National hates Public Broadcasting

Written By: - Date published: 6:15 am, March 8th, 2011 - 40 comments
Categories: broadcasting, same old national - Tags: , ,

TVNZ7, and New Zealand public service television as a whole, looks to be coming to an end in June next year.  TVNZ has been told their only responsibility is to return to the government a 9% return on investment per annum; their response is that they see pay-TV as their future.  Sky is now “a frenemy”.

National and the right have never truly loved public broadcasting.  Individuals have, but as a block they have always seen it as an impediment to the private sector, not truly valued it.

Right from its inception in Aotearoa, Public Broadcasting has been championed by the left, to the right’s chagrin.

The first Labour Government established what is now Radio New Zealand National.  Having been faced with Wellington’s newspaper, The Dominion, refusing to cover the Labour Party at all in the 3 months prior to their landslide election, they saw the desperate need for an independent, unbiased, news source.  One that didn’t depend on the political beliefs of the wealthy individuals who owned the media.  One with independent funding that could speak truth to power.

Television had to wait for the second Labour Government.  In 1949 the first Labour Government had started studies into the feasibility of TV, but it wasn’t until 1959 that Walter Nash announced a national service would be transmitted.

The third Labour Government introduced colour and TV2.

The last National government split radio off the broadcasting network, and abolished TV’s public service requirements and independent license fee funding.

This National government decided that the less than 2c/person/day the Radio NZ costs is too great a price to pay for a well-informed democracy.  As such it has barred Radio NZ from having an East Coast reporter*, and induced cuts that meant Radio NZ felt unable to send anyone to cover the All Whites’ success or our nation’s participation in the Commonwealth Games.

Two weeks ago Christchurch’s earthquake gave us a great reminder of the importance of public service broadcasting.  Radio NZ, on their parsimonious budget, did excellently.  TVNZ, with their charter scrapped, were massively outdone by privately-owned TV3.  TV3 has no obligations, but were good enough to cover the quake very well.

If TVNZ were to go to pay-TV, and TV3 weren’t willing to sacrifice for the greater good, how would that have left those without the budget to pay?  Dangerously uninformed, certainly.

As it is in an emergency, so it is for our democracy.  We need a well-informed public to be able to make the correct decisions at election times, to know who they can entrust to carry through which policies.  Most of the public are not politics geeks; they will not seek out the parties’ intentions beyond a broad scope.  They rely on the media, and ideally high-quality unbiased media, to sift through issues, present them with more detailed options and allow them to choose.

How do we get that high-quality unbiased media, not beholden to advertisers, or owners’ whims?  Well-funded public service broadcasting.

Whilst radio is more important when disaster strikes, for an informed democracy it is TV that is most essential – that’s where the vast majority of the public have their main news source.  And it needn’t be expensive: the ABC in Australia fund 4 ad-free channels + 5 radio networks + ABC Online for 10.6c/person/day.  With guaranteed minimum 55% Australian content.  We’d be happy with 1 ad-free channel with a high-quality news & factual department, and some NZ content – part-subsidised by other TVNZ channels.  It’s not expensive, and the rewards of a well-informed democracy are high – not to mention the cultural & national benefits of having more of New Zealand on Air, and the rise in quality of the private competition that will naturally follow.  But then this government has constantly trumpeted “catching up with Australia” whilst running in the opposite direction.

So if National get back in and in June you see the end of news unbeholden to advertisers, ad-free local kids TV (already largely gone with the closing of TVNZ6), Media7, Back Benches etc; followed by a slow move of all TV to Sky’s digital platform (now part-funded by NZ On Air!), don’t be surprised.  But let’s take action before that happens.

* Anne Tolley voters?  Remember that National thinks your opinions aren’t worth airing…

hat-tip on some facts: Rex

And there are of course many other non-political news etc arguments for quality public service broadcasting, as well as concerns over the whole future of freeview with TVNZ’s moves, but this blog is long enough…

40 comments on “National hates Public Broadcasting”

  1. ZeeBop 1

    So not only does my tax dollar go to a freeview service I don’t have, now stupid
    government will fund TV programs on SKY which I also don’t have. And SKy
    justify this how? On free market ideals that government should not intervene?
    So government intervenes takes my taxes and hands it to organisations that
    a large segment of the population just aren’t going to see yet profits flow
    to Murdoch!

    • ZeeBop: You best have a look at Freeview or in a year or two you won’t have any TV at all. In the meantime, don’t vote for National in order to ensure you DO have a free to air option to watch. They don’t care if you’re ignorant. In fact, they RELY on it.

    • So not only does my tax dollar go to a freeview service I don’t have, now stupid
      government will fund TV programs on SKY which I also don’t have.

      You appear to misunderstand. TVNZ starting channels on Sky is about them making money, not costing the Government money. With these new Sky-only channels we’ll be able to afford more hip operations!

      • Pascal's bookie 1.2.1

        Is NZonAir funding being opened up to pay tv providers?

        • Tigger 1.2.1.1

          My understanding is that they have their eyes on it – Prime (owned by SKY) has already accessed some of it.

