Red Alert

Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

Environment : What are your views on a clean green NZ? Labour Leadership Q&A #1

Posted by on September 10th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Leadership Election Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 1

Environment – What are your views on a clean green NZ?

Explanatory Note: From September 10th to 14th 2013 as part of the official selection process for a new leader the New Zealand Labour Party is holding a “Virtual Hustings Meeting” hosted by Red Alert and organised by Scoop Amplifier. Over the past 7 days questions were solicited from eligible voters in the election. The questions and answers are now being posted as a set of 14 posts at the Red Alert Labour Party Blog starting today (Tuesday 10th September), till Friday 13th September. At Red Alert all-comers are welcome to discuss the answers in the comment section of the blog. The candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.


Question : What are your views on a clean green NZ? Allied to this, what are your views on our one pure gold asset “water” and protecting our waterways?

Submitted by : Heather Mannix, Christchurch


Answer from Shane Jones

Our clean green status cannot be taken for granted. As each generation passes our effects on the environment remain. I am a big supporter of replanting blighted landscape in native cover.

A key to improving our status is recovery work as well as robust legislation.

Dirty rivers and soil loss, siltation, are major concerns to me. Water is a valuable resource and I support water storage. The sale of our power companies may lead to private water ownership. Water is part of the public estate. I do not agree with the privatisation of water.


Answer from Grant Robertson

Clean, green New Zealand cannot just be a brand. We must accept that there is no real economic development without protecting and enhancing our environment. They are two sides of the same coin, and we cannot afford to see them as being in some eternal struggle.

We have the potential to develop clean technology and renewable energy generation that can lead the world. Our environment has an intrinsic value that we must support. This means a focus on water and air quality in particular through better use of national environment standards, and emission standards.

We need to take the recommendations of the Land and Water Forum, and develop them further, including resource rentals for major users. The voluntary accords around effluent run-off have had some benefit, but we must do better in protecting our waterways, and if that requires regulation by local and central government then I will back that.


Answer From David Cunliffe

Sustainability is a core Labour value. We must ensure that we protect our environment for future generations. Our environment has intrinsic value in its own right; our bush and beaches, rivers and seas, sustain us all. The environment is central to the health of the New Zealand economy, with most of New Zealand’s export dollars come from living things. We must protect and nurture this source of our wealth and heritage.

We will not be immune from the environmental mega trends facing our planet; particularly global climate change and fossil fuel depletion. We must prepare for these by developing renewable technology, water management, and being active in international climate negotiations.

Clean-tech is an area where New Zealand also has the potential to be out the front leading. But it is an area where New Zealand is under-investing. There is huge potential and it aligns with New Zealand strengths. I will invest more in research and development funding that supports a high value economy, including clean tech.

There are too many rivers and streams in New Zealand where it is no longer safe to swim. This is not good enough.


Techno slavery

Posted by on January 31st, 2012

I missed this on Stuff, but heard it on RadioNZ today.

Workers who find themselves answering work emails on their smartphones after the end of their shifts in Brazil can now qualify for overtime under a new law.

The new legislation was approved by President Dilma Rousseff last month.

It says company emails to workers are equivalent to orders given directly to the employee.

Labour attorneys told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper the new law makes it possible for workers answering emails after hours to ask for overtime pay.

Judging by the vox pop comments of Brazilian workers on the RadioNZ piece, this isn’t necessarily a popular move. I can understand that. Turning off the emails after hours is a hard thing to do.  It has become such a way of life for many working people, but even more so for those who believe their job depends on it.

This issue has started to emerge in several corners of the world. In May 2011, Chicago policeman Jeffrey Allen filed a class action suit against the city, asking for unpaid overtime compensation.

In December 2011, German carmaker Volkswagen agreed to deactivate e-mails on German staff Blackberry devices out of office hours to give them a break.

German telco Deutsche Telekom and consumer goods maker Henkel have also introduced measures to curb after-hours emails to reduce the pressure on workers to be always on call.

Remember the “work life balance” stuff we used to talk about?

Am I just old-fashioned in thinking that working lives are important, but so are our families as well?

