Greive on Bryan Bruce’s education “documentary”

May 25th, 2016 at 2:01 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Grieve writes:

Last night TV3 screened a “special report”, “written, directed and produced” by Bryan Bruce, the veteran of dozens of documentaries over the years, many of which he has fronted with a familiar, bleakly beseeching on-camera presence.

This one was called World Class? Inside NZ Education – A Special Report, and was comfortably the most asinine of those I’ve seen from the man, a windy and handwringing collection of reckons and I thinks which saw him jet around the world to have confirmed for him what he had already decided – that our education system is fucked, and neoliberalism is to blame.

Pretty much every documentary from Bruce is the same – neoliberalism is to blame.

It was a rambling, incoherent mess of a product, at once disdainful of testing and reliant on it, dated in its construction, sloppily assembled and wilfully misrepresentative of both the intent and reality of the teaching systems it assessed.

And they were the highlights.

We see some kids getting on a train to go to school in Wellington, which he unaccountably finds offensive – choice is an enemy in his mind.

How dare parents and students have a choice of school.

Bruce went into this project with supreme self-righteousness and certainty of his perspective. He was driven by the powerful nostalgia so many of a certain age and gender experience for life before the fourth Labour government. He sought out people who would echo his opinions. Then he delivered us his findings from the mountain, and sat back waiting for the applause.

There’s a lot of people like Bruce. They think the 1970s were some magical utopia and they’re been railing against everything that has happened since 1984.

In the end the enduring image I’ll take away from this truly awful hour is the unedifying spectre of an old pākehā man, wandering slowly toward the camera and plaintively asking – certainly not for the first time – why the world has to change. I hope I never have to see him pose the same question again.

Sadly I suspect NZ on Air will continue to fund them.  A quick search shows they have funded at least 17 documentaries from him which means he has received from the taxpayers over $1.7 million.

Viewers per dollar for current affairs shows

December 29th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Have been looking at how many people watch various current affairs shows on television, and how much of a subsidy they get from taxpayers through NZ on Air.

The funding figures for the four shows (from NZ on Air website) are:

  • The Nation $899,000 for 40 hours
  • Q + A $845,000 for 40 hours
  • Backbenches $606,000 for 20 hours
  • Media Take $482,000 for 10 hours

Cost per hour:

  • Media Take $48,200
  • Backbenches $30,300
  • The Nation $22,475
  • Q + A $21,125

Average viewers per episode (based on Nielsen data):

  • Q+A 99,000
  • The Nation 49,000
  • Backbenches 25,400
  • Media Take 1,900

So the cost per viewer hour is:

  • Media Take $12.68
  • Backbenches $1.19
  • The Nation $0.46
  • Q&A $0.21

It is hard to believe we are spending close to half a million dollars a year on a show watched by fewer than 2,000 people a week. In fact the taxpayer subsidy may be even greater than that as it shows on Maori TV, and they also get $55 million a year.

Q&A is the most watched show, and the one you can justify the easiest. The Nation has half the audience for a slightly larger budget. Would we be better served by having just one show, and giving it more resources so it can do more in depth?

I’m a big fan of Backbenches but an audience of 25,000 is pretty small for a cost of over $600,000.

NZ on Air funding should not just be about ratings, but on the other hand funding shows that fewer than 1% of NZ watches (or for Media Take fewer than 0.05%) suggests a problem.

NZ on Air is 25

July 7th, 2014 at 4:08 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Dr Ropata might have never returned from Guatemala, and the West family might have never been born into outrageous fortune, had it not been for a law change 25 years ago.

The Broadcasting Act, passed in May 1989, led to the establishment of funding agency New Zealand on Air, which turned 25 on July 1.

It meant that suddenly – and it did happen virtually overnight – anyone with an idea for producing New Zealand content for broadcast could apply for funding. Before 1989, it was limited to the Broadcasting Corporation of New Zealand, which operated the two television channels and had a virtual monopoly on the radio waves.

This was a key change, which increased competition. The state’s funding used to go on the state channels only. This change opened up the funding for NZ productions to all producers and all channels.

The Vote

December 24th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

NZ on Air announced:

NZ On Air extends support for current affairs with The Vote

The Vote extends NZ On Air’s support for current affairs under the Platinum Fund.  Q + A and The Nation have also been supported for another season on TV ONE and TV3 respectively.

Ten new programmes will involve a series of informative and engaging debates on issues of national importance.  Each programme will incorporate interaction with viewers and conclude with a citizen’s vote.  It will be presented by Guyon Espiner and Duncan Garner.

This is excellent. Ten one hour shows on a topical issue, which hopefully will canvass the variety of views on an issue.

It is ironic that as some people lie and say there is no public broadcasting in New Zealand, in reality we are getting more than ever. TVNZ used to use the charter money as a general revenue source and did almost no public broadcasting with it.

Now with that money in a dedicated contestable platinum fund for current affairs, we have The Nation, Q+A, The Vote, Media 3 and Backbenches. Also Native Affairs on Maori TV.

