Vested interests fill broadcasting policy vacuum

I am looking forward to seeing the Government’s new public broadcasting policy expected before Christmas.   The policy vacuum is being filled by vested interest groups, particularly MediaWorks largely owned by Oaktree, an American investment company, which is clearly tired of subsidising TV3 with its profitable commercial radio operation.

Using its journalists to campaign in the interests of its shareholder is certainly novel, but I see NZ Me owned NZ Herald has also climbed in with self serving editorial comment.  The theme seems to be TVNZ (of which I was a director) has an advantage over TV 3 because its shareholder is us the taxpayers.

The reality is both TVNZ and TV 3 operate in the same seriously difficult commercial environment, with advertising revenue being drained off to largely America based multinationals who provide no real NZ video content.

While TVNZ may make a loss of $17 million this financial year to build up its NZ content operation, that will be financed using its balance sheet with loans as required – no new taxpayer funds will be going to the company.   The playing field is level in that both TVNZ and 3 compete for NZ On Air funding for NZ content.

The suggestion that TV One become non commercial thereby in theory gifting advertising revenue to the likes of MediaWorks and Sky is truly absurd, and unlikely to achieve the anticipated result.  In the event TV One became non commercial TVNZ could well retain most of its advertising revenue by reshuffling programmes within its network and beefing up its Duke channel.

Much as I like both the ABC and the BBC, the idea of creating a Kiwi equivalent at this stage seems like dreamland.  The future is with the internet and video on demand – not linear TV which is why RNZ was very wise to reject Clare Curran’s idea they should set up public service channels.  Kiwis over the age of 50 should forget about their romantic view of what TCV was like in the 1970s and 1980s – that era is not coming back.

What matters is NZ content and it being available in a form that suits all generations.  It may well be the state should invest a little more in supporting Kiwi content.   I hope the Government is not seduced by the notion somehow merging entities such as TVNZ, RNZ and Maori TV will result somehow result in much better and more cost effective NZ video content.  Each state entity has seriously different cultures that won’t easily meld together.

Mergers in both the public and private sectors usually achieve much less than anticipated and the transitional costs are typically greater.   It would be much better for all three entities more effectively work together at an operational level, without actually merging.





2 thoughts on “Vested interests fill broadcasting policy vacuum

  1. I agree with much of what you have to say, but I( wonder if your past role on the TVNZ board makes you overconfident in the institution and the NZ on Air structure which underpins it. The fact is that TVNZ has always been awash Wirth middle management. and its risk averse due to its focus on advertisers,. It lacks courage in its news and current affairs, and while not biased in the same way as Stuff or Radio New Zealand, is averse to projects that challenge the government of the day. You can argue that is the best New Zealand can expec,, but NZ on Air takes its lead from the networks , and avoids topics that challenge authority, Public broadcasting should be better than that,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Basically agree with your comments. I think Kevin Kenrick has done a great job slicing the cost structure but I still wouldn’t describe it as really lean. TVNZ news needs a major shakeup. Its failure to recognise the economy including trade requires specialist journalists means it lacks real credibility for me.


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