Paying attention

Posted by on January 29th, 2012

The government has been asked to explain the inconsistency between the decision in Kim Dotcom’s residency application (which was granted) and his application to buy more than five hectares of New Zealand land (which was denied). Some might say that Jonathan Coleman should have paid more attention when  he was advised by Immigration NZ of their decision to waive the good character requirements for Mr Dotcom’s Investor Plus residency application. Others might say that alarm bells should have rung when Ministers Maurice Williamson and Simon Power overturned the decision by the OIO to enable Mr Dotcom to purchase properties in New Zealand because he didn’t meet the good character test.

John Key says it’s an “anomaly” and he’s looking into that.  Okay.

But here we see Key telling us in this video that the first time he’d heard of Kim Dotcom (who lives in John Key’s electorate) was when the Solicitor General advised him of the pending raid the night before.

However, some of his constituents, who live on the same road as Kim Dotcom say they contacted John Key’s Huapai office several times to complain about the dangerous driving of  Kim’s mates on their road and to express concerns about his residency and the OIO approval. Another neighbour of Mr Dotcom’s requested a meeting with John Key to discuss his concerns, but got absolutely nowhere. They’re a bit confused about John Key’s response.  Either their concerns weren’t passed on, or they were ignored.

I know our Prime Minister’s a busy and important man, but he also has responsibilities to his constituents and they were entitled to expect his interest.

Sometimes paying attention matters, even when you are the Prime Minister.

Thinking outside the square

Posted by on October 15th, 2011

Some important questions to ponder:

  • Should technology be a priority industry for growth?
  • Could New Zealand become a world leader in the use of digital technology, to transform New Zealand economically and socially?
  • Is a strong and vibrant ICT sector a platform to improve all areas of NZ’s economy and society.
  • Just how important is the digital environment as core infrastructure for the New Zealand of the future?

If it is, what do we need to do to get there

Labour will release its ICT policy on Monday.

I’ve always thought Information Communications Technology (ICT) was a bit of a cumbersome name. It’s time we called our policy something sexy

McCully embarrassed by tuppawaka TVNZ banned

Posted by on October 13th, 2011

Can someone explain why McCully (Minister of RWC) can toss $2m towards the tuppawaka which is built on public land but support a ban on TVNZ filming the opening event.

Then there are questions of value for money, priorities etc.

It’s now TV Auckland, not TVNZ

Posted by on September 12th, 2011

There are some big questions to consider about the state of our public broadcasting service. In both television and radio. Television is perhaps more urgent, with the impending demise of TVNZ7, the axing of the TVNZ Charter, the shift to a commercial only model, the impending sale of TVNZ’s Wellington-based Avalon studio and the abdication by our TV broadcaster of any public service responsibilities.

Now we’re seeing the abdication of responsibility to the whole of NZ.

I think it’s becoming rapidly clear that Television NZ has morphed into TV Auckland. The latest piece of evidence (and there’s been a steady stream) is yesterday’s news in the Herald on Sunday that:

TVNZ has told Good Morning hosts Sarah Bradley and Brendan Pongia to reapply for their jobs – and is also holding auditions for the roles.

At least 14 people will lose their jobs when the magazine-style show moves from Wellington to Auckland and TVNZ says it wants to “tap into” talent already in Auckland…

…Pongia and Bradley have hosted the show since 2006 and are thought to be on annual contracts…

…A TVNZ spokeswoman said the move north gave the network an opportunity to take a fresh look at the show. “These auditions will tell us what is out there and allow us to tap into the Auckland talent pool.

The sale of the important Avalon Studios is perhaps the starkest display of a blatant strategy to focus the company in one city, the city where the population is, the advertising dollar is best directed and where the commercial gain will be got.

But TVNZ is still a Crown entity. It is governed under the  Crown Entities Act and the Television NZ Act (part of which has recently been amended to remove its charter and replace it with a statement of functions).

But the shareholding Minister has the ability to provide clear expectation through the Crown Entities Act of how TVNZ should perform.

Commercial return is one of those expectations now we’ve lost the TVNZ Charter. But so is providing a service to all NZers. And providing high quality content.

TVNZ has lost sight of that. So has the government. It’s all about going where the money is. And bugger the rest of New Zealand.

