Just as Freeview is to become compulsory (that is to say they are turning off the free alternative analogue system) they withdraw another channel from it - and we will be left with two fifths of fuck all. Always half-hearted, TVNZ7 has been a trick: a short-lived gimmick to con people into accepting Freeview. With Triangle/Stratos bailing out some months ago Freeview is losing momentum and we will be left with the same amount of channels that we had in the first place.
The problem with saving TVNZ7 is it means saving the TVNZ bit. It is difficult to disagree with David Farrar's proposition:
Which is exactly why TVNZ7 was doomed. It was on a broadcaster which had no interest in having people watch it.
If you want public service television, there are really only two sustainable models. The first is the NZ on Air contestable funding model which allows all broadcasters to air public service programmes that are not commercially viable. The second is a dedicated stand alone broadcaster. That will cost around $200m to $250m or so a year.
Not indeed. That costing is plucked from betwixt the same hairy, cleaven place where Treasury pulls out their forecasts. It is quite possible to run a public broadcaster for significantly less than that. Indeed, according to TPK:
Māori Television Service receives approximately $16.5 million per annum directly from the Government to meet its operating costs. It also receives $16 million from Te Māngai Pāho to fund in-house programme production.
That's $32.5m a year plus a minimal ad take. They seem to produce a lot more in the nature of public broadcasting than TVNZ does - for a lot less.
The stand alone channel idea is a good one and should be promoted as a viable alternative to continuing with TVNZ7. I think such a channel can be created by way of the government tendering for a public broadcasting TV service that would involve elements of the TVNZ Charter as well as certain minimum local content provisions in the contract that could benchmark itself against what the TVNZ7 output has been. The issue is to crystalise exactly what makes up the public good element that is worth the public subsidy; eg. quantifying the value of not having ads. Having a local content minimum of 50% in primetime and 25% non-primetime would probably be tracking similar or above where TVNZ7 is. Limiting re-runs to less than half of all content would also be a welcome move - most TVNZ7 stuff is reruns and reruns of reruns - this should not count.
One of the hurdles is whether ads are compatible with such a channel. Others - especially from backgrounds in larger countries where there are several non-commercial state TV networks will probably disagree - but I believe ads and public broadcasting need not be incompatible or overwhelmingly damaging. There will always be a tension (as the recent 'Fair Go' editorial/management spat over going easy on their advertisers has showed) but with strong accountability (to the contract) and an overt public broadcasting mission it need not be fatal.
What is important is the content v. breaks ratio and how many breaks there are rather than whether the breaks are of ads or of the channel's own internal promos. TVNZ7 flagship News at 8 programme for example has at least three breaks of 1:30 each - all internal promos. There isn't that much difference for me in what that 4:30 of breaks is - ads or promos - they all tend to grate after you've seen them more than a dozen times. I have no objection to a public broadcaster having ads as long as they are kept to a minimum, eg. less than 4 or 5 mins per hour.
Showing ads will reduce the amount of funding needed and will appeal to the range of broadcasters who may want to tender. Is it all too late...?