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HARD NEWS 11/2/00 - Soft Soap and Low Drama

HARD NEWS is first broadcast in Auckland on 95bFM around 8.45am on Fridays and replayed around 4.30pm Friday and 10am Sunday on The Culture Bunker. You can listen to 95bFM live on the Internet. Point your web browser to You will need Real Audio 3.0 to be able to listen, plus a 28.8k modem. Currently New Zealand is 13 hours ahead of GMT.

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GOOD DAY MEDIAPHILES ... if we needed a reminder that Parliament is a different place than it used to be, it came in some of the new MPs' maiden speeches this week.

There was the world's first transexual MP, Georgina Beyer, paying tribute to her "former member" - Wyatt Creech, that is. Stop sniggering at the back. And there was the world's first dreadlocks MP, Nandor Tanczos, who bid everyone greetings in the name of Jah Ras Tafari.

Nandor maintained the poise he has shown since his election - and delivered a gentle plea to the media to turn its spotlight somewhere other than his overly-exposed stash of cannabis. I don't know the man personally, but I understand his claims to moderation are not inaccurate. A fiend he is not. Indeed, I have heard him dismissed by a more enthusiastic user of the herb as a "cabbage smoker".

As well as the member for Leaf and Tips - God, I'm as bad as the rest of them, aren't I? - the Green Party's Sue Bradford gave a speech that boded well for her new career as an MP, Act's Gerrard Eckhoff related the way an audience with His Holiness Sir Roger Douglas in 1987 had turned him from a Labour Party supporter into a "stunned mullet", and Labour's likely lad David Cunliffe swore to defend and promote the home of the mullet, West Auckland.

Speaking of which, who'd be a film censor? The dark Westie comedy, Savage Honeymoon, has been slapped with an R18 rating on account of its depiction of gross and irresponsible consumption of alcohol, and stupid actions, namely throwing a gas cylinder on a bonfire.

The decision is basically in line with the law, but every man and his scraggy Westie dog has piled in on the censor, Bill Hastings. The irony of course is that all the outrage is pulling Savage Honeymoon the kind of publicity budgets can't buy.

Elsewhere in the media, we finally found out not only what John Hawkesby stands to gain from his ejection from TVNZ, but what he would've been paid if he'd stuck it out for the full six years, and even what he was taking at the time. That is, respectively: $5.25 million plus interest; $700,000 annually rising to more than $800,000; and Prozac.

Goodness, what drama. You could put that in a local TV drama - but then Geoff Steven would demand it be removed because it didn't fit the TV2 brand or something.

I hope in the course of its policy rethink for public television the government will also rethink the New Zealand On Air funding model, which effectively places the dread hand of the broadcaster around the gonads of every independent producer. Nothing even gets development money without a screen guarantee from TV programmers. And nothing gets screened without the direct meddling of those same programmers. I have spoken to documentary makers who are just shattered by what's been done to their work.

This offends me considerably more than the decision of the censor this week. And I can only imagine how much it must offend the nation's independent programme makers to be ordered around by people whose past creative output consists of dull, derivative art movies that nobody watched.

I guess that means my next proposal is toast, right? Never mind.

Anyway, I was glad to see just a glimmer of an alternative in the announcement of the proposed merger of Ihug and Force Corporation this week.

The insider trading that preceded it was a bit sordid, and Alan Gibbs, as usual, inserted himself in the transaction to maximum personal advantage, but the fact that Force not only has access to movie rights but owns a third of South Pacific Pictures ought to put some beef in Ihug's digital TV offerings. Perhaps there's a way forward there.

Whatever happens, there is a cultural shift on in broadcasting. All that remains to be seen is who is sacrificed at TVNZ - news boss Shaun Brown is the smart pick. The TVNZ board has apparently told the NBR that it didn't have much of a role in Hawkesby's terms of employment - which is a bit like "blaming the dead guy", only Rick Ellis isn't dead. Yet.

But, anyway, speaking of newsreaders, TV3's John Campbell's away and we have the lovely Darren McDonald in his seat. And, through repeated exposure, I've finally worked out who Darren sounds like: Cartman from South Park. Violate those vowels yourself: "I'm Darren McDonald - and I hate you guys!" - G'bye!

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