Trotter on Broadcasting/Media

September 26th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

, in a thread at Red Alert, proposes a policy for Labour, being:

1) Establishes an hypothocated Broadcasting Fund large enough to sustain an independent, publicly-owned, free-to-air television and radio network, with statutory obligations to deliver quality, locally-produced content to all New Zealanders.

I actually am reasonably supportive of this aim. We currently pour $230 million a year into public broadcasting, and a BBC-style broadcaster could be affordable with that money. However the challenge is to stop it becoming a mouth-piece for the left, as so many public broadcasters do. As they are taxpayer funded, they have an incentive to support parties that wish to increase taxes.

The idea of a dedicated fund, so it is not directly taxpayer funded has some merit. What I would do is sell off TVNZ entirely, and use the proceeds from it to establish such a fund.

2) Prohibits the cross-ownership of media platforms (i.e. a newspaper cannot also own a radio station, or a television network – and vice-versa).

3) Restricts the private ownership of the news media to New Zealand citizens – who will be barred from owning more than a single media outlet (i.e. one newspaper, one radio station, one TV station).

When you take these two together, it would kill off almost every newspaper in NZ. Making money out of a newspaper is getting very difficult. Fairfax and APN manage it because they can share resources and copy. If you implemented Comrade Trotter’s manifesto then I’d say the number of newspapers in New Zealand would shrink to around three or four.

Chris would have every single radio station, newspaper and TV station owned by a different New Zealander. My rough count is we have close to 100 newspapers and 200 radio stations. I suspect many of those would disappear lacking owners willing to risk hundreds of thousands of dollars on them.

4) Creates a Media Complaints Tribunal with wide powers to ensure fairness, balance and accuracy in all forms of media.

Good God. I hate to think. Will it have the power to actually take over news-rooms to ensure “fairness” or just to imprison journalists who do not do what the state tells them is fair?

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41 Responses to “Trotter on Broadcasting/Media”

  1. Positan (383 comments) says:

    There is fairness – ie. that what is fair in actuality – and then there is the Left’s view of “fairness.”

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  2. hj (6,350 comments) says:

    “However the challenge is to stop it becoming a mouth-piece for the left, as so many public broadcasters do.”

    as Trotter says:

    “Had an Act MP publicly suggested that his party was moving beyond the “limited concept” that “one man, one vote is the only manifestation of democracy possible in Aotearoa” it would have been headline news. ”
    http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2010/05/taking-greens-seriously.html

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  3. hj (6,350 comments) says:

    Imagine if bicycles received as much advertising time and resources as automobiles. We would be living in a different urban landscape, have a healthier populace and less overseas debt.

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  4. vendetta (60 comments) says:

    Hmm. Points 2 and 3 are probably far too extreme to be workable, as pointed out … but the situation we have currently is equally dodgy, particularly in terms of encouraging political partisanship. Remember, our biggest media company was let off the hook for a $43 million bill by the current government because we have a ‘too big to fail’ scenario.

    [DPF: Umm they were not let off the hook. They were allowed to pay in instalments, and are being charged interest on the deferred payments]

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  5. Gman88 (12 comments) says:

    re ACT ..maybe not so seriously after last weekend. The media are looking foward
    to a fantastic sideshow in Epsom tho..

    Anyway – fairness ; left, right etc ..you’ll never get past that one.

    Both TVNZ and RNZ have editorial policy guidelines which are enforced and are available to anyone, even
    the more paranoid among us.

    And go back to the last Labour govt – who was laying waste to the Labour govt ? … why it was
    RNZ and TVNZ , every morning, every night.

    Thats why the PM avoids both – except for the flaky Breakfast show on TVNZ..

    Trotter’s idea a good one but won’t fly unless its ring-fenced.

    Public Broadcasting expense = price of democracy , but maybe we;’re not
    interested in that anymore ..

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  6. Rich Prick (1,549 comments) says:

    Every one of those points looks like a “solution” in search of a problem. I hate to think who gets to decide what “fairness” means.

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  7. ben (2,396 comments) says:

    Selling off TVNZ and promising to use the funds to establish a competitor to the asset being sold, a competitor with no requirement to earn a return on investment, guarantees a low price for TVNZ.

