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4. Government Support Across Departments


NZ on Air

Enzoa.pngstablished in 1989 by then Minister of Broadcasting Richard Prebble, New Zealand On Air (NZoA) is NZ's method of ensuring public service values are protected in our highly commercial television environment. In the Broadcasting Act the aims of NZoA sound great:

  • NZ identity and culture
  • Maori language and culture
  • a range of broadcasts for women, youth, children, the disabled and minorities
  • a range of broadcasts for diverse religious and ethical beliefs
  • assist in the production of drama and documentaries.

The problem is the main channels won't screen any of these types of programmes in primetime. So NZoA can't actually achieve many of its statutory requirements. Smaller channels like Prime and Maori Television will screen a slightly better range but because their audiences are smaller, NZoA won't fund many programmes to them.

Most of NZoA's $80m annual budget (which is tiny by international standards) goes into reality, drama and comedy.

The whole funding arrangement is a failure – no children's drama, no minority shows in primetime, no old people in primetime, very few documentaries, no cerebral or thought-provoking programmes and so on.

This needs to change.

Radio funding is still done the old-fashioned way (direct to RNZ) and that seems to be working pretty well. All other developed countries fund public service television by funding a channel - none have adopted the NZoA model.

A major overhaul of how NZ funds television is required to address the many genres of Kiwi television that are now lost from our screens.

Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment and Ministry of Culture and Heritage

The NZ Government has frozen RNZ funding, made TVNZ disregard its public service responsibility and closed down TVNZ6 & TVNZ7. But that's not the end of it. Now our future public service broadcasting is at risk.mbie.png

MBIE and the Minister of Broadcasting are currently deciding the future of NZ's radio spectrum and whether there will be space set aside for future public service television broadcasters.

In 2006 the Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH) began the Digital SwitchMCH.png Over moving all television channels from analogue to digital frequencies. This was done to free up spectrum to sell to mobile phone companies – aka the 'digital dividend'.

But when MCH and MBIE allocated the new digital frequencies to existing television broadcasters nothing was set aside for existing non-commercial regional broadcasters like Triangle TV. The small non-commercial regionals are now expected to pay for their frequency along with all the commercial broadcasters. Unfortunately the cost of those frequencies has meant some channels have closed down.

The lack of reserved spectrum means new non-commercial television channels will struggle to get a frequency. A replacement for TVNZ 7, an arts channel, a youth channel, a Pasifika channel or other ethnic broadcasting would all be affected.

Having to buy frequency space could spell the end of non-commercial television in NZ forever. It's crucial that adequate spectrum is reserved and freely available for non-commercial television.

Having to buy frequency space could spell the end of non-commercial television in NZ forever. It's crucial that adequate spectrum is reserved and freely available for non-commercial television.

DSO - A Disaster for Triangle TV

Triangle TV logoKordia, the commercially-run, state-owned company, was charged with administering Auckland's one and only digital, non-commercial television frequency.

In 2009 Kordia failed to seek applications for that frequency, in particular from Auckland's non-commercial television station, Triangle Television. Kordia chose to sell the license to TV33, a commercial Asian channel screening, among other things, propaganda from the Chinese government.

When the digital switchover arrived late in 2013, Triangle Television had nowhere to go, no frequency to use and had to reinvent itself as Face TV on Sky TV. Because it is behind a paywall Auckalnd has lost its only public service television broadcaster.


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