TVNZ trumpets ratings gains, gets punked by pro-whaling trickster

Ever since TV3’s Sunrise and ASB Business bit the dust back in April, the Mediaworks press releases about news and current affairs viewer numbers seem to have dried up. Not surprisingly, NZI Business and Breakfast have reaped the benefits after the departure of its main competition, but there’s also been some significant ratings increases for Te Karere and Q+A over the last year and ONE news has also held firm.

NZI Business and Breakfast have increased their audience by around one third since last year, which is an average daily increase of 12,000 viewers for Corin Dann’s early morning business show and an extra 35,000 for Paul Henry and Pippa Wetzell.

This morning, however, TVNZ was forced to wipe some egg off its rather embarrassed face and apologise to viewers after a young chap purporting to be a pro-commercial whaling supporter named Jay Pryor was interviewed by Paul Henry (the clip has been taken down from the TVNZ website). TVNZ can take a tiny bit of comfort in the fact that ‘Pryor’ had also been quoted in a pro-whaling story in the Sunday News and was also interviewed here.

A TVNZ publicist said the man, who is thought to be a television comedian named Guy Williams (presumably the same Guy Williams who won Dai Henwood’s protege project on C4’s Jono Project), had gone to reasonable lengths to dupe the public by creating a false name and setting up a fake website for the Commercial Whaling New Zealand lobby group.

A Breakfast producer spoke to “Jay Pryor” the night before the interview and believed he was plausible. But, in a tribute to the power of cynicism, the ever-astute Paul Henry’s suspicions were raised during the on-air interview because of his lack of knowledge.

As a result of the prank, TVNZ says it is reviewing its set-up interview procedures. Speaking of media gaffes, here’s a good one.

Anyway, back to the ratings: the ONE News audience has remained static but rival 3 News has lost almost 10 percent of its audience, dropping more than 42,000 viewers since May 2009.

Te Karere has jumped by almost 20,000 viewers, with over 65,000 viewers now watching the live un-subtitled bulletin at 4pm daily. And there’s been an increase of 38 percent in Q+A’s audience, despite the introduction of TV3’s rival programme The Nation. An additional 18,310 viewers are tuning in to Q+A each week than the same time last year, which TVNZ says is “a recognition of the quality of the analysis and news making content on the show”. The Nation attracted an average audience of 15,000 viewers per show in May compared to Q+A’s 66,350.

The TVNZ website has also experienced substantial growth in the past month, with extensive coverage of the Budget, storms in the South Island and the All Whites build-up to the World Cup contributing to the boost in readership last month.

And Close Up’s coverage of the Hug a Ginga debate sparked one of the biggest messageboards in the site’s history and topped tvnz.co.nz’s most watched news videos in May.

In case you missed out, here are the top 10 news videos watched on tvnz.co.nz in May 2010.

1 Hug a Ginga Day – Innocent fun or discrimination?, Close Up

2 ONE News 6pm live stream

3 Seeing red over Hug A Ginga Day, Close Up

4 Dom and Jay-Jay’s IVF battle, Sunday

5 South bearing brunt of storm, ONE News

6 Breakfast live stream

7 Live stream: Budget 2010

8 Emotional farewell for teen drink victim, ONE News

9 Milking it: How old is too old to be breastfed?, 20/20

10 Breakfast Extra: Matt McLean and a very hot chilli, Breakfast

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