          I have a concern about National’s closeness to SKY. Certainly SKY has kept Coleman close to them. Need to OIA to find out whether SKY paid for Coleman to attend the Winter Olympics last year for example…

      • Colonial Viper 1.2.2

        With these new Sky-only channels we’ll be able to afford more hip operations!

        At the cost of a less informed, less involved, less healthy population.

        Yeah great trade off there.

      • Don 1.2.3

        To hell with the hip operations – I want another tax cut.

  2. tc 2

    More of that corpratocracy at work….if I pay you then everything I do is wonderful and praise worthy and you don’t criticize me…..public broadcasting has no place in the NACT world.

    • It’s very clear they don’t understand democracy or accountability…or independence. The National Party gave us the new Auckland Council…..where First Past the Post saw to it that 62.5% of all votes cast for Auckland Council seats elected NO ONE. Where 15 of 20 Auckland councilors were elected with less then 40% of the vote (13 of 20 with less than 30% of the vote).

      This is the party that wants to use a referendum on MMP to deprive hundreds of thousands of us of our MMP party vote – the ONLY vote we all have that actually elects people if we aren’t one of the relative few who vote for an incumbent in a safe seat for Labour or National.

      This is a party seriously disconnected from best practice in social democracies. Sadly, many of their voters are even worse.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        It’s not that they’re disconnected from the best democratic practices but that they just don’t want democracy.

  3. ron 3

    Public broadcasting has no place in the Tory world. And it’s not just their adherence to the ideals of the market that predisposes Tories against public broadcasting. They don’t like it because public broadcasting – being the only outlet unimpeded by ownership pressures – is the only outlet that calls them on their bullshit.

  4. infused 4

    Face it. TVNZ is a peice of shit. I mean really, what more is there to say?

    • Bunji 4.1

      what more is there to say?
      That it doesn’t need to be…
      Fund it well and give it a mission (Educate, Inform, Entertain: quality, mainly NZ TV, with proper news+information for the public), and maybe it could be as good as most other state-owned broadcasters in the west.
      (then we might not get US reality TV shows in primetime every night of the week)

      • infused 4.1.1

        Yeah maybe… something like the BBC? Can’t see that happening though.

        • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1.1

          It can happen if our politicians realise the necessity of it happening. Of course, that automatically excludes NACT politicians as they don’t want it to happen as then we would have an informed populace that just won’t vote for them.

    • TVNZ7 is quite different.

  5. the sprout 5

    Russell Brown is always so very keen not to bite the hands that do, or might, feed him.
    I wonder how he’ll handle this one?

    • Bunji 5.1

      Like this.
      The hands aren’t going to feed him anymore, unfortunately.

      • Colonial Viper 5.1.1

        Time for the Left to fund it’s own MSM channel. I’ll chip in $500.

        It might even get me to watch TV.

    • pollywog 5.2

      Russell Brown is always so very keen not to bite the hands that do, or might, feed him.
      I wonder how he’ll handle this one?

      Tenderly, with soft hands and kid gloves, as though caressing his bollocks, were that he had a pair, our neutered hero reached out to the public for support, longingly, achingly seeking a sympathetic shoulder with which to lay his head upon and weep.

      The public at large, barring the troll farm of ready sycophants that hang of his massively endowed opinion, addressed him as such…

      “harden up softnews fella. Kill your television, then act like a hoover and suck it up.”

  6. If it’s a done deal….Russell will probably opt for a chew or three. The best way to save public broadcasting in New Zealand is to not vote for National. Who’d want to anyway? They cut taxes – swearing it was affordable – and within 12 months it was starkly obvious it was NOT affordable….They are imprudent and incompetent. Kiwis can’t afford another term of a government so out of touch with reality on everything from education to climate change to peak oil….to why we need a fiscal buffer to pay for emergencies like earthquakes.

  7. Draco T Bastard 7

    National and the right have never truly loved public broadcasting.

    Of course they don’t – good public broadcasting will keep people informed whereas broadcasting solely for profit will only keep them misinformed.

  8. The first Labour Government established what is now Radio New Zealand National. Having been faced with Wellington’s newspaper, The Dominion, refusing to cover the Labour Party at all in the 3 months prior to their landslide election, they saw the desperate need for an independent, unbiased, news source.

    Radio New Zealand was not set up as an independent news source. Under the first Labour Government it’s news bulletins were approved in the Prime Minister’s Office.

    • uke 8.1

      Have spent more than a few months recently trawling through microfilm of The Dominion & Evening Post during the early-1930s. Until the 1932 riots one would scarcely believe there was a Depression occurring in NZ. Just lots of bland economic reporting, society-pages articles, and some amazing scare-mongering about “socialism” (Tea Party-style).

      That said, The Dominion did allow Labour to run full-page advertisements around election times, so they weren’t completely shutting down the Labour voice.

      As for the NZBS, the Labour government did indeed completely nationalise radio and this had some negative effects, especially once Scrim had been kicked out and James Shelley took over completely running things. One of Labour’s main goals was to broadcast parliament live. They wanted “the people” to hear what Labour MPs were saying in the house rather than being misreported all the time by The Dom.