We have to consider whether Avalon Studios is an important strategic resource for the whole television industry. We don’t believe the government is thinking about  the impact of losing Avalon on the wider TV and film sector. We think they should. And we would.

The Avalon Studios complex and 10-storey office tower became a Hutt Valley landmark after opening in 1975 as New Zealand’s first custom-built television centre. It is TVNZ’s biggest facility outside Auckland.

My colleague Chris Hipkins has blogged about this and spoken strongly against the proposed sale.  As he says, closing Avalon is a stupid decision that lacks vision and shows TVNZ’s lack of commitment to quality local programming. Avalon is widely recognised as the best TV production facility in the southern hemisphere, but our state broadcaster would rather screen yet more low-budget reality TV shows than put it to good use.

Another Wellington colleague Trevor Mallard, who was a former broadcasting Minister has criticised TVNZ’s bloated management for not managing its assets better. I think they’re right.

Both TVNZ and this government have a very narrow view of broadcasting being about commercial return. They forget that this nation, as do most others, puts a high value on public broadcasting which is about reflecting our stories, our nation back to ourselves and to the world.

TV Auckland will provide us with a commercial service that ignores the rest of our country, the stories, the cultural identity of our nation. It all fits into the way this nationis now being run. As a corporation, not as a country.

We’ve got to change tack.

The slippery slope

Posted by on July 13th, 2011

Public television broadcasting ended in NZ last night. The TVNZ Amendment Bill passed which kills the TVNZ Charter. TVNZ is now required to be a commercial broadcaster. it remains State owned for now but is likely being prepared for sale by a government that has no commitment to public broadcasting.

While the National Govt axes the Charter and drives a stake into public TV broadcasting,  there’s a mounting crisis in the media world; in the relationship between media and politicians which could severely impact on the Murdoch media empire and the UK Govt.

The News of the World phone hacking scandal has reverberated around the globe. The Murdoch empire has tentacles in many countries.

There’s some important lessons here.

Independent public media, not captured by vested interests is critical to the health of a nation. The public needs to know that politicians and media aren’t in bed with each other, that there’s standards that media adhere to and lines that wont be crossed. If they are crossed, that the judicial system will investigate and prosecute. And wont be captured and muzzled by fear of powerful media.

But the passing of this Bill takes NZ on a slippery slope to a place where vested interests rule our media. Hopefully not our politicians.


We’ve already seen the government fork out $43 million to bail out Mediaworks. It’s pretty clear that TVNZ is being prepared for sale and meanwhile Sky gains a bigger slice of the unregulated broadcasting sphere. Unfettered. Not good.

Labour is committed to a strong independent public media. If you have had any doubts about the need, just look across the hemisphere.

All governments are susceptible to media influence. Especially big media empires. Which makes for a compelling case for independent publicly funded media which is arms length from government.

Top NZ companies back R&D tax credits

Posted by on May 24th, 2011

There’s an interesting contrast in today’s NZ Herald between its rather muddled editorial that appears to poo-poo the R&D tax credit and what our two largest and most innovative companies, F&P Healthcare and F&P Appliances, are saying in the business pages. Both companies speak of the research benefits they gained from labour’s previous tax credit scheme.

I’ve yet to come across a high-tech company – and I’ve visited a lot – that doesn’t believe tax credits are a great thing. The top 100 of these companies generate $6.5 billion and high value jobs. Inevitable perhaps they would say that because they benefit, but with those sorts of numbers, it’s not rocket science to work out that we all win.

