Back Benches – sad to see the end #1

The last Back Benches programme was on last night, as TVNZ 7 is being shut down on Saturday.

The final panel:

  • Green Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei
  • Labour MP Jacinda Ardern
  • Mana Party Leader Hone Harawira
  • National MP Chester Borrows
  • United Future Leader Peter Dunne.

There was a major disruption as a fire alarm forced an evacuation hald way through, but after a brief break they resumed broadcasting on the street – fortunately they use portable cameras and microphones so relocating was relatively easy – until they were allowed back inside to finish off.

It’s sad to see the end of Back Benches, it had it’s quirks but it was one of the best opportunites ordinary people had a chance to see more of some of the less prominent MPs. It was usually held in the Back Benches pub near parliament but had to relocate for the final few programmes due to fire damage at Bank Benches.

They also sometimes took the show on the road, I attended one they had in Dunedin last year.

David Farrar pays tribute on Kiwiblog – The final Back Benches on TVNZ7:

In the main, I’ve greatly enjoyed the show – both as a viewer, and occasional participant.    The after show drinking sessions ending up at Hummingbird have also been good!

I thought I would first start with the good. The two producers – Caroline and Mary-Anne – are always friendly, always professional, put together an excellent production and two really great people to boot.

The combination of Wallace and Damien worked well. Damien’s humour and Wallace’s engaging style produced a very watchable show.  I said to Wallace some years ago that one day I could see him on Close Up. I still hold to that view.

The floor manager and technical staff did an excellent job of live broadcasts from a non-studio. The Backbenches pub was a great venue for the show, as has been Speights Ale House for the last three weeks.

I think it was a great thing that we had a show, where any member of the public could turn up at the pub, and see four MPs debate the week’s issues, and meet and chat to them before hands and afterwards. There are few countries that have their MPs so accessible. I recall one show on a day the House rose early, and there were over 40 MPs at the Backbencher.

I also think the show was great for MPs, especially well backbenchers. Previously some MPs would never have to debate on live television until they were a Minister – and normally only if they are in the crap! It’s good training for MPs.

So many good things about Backbenchers, and I will miss it.

As I said, it is possible Backbenches will continue on another channel. I hope it does. While I have highlighted some issues (I’d solve the booing issue by having the cameras do close up focuses on those doing it), I definitely think overall it has become a fun part of New Zealand politics.

I too hope that this programme can be picked up and kept alive by another channel.

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  1. Back Benches – sad to see the end #2 « Your NZ

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