  9. Sanctuary 9

    It is not very nice and speaks poorly of commentators to wallow in schadenfreude at the demise of Media 7. After all, a whole lot of people just lost their jobs.

    [lprent: fixed a obvious typo. ]

  10. bbfloyd 10

    so we catch up with australia on yet another front? of course they only have the ABC. which, of those who have watched it knows, is a whholly state funded station that has no political affiliation, and produces news and current events in an unbiased, apolitical fashion. the thrust of the editorial policy tends toward social democratic, and goes to great lengths to provide a balanced, factual viewpoint regardless of the issues… i was impressed when i first watched, and never lost my appreciation for the efforts to inform.

    so,,,,, we have tvnz doing the same thing, don’t we? they provide politically unbiased information to their viewers in the best interests of furthering a basic tenet of democracy, i;e; an informed and knowledgeable electorate, don’t they? i mean, apart from mark sainsbury, john campbell, duncan garner, and the senior newsreaders of both main tv news outlets, it’s totolly unbiased, and not just a tool of the corperates that own, and control our government. that is the case, isn’t it?

    so why not let the same company responsible for the utter degradation of tv standards in nz have more profits… isn’t that what john key would laud as a great business model for all nzers to follow? the people who won’t be able to afford to watch tv after that will simply be the lazy dumbasses who made “bad choices”. they don’t deserve consideration.

  11. randal 11

    of course national hates public broadcasting.
    for a start it is objective and secondly it has a commitment to public honesty and transparency which jibes with the current national partys desire to emasculate parliament and strip its assets under the guise of some cheapjack ideology they purchased wholesale from a right wing american think tank.

  12. JonL 12

    “”This is a party seriously disconnected from best practice in social democracies. Sadly, many of their voters are even worse.”
    Seen Fox news lately? Perhaps the Nats want us to endure the travesty which is Fox, and it’s ilk….the BBC isn’t exactly bi partisan, either!
    As Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying ” – Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”
    The right (and I include Labour here) have taken that to heart, and have taken to “educating and informing” exactly what they want them to hear, by means of a complicit media. Any media which isn’t complicit, is being relentlessly whittled away and marginalised. Check out the USA for where we are headed.
    Thank god for the ABC in Aus – they aren’t totally untouched, but, they do try, and are like a breath of fresh air after NZ TV. (NZ National radio, at it’s best, is still of an enviable standard)

  13. ChrisH 13

    Effective public broadcasting can’t be more expensive than the $120-odd I pay a month for My Sky HDI so I can skip the ads. No wonder Sky has an “embarrassment of riches”. It reflects the level of unmet need for watchable TV in the community (and that’s in spite of the fact that Sky has endless reruns etc). The nadir of NZ broadcasting, things can only get better even if we have to endure 7 being shut down. Again, how come Labour can’t see it? Votes for the taking.
    Which raises a wider point really and that is that if Labour were to throw caution to the wind (as I have said in my own recent guest post on another topic) and win the election on common sense-cum-populist policies such as ad-free free to air TV, it would defeat those who say that such things can’t be done. A palsied dead hand would be removed from the throat of the Labour Party and from NZ politics in general. Labour has nothing to fear but fear itself, after 25 years of Rogernomics and post-Rogernomic neoliberalism it’s like the proverbial caged bird or institutionalised prisoner who won’t leave the cage even when the door is open.

  14. Colonial Viper 14

    Government gives private TV3 tens of millions in help

    Great, just great. Joyce helping his mates while screwing public broadcasting.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10711051

    In fact now I think about it, screwing public broadcasting is no doubt part of the Government help package to MediaWorks.

  15. millsy 15

    RIP Public Service TV 1960 – 2011.

    Died after a long battle since 1988.

    Survived by its sickly cousin, Public Service Radio. (But for how long).

    When TVNZ 6 and 7 were first set up, it was supposed to be a new era for public service TV. TV1 and 2 would be commerical, while 6 and 7 (plus Maori TV) would hold the candle of Public Service (sort of what Radio NZ was in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Everyone would be happy.

    But National came along and decided that we should all endure Snookie, Gordon and the Desperate Housewives.

    The rest will be history.

  16. Russell Brown is always so very keen not to bite the hands that do, or might, feed him.
    I wonder how he’ll handle this one?

    By writing about it on my blog, where there is a lively discussion in progress? You might perhaps have checked.

    Good to see that even the prospect of me losing a job I love is occasion for you to get your sneer on. Stay classy, now.

    • lprent 16.1

      RB is referring to the thread starting at here initiated by the sprout.

      I think that the post at Hard News is this one.

    • Bright Red 16.2

      yeah, well, you applauded a multi-national and a multi-millionaire director as they ripped off Kiwi workers and Kiwi taxpayers.

      And the last time I went to your blog you were moaning about some over-priced coffee not being as good as some other over-priced coffee.

      So don’t be surprised if many on the Left think you’re an elitist fuckwit.

      • neoleftie 16.2.1

        what worse that the common enemy – an elite pseudo leftie who dreams ideals but cant realise them cause of the stench of the masses.

    • Steve Withers 16.3

      Russell: You do a great job with Media7. The potential loss of your contribution to public broadcasting is one of the main reasons I’m outraged at what National doing.

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