Parents Rely on Watershed

Posted by on May 9th, 2011

The BSA appeared in front of the Commerce Select Committee last week for their annual financial review.  They had undertaken a survey during the year called Watching the Watchers that indicated, amongst other things, that parents relied on the watershed of 8.30pm to know when the content shifted to adult themes.  I asked them what they were doing to respond to this in light of the adult content of many of the soaps – including Coronation Street – which screened before the watershed.  They said they could only act on complaints.  I asked them who was responsible for setting the watershed time – they said it was negotiated between them and the broadcasters – they didn’t think the broadcasters would want to change it. I wasn’t the only MP who thought that this was a concern.  The reporting of this has been interesting.  For the record I didn’t complain about the content of Coronation Street – I used to watch it many years ago – I stated that its content was no longer suitable for children.  And for that I have received overwhelming support from teachers & family counsellors, but most importantly from the parents of children, about the wider issue of what children are exposed to. Everyone agrees that it is up to the parents to screen what their children watch, but I keep coming back to the fact that the BSA survey has highlighted that parents rely on the threshold and it is unreliable when you look at the adult themes these popular soaps deal with today.  The Select Committee will report back to Parliament in the next week or so – I am sure we will be commenting on what is a highly complex issue.

Why we need a public TV broadcaster

Posted by on May 5th, 2011

Oliver Beerthanks correctly answers all the questions.

Please come home John Clarke.

Guess there’s not much for you to come to.

Hat tip @MrJohnClarke (on Twitter)

Here’s what matters

Posted by on March 28th, 2011

My last port of call was a grandmother raising two children whose mother died in tragic circumstances.

She gave me a huge smile, welcomed me in and offered a cup of coffee. We all enjoy positive feedback; here’s someone doing a fantastic job, day in and day out, raising children in her mid-sixties, with very little recognition or support.

Her grandchildren were polite and helpful. The house while crowded was clean. Grandma and the children live in a small state house in Avonside. The smell of sewerage permeates the air; portaloos dot the street. She walks with difficulty. Her nearest mall, Eastgate, is yet to reopen so it’s either been the local shop – expensive – or a taxi trip to the closest open supermarket – expensive.

She says she’s not yet had a visit from anyone and I believe her, though this would be unusual. She’s not angry at anyone, nor really asking for assistance. My visit was sparked by her son dropping in earlier to the caravan that is my makeshift portable electorate office.

I gave her a hug and $50 in food vouchers (courtesy of Katherine Rich and the Grocery Council) and started plugging her into some other assistance, including, hopefully, funding to allow her and the children go get away on a break out of Christchurch. 

My point? No one in Avonside seems much focussed on a Beltway ‘scandal’ where even Michael Laws, writing in the Sunday Star Times  says the media have replaced the courts. The same paper also reported how our television channels have joined forces to take on the Broadcasting Standards Authority’s attempts to rein-in increasing sexuality on television; their lawyer argues the recent soft-porn series Hung was  ‘serious drama.’

A 6.3 earthquake changes your view of what is a scandal, what constitutes serious drama and what actually matters.

Filed under: Television

Henry’s out of touch and offensive

Posted by on October 4th, 2010

I usually don’t bother to worry myself about Paul Henry. As a former National Party candidate with extreme views its no surprise to me that he behaves the way he does. The fact TVNZ have him on their Breakfast show is bizzare, but I guess its their call. I choose to avoid.

But his comments today about the Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand “not being a New Zealander” and choosing someone as GG “who sounds like a New Zealander” are horrendous. Anyone who has spent any time around the GG will know what a great advertisement he is for New Zealand. Whatever republican leanings I might have, I respect the inclusive way he is going about his job. Paul Henry’s remarks are bigoted nonsense, and John Key’s lack of response gave implied consent.

New Zealand and New Zealanders are better than this, and Paul Henry deserves all the condemnation and criticism he gets.

Back Benches this week

Posted by on September 20th, 2010

THIS WEEK ON BACK BENCHES: Watch Damian Christie, Paul Deady, the Back Benches Panel and special guests discuss the week’s hottest topics!

CLIMATE CONCERN: A new survey shows we are caring less about Climate Change than we did last year. In 2009, Climate Change ranked 8 out of 10 and now it’s fallen to the bottom of the list. Why the drop? Well, taxes, employment and standard of living have taken precedence. Do we actually care less about Climate Change or do we not feel we can afford Climate Change? Is this a sign that a more moderate ETS was the right approach? Are economic sacrifices necessary to change the planet?

GET OUT THE VOTE: Local Body Elections are just around the corner. Do people care? Are they involved in enough in the process? How can we get people to vote? How do we make sure it’s an educated vote? How well do people know the candidates? Where does the role of the electorate MP end and the role of the local body begin?

