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Monday, July 02, 2012

Who killed TVNZ7 and can public broadcasting be resurrected?

There will, I am sure, be much written regarding our new shameful status as being the only other developed country next to Mexico who have no public broadcasting TV service. Having hosted most of the Save TVNZ7 meetings around the country, here is my contribution.

SaveTVNZ7 meetings: Save TVNZ7 meetings were held in Wellington, Auckland Central, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Masterton, Christchurch, Dunedin, West Auckland, Takaka, South Auckland, Milford (North Shore) and Orewa (North of Auckland) AND Palmerston North (thank you Jeff). 500 people went to Parliament to present a signature with over 36 000 signatures on it and 2000 marched up Queen street on Saturday to hold a public funeral in St Matthews with about 500 people present.

The audience at most of the meetings were older NZers, the younger ones of course having no concept of what non-commercial TV is. At first I was dismayed by this imbalance, but realized that this was the most important voting block in NZ, and if they are pissed off, then change is actually possible. It was standing room only at most of the meetings.

Lord were they pissed off. I think the National Government have misjudged who supports public broadcasting. Many said they had voted National last year, but this decision was the last straw. Regional TV was discussed at every meeting and how I managed to get banned from Radio NZ seemed to be a popular question. The depth of resentment at killing TVNZ7 off suggested to me that this could be a genuine issue come the 2014 election.

Who killed TVNZ7:
There are 4 main players who are directly and indirectly responsible for the death of TVNZ7.

TVNZ: TVNZ admitted that they never promoted TVNZ7 because they feared it would eat into the ratings of TV One and TV 2. Wallace Chapman had to put his hand into his own pocket and pay for the first Backbenches adverts because TVNZ were so hell bent on smothering it.
These tactics show the terrible farce of attaching public broadcasting obligations alongside corporate demands, as the corporate demands always win out. TVNZ's equation, whilst galling to everyone else, is exactly the venal logic bottom line pressures create.

National Government: While TVNZ smothered 7 with no promotion, the real killer here is the National Party. Let's be very clear that the decision to kill off 7 was a very deliberate political decision...

TVNZ7 rescue plan not used
The Ministry of Culture and Heritage considered continuing funding for TVNZ7 by reprioritising money from NZ On Air but the Government decided to scrap the public service television station, new documents show.
Papers obtained under the Official Information Act and supplied to Labour appear to contradict comments by former broadcasting minister Jonathan Coleman last month that the Government decided not to extend funding for the free-to-air channel because "there was no plan for how TVNZ7 would be funded in future".

...the National Government decided to end 7, even though the Ministry of Culture and Heritage offered a rejig of NZ on Air money to keep the station afloat. The National Government doesn't want that, because the National Government have a vested interest in reactionary talkback rhetoric leading public debate rather than a critical public broadcaster.
This policy decision to hack away critical media has all the cultural responsibility of a book burning. Look at the near silence on the day of our asset sales from the corporate media, they aren't being critical of the most contentious part of National's policy platform because they are all eyeing up that juicy $120 million advertising spending spree to promote asset shares that will ramp up their next quarters profit margins. National have the private media and public media in their pockets. Want examples? The $43 million deferment loan to foreign owned Mediaworks by Steven Joyce who previously owned Mediaworks. A politics free talkback show on RadioLIVE! before the election. Using lite weight Breakfast on TVNZ to announce major policy. Appearing on Michael Laws to begin discussions about restricting the reproductive lives of beneficiaries. Appearing on radio sport's shows with Tony Veitch. Hell even my banning from Radio NZ for criticizing the Prime Minister. No where in their carefully managed media appearances does TVNZ7 fit in.

It seems ignorance is strength is our new broadcasting policy.

Previous Labour Party policy:Labour rarely built public broadcasting capacity (Radio NZ's funding freeze was frozen before National turned up) and when they did, with TV6 & 7, they trusted a TVNZ who could barely disguise their contempt for public broadcasting better than with Rick Ellis's answer when challenged on the lack of Maori on TVNZ with CrimeWatch as his example. The other mistake was Kiwi FM. It was set up by Jenny Shipley as the Radio Youth Network, and for reasons Labour have yet to explain, they handed the 3 frequencies over to Mediaworks. This largesse was continued by National who have rolled this deal over with Mediaworks again last week.

