Democracy needs public service (Freeview)TV

Written By: - Date published: 4:04 pm, July 29th, 2013 - 29 comments
Categories: accountability, broadcasting, democratic participation, telecommunications, tv - Tags: ,

So, TVNZU is closing down, because it was running at a loss.  It will be replaced by TV2 plus 1.

It was a youth channel aimed at linking TV with social media:

Some valuable expertise had been gained from the TVNZ U operation, particularly in the way live TV and social media were used to connect with audiences.

A consultation process was under way with affected staff.

Among those lamenting the end of the show were comedian Jaquie Brown and TVNZ reporter Jack Tame.

“So sorry for my mates at TVNZ U,” Tame tweeted.  “Never had more fun on tele than on the couch with @Rose_Matafeo@ConnorNestor@timlambourne and @Matt_Gibb

Brown said the show had been a hot bed of new talent.

“I’m just letting this @itstvnzu news sink in and yep, I’m still upset. I’d go as far as saying it’s ruined my day. WHY GOD WHY?” she tweeted.

“Where are we going to see genuine new talent now? This is depressing.”

I guess maybe it misjudged its audience.  I am not in that youth demographic, so not really in a position to judge.  However, I wonder if the focus on social media is a clue?  Maybe the target audience just doesn’t watch that much broadcast TV?

I probably will make use of TV2+1 from time to time: My Freeview can only record 2 channels at once, and on occasions there are 3 progammes I want to record at the same time.

However, with a spare channel opening up, wouldn’t a new Public Service channel be a better use of the frequency?

I have posted before about the importance of public service broadcasting to democracy.  The post began:

Public service broadcasting and commercial TV tend to cover politics in different ways.  News on public service broadcasting internationally, tends to cover political stories and policies in more depth.  Internationally, news on commercial channels has become increasingly ratings driven, sensationalistic, Murdoch-style, infotainment since the 1980s. Sky TV’s new public service channel, Face, seems like a contradiction in terms.  Universally accessible public service TV is essential for democracy to thrive.

In a recent speech, Nicky Hager convincingly argued that there is a need for “democratic renewal” in NZ.  To help achieve this, we need,

long-term funding and statutory independence for non-commercial television, radio and, eventually, print public news media.

Today on The Daily Blog, Morgan Godfery argued for the Maori TV Service to become the public broadcaster.  With TVNZ’s sad record of failed public service broadcasting, he concluded:

A fully funded public broadcaster under the management and governance of Maori Television would deliver a channel that serves the community better than TVNZ.

However, I agree with the commenter, Phil, who responded,

The Government has killed public service broadcasting. Giving MTS the money from killing off TVNZ7 would not make MTS a Public Broadcaster. This would change, or expand, and potentially confuse the role of MTS, which is not the issue for those concerned about the lack of a quality PBS in Aotearoa. A spanner is a spanner, and is not ideal when used as a hammer!

Hans Versluys also commented, arguing that Face TV deserves an affordable, state subsidised Freeview channel.

I agree that Triangle, now Face has fulfilled more of a public service role in recent times than TVNZ.

With TVNZ failing to maintain TVNZ7, and now the commercial failure of TVNZU, we now need some strong leadership in setting up a truly public service, not-for-profit, Freeview channel, that is state supported, but politically independent.

The Coalition for Better Broadcasting (previously Save TVNZ7) is probably the best entity to lead the pressure for such a channel.

When Face did the deal with Sky, the CBB stated:

Coalition for Better Broadcasting Endorses Face TV Mostly.

The Coalition for Better Broadcasting is pleased to see the transition of Triangle TV to Face TV. “Triangle currently provides a very important source of public service TV to all Aucklanders but found itself in an impossible position due to lack of support from NZ on Air and Kordia which could be described as negligent,” says Myles Thomas of the CBB.

Their press statement concluded:

The CBB applauds Jim Blackman for keeping the hope alive and looks forward to the day his channel [FaceTV] is free-to-air again.

“Also we have heard an accusation that the non-commercial frequency set aside for public service programming which Triangle could expect to use was sold by Kordia to a commercial operator broadcasting propaganda from a foreign government. This requires further investigation and could be yet another scandal to embroil this anti-television government.”

Although some commentators have said NZ is too small for publicly funded public service television, the CBB would like to point them towards Ireland, Finland and Norway – population just over 4 million with healthy and popular public service television channels, much like NZ used to have. In the future NZ could have successful public service TV, like our successful public service radio station RNZ, if the government and its agencies recognise their responsibility to maintain a balance of programming on NZ TV.

There clearly is space on Freeview for a public service channel: something necessary to help build democracy in NZ.  [I was tempted to say “revive democracy”, but wonder if NZ has every really been fully democratic.]

It needs public pressure, considered planning and preparation, and the political will for this to happen.

29 comments on “Democracy needs public service (Freeview)TV”

  1. insider 1

    Does it really NEED a free tv channel in this world of Apple tv, time shifting, etc?

    i see e more of a need for better public radio than tv. I quite like the nzoa approach of funding programmes rather than channels.

    • karol 1.1

      Apple TV? Who watches that?

      And how does time shifting work when there is limited public service TV on freeview?

      • Sosoo 1.1.1

        Apple TV is a hardware device, Karol.

