Report – By Alex Perrottet of Pacific Media Watch
The New Zealand government’s reasons for cutting funding to Television NZ have been “rubbished” at a public meeting in Auckland last night.
Members of Parliament and about 300 members of the public met at the Freemans Bay Community Hall and stood as a white coffin displaying the epitaph “Public service television” and draped with a New Zealand Flag was carried in.
Labour MP Clare Curran said the last Labour government invested $79 million in the new channels TVNZ 6 and 7. She said they were important, taking the country into the digital environment.
“On 30 June, TVNZ7 will be switched off by a National government,” she said.
She cited the arguments given for the closure of TVNZ7; that there is public funding through NZ On Air, that no one watches it and those who watch it are part of some sort of elite.
“All those arguments are rubbish, absolute rubbish.”
NZ can afford more
“We can easily, easily afford it and easily find ways for paying for much more.”
Curran compared New Zealand with the UK, which invested $4.6 billion in the BBC, and Australia, which put $200 million into the ABC and recently announced in the federal budget it would invest $85 million more in SBS.
“They put a value on public broadcasting. This government doesn’t.”
She said her private member’s bill would save the channel, if it happened to be chosen from the ballot.
“Let’s not have our kids grow up on American television shows, with American accents. Let’s not have our television stations filled up with reality shows.”
Authentic Kiwi culture
She said New Zealand needed more shows that were “thoughtful, quirky and originally Kiwi”. She called for more people such as Wallace Chapman with creativity.
“Let’s fund it properly and be proud of who we are.”
Greens MP Julie Anne Genter said the best of all the great historical works of literature and art were not created and defined by commercial interests.
She pointed out the growing danger of the small number of corporations that controlled the global media market, and that the support of public broadcasting would encourage and stimulate citizen participation in democracy.
‘Get NZ thinking’
Andrew Williams, NZ First MP, reminisced about the NZBC and the great shows of the past.
“We did get good political debate going in this country, we did have proper investigative journalism on our screens,” he said.
“Who wants to see another cooking programme? Who wants to see another border patrol programme? Who wants to see another police chase programme?”
He said we need programmes that “get New Zealanders thinking”, saying it was a small price to pay for such an important outcome as a good thinking population.
Dr Atkinson proposed a 1 percent levy on pay TV and telecommunications providers, which he argued would pay for Radio New Zealand, Māori TV, TVNZ7 and more.
He said those companies would pass on that cost to their customers, who were already paying much more for Sky which they did not watch as much as their free-to-air channels anyway.
‘Rewrite NZ On Air’
He also said it was imperative that the government rewrite the brief of NZ On Air, so that it is insulated from commercial pressures on funding.
From the floor came all kinds of comments, but none as outspoken as Daniel McCaffrey who suggested the government sell off TV2 to support TVNZ7 and other public broadcasting investments.
The organiser of the event, Myles Thomas, apologised on behalf of the government which was “too busy” to attend the meeting. He read out a response from the Minister of Broadcasting Craig Foss.
The SaveTVNZ group is holding other meetings around the country. Their website is here: www.issues.co.nz/savetvnz7/
Alex Perrottet is contributing editor of Pacific Media Watch