National’s broadcasting policy to build on past three years

UPDATED: National says its broadcasting policy will build on the past three years.

UPDATED: National says its broadcasting policy will build on the past three years.

Funding New Zealand content, providing certainty for broadcasters and maintaining a smooth transition to digital television were key broadcasting priorities for National, broadcasting spokesman Jonathan Coleman said.

Dr Coleman said National was committed to delivering public television broadcasting content funded through the competitive NZ On Air model, and had maintained funding for Radio New Zealand and NZ On Air in a tight fiscal environment.

"Our focus is on funding television broadcasting content rather than broadcasters, which means the money is going towards getting great Kiwi content onto our screens.”

National had increased the funding available for contestably funded local television, including $15 million to produce Kiwi TV programmes such as Bliss and Tangiwai: a love story, the policy said.

National’s policy said the party intended to maintain this funding for Radio New Zealand.

“Like all other state-funded agencies and departments, Radio New Zealand has to live within its budget and provide a sustainable funding plan for the coming years. It is delivering on that plan and producing the quality news and programming that it is known for.”

National intended to retain public ownership of Television New Zealand, the policy said.  Dr Coleman said by removing the TVNZ charter, the broadcaster was no longer constrained by an “unworkable dual mandate”. 

“It now has the flexibility it needs to continue its transition from a traditional broadcaster to a multi-platform digital media company.”

National was committed to a smooth transition to digital television, Dr Coleman said, with a path laid to completing the switchover by the end of 2013.

National’s policy said it had established an $850,000 assistance package to help regional broadcasters make the move, and had invested $5.5 million extending the HD broadcasting signal to 10 regions.

Labour broadcasting spokeswoman Clare Curran said she thought the policy was a non-policy.  She said the policy did not say National would do anything other than what they were already doing. 

Ms Curran said National did not outline what maintaining funding for Radio NZ meant, and whether this meant restricting funding or keeping it at the same level, and that National should be more explicit about this.

She said the most interesting thing in the policy was the retention of ownership of TVNZ, which was the first time the party had said this.  Ms Curran said Labour would welcome the statement not to sell TVNZ.

Ms Curran said National said it was supporting public broadcasting, but essentially it supported funding for NZ On Air, which was funding for New Zealand content but was not public broadcasting.

"They've ditched TVNZ7 and so there is no television public broadcaster in New Zealand now other than Maori TV which has become the quasi public broadcaster."

The Association of New Zealand Advertisers chief executive Lindsay Mouat said he welcomed Dr Coleman's announcement of a focus on funding content rather than broadcasters, but questioned whether continuing public ownership of a now fully commercial broadcaster was necessary.

He said advertisers wanted to see a fully competitive media environment and believed that was best delivered through private ownership models, with government focused on public service broadcasting only.