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Thursday, December 17, 2009

TV special

It's really not true - at any point - what he's saying.

Everything the Broadcasting Minister says is basically a lie

NZ On Air Platinum Fund announcements have delivered on the Government's promise of high quality broadcasting content, says Broadcasting Minister, Jonathan Coleman.

- He means expensive broadcasting, but I can't recall him wanting to keep it expensive, I had thought he wanted more NZ content, not necessarily a small range of one off expensive shows for the main networks.

NZ On Air yesterday announced investments in four significant new television programmes intended for screening in 2010. Two long form dramas, a documentary series and a TV special have been supported by the new Platinum Fund, all for prime time screening.

- Well at least they got the prime time bit right. What we have been lacking is NZ content on at the time when most of the audience is watching. I am glad they recognised this previous deficiency and we have to hope the networks don't get cold feet, as they sometimes do, and drag a show off into the wilderness hours to be put down if it doesn't immediately rate higher than the show it's replacing.

"The Platinum Fund was designed to open up public broadcasting funding to a range of producers and broadcasters. No one entity has a monopoly on the best ideas, and yesterday's funding decisions prove that.

- Yesterday's funding decision was more dodgy than a TV txt poll. The proof amply demonstrates he's a total bullshit artist. It is four entities that together have a monopoly and it all has to go through NZ On Air - which is a monopoly. So it's a monopoly making decisions for a cartel - a cartel that they themselves go to great lengths to support - and they support it against the interests of the rest of the TV industry. The purpose of the fund was so that TVNZ could have a better than average chance of getting that Charter money back and so that NZ On Air could grow itself and distribute the money to its favoured people. That is what is proven here.

"Quite simply the Charter never worked. It saddled TVNZ with a dual mandate and didn't deliver on its promise of quality public broadcasting. The Platinum Fund guarantees high quality public broadcasting."

- This makes more sense: the Charter was used as a cash sop by TVNZ no doubt, but without quoting figures and giving us a comparison it is hard to gauge the rhetoric with the facts.

The Fund, administered by NZ On Air, totals $15.1 million and was previously allocated to Television New Zealand. It is now available on a fully contestable basis to all national free-to-air television broadcasters for high quality television programming.

- No, and this contestability myth is just the biggest lie of the lot and they repeat it at every turn.

The only channels the fund is available to are those operated by Mediaworks, Sky and the two government channels: TVNZ and MTS. All the regional channels are left out, anyone not broadcasting all over the country on the very expensive analogue system (that they are going to shut down anyway and which represents a backward-oriented move at odds with current policy) is excluded from qualifying. How can something be "fully contestable" if there are only four possible qualifying players? They have manipulated the rules so that even a channel on Freeview and on Sky and in Auckland and Wellington on analogue is ineligible.

In front of the four gatekeepers of TV in the country is the NZ On Air moat. It is a fortress to get into, but once inside they can do as they please because their positions are not under threat within the walls. This is why nothing innovative and new seems to ever come out, this is why Petra is going to be there forever and why Oscar will always have a job on TV and why Havoc and Newsboy are still there (even if they don't seem to be doing what they are any good at), and why Russell et al. will be there forever and why they tried to keep Veitchy for as long as they did. It is a very insular scenario and NZ On Air does have a lot to do with why that is: they protect their mates and they don't fund outsiders.

As a broadcast medium TV as a platform is being eroded every second by the internet and all the Tivo and MiSky in the world isn't going to stop Google and the production companies and the TV channels themselves from making every show available over the net for free rather than having to transmit it in an un-interactive form on a special broadcast spectrum that needs a special receiver and a special aerial. "TV" as defined by NZ On Air and their co-dependent chums is already in a dying phase. Yet the minister supports their media scamming.

What they have done is a jack up by TVNZ (and to a lesser extent probably the other three) from start to finish to enable them to claw back as much of that Charter money as possible while still remaining as unaccountable for it as before. They have had their costly boutique shows funded that would have been funded anyway - they are still going to produce very little for what they get. There will be fuck all hours of TV to show for $15 million.

"I very much look forward to seeing the results of the latest announcements on screen in 2010."

- Alright, yes, he might look forward to seeing the shows, I believe most of the programming might be up his alley:

NZ On Air:

The new projects are:

Tangiwai - a long-form prime time drama for TV One. The story of the Tangiwai train disaster is told through a love story embodying the hope and courage of post-war New Zealand. From the makers of this year's award-winning Sunday Drama, Until Proven Innocent. Producers Donna Malane, Paula Boock. $2,736,740.

Stolen - a prime time telefeature for TV3 also based on a true story. Producers South Pacific Pictures from a script by Tim Balme. $1,678,000.

Rivers with Craig Potton - an 8 x half hour prime time documentary series for Prime TV. Stories of eight New Zealand rivers through the eyes of one of New Zealand's most respected photographers. Producers South Pacific Pictures. $762,000.

Facing Facts - Tamariki Ora: A New Beginning - a 3 hour prime time special for Māori Television. An examination of violence towards children in New Zealand, seeking positive strategies to help change. Producers Māori Television, EP Carol Hirschfeld. $328,247.

NZ On Air chief executive Jane Wrightson said the NZ On Air Board was particularly impressed with the calibre of these proposals, all of which will make an important contribution to local content on screen next year. "Each project is ambitious in its own way. None would have been able to be supported without the resources of the Platinum Fund", she said.

