Camp Live host John Campbell has admitted error in his program’s handling of an interview with the purported thief of the Waiouru war medals. Although he insists the program never intended to deceive viewers, he says it was a mistake not to explain to viewers that the interview was a re-enactement.
Canterbury University media lecturer Jim Tully was quoted last week as saying that the way the interview was handled represented an “element of deception”. An article in the Sunday Star-Times further quotes him as saying that the handling of the matter had tarnished an otherwise good news scoop.
“Jim’s point’s a good one,” said Campbell yesterday. “But I don’t think we deceived viewers. With my hand on my heart, we didn’t set out to deceive anyone, it was just one of those funny old scrambling days.”
“To be perfectly honest, we shat in our own nest which is a frustrating thing to have done.”
Campbell went on to say that the failure was partly a result of the rush to air the story. “We were running very late; it was only when it started going to air we thought ‘Shit, we haven’t exactly clarified what we did’. So in the control room our director just keyed up ‘actor’s voice’.”
There was also a wariness to reveal anything about the interview subject’s identity. “I guess at some strange level we thought if we said anything about what people were looking at we were disclosing something.”
Police took a statement from Campbell and a tape of the staged interview, but TV3 had destroyed the real audio recording.
“I was as helpful as I could possibly be in all details except anything that would lead to his identity. In part because I don’t know it. They asked if I was prepared to give a description, but, you know, I’m just not able to. Having said that, I hope they catch him.”
“It’s weird the business of making television five nights a week, everything’s about getting it to air. It’s a bit like having people over for dinner.
“There are nights when you’ve had plenty of time to prepare a beautiful dinner and there are nights when you just stand there and think ‘God is spag bol going to be all right’.”
The incident coincides with a slide in ratings for the program. Nielsen Media Research figures reveal rival currenta affairs program Close Up‘s average viewing audience (5+) was 399,600 between January 28 and February 20, compared to Campbell Live‘s 163,400.
The program’s slow start to the year has been attributed to Close Up‘s earlier return for 2008, as well as TVNZ’s in-depth coverage of Edmund Hillary’s death, which ocurred before Campbell Live‘s return. Both programs have been negatively affected by the popularity of TV2 soap Shortland Street.