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Friday, April 8, 2011

Why we need our regional TV

Why we need our regional TV

Last updated 00:11 05/04/2011
I was looking forward to joining with other broadcasters celebrating 20 years of regional television later this year. CTV (or a version of it) would have been broadcasting for 20 years in June this year, and planning was under way for a memorable event to mark the occasion.

Instead the reunions came early, as we've gathered this past week to farewell broadcasting colleagues who were in the CTV building when it collapsed on February 22.

The loss of our colleagues has been made worse by the loss of the station itself. At what should have been its finest hour, CTV, which has been a source of local inspiration and unashamed positivity throughout its 20-year life, was a casualty of the earthquake.

The TV networks did an amazing job in the days after the February earthquake, providing excellent coverage, interviews and analysis, but they won't be around as the focus changes to the long, slow process of recovery.

That's where CTV has a vital role to play and it's been here before.

When CTV launched in June 1991, New Zealand was in a recession. It was the worst time to launch a new business and yet it was what the Canterbury economy needed.

There's no doubt the local news programmes, First Report with Jendi Harper and Canterbury Today with George Balani were popular because they gave us news that was relevant to us, but it was the other shows that really showed what regional television could do to transform a community.

CTV gave local businesses an affordable opportunity to promote themselves through shopping show Susan Sells, hosted by Sue Wells. Geoff from Moreton's Menswear and Tony from Haralds, to name just two of the more than 50 businesses who appeared on the show each week, became household names. Over the past 20 years thousands of businesses, particularly retailers, have appeared on CTV's shopping shows, and some never left. For many it became their main or only form of advertising.

Rob Cope-Williams took the cameras out of the studio to reveal the resourcefulness of rural communities with Farming Canterbury. Twenty years on, Rob, now presenting Rob's Country, was out at the farmgate when the earthquake struck, still telling the stories rural Canterbury wants to hear and townies need to know.

Citylife (that evolved into Good Living), which I hosted, gave local organisations and individual people (we estimated 5000 guests over two years) a chance to talk about themselves and their successes. Voluntary organisations, fundraisers and community groups all sat on the couch and talked about their goals and dreams to make Canterbury and Christchurch a better place to live. Civil Defence, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army - all the organisations we've depended on in the last month depended on CTV for publicity.

The economic recovery of the nineties began in Canterbury, and we've never looked back - until now. Christchurch and Canterbury face a daunting financial, physical and psychological struggle of rebuilding our economy, our community and our lives. If there's ever been a time when we need CTV to promote our businesses, share our stories and celebrate our successes it's now.

Locally owned businesses are some of the hardest hit by the earthquake. For those retailers who relied on CTV advertising, the recovery will be harder without affordable television advertising. For two decades CTV has enabled fiercely parochial viewers to spend their money at locally owned businesses, keeping the corner shops and boutiques in business and competitive against the foreign-owned chain stores. For some retailers, CTV is as important for getting back to business as wage-subsidies and hardship grants.

One of the most frequent criticisms of the recovery effort has been the lack of communication. Regional television would give us the chance to debate the issues and delve right down into the details of what individual streets and neighbourhoods need, what people are doing and the small but important successes that need acknowledging.
Entire programmes could be dedicated to addressing recovery issues.

They could be citywide debates, or even discussions specific to individual streets and communities.

Interviews, panel discussions, and studio audiences - anything's possible. That's the beauty of regional television - when you have it.

There's been talk of re- launching CTV. Many former staff members have come forward and offered to help, such is the dedication television people have to their industry and colleagues. I hope it's successful because I know that 20 years ago CTV made a critical contribution to improving the economic and social wellbeing of Canterbury by letting us tell our stories in our own words, and seeing our success.

We need to be talking to each other and we need to listen to what people have to say. CTV can help. We just need to get CTV broadcasting again - for our colleagues, our future and ourselves.

* Grant Mangin was one of the original presenters at CTV, working at the station from 1991 until 1995. He has maintained his involvement with CTV through presenting a series of antique shows, and as a guest presenter of Good Living.
- The Press

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