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  8. nasska (10,659 comments) says:

    hj

    Take it up with the cycle manufacturers & importers…obviously they are not pulling their weight & their refusal to match advertising budgets with those of vehicle importers is treasonous.

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  9. ben (2,396 comments) says:

    Jesus H Christ people are stupid. What is local ownership supposed to achieve, other than measurably lower wages and productivity? What are restrictions on cross ownership supposed to achieve? At what point does Trotter et al think the NZ government owns, regulates and controls enough of the NZ economy?

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  10. badmac (139 comments) says:

    Let’s see, have 1 state media channel, kill off all competition.

    Yup, a master plan, Didn’t Russa, China et al do this for many years quite successfully?

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  11. rouppe (916 comments) says:

    4) Creates a Media Complaints Tribunal with wide powers to ensure fairness, balance and accuracy in all forms of media.

    I think the Electoral Finance Act is the perfect example of why governments cannot be trusted to make determinations of "fairness" and "accuracy".

    Though I'm sure Annette would be adamant that such a Tribunal would "save us from The Bretheren!".

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  12. Graeme Edgeler (3,267 comments) says:

    4) Creates a Media Complaints Tribunal with wide powers to ensure fairness, balance and accuracy in all forms of media.

    Good God. I hate to think. Will it have the power to actually take over news-rooms to ensure “fairness” or just to imprison journalists who do not do what the state tells them is fair?

    You know very well that this is what the Broadcasting Standards Authority already does, and that Chris is basically proposing a rename it, and extend its remit beyond TV and radio journalism to also include print.

    And if you don’t know that, you’re markedly less smart than I’ve previously given you credit :-)

    [DPF: Yes I know this is what the BSA does. However Chris is advocating all forms of media which may be more than print but include bloggers etc.

    Personally I would scrap the BSA (not due to performance, just because it is appointed by Govt) and expand the Press Council to include broadcasters]

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  13. Martin Gibson (227 comments) says:

    Channel 7′s “Spotlight on science and innovation” month was an example of great state-run television. It featured some programmes which were almost life-changing, like the doco on chaos theory and fractals.
    There are so many great documentaries already made, and it is nice to watch television that leaves you feeling enlightened rather than degraded.
    I would pay for access to a documentary channel, but I would rather pay for it through taxes to ensure that other folks — especially kids — who might not have access to it otherwise, get to see it.
    While I think it’s time for the left to get rid of their reflexive demand for things (they don’t like) to be banned, monopoly media ownership has not taken us to a great place culturally.

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  14. KiwiGreg (3,171 comments) says:

    “I would pay for access to a documentary channel, but I would rather pay for it through taxes to ensure that other folks — especially kids — who might not have access to it otherwise, get to see it.”

    No what you mean is you want people who arent prepared to pay for it to be forced to pay for it. Because, obviously, you know best.

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  15. david (2,539 comments) says:

    @Graeme Edgeler – That of course would also extend to the Tribunal having authority over blogs to ensure fairness and balance. Bloggers, after all insist that they are the “new media”.

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  16. vendetta (60 comments) says:

    If it’s getting impossible to make a profit from newspapers … such is life. It’s going to happen sooner or later, It will be interesting to see what happens with regards to creating profit from online news content … but the death of newspapers at the hands of news websites will eventually be inveitable.

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  17. wreck1080 (3,730 comments) says:

    thats unfair of you dpf, who’s that knocking on your door now?

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  18. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    What’s the sentiment behind our public broadcasting policies Pete G? I know we were throwing ideas around last year.

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  19. Martin Gibson (227 comments) says:

    Gosh Kiwi Greg, that’s a straw man argument a leftie would be proud of! What I meant was what I said; that I personally don’t mind a portion of the tax I pay going toward a quality documentary channel.
    Considering how much of it goes toward education that doesn’t educate, I consider it hedging my bets, and what’s more it would not cost much to screen doco’s that were already made; making Shortland Street is another thing altogether.

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  20. Lee01 (2,171 comments) says:

    While I’m sympathetic to the idea that NZ needs more locally owned media, the problem as DPF points out is that state run/taxpayer funded media will only reflect the view of urban latte liberals and chardonnay socialists, who, despite their arrogant fantasies, are not mainstream New Zealanders.

