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Kris Faafoi on Broadcasting

Written By: - Date published: 10:38 am, September 30th, 2013 - 16 comments
Categories: broadcasting, david cunliffe, internet, labour, news, pasifika, radio, tv - Tags: , ,

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.


16 comments on “Kris Faafoi on Broadcasting”

  1. Anton 1

    Public broadcasting is not about choice, because choice in this context is about marketing, about segments, about vertical vs horizontal, streaming, striping and sucking up.

    Public broadcasting is more about broadcasting than it is about audience. If you worry more about who will listen than the act making radio (or TV) that tell stories then the cart is well before the horse.

    I know that sounds horridly idealistic, but it works. BBC, NPR, CBC, SBS, and RNZ all create the best broadcasting, and commercial providers simply can’t compete, because their advertiser’s purse strings are tied tightly around their throats.

    Commercial broadcasting is a privilege, and should be levied to pay for public broadcasting through charges for spectrum (which non-for-profits should get for free). Public broadcasting is not a ‘nice to have’, a niche for the bourgeois, but a tool for fundamental democratic right to speech. Nothing less.

    [edited for spelling]

    • karol 1.1

      Excellent comment, Anton. And I’m all for raising funds for public broadcasting to gain some funding via levies on commercial broadcasting.

  2. bad12 2

    i personally cannot see why ‘the State’ is dishing out multi-millions every year to private profit making organizations which are not operating to serve the people, their whole reason for existing to serve the shareholders and advertisers,

    If private capital wants to own and broadcast TV and radio stations with the freedom to broadcast whatever they want in a free society then private capital should pay for that freedom out of it’s own pockets or those of the shareholders/advertisers,

    The NZ OnAir funding gathered from the tax-payer should all be spent by the State on ‘public broadcasts of both television and radio, there is plenty of room among such funding for a dedicated public service channel with enough left over to provide the States other more commercially orientated channels to purchase a far better quality of content for screening and broadcasting,

    If such means that broadcasters owned and operated by private capital for profit can no longer function then that just proves such were not commercially viable in the first place…

    • karol 2.1

      I can see the advantage of encouraging some public service TV on commercial channels. Some people only watch commercial TV. The Nation panel gave the example of the excellent poverty documentary shown on TV3. It’s a good way to help encourage critical thinking about social issues, rather than purely marginalising it on PBS platforms.

      Shouldn’t be used for purely profit making TV though, like X Factor.

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        Encourage by making the 30 minute news slot at 6pm completely ad free with the strictist journalistic and editorial standards, and then making Sun AM again ad free with documentaries, political commentary and in depth interviews about our nation.

  3. Ad 3

    Suck it in about National Radio or I will pin you to the nearest armshair and force you to listen to talkback radio until you scream for mercy.

    My personal Labour Broadcasting policy would be to simply give National Radio and Maori Television 1/3 more funding than they have. Tagged only for “demonstrable service improvements” and leave the rest up to their Boards. They have both been grossly underfunded for too long. Even within that funding both have made massive service improvements (eg National Radio’s website).

    I think with respect to the spokesperson we are going to keep getting more choice anyway. What I want is what only these two media channels give me: the mental space to allow me to see my country and myself within it.

    If Labour doesn’t like this, they need to find some other way to put the public back into public broadcasting.

    • Rogue Trooper 3.1

      NZ has Got Talent. 😀

    • karol 3.2

      Fortunately, Ad, I have the choice not to listen to either RNZ or talkback.

      It’s beyond acceptable that Bradbury is banned and Hooton stays. More importantly, Hooton is billed as a “political commentator” and uses the slot to spin his smear campaigns.