LIVE pub politics from the Backbencher Pub: Wednesday, 22nd of September. Our Panel: Green MP Sue Kedgley, Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta, and National MP Aaron Gilmore.

2013 Digital switchover right decision

Posted by on September 16th, 2010

Will blog more on this later. Am at NZ Computer Society 50th anniversary conf in Rotorua and about to speak, but want to say that it’s the right decision. Am a bit suprised. it loooked as though the government was going to delay til 2015.

Wonder why they changed their minds. The mobile companies investing in 4G will be pleased.  And it means that we wont lag in the next generation of ultra-fast broadband over mobile.

It means that a comprehansive education campaign will be needed to make sure that low income, and older people are left out and without TV coverage.

But it’s the right decision. Haven’t had time to look at the detail yet. Will have more to say later.

My colleague Brendon Burns, Broadcasting spokesperson, is also tied up (doing a public meeting on the earthquake in the Chch Central electorate). Good excuse. He told me that  this announcement should now be followed by Cabinet announcing a willingness to open up to some public input on future of public service broadcasting, as per Future of Television.

He also commented that doing Digital Switchover by regions, could benefit Sky as they will be able to systematically put in sales teams region by region. Freeview hasn’t got the budget to do that.

NBR has written a piece here.

They point out that: The switch date will put New Zealand on a par with other OECD countries, with the United Kingdom switching over to digital by 2012 and Australia by 2013. The US and parts of the EU have completed the switch.

Hi-Tech generates $5 billion

Posted by on September 15th, 2010

The hi-tech sector is in the NZ Herald today – telling a story that many of us already know, but doesn’t get much coverage.

Our top 100 hi-tech companies earn $6.7 billion and still show positive prospects for growth. Greg Shanahan, the founder of the Technology Investment Network predicts the sector could outstrip dairying. Bold words, but wouldn’t it be good see this sector growing – and diversifying our economy?

If we want to catch Australia (a pretty naff goal if you ask me) we’re going to have to grow dairy 5 times. Can’t imagine 5x more cows or that amount of new productivity. The hi-tech sector – commercialising smart ideas on the other hand has less or no carbon miles, produces smart, high paying jobs and generated export revenues. It has more potential if we get behind it.

Nearly 80% of what our top 100 hi-tech companies produce is exported.

A good story that gets too little attention.

Shift happens

Posted by on September 7th, 2010

This is one version of a variety of YouTube videos on this theme.  It was brought to my attention by some early childhood educators in Albany, North Shore a couple of days ago, when we were talking about the future of education. Some challenging, yet stimulating thinking in this clip : Hang on until the end : it will astound you.

Fuzzy signals from the copper dome

Posted by on September 4th, 2010

What has happened to Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman’s Think Big plans for public service broadcasting? (See various past Broadcasting posts)

It would seem matters have bogged down at  Cabinet. The dark, powerful trio of  English, Joyce and McCully are not buying in.  Perhaps having to find $1.7b for Mr Hubbard’s cupboard is not helping. Not that there are many in a Nat Cabinet who,at the best of times, would defend PSB. Some think that local production and public broadcasting are the same thing, and besides,  SKY and all that money the Government is pumping into the broadband future will take care of it

Coleman had Treasury and Ministry of Culture and Heritage put up options on what to do once funding for TVNZ’s non-commercial channels 6 + 7 runs out early in 2012. (with little if any reference to anyone with broadcasting experience.)

Cabinet may have added another alternative to officials’ three options of  do nothing; leave TVNZ to run Ch7 under a separate governance arrangement (most likely outcome); merge with RNZ (either using Parliamentary Channel or CH 7 or both)

Now the time-honoured solution; have an industry/officials committee review everything and assesse a a preferred option.If this involved genuine public consultation, fine but much more likely it is a  kick for touch

Perhaps looming decisions may just cause Cabinet to focus. A date needs to be announced soon on Digital Switch On (and analogue switch off.) And also announcements on any extension to Freeview terrestial coveage, currently only received by 75% of homes and excluding many provincial cities.- all but one Nat held.  And there is the  TVNZ Amendment Bill now at submission hearings at Commerce Committee. It does away with the TVNZ Charter and begs the question of the Minister: what will you replace it with?  He would hope his options paper would provide a part-answer  but signals are reception is poor inside the copper dome.

