Saturday, March 13, 2010

And now television

Broadcasting minister Jonathan Coleman has asked Television New Zealand to look into making TVNZ6 and TVNZ 7, available on both free-to-air Freeview and pay TV Sky Television, into public broadcasting-style channels. Nothing wrong with that idea, apart from one small detail: The government won’t be giving any more money for public broadcasting.

TVNZ is supposed to channel profits to those channels—presumably while still returning dividends to the government. These days, that’s a big ask: Revenues are down at TVNZ, and they expect to make a loss for the year to June 30.

Things are so bad, in fact, that TVNZ has explored the possibility of cutting its flagship news programme, “ONE News” at 6pm to half an hour (well, maybe 17 minutes of news with the rest ads). They’ve also looked at having rival broadcaster MediaWorks move into part of their complex and even share some facilities.

So, Coleman wants TVNZ to make do with less, this after telling the same thing to Radio New Zealand. What’d he and the National-led Government up to?

The New Zealand Herald’s John Drinnan wrote, “…there are no signs of National emerging with a coherent broadcasting policy beyond waiting to see what happens.” That seems apt. When campaigning, John Key promised no sale of state-owned assets in a first term, but he didn’t say they wouldn’t move to make them ready for sale.

By reducing the costs of the state-owned broadcasters, National can make them more attractive for eventual sale. It’s also possible that they simply don’t have a clue what they’re doing about public broadcasting. Neither is an especially appealing situation. But, if they do screw up broadcasting, voters can always change the channel next year.

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