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  21. tas (593 comments) says:

    The whole point of freedom of speech is that no one is looking over your shoulder to ensure that you’re saying the right things.

    Also, I think the internet changes a lot of these issues. I expect that in a few decades broadcast TV will go the way of newspapers and radio. And we’ll see Labour demanding that some tribunal ensures that kiwiblog is fair.

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  22. tvb (4,202 comments) says:

    Public broadcasting will be captured by the liberal left and become THEIR media outlet. Just for that reason alone I am against it. Who thinks for instance Radio New Zealand reflects New Zealand. It reflects a latte drinking liberal elite from Astoria cafe in Wellington. Just been there at the weekend had my latte and saw them all. Nice enough people, interesting even, but they don’t know how to make money and have a sneering attitude towards people who do.

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  23. Bill Ralston (8 comments) says:

    Technology is changing the whole concept of “broadcasting” very rapidly. Chris Trotter’s idea of a public service channel is redundant. There is a multiplicity of platforms, why create yet another? The key is “content”. That is where government funding needs to go, funding local content so that we maintain a vibrant and profitable production sector that supplies programming across a wide spectrum of TV channels, online sites, and broadband delivery systems. Funding content rather than a single platform will allow us to grow an increasingly competitive market in TV production and ensure that NZ voices and NZ stories continue to be heard and seen.

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  24. chris (565 comments) says:

    @Bill Ralston

    funding local content so that we maintain a vibrant and profitable production sector

    Um, but if it’s profitable, why does it need to be funded?

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  25. hj (6,350 comments) says:

    hj

    Take it up with the cycle manufacturers & importers…obviously they are not pulling their weight & their refusal to match advertising budgets with those of vehicle importers is treasonous.
    …………..
    yet if they had the same budget and behavior changed (assuming riding a bicycle has benefits over using a car) that would show that by attaching advertising to programming we are paying in insidious ways?

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  26. hj (6,350 comments) says:

    I have heard of tests for bias such as comparing photographs of various candidates in different magazines but no one seems to do the leg work.

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  27. backster (2,076 comments) says:

    Martin Gibson;………..Good news, since you wouldn’t mind paying for documentary programs, subscribe to SKY they have one going 24 hrs also one on science, and one on history. Your normal kids can enjoy the cartoon network when you aren’t watching.
    …………………………….I say scrap the lot and save $230 million. The Government can pay for time if they need to communicate.

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  28. Crusader (279 comments) says:

    Isn’t the whole concept of a state broadcaster all just a bit last-century? What will the next debate be about, a state-run vinyl record retailer? A state-run bookshop? Very baby-boomer.

    The world is moving on, lads, the next generation are taking their feeds from online media of their choice (and organizing their anarchic riots via blackberry :rolleyes: )

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  29. hj (6,350 comments) says:

    ..Good news, since you wouldn’t mind paying for documentary programs, subscribe to SKY they have one going 24 hrs also one on science, and one on history. Your normal kids can enjoy the cartoon network when you aren’t watching.
    …………………………….I say scrap the lot and save $230 million. The Government can pay for time if they need to communicate.
    ……
    The problem is that any democracy needs accurate information so people are given a clear choice. If advertisers and their experts are the only means of delivering the message choices will be skewed. We would be in better shape going into a recession if more people in cities lived in eco friendly new urbanist housing yet the dominance by business of the media normalises our car based lifestyle (despite people taking inter galactic flights in the future (2001 A Space Odyssey). What democracy needs is a sort of media judiciary trained in critical thinking who act as a filter. Every inch along an argument map yilds two inches in benefit to decision making.

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  30. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    I totally agree Martin.

    Regarding the content comments.

    UnitedFuture aims to support NZ On Air as a mechanism for encouraging local content on television and radio, since it is available to all networks and it encourages creativity and diversity by allowing independent producers to flourish.As authorised by Hon Peter Dunne C/O Parliament Buildings Wellington.

    Nice one Backster – sporadic messages published by the politburo is your idea of a public broadcasting service?

    I think it is a necessity to have a public broadcasting service – these days there is no reason why it shouldn’t be content based rather than based around a single channel.

