What a shitty year it looks like being for public service television. Four-year-old digital station Stratos ran out of money just before Christmas, with the CEO for the tiny operation explainng: “Transmission costs coupled with the economic environment and general lack of support at all levels has meant that it simply could not survive.”
That comes on top of the news we’ve now known for some time – that TVNZ 7, bastion of intelligent local telly, is to be extinguished half way through 2012.
The demise of Stratos means that al-Jazeera is no longer being broadcast nationally in New Zealand. By some cruel but telling coincidence, its plug was pulled almost exactly a year after the beginning of the Arab Spring.
At least al-Jazeera can be accessed online. The news coverage is what sets it apart, but there is plenty else to read and watch on their site, too. Including this recent episode of the Witness documentary series, in which a 16-year-old Palestinian travels from his home in a Lebanon refugee camp to England to take up a scholarship at the archetypal posh public school, Eton.
It’s a short and uncomplicated film, but full of delicious snippets. Such as headmaster Tony Little’s explanation of one of the important dates on the Eton calendar. “It’s called the Fourth of June,” he advises Mohamed, “but it’s almost always at the very end of May. In the same way that our St Andrew’s Day holiday isn’t on St Andrew’s Day. In the same way that the colour that is Eton blue isn’t really blue. It’s more green. It’s a very English way of looking at the world.” Ah, says Mohamad, politely.