Future of television#4

Posted by on August 27th, 2010

Cabinet is currently wrestling with what to do with TVNZ’s non-commercial channesl 6+7 once funding runs out next year. Leaving it up to TVNZ to sort out may be gaining the upper hand.  In part, they may be looking to technology to deliver an answer. Some Ministers apparently believe that given you can find an increasing amount of material that might be considered ‘quality’ or ‘public service’ content on the Internet or off Sky, why create a new edifice? The thinking goes that the market will solve this quite soon.

This is the derivatives approach to broadcasting; that amid a sea of junk bond programmes there will be some with real value. All you’ve got to do is find them and put them into a portfolio/folder/channel.

Here some will start crying that we fund local production via NZ on Air and this provides a platform for programmes which feed our sense of identity, and constitutes “public service broadcasting.”

Local production (however incentivised by NZoA or imposed by regulation) is not the same thing as public broadcasting.  For one thing, NZoA has no capacity to direct where programmes go; if they ain’t ‘commercial’ they are likely to be ghettoised, no matter what their broader importance or value. For many years, Governments have behaved as though it is–a convenient approach because it keeps the noisy creatives happy, while reducing the debate to commercial vs non-commercial objectives, and the circular and wholly subjective discussion of what constitutes “quality.”

The consequence is that there has been no history in N.Z. of what public broadcasting could be as a unified “system” within the total broadcasting landscape, and what its objectives in the digital era ought to be. It is time we had that debate.

Let’s accept the current model of state-owned television is skewed to the commercial realities. For twenty years, TVNZ has done what successive governments told it to do; make money. Sure, we as Labour stitched on the ‘dual mandate.’ We provided funding via the TVNZ Charter, admittedly modest, to try and provide something more. TVNZ was too attuned to its over-riding requirement to make money. It squandered some of the money on programming clearly outside the non-commercial ambit of the Charter and unwound some of the case for it.

Labour believes in public service broadcasting; the Charter was an attempt at achieving that.   We have it with Radio New Zealand. We  believe New Zealanders deserve some of that via television. Our sense of ourselves and the need for that to be reflected back to us is too important to entrust to the vagaries of the market, especially one that is changing fast.

We need a television platform that can endure into the future and survive the technological shift, while providing the New Zealand content that defines and redefines who we are as communities and a nation. The options could include Channel One, Channel 7 or even Parliament TV(when it’s not showing the House, which is the majority of times. ) Funding could come from a mix of revenue – from Channel 2 as the recession recedes, from some advertising or sponsorship, from a greater portion of NZ on Air funding, from the ‘digital dividend.’

Maori Television now provides ‘public service broadcasting’ for an audience that while actually attracting more Pakeha than Maori, is programmed around Maori interests. It costs around $35m a year for an essentially non-commercial service, about the same as Radio NZ. Maori Television, panned by the Nats and others when it started, is now accepted by most as providing innovative, modestly-costed flaxroots,  proud to be Kiwi television albeit to a modest audience. If we are talking about providing a viable, affordable platform into the future for all New Zealanders, that might be a good benchmark figure and comparative model to get us started on a national debate.

Future of television#3

Posted by on August 26th, 2010

A television executive recently achieved techno-nirvana. He successfully piped Internet video signals into his television receiver. “Brilliant,” said his wife.”Now you can watch television on television.”

This is the world to which we are hurtling. Latest Nielsen data from the States shows while traditional television audiences are holding up, ‘time-shifted’ programme watchers rose nearly 15 % in the past year and video via Internet by TV rose nearly 6 percent. And the really big growth is those watching video on their mobiles – up by more than half year on year, though mostly still clips not full programmes but IPad will change that.

Television companies in New Zealand understand this shift. TVNZ is now a digital media company; Jason Paris who drove that strategy now runs TV3. Sky’s stellar $103m profit of last week is framed as much around add-ons like MYSKY as increasing subscriptions.

