Written By: - Date published: 10:38 am, September 30th, 2013 - 16 comments
Categories: broadcasting, david cunliffe, internet, labour, news, pasifika, radio, tv - Tags: Kris Faafoi, public service broadcasting, the nation
On The Nation this weekend, Kris Faafoi laid out the bare bones of Labour’s policy on public broadcasting. He signaled the strengthening of public broadcasting across a range of platforms, recognising the crucial role of digital technologies in the 21st century. He also praised the existence of some quality public broadcasting on commercial channels, while also stating that Labour wanted to balance that with re-vamped public broadcasting.
When Cunliffe announced that Kris Faafoi would be Labour’s spokesperson for broadcasting, some, like Chris Trotter, were critical about putting someone so inexperienced into such an important role for left party.
Reconciling the powers-that-be to a Labour-led government determined to honour the “revolution from below” that brought it to power is not going to be easy. And it is in the allocation of the broadcasting portfolio – absolutely crucial to keeping at least one reliable channel of communication open to the ordinary Kiwis – that Cunliffe may have made a serious mistake.
For all her faults (and they are many) Clare Curran understands the need to put the public back into public broadcasting. In spite of his former occupation, there is scant evidence that Kris Faafoi understands that need as deeply as his predecessor.
I actually thought at the time, that a really good public broadcasting policy for the 21st century needed to be strongly aligned to policies on digital technologies and the Internet. And Cunliffe had taken the ICT spokesperson role, with Clare Curran in support. And Faafoi does have a background in Broadcasting. He was Goff’s press secretary, worked as a journalist, including for TVNZ, and studied at the NZ Broadcasting School.
Faafoi’s appearance on The Nation‘s panel is available here, with the following summary of Faafoi’s statements.
Labour has dumped the TVNZ Charter it introduced last time it was in government.
The party’s new Broadcasting Spokesman, Kris Faafoi, speaking on TV3’s The Nation, said the charter was no longer Labour policy.
Instead he said the party wanted to talk to people in the industry about public broadcasting and how it might be delivered.
He also indicated that he would look at the dominant role played by Sky in digital broadcasting saying Labour was in favour of competition.
He is joined on our media panel by Listener Columnist Bill Ralston and NZ on Screen Content Director, Irene Gardiner.
Faafoi stated that Labour will be putting broadcasting policy out before the election, but gave some broad brush indications of the direction it would take. He stressed that commercial broadcasters do public broadcasting well sometimes, and that he supported the continuance of NZOnAir funding to commercial broadcasters in order to tell NZ stories in a range of ways.
While Sky is pretty dominant on TV, Faafoi pointed out that their weakness is their limited use of the Internet as a platform. He explained the need to provide a strengthened Free-to-Air choice for Kiwis:
I want to make sure people have choice. That they don’t have the dominance there where you have to have Sky to have any decent television or cov, or content coming into your home. So I think it’s important that there is an alternative platform like Freeview out there. And obviously people don’t have to pay um you know, a Sky um subscription to make sure you know they’re getting decent TV in their homes.
Here Faafoi is pointing towards that choice not just being between pay and free-to-air TV, but also being in the form of free content online. Faafoi supports the notion of a new Free-to-Air channel like TVNZ7, without committing to Labour providing the funding for such a channel . He stated that we should have kept TVNZ 7, while also arguing for a place for programmes like The X Factor.
Faafoi confirmed there is a place for NZ OnAir funding to enable important quality NZ storytelling via commercial broadcasting. He said that it’s about getting NZ stories out there, in a context where commercial broadcasters also have challenges in the current context of digital technologies,
Not necessarily on air but also into homes and on tablets and all those kinds of things, so, it’s a very interesting time and it’s not just broadcasting. It’s about how we get the content out there. And I think it’s very important that we tell New Zealand stories.
When asked about TVNZ7, Faafoi said,
We don’t have a pure television broadcaster at the moment that deals with public broadcasting, state broadcasting. And deals with that content. We lost it when TVNZ 7 came along. And I think we need an outlet. Because while we’re very well served by Radio New Zealand, we don’t have anything that specific purpose like that on television.
Faafoi also floated the idea of a new youth-oriented public service radio station, and catering do more diverse demographics, such as Pasifika. He stated there’s a need to be more “creative” in the face of funding limitations. However, digital technologies make it easier set up a new channels.
So, for the moment, I am pleased with what Faafoi has stated in a very clear way. He is making all the right noises, and I will be watching closely to see the extent to which these ideas are translated into detailed policy.
[Update: boycotting RNZ – you know why] – a state broadcaster need to be as fair and balanced as possible, and to be seen to be fair and balanced. Banning a leftie (Bradbury) and not a rightie (Hooton) when Hooton’s offence required apologies, and Bradbury’s didn’t, is not even close to balance and fairness.