Sky TV's monopoly position:Without a doubt, the unregulated behemoth in the room is Sky, their $120 million profit last year seems glaring as public broadcasting dies. Their power to lock out everyone else to live sport is another example of the power they wield. Why we allow Sky to carry TVNZ for free and why we allow taxpayer paid programming like Heratland to be hidden behind a paywall are all questions none of the major political Party's seem keen on asking.

Rebuttal to criticism of TVNZ7:
Paul Little on protests turn out: Paul Little is a genius, but he's far too harsh here. Yes intelligent people have fled to the internet over TV, but the public debate element of public broadcasting is more than yearning for shows of yesteryear, it is an essential bench mark of what passes as the discussion of important issues. To shrug off the protests of those fighting for public broadcasting is to leave the narrative of current affairs in the hands of the Leighton Smiths, the Mike Hoskings, the Paul Henrys and the Paul Holmes of NZ broadcasting.

'David Farrar's attack on audience figures': It's very important for the Government's main online propagandist to weaken the argument for TVNZ7 by attacking it's cumulative audience numbers. David is right when he points out that the use of cumulative numbers is generous, but what he misses are two important points.
The first is that most of the stations use cumulative audience numbers so it can give a very strong indication against other broadcasters of its audience footprint. For example, TVNZ7 has been able to attract the same cumulative audience as Maori TV has in only 4 years. Whether David likes to admit it or not, TVNZ7 has succeeded very well in this context.
The second point David misses is that come the swap over from analogue to digital, a station like TVNZ7 would thrive against their commercial counterparts, by attacking cumulative figures when the playing field is still so tilted in favor of analogue signals ignores what would happen when that playing field is leveled by everyone being on digital.

'Maori TV is our public broadcaster': This is Craig Foss's favorite excuse when asked why he's destroying TVNZ7. It's disingenuous. Maori TV was set up with a specific focus on Te Reo, to expect them to also shoulder the role of public broadcaster without a significant injection of funding from Government suggests that Mr Foss doesn't actually understand his Broadcasting portfolio very well.

Public Broadcasting Solutions: There are solutions. Turning Kiwi FM into RNZ2 to help fund Radio NZ is an idea I first argued for in a guest column in Metro this year.

David Beatson announced the possibility of a new nation wide public broadcaster on Freeview at the public funeral on Saturday.

Save TVNZ7 is morphing into a Concerned Citizens for better broadcasting group who will also run the 'Bring back 7' campaign that will launch in the year of the 2014 election.

Peter Thompson's brilliant idea to create a 1% levy on Sky and the Telcos would create $60 million each year. That is enough to fund a public broadcasting TV station, with money left over for Radio NZ and regional TV stations.

These ideas need a change of Government and political will to see public broadcasting as an important contributor to public discussion. Without a change of Government, we will be cursed with being the only other developed country besides Mexico to not have a public broadcaster.

Without public broadcasting, NZ's media will become as fair and balanced as Fox News.

***In response to Russel Brown: 1: Helen did bugger all for Radio NZ, I say the freeze started before that because Helen's office didn't give RNZ the support they needed (you sight the report into their funding that found Government budgets were well below what they needed). Labour was not the friend to Public Broadcasting that they should have been. 2: You are absolutely wrong on this point Russell. The frequencies used by Kiwi FM were reserved by Shipley for the Youth Radio Network.



At 2/7/12 8:22 am, Blogger mel said...

I thought NZ media were already as fair and balanced as Fox News. ;)

Weirdly, on the final episode of Backbenchers, I heard Chester Burrows using the RWNJ from the US quote of students needing to have 'skin in the game.'

I shivered!!!!!!

At 2/7/12 9:16 am, Blogger Nitrium said...

If money was such an issue, why didn't they simply run advertisements? You can still have Govt funded TV subsidised by adverts, surely? I guess the argument will be that advertisers ultimately dictate content (which on TVNZ7 was very good, i.e. not the drivel that sells McDonalds and steam mops on TV1/2), but IMO that doesn't have to happen if it is properly run.

At 2/7/12 12:34 pm, Blogger Wallace Chapman said...

Hey Bomber - long time fan first time caller ! Just a minor correction about putting my hand in my own pocket. we might have had packed houses in the last year or so of Back Benches, but at first it was tough to get people along. So I just dipped in and put a week schedule on student radio I think. It really wasnt anything more that that :))

At 2/7/12 4:42 pm, Blogger Tim said...

Oh Wallie - you're too too modest! :p

BUT.... of course PSB can be resurrected!