        • David H 1.1.1.1

          You have to buy expensive equipment to watch it. and it looks like Yep you do have to pay up for anything that looks even remotely interesting and that’s after the 160 bucks for the receiver /router. and if you want to watch a movie yep you guessed it you Pay yet again.

          https://www.apple.com/nz/appletv/specs.html

          I’ll stick to sky thanks, I still have to pay, but it’s cheaper!

    • Molly 1.2

      I too, watch a lot of online TV. The difference is, when you have a quality public broadcaster everyone watches the content at the same time – and relevant discussions start from an equally informed platform.

      When watching online documentaries, or overseas stations, discussions are prefaced with “go online and watch this, then tell me what you think”. A completely different dynamic.

    • “Apple TV”?!

      Never heard of it.

    • “i see e more of a need for better public radio than tv. I quite like the nzoa approach of funding programmes rather than channels.”

      Having a FtA public channel is like having a super-market – all the goods are in one place. That’s why supermarkets generally do better than individual retail outlets likes butchers, vege grocers, etc.

      Convenience.

  2. erikter 2

    Nobody needs it today, nobody will miss it tomorrow.

    [lprent: Santi is now on a permanent ban for violating his ban. ]

    • karol 2.1

      I will miss Face when it goes off TV.

      And, you’re saying everyone’s happy with TV3 & One News, Qu & A, The Nation, etc?

      • David H 2.1.1

        Nope I prefer to get my news online. But I did have to laugh this morning at Paddy Makeitup Gower on TV3 being all faux indignant at the thought that he may have been tracked. Now don’t get me wrong I find this incredibly serious, but Gower?? .

  3. Sable 3

    With so much to watch on line I am not surprised to see this channel was cancelled. TV is increasingly a format of the past. Until of course Keys and co start spying on us all which might give it a new lease of life along with hard copy letters as opposed to emails and catch ups over coffee as opposed to Skype. So maybe something positive can come of the little emperors shenanigans.

    • karol 3.1

      Older technologies don’t necessarily become obsolete when a new one comes along – many just get re-purposed. Radio is an example of that.

      TV- connected with online capabilities will be around for a long time.

      And if you want an example of why public service TV is needed, just look at Gower’s disgraceful showing tonight about Labour’s houses for kiwis policy. “Called it “dog whistle” politics.

      A more in depth and balanced analysis of the policy is needed for the general public.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    Although some commentators have said NZ is too small for publicly funded public service television

    LOL, It’s the other way around – NZ is too small for commercial television.

  5. cricklewood 5

    Thats assuming the ‘general public’ will be bothered to watch it. The politically inclined might but then they can cut through alot of the nonsense. Unless you make either tv 1 or 2 public service I very much doubt you would get much if any traction.

    • karol 5.1

      The value goes beyond who watches it most of the time. Public service broadcasting provides a space for critical analysis of society and politics, which can have a knock on impact on other media.

  6. Sosoo 6

    Anyone else in love with Rose M? She’ll be missed.

  7. Colonial Viper 7

    Labour could have set up bullet proof public broadcasting if it had wanted. Now the commercial TV model which helped Cullen drive massive surpluses is going to help drive the Left message off the airwaves.

    • Sosoo 7.1

      Surely you jest, sir. I’ve read on Kiwiblog and TrueBlueNZ that all NZ media is infested with leftists and crypto-communists.

    • King Kong 7.2

      So am I right in thinking that the only reason for this lament of the lack of public service broadcasting is because you believe that it will be a mouthpiece for left wing propaganda?
      Not really “public service” more an advertising service for you lot that you want the public to pay for.
      Plus ca change, and all that.

      If it does get of the ground I have a few show ideas for you; “who wants to be a broke arsed loser” or “the commune” where a bunch of lay abouts talk about what they would do to their shared abode if the neo liberal 1% had’nt hogged all the resources. Or what about the popular sitcoms “how I met my same sexed life partner” and “two and a half coups”.

      • tricledrown 7.2.1

        they will have a reality showing a sad old monkey man in a zoo being fed peanuts!

      • Murray Olsen 7.2.2

        Public TV could still show documentaries extolling the wonders of monetarism – in the comedy slot. Sexual health for libertarians could extol the virtues of privacy when undertaking solitary pursuits. Maybe that’s be enough to get them opposing the GCSB.

      • karol 7.2.3

        So am I right in thinking that the only reason for this lament of the lack of public service broadcasting is because you believe that it will be a mouthpiece for left wing propaganda?

        No, it’s because corporate owned MSM, mostly is biased towards “neoliberal” corporate sucking-up-to, content, attitudes and values.

        Independent public service TV would provide more balanced coverage between “left” and “right”: or between individualistic, consumerist, pro-corporate, profit sucking, elite promoting values, and pro- humanistic values of inclusion and fairness.

  8. we need

    Need implies a threat. The threat in this case is that of an information source which is predicated on funding by fraud.

  9. millsy 9

    It was 25 years ago this month (I belive) since the old BCNZ was abolished and Radio NZ and TVNZ were established as state owned enterprises whose sole purpose was to make a profit and return a dividend to the public purse. The government also made broadcast frequencies auctionable by public tender, rather than leased with conditions to broadcasters, at the same time.

    IMO the quality of TV declined since then. We have all this ‘choice’ but little quality. It all seems to be crime shows, reality TV and cooking contests. Even Sky (the odd Ken Burns doco notwithstanding) is getting tedious.

    TVNZ 6 and 7 showed a way forward, but they never really got that much funding, and National werent really keen on them….

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