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Amy Adams: Minister of Broadcasting

By Myles Thomas

 

We have a new Minister of Broadcasting, Amy Adams, and the good news is that at last broadcasting is in the hands of a senior cabinet minister. Adams might even have influence over National’s broadcasting policy, bringing the advice and expertise of the relevant ministries to that decision making process.

That’s a nice change from the last two Broadcasting Ministers – juniors ‘under apprenticeship’ who had little to do with writing the broadcasting policy they were responsible for. Rumour has it Jonathan Coleman wanted to save TVNZ 7 but couldn’t convince Cabinet. I almost feel sorry for him having to sell the closure of a channel he wanted to keep, but he certainly wasn’t reticent at the time, coming up with all manner of misinformation to explain the inexplicable.

Back then Coleman was number 19 in the Cabinet hierarchy, today Adams is number 7. If she can make the broadcasting portfolio her own she’ll get no shortage of support from within her own ranks. Many public service broadcasting supporters are National voters – we know because here at CBB Towers we are frequently chided by our own members for being too left wing. And our recent UMR research backs this up:

  • over a third (35%) of National supporters would pay $10 a year for ad-free television
  • over a quarter (27%) of Nats think Sky and ISP’s should fund ad-free telly
  • 23% of Nats actually think the government should create a new ad-free channel!

These are big numbers in favour of public service broadcasting. Hundreds of thousands of National voters want public service television, and would back Adams to make changes to National’s broadcasting policies.

So what does National have on the agenda for broadcasting? It seems that this term they may get round to converging broadcasting and telecommunications regulations. This is long overdue – telecom companies, websites and internet service providers have been ‘broadcasters’ for years, but without regulation, censorship or expectation to provide local content.

The danger in rewriting the broadcasting legislation is that the government could remove all public service clauses from NZ on Air. It’s quite possible that National could make NZ on Air solely responsible for funding whatever ‘industry’ wants (reality TV) and not what audiences want it spent on (everything else).

The other big decision that Amy Adams has ahead of her is what to do with the many digital television frequencies left unused by SkyTV. Her options are pretty simple – sell them or leave them alone. The frequencies aren’t worth much but that mightn’t stop her trying to turn a buck. Either way, hopefully she’ll see the benefit of reserving a few frequencies for innovative public service television projects in the future.

There’s no guarantee that Adams will deliver policy that’s any better than the previous ministers, but I’m happy that at least she will be a Broadcasting Minister who can speak to policy that she has had a role in formulating.

 

Myles Thomas – Chief Executive of the Coalition for Better Broadcasting

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