Small World controversy blossoms on the Internet

Small World, the little TV production company which campaigned for more than a year to get TVNZ to show the pro-organic farming documentary it commissioned then refused to play, has leveraged all the controversy in a way which should serve as an example to other media companies. Rubber Gloves or Green Fingers finally screens tonight on TV1 - and everything points to its Website.

Small World, the little TV production company which campaigned for more than a year to get TVNZ to show the pro-organic farming documentary it commissioned then refused to play, has leveraged all the controversy in a way which should serve as an example to other media companies.

TVNZ insisted that the Green Fingers could not be shown because it was "defamatory" - a view which virtually nobody outside the enterprise shared , and which TVNZ was unable to explain to producer David Jacobs. The company has been short of cash and work while the programme's fate was argued over.

Rubber Gloves or Green Fingers finally screens tonight on TV1 - and everything points to its Website. The site itself has been sponsored by Waipuna International, a company which provides chemical-free weed control. It will also carry links to the New Zealand Herald, 95bFM, Real Groove magazine, TUANZ and Interactive New Zealand.

The Herald contra - which sees a link through to the paper's online subscription form (no, we didn't know they had one either) in exchange for a sizeable ad in the paper's TV section - is the most notable. Paul Rose, who negotiated the ad with the paper's circulation department, points out that the deal benefits both sides, even if the book value of each side's contribution can hardly be compared.

"You've got an address which is being advertised on TV, on a programme with potentially half a million viewers, on a contentious issue, so what Small World's offering is not unattractive," says Rose. "The Herald circulation manager's view was that, if it's something which could potentially increase my circulation and it doesn't cost me anything, what have I got to lose? Which I thought was fairly enlightened."

Jacobs says that the TUANZ, INZ and Real Groove links will also translate into print promotion for the company's work.

"What's happened is that all the hoo-ha around the documentary, which has caused us so many problems as a production company, we've now been able to turn that around. Because we've got a piece of media - not just a film on TVNZ, but our Website - which lots of people are going to watch," says Jacobs.

"We weren't funded to create a Website, only to make a TV programme, so on the Web we make money out of sponsorship and advertising. That currently is the main way to make money out of the Web, unless you're planning online gambling or something.

"The transactions side of the Web is so underdeveloped, so instead of selling things, we advertise other people selling things. We promote them and they promote us. And if we present a sufficiently interesting piece of media, if the content's good enough, it'll work."

The Website, at http://www.smallworld.co.nz , also contains what Jacobs calls an "interactive script" from the film, with links to sites of interest, a "green market" for small traders, a voting feature and threaded discussion groups.

There will be one further link to the Green Fingers Website. It will be from the Website of TVNZ, the broadcaster which (under pressure from Federated Farmers, it seems) stonewalled Jacobs for more than a year. TVNZ, which only relented after the arrival of Neil Roberts, and pressure from MPs Jenny Shipley, Judith Tizard and Jeanette Fitzsimmons, will probably do best of all out of the film it fought to avoid screening.

Jacobs cheerfully admits to seeing the irony of that one.

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