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CBB Calls for Transmission Status Quo to be Resumed

Prior to the Digital Switch Over (DSO) each region had at least one television frequency reserved for non-commercial and public service use. But with the switchover to digital television that was wiped out. Now the government has an opportunity to right this wrong.

SkyTV were recently forced to return to the government four 'sets' of digital television frequencies that weren't being used. Each 'set' contains enough spectrum for several nationwide and regional channels. Now MBIE is deciding what it should do with the returned frequencies.

The CBB recommends at least one set of digital television frequencies be set aside for non-commercial television.

The DSO was all about taking the status-quo and pushing it forward with a big expansion of frequencies available for new television channels. But for non-commercial television, the DSO was a big step backwards. Non-commercial channels, whether regional or national, were expected to start paying for their frequency next to commercial broadcasting companies. And although the dollar amounts might seem small there was no guarantee of what Kordia and commercial broadcasters might charge to on-sell frequencies.

The odds are already stacked against non-commercial television channels trying to establish in a super-competitive sector without government support, so any additional cost for frequencies could mean no more non-commercial television in New Zealand.

We want to see a 'Non-Commercial Set' of frequencies established and then managed by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage or NZ on Air, as happens with radio frequencies. Non-commercial broadcasting provides a public service, improves education and is a tangible public amenity. The government has obligations to New Zealand audiences through NZ on Air legislation and the Regional and Community Broadcasting Policy Framework (ratified by Steven Joyce in 2009) to deliver a variety of broadcasting genres to all sectors of NZ and not just Household Shoppers 18-49.

The CBB strongly believes that non-commercial television broadcasters should have the same frequency conditions that existed prior to DSO which means licence fees should be waived on the condition that public service and non-profit conditions are met.

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