The Coailiton for Better Broadcasting and website has launched today. From the information on the website, it is looking like a very promising initiative to me. Under the present government, public service broadcasting and media have been under sustained attack.
The CBB has a strong team, with Dr Peter Thompson as the Chair. I have followed his work for a few years. Thompson is THE NZ academic with the most knowledge and understanding of public service broadcasting and ways to implement in the 21st century digital and media fragmented world.
Peter is a senior lecturer on the media studies programme at Victoria University of Wellington where his principal research interest is political economy and media policy. He has published extensively on public broadcasting issues in New Zealand and he is a strong advocate of public service values. Peter’s work includes international studies of broadcasting funding systems and quality measures commissioned by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and NZ On Air respectively.
The website defines “better public broadcasting” thus:
* strikes a balance between information and entertainment
* caters to all audiences and not just household shoppers
* isn’t afraid to present hard-to-understand concepts, unusual formats or challenge the audience
The Coalition aims to embrace online media:
The public service ethos also applies to online media. Just like traditional broadcasters, increased advertising is the goal of most news websites and increasingly many blogs. As an example comparenzherald.co.nz and rnz news to see how the need to maximise audiences for advertisers alters the choice of lead stories.
The online world can be seen as a virtual version of our cities, towns and countryside. Much online media is commercial, like a shopping mall or town centre. That’s ok but where are the parks, the beaches, the public libraries and community halls?
We’d like to see non-commercial media receiving greater support and development, especially in online news. Who knows what could be around the corner but we hope that the next big thing needn’t rely on advertising or wealthy volunteers.
What isn’t better broadcasting?
The CBB does not support broadcasting and media that:
* treats audiences like idiots
* is produced and scheduled solely to make profits
* seeks to control or hamper public discourse
* is unsupportive of other media outlets and genres
* limits contributions based on age, race, religion, politics, wealth, dress-sense or hairstyle.
1. A Public Service Television Channel
the CBB would support the reinstatement of a commercial-free, publicly-funded TV channel (along the lines of TVNZ7) at the centre of the NZ media ecology.
2. Radio NZ, including,
an end to the current freeze on funding increases for Radio New Zealand.
3. Funding plans:
the CBB proposes:
a) imposing a small levy on the revenues of highly profitable commercial media (including PayTV and telecommunications) to help fund public service provisions and
b) requiring PayTV operators to pay modest licencing fees to the free-to-air operators they carry on their platforms (on a must-offer/must-pay basis).
4. Government support across all departments:
the CBB recommends:
a) the reservation of digital spectrum (and online bandwidth) for public broadcasting services, and
b) a review of current NZ on Air funding priorities to ensure a full range of public service genres are supported and screened.
5. Education function of public broadcasting
6. Public interest journalism:
7. Healthy markets, including,
b) a review of international free trade agreements which prevent the introduction of local content quotas.
8. Getting what we’ve already paid for.
the CBB opposes placing publicly-funded content behind private paywalls and would demand that channels like Heartland and Kidzone 24 (currently available only to Sky subscribers) be made available on Freeview.
9. Promoting diversity; supporting the Maori Service and community broadcasters.
10. Catching up with convergence.
The website has a Get Involved page:
* Become a Member – $20 annual subscription
* Donate – every littlebit helps
* Join or Form a Local Committee – connect with your region
* Attend Events – speaking tours, screenings and get-togethers
* Write letters to the Editor – tips and information resources
* Write to your MP – how to get their attention with a simple letter
* Lobby your MP – democracy can be more than just voting every three year
This is looking good to me, though I don’t expect change to happen overnight.
Of course, a change of government later in the year would ensure many of the above proposals happen sooner rather than later.