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  31. KevinH (1,131 comments) says:

    DPF complains:

    “However the challenge is to stop it becoming a mouthpiece for the left”

    This frequent compaint is often made by the likes of Leighton Smith and Michael Laws, however not everyone wants to endure a diet of right wing propaganda or worse television that caters to the lowest common denominator which is invariably where the private market positions itself.
    The role of public broadcasting is to deliver to as wide an audience as possible, a difficult and challenging brief considering the diversity of the marketplace, but nevertheless PB does provide non political unbiased commentary.

    [DPF:I didn't say I want a public broadcaster to be right wing. I just want it to be neutral, balanced and impartial. The history of public broadcasters here and overseas is that most lean to the left]

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  32. Lee01 (2,171 comments) says:

    “but nevertheless PB does provide non political unbiased commentary.”

    I have one word for you. Bollocks.

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  33. vendetta (60 comments) says:

    DPF – knew I should have worded things slightly differently. OK, well while they may not have been ‘let off the hook’, the rules were still changed to allow Mediaworks to pay later when they would otherwise not have been able to do so. And while yes, this is an arrangement that could be replicated in nearly any business transaction (for example a landlord giving his tenant a few extra days to come up with rent money instead of evicting them) when the benefactor is the government, it’s not exactly ideal. The government should have as little interference in the media as possible – and that goes for both right and left.

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  34. vendetta (60 comments) says:

    and yes, I KNOW that placing restrictions on how many channels may be amassed counts as intereference, but it seems like potentially less interference and more benign than the current arrangement (dependent on the specifics of course).

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  35. Pete George (22,804 comments) says:

    I think Bill Ralston has it right, it needs to be content related as much as possible, giving flexibility over a variety of rapidly changing platforms. I’m happy for the state to fund some public interest content.

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  36. Lee01 (2,171 comments) says:

    “I’m happy for the state to fund some public interest content.”

    Who defines and decides whats in the publics interest?

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  37. kowtow (7,614 comments) says:

    “……mouth piece for the left…….”
    TVNZ this am,Tim Wilson describes the Tea Party as “extreme right”. Since when was small government an extreme idea?

    All our MSM are mouthpieces of the left,be they state or commercial.

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  38. F E Smith (3,302 comments) says:

    Doesn’t this presage the Australian Green’s preferences for the media, where they are wanting to establish a regulatory regime to control the print media.

    I see from the Aussie papers that there are hysterical claims that News Ltd owns 70% of the main Aussie papers, when in fact they own 30% of the papers but sell 70% of the papers sold in Australia.

    So the commercial success of a group seen to be opposed to the Government is apparently reason for regulation.

    Is there anything that the left do not want to regulate?

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  39. DJP6-25 (1,268 comments) says:

    State owned, or subsidized broadcasting is so last century. It is usually dominated by the left. With the advent of the internet
    there is no valid argument for it. You can find the content you want, when you want it. Often without annoying ads. It’s time to cut that budget to zero.

    cheers

    David Prosser

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  40. Falafulu Fisi (2,176 comments) says:

    Pete George said…
    I’m happy for the state to fund some public interest content

    Umm! I thought you have mentioned previously many times here on Kiwiblog that you’re not a socialist but your statement above contradicted that. So, you’re not a sociologist but you want everyone else to pay for public interest content for the greater good of the population perhaps? Are you confused about your political philosophy? Or may be you don’t have one.

    Lee01 said…
    Who defines and decides whats in the publics interest?

    Ask Pete George. Apparently it is decided by a few elected officials masquerading as if it was approved by the majority.

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  41. Gman88 (12 comments) says:

    Yes thats right the society as a whole pays for the costs – and the public decides by
    listening/watching or not. Thats how they do it in the grown up democracies. The PUBLIC
    decides whats in its interest.

    RNZ National is the most listened to radio station in the country – their survey
    done independantly and accepted by the commercial networks ..

    That may not go down so well in the bedsit Libertarian community , but never mind.

    And , er, Tea Party …last time I looked they had a direct phone line to Jesus and were nothing more than a bunch of pissed off rednecks, or execs who had tricked the god-fearers into believing the “tax cuts for the rich” idea.

    You may know different of course…..

    “often without annoying ads” ..haha fucking ha.

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