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Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Death of Public Broadcasting will not lead the 6pm News

Public service television all but gone
The Government is set to abandon digital channel TVNZ 7 and the last remnants of public service television.

A well-placed source said that - as expected - the Government would not be extending taxpayer funding for TVNZ 7 past June next year.

Beyond that, it is expected the Government will no longer require TVNZ to deliver anything other than profits.

The future of TVNZ 7 as a public service channel is dire and TVNZ is increasingly turning its attention to pay TV.

TVNZ has made it clear that if taxpayer funding is not forthcoming, TVNZ 7 is toast.

Shows such as Backbenchers and Media 7 will likely fold unless they can be reinvented in a commercial format and win New Zealand On Air funding for a commercial channel.

Backbenchers staff expect to finish after this year's election.

In what would be another major boost for Sky TV, the Government is also expected to ease rules so local programmes on pay channels receive taxpayer funding through New Zealand On Air.

Before National cripple the Welfare State, they want to cripple public broadcasting, who is going to ask hard questions when all the media have to do is entertain and make money?

Why the bloody hell should taxpayers in NZ who already own TVNZ be forced to pay Rupert Murdoch to see that broadcasting heritage on sky tv? Why would the Government threaten to kill their own freeview network to stregthen Sky TV's strangle hold over the banal? How the hell does any of this keep the media focused on holding the powerful to account and informing the public of what is the impact of policy this Government passes?

That's the point, it doesn't. The Government don't want an active public broadcaster, they want to sell it to Rupert instead and have him distract us with wrestling and Fox News.

If National win 2011, they will sell TVNZ to Sky, it's as simple as that.

There is effectively no Public Broadcasting on television in NZ any longer, TVNZ has increasingly seen their news audience as consumers rather than citizens, and when a broadcaster see their audience as consumers and not citizens then a 'downmarket' content formula is adopted by the broadcaster to select stories based on their ratings shock value over the fourth estate function of a critical media holding the powerful to account.

This function within a Democracy is vital for the healthy function of our democracy, however this function has become increasingly sidelined with a myopic focus on entertainment uber alles.

This 'disneyization' to make news entertainment is what we the viewer sees at the front of the house, while a management style of 'McDonaldization' out the back of the house has stripped down the Journalistic mechanics for speedy pap production.

In 1984, 40% of the news on TVNZ was politics, after the viewer as consumer restructuring, that had fallen by 1996 to only 20%, with the other 20% now crime stories. If it bleeds, it leads because shock stories about crime gain ratings.

Sadly the introduction of Freeview in 2008 hasn't seemed to have stopped this trend, in fact it seems to have been a greenlight for TVNZ to push these viewer as consumer buttons much deeper into the 6pm News hour. Two years before Freeview became available on both terrestrial and digital frequencies, in March 2006, crime made up 22% of the news and was featured 29% in the headlines, yet 2 years after Freeview crime stories in March 2010 on the 6pm News made up only 14% of the stories in that month, yet was represented a staggering 35% of the time in the headlines.

Even though news stories as a whole had slumped to 14% in March 2010 on the 6pm One News, it was represented 35% of the time in the headlines. The impact is that the shock value of crime is vastly over represented in the news headlines so the impression left with viewers is one of a mad max post apocalyptic nightmare requiring Dirty Harry to sort out.

Interesting to note that the misrepresentation of crime in the News coincided with the rise of the Sensible Sentencing Trust.

Post 2011, National intend to privatize TVNZ, sadly the poor job being done by TVNZ of being seen as a national broadcasting treasure means few will weep when it's finally whored off to Murdoch or one of his ilk. The impact of that will have even deeper cultural and political ramifications, but they won't be seen until it's too late.

Public Broadcasting matters, it's a pity neither National or TVNZ seem to care.


At 6/3/11 12:12 pm, Blogger Sophocrat said...

National is finishing the job that Labour started.
This goes back to the Labour Party's "reforms" in 1990/91: the Broadcasting Act, Radio Communications Act and the corporatisation of TVNZ. Richard Prebble was Minister of Broadcasting. Steve Maharey provided the ineffectual Charter some years later.
In truth, neither of the major parties wants real public broadcasting.
A cosy self-interested duopoly, in both politics and media, is the preference of both.


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