Let's just see though how staunch (Cunliffe type- staunch, Curran-type committed, Peters-type bluster, and Dunne-type weasel words) go after an election.

I sat in Tinakori Rd during the 3rd-to-last (next to an "out-law", in large part responsible for TVNZ7 - with her fearing we might be captured on-screen sitting next to a "Save TVNZ" sign). Such was the culture at TVNZ from a Senior management whose collective egos are far far more important than ANY commitment to ANY kind of Charter or recognition of the value of PSB, democracy et al - let alone what had been achieved prior to the demise.

Said it all really! Management at TVNZ has NEVER had any committment to the idea if it was going to challenge their status or income. Well suk it up now boys - while you can (and plan for your future careers offshore). I say that because IF any future gubbamint actually carries out HALF of what they've committed to, TVNZ management - the old hacks, the "in-crowd", the ego-centric, the "club" are not going to be able to carry on as is. Actually -IF they behave as they have over a decade or more in NZ, there'd not too many options offshore unless one or two mates tale pity (and they never really liked youse all anyway). SBS and ABC jobs are all taken, 10's struggling, the Beeb is cutting.
No, "youse" actually have to put your balls on the line, and they're fairly unsubstantial balls too

Still... as I've said elsewhere, all those TVNZ senior management knobs responsible for 7's demise can hardly be in any position to bleat or moan when its come-uppance time as it surely will be.

At 3/7/12 2:51 am, Blogger Unperson85 said...

“The audience at most of the meetings were older NZers”; “Many said they had voted National last year”

My response, idiots!

You’ll think many older NZers would have opted for the lesser of two evils by voting NZ First like my septuagenarian and octogenarian parents. Proves the vicious idiocracy of the Natzi party came about as a result of the idiot, redneck and 1%er vote. I know of solo mothers and civil servants that voted for the Natzi party, even though their policies were disadvantageous to both.

HOPEFULLY! Every sleepy hobbit will learn a lesson from the repeated Natzi jackboot they’ll receive in the ass for the next two and a half years and use their brain next time round. Hopefully snap out of the infatuation with the smirkpox that is Pimp-o-key-o and co and no more embarrassing election one night stand with three years of torturous remorse

“The younger ones of course having no concept of what non-commercial TV is.”

Now you’re just being polite.

From my perspective as a Gen Yer tending on the other end of mid twenty, you may have harsh opinions towards the baby boomers, but discounting those boomers which have departed from their hippie roots or social conscience and ventured to the dark side of the neoliberal nightmare engulfing the world. At least the counter-culture will always feature in history as something inspirational that achieved some positive results. Just what have Gen Y have to show or equal?

From my experience Gen Y is synonymous with the 21st century’s first silent generation or perhaps lost generation, only time will tell. A test tube case of how neoliberalism can f*ck up an entire generation, suck out your soul and shit on it. Amazing how a generation is happy to have their lips sewn to the ass of corporations whose grand versificator churns out the diarrhoea that is known as TV, film and music nowadays.

You Gen Yers content on prostituting your souls for an orgy of dead-end corporate consumerism, while your back is broken with debt and your future f*cked, by the 1%ers whose ass you suckle from. Wake up and seize a future! Otherwise you’re likely to graduate from silent generation to lost generation, playing crap like Call of Duty today and finding yourself as cannon fodder in some far away shithole tomorrow for those who f*cked your future and don’t give a rat’s ass about you.

The Save TVNZ 7 campaign was a brilliant one, its failure was only due to the plumb ignorant banana republic regime it faced. TV 3’s Think Tank this Sunday covering the TPPA was brilliant. The panel expressed the “government’s” intentional policy of concealing vicious trash such as the TPPA from the public. As well as the importance of youth to revert to activism like the days of old. Goes to show the valuable lessons Gen Yers can learn from boomers or Gen Xers whose heart (and ultimately brain) is in the right place.

Notice how One News at 4:30 has dwindled down from 25 minutes to 15 minutes with around 5 minutes of advertisements, apparently Masterchef Australia is far more important.

At 4/7/12 11:58 am, Blogger Policy Jeff said...

Save TVNZ7 meetings were held in Wellington, Auckland Central, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Masterton, Christchurch, Dunedin, West Auckland, Takaka, South Auckland, Milford (North Shore) and Orewa (North of Auckland)...
..AND Palmerston North! Just because you weren't there, doesn't mean they didnt happen!


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