All broadcasters face the challenge of Over the Top (OTT) content – that provided by non-broadcasters, with little or no overheads to meet. Within a few short years, free-to-air television will earn as much of their revenue from content shown on screens other than televisions.

So the lines between broadcasting and telecommunications are blurring fast.

Yet the rules are very different. Ask Paul Reynolds. The telecommunications market can be subject to Ministerial intervention faster than you can flick a fly rod. It makes little difference which Government is in power; telecommunications is deemed too important to leave to the vagaries of an unregulated market.

Contrast that with broadcasting which is now becoming paper-thin in separation from telecommunications.

Distribution systems and platforms have technically converged in their use for “broadcasting” (content) and “telephony” (also content). These distribution systems are regulated to ensure competition when used for telco purposes, but NOT when used for broadcasting purposes. Hello?

The pricing and terms of trade for providing “telephony” content services are regulated to ensure competition, but not for broadcasting content even when both are paid for by the user. The logic and equity of that is….what?


Future of television#2

Posted by on August 18th, 2010

When you blog or comment about the need for us as a nation to have public service television – admittedly an awful phrase – you sometimes get branded elitist, high-brow, wasteful of taxpayer dollars to provide content for a minority.

So what about Desperate Housewives? Rupert Murdoch’s British arm, BSkyB has just bought the UK rights to Home Box Office. That means if you want to watch Desperate Housewives – and a string other such others – you have to pay Rupert for the privilege.

How long before that’s your only option here? Sky is now in close to 55% of NZ homes. It is already pursuing such popular programmes to build on its movies and sport base. While free-to-air television has been knocked for six in the last two years, Sky is regarded as ‘recession proof.’ People stay at home and watch Sky. On Friday Sky will report its latest after-tax profit. Projections are $100m this year, up $9m on last year and growing to $141m in two years. Little wonder the analysts are suggesting Sky can gear up and buy something. TVNZ?

To date, TVNZ and TV3 (free-to-air television) have stayed ahead of Sky in viewership by mixing the likes of Desperate Housewives with New Zealand content.

Big threats are posed for free-to-air television once Sky outbids and buys these rights. We all have a stake in TVNZ. The rising cost to buy overseas programmes against Sky will dilute TVNZ’s capacity to make local content, which can be ten times the cost of buying foreign shows. NZ on Air is our $80m mechanism to keep it Kiwi on television. But note NZOA’s chief executive Jane Wrightson in her latest newsletter who felt like writing a “bleak missive” about challenges ahead and “likely enemies preparing to storm the gates.” Ouch!

So we have a government that refuses to acknowledge the competition issues being presented by the increasing power of Sky, is telling TVNZ to only focus on making money and now is looking at raiding NZ on Air funding which keeps FTA viable and allows it to show New Zealanders themselves on television.

The funds-raid is likely to have been in a ‘white paper’ discussed at Cabinet last Monday or soon will be, on what to do once TVNZ 6 + 7 funding runs out next year; options include do nothing (let TVNZ sort it), run 7 + possibly 6 as a small independent entity, or integrate them with Radio NZ.

The first option could mean a ghetto service at best unless there’s a remarkable lift in TVNZ revenue and there’s a high-risk of that being the case with the other two options. And yes, we might well all be watching most of our content on screens other than our televisions in a decade, but someone still has to fund, create and showcase our stories.

A connection to the TVNZ mothership is crucial in my view. Some 20+ years ago, I worked in London for Channel 4 News. Initially the new channel provided the news. It was simply studio interviews that bored viewers into switching off. Independent Television News, ITN, came in and provided a base news feed to liven up what became an excellent news hour including extended interviews, assisted by being, then, non-commercial.

This does not mean Channel 7 (and possibly 6) have to be run by TVNZ. Point is, television needs pictures and TVNZ is probably best placed to provide some of them, not just for news but through its other programming and archives. But how Channels 7 (and 6?) might best work deserves more than a Cabinet paper and some blogging.  Feedback from a variety of industry and academic sources confirm that a national debate is demanded with opportunity for real input . We want a television future that regards us as New Zealand citizens as well as consumers.

Next blog:  Watching television on other screens and how rapidly it’s changing