken place.
The jury found Ambach not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter in this case where the ‘homosexual panic’ so-called defence was raised.
The provocation defence is an archaic piece of law. In this case it was used to plant the idea that the defendant had been drugged and propositioned and couldn’t remember going into the rage, the monstrous rage, that led to Mr Brown dying.
Tests by ESR on the unfinished drinks and Ambach’s blood showed no drugs present.
This disgusting murder charge was downgraded to a manslaughter conviction and this is just the latest of a disgusting line of cases where the provocation defence has played a part in cases where grievous injury has been done to homosexuals.
Here is a list of cases where it has been used, successfully or otherwise.
It creates a second class of citizen before the law in the same way as slavery does, if you don’t mind my going a bit extreme on this. Saying you are provoked by ‘gayness’ is not that different than saying ‘ I was provoked by his colour’.
Lots of other onto it people think this too.