- Not good enough for the regular funding? Way too expensive for the regular funding? Way too niche for the regular funding? Their formats are incompatible with what they normally fund?

These projects join the four that have already received support from the Platinum Fund - current affairs series Q&A 2010 for TV One, The Nation for TV3, arts documentary Canvassing The Treaty for Māori Television, and four historical docu-dramas for TV One (still in the process of selection after a competitive tender).

- I know, I laughed too. Q+A, the Paul Holmes re-hab vehicle is classed as Platinum. Guyon Espiner giving patsy interviews with Ministers and some Canadian woman telling us how to understand our own politics is classed as "Platinum"!? And all in the audience unfriendly hours of Sunday morning. Astounding.

Ms Wrightson noted that $10.3m (68.6%) of the Platinum Fund has now been committed. The remainder of the Fund is likely to be used to support projects now in development. Further decisions will be made in 2010.

So 31.4% of the fund will just be used up, you know, on just giving it out to the ones already there... The producers can now go back to them and get another 40%? is this what it means? - how else is that to be interpreted? This is classic NZ On Air culture. This is the closed shop. This is the cost plus, low output system they operate amongst themselves. This is why Melissa Lee was able to do what she did I guess. What contractors get paid in advance for possible over-runs or "contingency" (or whatever it was regards Asia Downunder) for what they have been contracted to do? It's a a system of rorts and subsidies and bullshit and the Broadcasting Minister is quite happy to sign off on it all and just keep rolling it over.

The cartel and the government agency that promotes their interests (rather than the interests of viewers, or the rest of the TV industry, for example) have managed to get the new Minister to rubber stamp business as usual. All the ideas for developing small budget programmes and utilising all the talent that has been locked out of the closed circuits have come to nothing. The big boys swallow all the funding and everyone wonders why it's the same old faces and the same old shit on the same old channels - it's because each Minister (Labour, National or otherwise) gets captured by a few corporates and NZ On Air and their cosy agenda and can't be arsed doing anything about it. I know it is rather trite, but the most you can say about Jonathan Coleman is that he is as diligent and competent at managing his portfolios as he was at managing Melissa Lee's by-election campaign.


At 17/12/09 10:16 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be interested to see the "in crowd" counter your claims, and in particular someone/anyone from Media 7. My bet so far is that they'll be in overdrive inbetween what is the self-indulgent season. (Normally a follower of Media 7, I'm now aware that even this team is in a mood for patting themselves on the back for a year's work well done and somewhat different).
Click click clique clique.

At 18/12/09 10:05 am, Anonymous Jane Wrightson said...

What a astonishing set of comments. Superb! We respect your right to your opinion - but here are some facts to balance it out.

1. NZ On Air supports a range of contestable, ringfenced and operational funding.

2. The Platinum Fund is set aside for applications for programmes intended for 6 FTA channels. It is an improvement on the former use of the money which was ringfenced solely for TVNZ.

3. Platinum development means development funding has been allocated to projects submitted during the contestable process which were good ideas but which were not ready for a major production commitment. That's just risk management, not such a bad idea for public funding I reckon. We have enough such projects to commit the remainder of the Fund to those that develop up satisfactorily.

4.The 6 channels eligible for Platinum projects are the main free to air ones, chosen because they have a target audience of appropriate size. This is very important when relatively large sums of money are involved.

5. Regional TV channels have a separate programming funding stream. Granted it is much smaller - but so are their audiences.

6. NZ On Air doesn't support innovation and new talent? Rubbish. What about The Jaquie Brown Diaries? 7 Days? Aunty Moves In? Go Girls? Minority Voice? Outrageous Fortune? Artsville? Until Proven Innocent? Our music video funding?

7. No internet? What about the award-winning www.nzonscreen.com? The Digital Content Partnership Fund?

8. A cosy club? We funded over 200 TV programmes made by over 50 production companies in the year ended 30 June 2009. Prime time and offpeak, mainstream and special interest, serious and funny, small companies and big. We support and invest in TV/radio/community broadcasting/Radio NZ/Access radio/regional TV/NZ music. Now that's diverse!

NZ On Air is committed to stretching the boundaries, to pushing the channels to consider new and different content options, to making sure NZ audiences have more diverse content options than the market alone would provide. See www.nzonair.govt.nz for the full story.
Merry Christmas!

At 20/12/09 8:55 am, Anonymous NZ TV content is poor said...

I think those are excuses Jane, the real crux of Tim's piece is this paragraph...

The only channels the fund is available to are those operated by Mediaworks, Sky and the two government channels: TVNZ and MTS. All the regional channels are left out, anyone not broadcasting all over the country on the very expensive analogue system (that they are going to shut down anyway and which represents a backward-oriented move at odds with current policy) is excluded from qualifying. How can something be "fully contestable" if there are only four possible qualifying players? They have manipulated the rules so that even a channel on Freeview and on Sky and in Auckland and Wellington on analogue is ineligible.

...for all the listed reasons you give here defending NZ on Air, you don't challenge the central point of Tim's blog which are that the rules are gerrymandered in such a way only TVNZ, Mediaworks and Sky can win.

At 21/12/09 1:33 pm, Anonymous James Blackman said...

Great to see funding issues being brought to the fore in a forum like this - especially when I can, with hand on heart, say I had absolutely nothing to do with instigating the discussion.
I will be very interested to see how this strand progresses
Jim Blackman,
Triangle Television/Stratos TV


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