The changing face of current affairs television in New Zealand from 1984 to 2004
Baker, Sarah Jane
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The research objective of this thesis is to examine the consequences of deregulation and commercial pressures on current affairs television programmes. The changes to broadcasting content in New Zealand after deregulation in the late 1980s have been widely explored in the case of television news. That research demonstrated that deregulation had fundamentally changed the content, purpose and format of television news bulletins. Broadcasting in New Zealand went from what could be loosely termed a public service broadcasting system to a commercialised system which had profound consequences for the state of broadcasting in this country. The research carried out into the news after deregulation showed that it had become personalised, ‘morselised’ and depoliticised. This thesis examines another key area of New Zealand journalism, the changing nature of current affairs television programmes in New Zealand after the introduction of deregulation. Part of the sample also includes programmes sampled from the so-called ‘Charter period’ when Television New Zealand operated under a Charter. This period of time, subsequent to the election of a Labour led government in 1999, was supposed to improve current affairs programmes by making them less focused on ratings and more focused on quality. The thesis incorporates a quantitative content analysis of representative current affairs television programmes sampled from 1984, 1994 and 2004 which demonstrates how current affairs television programmes altered in style, format and information delivery. This is complemented by a qualitative evaluation of the extent to which New Zealand current affairs television became structured as infotainment. The research demonstrates that deregulation and commercial pressures produced far-reaching and problematic changes in current affairs television programming.