      • SDCLFC7 3.2.1

        If I were a National voter I would despair at having to suffer Cameron Slater being in my corner. As a Labour voter, I do despair at having Martin Bradbury on our side – the left would do better without him
        It’s my understanding that Bradbury is not banned from RNZ but that his invitation to the Panel is withdrawn. The invitation was withdrawn because he contradicted what he stated he was going to talk about and that he talked over Jim Moir. That he is not invited onto other RNZ shows reflects that producers don’t feel they can trust him on air and that he doesn’t add value to their shows.
        Hooton came across as a pillick and Kathryn Ryan’s reaction to his outburst immediately isolated his argument as being one of vitriol and extremism. I thought she did well and followed up the show with appropriate diligence.
        The political slot on nine to noon is far more robust than The Panel which is more of an afternoon of whimsical musings. The Panel is not the forum for immoderate political rants and so he is not deemed relevant for the show. And anyway, Mike Williams eats Hooton up each week so what are you worried about.
        National Radio is the finest radio we have and your position of boycotting leaves me to question your other positions.
        Faafoi looked good.

        • karol

          It’s my understanding that Bradbury was banned from RNZ completely. Yes, the surface reason was that he did not submit his topic in advance, nut as I recall, Bradbury disputed that. The reason for that precaution is so that RNZ doesn’t put themselves in danger of being charged with defamation.

          The fact that Bradbury’s comments didn’t result in any apologies from RNZ, and that Hooton’s did, indicates that Hooton put RNZ in much mor anger of being charged with defamation. Hooton has shown himself to be a liability in this.

          Also Hotton does not respect the format of the Monday slot. he attempts to shut down debate by talking and shouting over opposing positions.

          Hooton is not a quality political commentator. RNZ as state broadcaster should do much better.

          Bradbury does a service to the left by providing both a blogging platform and TV/onlin video space for diverse commentators to discuss current events. Whatever you think of is personal style, he is an asset to the broader left.

          RNZ used to be so much finer. There’s some good slots, but currently it’s a shadow of it’s former self.

          I am contemplating whether to continue listening to Checkpoint, but the rest I can live without.

  4. Rich 4

    I wonder for how long we’ll be using dedicated channels of expensive wireless spectrum to stream a few dozen pre-selected, non-interactive content streams out to anyone in range who wants to listen.

    10 years? 20 years?

    I can’t see broadcast TV hanging on for much beyond that – we should be looking more at how to fund video (and audio) for internet streaming.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      FM is the way of the future dude(>50 years).

    • karol 4.2

      Well, I think it’s more that TV & online streaming will become integrated. TV never killed radio – internet won’t kill broadcast TV, it will just change a bit. I think Cunliffe gets this as I indicated in my post.

  5. No Logo 5

    The overall objective must include the expansion of the commons, recovering broadcasting space from the commercial imperative. Ad free news would be a start. Limited ads per hour perhaps at a set time once an hour as happens or used to happen Germany. Ad free Sundays. And so on. An ad free channel. Limits on sponsorship and product placement. Limits on antisocial advertising like Lotto and alcohol.

    • karol 5.1

      I agree with CV and No Logo on restricting advertising on TV. The idea of no ads on News, 6-6.30pm and on Sundays and limiting ad time per hour are good ones.

      There was a time when there was less advertising on NZ TV, but the amount of time has steadily increased so that TV is more about advertising than the programmes.

      NZonscreen history of TV:

      New Zealand began by adopting the BBC’s “public service” approach – non-commercial broadcasting which offered a diversity of programmes to “inform, educate and entertain”. This was funded by an annual licence fee (initially six pounds and 10 shillings per home).

      Within a year, New Zealand television began screening commercials to provide additional funding. At first advertising took up seven minutes per hour, but half the week remained ad-free. Advertising has gradually increased so that commercials now occupy about 14 minutes per hour on the main free-to-air channels. The only ad-free time is Sunday morning, plus a few public holidays.

      An ad free channel would be heaven.

      And this:
      Limits on sponsorship and product placement.

      These are insidious forms of marketing persuasion/propaganda and should be strictly limited.

      • Rogue Trooper 5.1.1

        well, they manage to wack three ad-breaks into 30 minutes of The Middle and Suburgatory ; Up All Night , which is very funny, on Four gets a reprieve, back to two commercial breaks.

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