Ok. So the headline isn’t very sexy.
But why has the government bailed out Mediaworks with a $43 million low interest deferred payment for its radio spectrum licence while it appears set on axing funding for TVNZ7, the new and vibrant young digital public channel?
I’m not having a go at Mediaworks here. They’re an important part of our media. But surely TVNZ 7; an innovation which doesn’t cost much and is tackling how to deliver dynamic Kiwi content in a low cost but accessible format is something to be nurtured. It’s ours. It’s a public service. It’s a treasure. But apparently one that’s not valued by this government.
The cuts to TVNZ 7 funding haven’t been announced yet. But it’s clear they will be and we’ll lose some of the best shows to grace our screens in recent years; Media7, Backbenchers to name a couple.
TVNZ, our supposed public broadcaster, has been clearly told to stop doing the public bit and focus solely on delivering a profit back to the government. Which it’s doing. Sort of. Though much of what it delivers us isn’t produced by Kiwis about Kiwis.
Radio NZ struggles to keep its head above water.
And we have a very big player, Sky, which has captured 50% of NZ households and is doing very nicely thank you. Which you can’t fault because they’ve had pretty much a free run for years.
What’s wrong with our broadcasting (media) industry?
It’s not rocket science to conclude that if we don’t have a competitive private sector then we don’t have healthy industry. We don’t get innovation, investment, new markets opening up, old ones dying off.
And if we don’t have a strong public service, we don’t have a healthy society. It’s why we pay our taxes. It’s the glue that binds us.
A competitive private sector and a strong public service are not mutually exclusive.
A strong modern public media is critical to a functioning democracy.
I’m in London at the moment. The BBC, Channel 4, ITV are all hugely important. Critical analysis, breaking news, quality (and some rubbish) local content. It’s all part of the mix. The Brits are pretty well served by their media.
There are some double standards at work here. And blinkers on. You can’t give a break to one part of the industry and leave another in the cold. And you need some rules. That’s why government can’t be hands off.
The problems don’t just span the last two years. Let’s be honest. But it’s time we sorted it out. Because we’ll be a poorer country without a healthy media.