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Here We Go Again

The News Makers are in the News again and this time because of mass layoffs laid on for the delectation of the staff involved, mainly news and current affairs people, which has, its fair to say, given them a thoroughly justified bellyache.

It will give them no comfort to reflect that this messing about has been the case since television was invented, i.e. that the latest technical innovation will lead to layoffs and very unhappy puppies; indeed Patrick Gower gave his own imitation of a lovable pooch, hair askew, in the aftermath of the Newshub announcement and the Newshub news twins of Mike and Samantha gave way to quite understandable and well controlled tearings up. Troopers to the last.

It's been so forever. I was rendered redundant, with a wife and 3 children under 5 to support, as an NZBC-TV Executive Producer back in Dunedin in the early 1970s, in a restructuring brought about by a second TV channel.

Back then the cameras, sitting on very large movable “dollies”, were the size of Harleys. Their equivalents today, the Mobile Phone, can be held in the palm of one hand..

The point? Technical innovation is relentless. In my lifetime, in the television space alone, there have been big upheavals at irregular intervals, like periodic earthquakes, throwing highly professional and incredible talented individuals and their loved ones up in the air with no chance of a soft landing.

In the early seventies, there was the advent of Colour Television. (Before that, we sat in the dark watching a cathode ray tube empty of colour which cast our wrapt faces in an eerie blue glow. ) and hard on its heels, privately owned channels.

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In the early 80s came the Internet, and Streaming Services began to change everything again . We are currently on the brink of another innovation, brought about by AI (Artificial Intelligence) and VR (Virtual Reality), revealing one constant in this changing hitech universe, which is that there is no constant.

The Knowledge Wave, as it was called in the 1990s, has turned out to be, not a single event at all, but a repetitious Tsunami.

So in a way, the pollies are just like the rest of us, are stunned speechless by the latest upheaval, brought to newsrooms all over the world by the obsolescence of cumbersome line-of-sight or cable transmission equipment (Linear Television for short) and its replacement with satellite transmission gear, faster and less fault-prone.

The decision-makers are at a loss, with no idea of how to deal with it.. The Minister Melissa Lee, looks like a possum in the headlights when confronted with the demand for answers, which she can’t give. Even the P.M. who used to run an International Airline and is therefore, surely savvy, on matters to do with Innovation and Industry upheaval, nevertheless, like a fish out of water, moves his lips, in that practiced way he has, but no wisdom comes out.

He attempted a soothing platitude about skilled and talented people being eminently employable, because of course like many a corporate mandarin, he has never personally experienced the cold wind of unemployment whipping around his private parts.

And it’s true, that journalists and editors and presenters are essentially storytellers and there will always be jobs for people who can tell a good one.

Unfortunately, the other thing we can be sure of is that the money hungry are out there now, looking to profit from the mass bemusement , and not in the least concerned about the cost which accrues from Technological Change, which in its way, is just as fearsome and destructive as Climate Change and just as inevitable.

The Elon Musks and the Mark Zuckerbergs are experts at getting ahead of the Tech Wave, and coining it, simply because all Innovation costs and Governments are about as useless as laboratory mice hyped on untested drugs when it comes to demanding that the people who benefit pay something for the privilege of amassing enormous fortunes at their fellow citizens expense..

So bring on the Fair Digital Media Legislation and the regulation of Twitter and Facebook, to curb the mammoth indifference of a prehistoric mastodon, otherwise known as The Free Market, which day on day goes on creating a Rule Free-Zone, which its keepers cravenly label Free Speech, in order to dodge any kind of oversight and elude any restraint. With no international legislative curbs on harming others, like the national laws of Libel, or those against Threatening to Kill, or limitations on social harms caused to the young and vulnerable by the media moguls predations, these innovations have stolen a march on legislators all over the world (although people like Jacinda Ardern and president Macron of France brought together “The Christ Church Call” of 30 nations back when.

At the same time, the uncontrolled unregulated innovations like live streaming have empowered the likes of the Mosque mass murderer of Christchurch. And Governments by their inaction, give daily license, by sitting on their hands, to on line bullying, the stalking of young women, indeed the wholesale mobilization of Racism, Sexism , Greed and human exploitation which is the Social Media space in countries like our own all over the world.

And while honest, “tell-it-like -it -is” truth- seekers like journalists and presenters, are dumped on the scrap heap.

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