23 March 2009

Govt plans to sink TVNZ in unchartered waters

Giving $15 million dollars of TVNZ’s Charter funding to NZ on Air and then doing away with TVNZ’s Charter itself makes no sense – unless the government’s real agenda is to ready TVNZ for sale, said Green Party Broadcasting Spokesperson Sue Kedgley.

“Axing the charter means TVNZ will have no public service responsibilities and will therefore be purely profit driven. With no public service mandate TVNZ will become indistinguishable from its competitors and easier to sell,” said Ms Kedgley.

The Charter, adopted in 2003, emphasises TVNZ’s public broadcasting responsibilities and is designed to foster a sense of national identity and culture. Part of the Charter’s mandate is to support locally made programmes and events that would be impossible in a purely commercial broadcasting environment.

“Sure, the Charter is flawed – but the answer is not to throw it out, but to improve it and give it teeth,” Ms Kedgley said.

“Inevitably the quality of programmes on TV1 will be further eroded with the Charter’s demise, Ms Kedgley said, and many New Zealanders will start to wonder why the state should own a fully commercial channel that is hard to distinguish from any other channel.

“The reality is that buying cheap overseas programmes is infinitely cheaper than making even low-budget New Zealand ones, and a state broadcaster intent on maximising profits will steer clear of commissioning anything not made for maximum return of commercial investment.

Inevitably, with the Charter gone, locally made programmes look likely to become rarer than a waistcoat wearing Kiwi that sleeps in a TV dish.”

“I think this is the hidden agenda – to strip TVNZ of its public service responsibilities, squeeze it like a lemon financially, at a time when advertising revenues are in free fall, and then flick it off in a few years time.

Ms Kedgley pointed out that by moving money out of TVNZ’s coffers to NZ on Air, overseas owned media will be able to bid from the contestable fund.

“Even if a network does bid for this funding, they could then play the program at 3am given there will no longer be an imperative to support locally made programmes in any practical way.”


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