Farewell to The Nation

December 14th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

UPDATE: The story is false. NZ on Air is funding The Nation in 2013. This is not a good look for a news site whose tag line is “Informed, Influential, Indispensable”

NZ Inc reports:

Meanwhile, news spread last night that The Nation has missed out on funding for 2013 from New Zealand on Air’s Platinum Fund.  The Nation is the flagship of Richard Harman’s Frontpage stable.  Under Harman, The Nation produced comprehensive current affairs stories as well as the big interviews. It also cemented host Rachel Smalley as a force to be reckoned with.

The Nation’s competitor – TVNZ’s Q&A – is expected to resume again next year but without founding host Paul Holmes who has retired for health reasons and also without producer Tim Watkin who wants his weekends back. No news yet on Holmes replacement but Watkin is expected to move to a new role at TVNZ.

This is a real shame. I have enjoyed having two in depth current affairs and politics shows on TV. They have their distinctive styles and I especially enjoyed the Ralston and Edwards segment on the media on The Nation. I also think Rachel Smalley had matured into an excellent interviewer.

It will be interesting to see what Q+A does next year with a new host and producer.

Backbenches to return in 2013

September 13th, 2012 at 9:09 am by David Farrar

Sky TV has announced that Backbenches will return in 2013. It will be primarily funded by NZ on Air, part-funded by Sky, produced by TVNZ, broadcast live on Wednesday evenings by Prime TV and shown delayed on TVNZ Heartland channel.

A great collaborative effort, which should mean it is seen by far more people than was the case on TVNZ7.

Funding at this stage is for 20 one hour shows.

As I said when Backbenches finished on TVNZ7, I’ve been a big fan of the show. However there are some format changes they should consider to make it better when it relaunches.

Backbenches funded by NZ on Air

August 14th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Back Benches looks set to live on after the demise of TVNZ7 with NZ On Air committing funding “in principle” to the programme running on Prime.

NZ On Air spokeswoman Gina Rogers said the agency was having talks with Prime about its financial contribution to the show.

It also wanted a shorter season than the planned 50-episode series for next year. Parliament sits for only 30-odd weeks a year, but Back Benches does a New Zealand summer tour.

Ms Rogers said NZ On Air wanted to see Back Benches work. “We’d be really excited about its return.”

I’m very pleased with this. Good on Sky TV for agreeing to broadcast it, and NZ on Air for funding it.

On Prime TV, which is free to air, it will have the potential to get a much bigger audience than it had on TVNZ7.

This shows that public broadcasting is not dependent on TVNZ7 – a channel which had minsicule ratings for most programmes. The NZ on Air model allows local broadcasting to be funded across all broadcasters.

TVNZ7 was a failed experiment. TVNZ can not be both a commercial and a public service broadcaster.

Personally I would sell TVNZ and use the capital to set up a proper public service broadcaster, combined with Radio NZ. But the operating costs of that could be too high in our fiscal times, so for now the NZ on Air model is working well.

As I have been saying for months

June 14th, 2012 at 4:45 pm by David Farrar

For months and months I have been saying the faux outrage over TVNZ7 is misguided. I have consistently said that what matters is the programmes, not trying to make TVNZ into a hybrid part-commercial, part-public broadcaster.

NZ on Air has announced:

NZ On Air is pleased to announce funding for Media 3 (formerly Media 7).

The Top Shelf-produced programme examining local media will move to TV3 on Saturday mornings in August with an encore screening late on Sunday evenings. It will also be available on-demand at

“We are thrilled to support this excellent programme” says NZ On Air Chief Executive Jane Wrightson. “Host Russell Brown and the team already enjoy a dedicated following and we are delighted that TV3 has chosen to extend their schedules even further by adding this series”.

“We are really pleased to be adding Media 3 to the TV3 line-up,” says MediaWorks TV Acting Director of Programming Mark Caulton. “It is an ideal addition to the thought-provoking programming we have developed for our weekend schedule, such as The Nation, Three60 and Think Tank.”

I predict Media 3 will get far larger audiences that Media 7 ever got. This is a good thing – it is a good quality show, and I enjoy watching it.

Again, this shows that the we do have funding for good public broadcasting in New Zealand.

TVNZ7 programmes

March 7th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

As most readers will know, TVNZ7 ends in June. The funding given to it by Labour was for an initial period (was never made permanent), in order for it to become self-funding, and National has not decided to give TVNZ a subsidy to keep it going.

I don’t think the channel itself matters, as we have dozens of channels in NZ, and the value associated with a channel is becoming much less in the Internet age. I do think though there were some programmes on TVNZ7 which it would be good to have continue on. The three which I associate with being public broadcasting are the Court Report, Media 7 and Backbenchers. Important issues get discussed in a reasoned way (well on two of them anyway!).

Most of the other shows on TVNZ7 are imported or the hourly news bulletins, which are hardly essential. So my focus is on the three programmes above. There is also The Good Word.

Now to have a sensible discussion on their future, we need to know how many people were watching them, and how much they cost.

Neilsen have not been contracted to report ratings for TVNZ7. I think this is disgraceful considering the $15m a year that was spent on it. It should be a requirement of any use of taxpayer funds for broadcasting that the viewer data be made publicly available.

However we can get some idea of ratings. TVNZ7 is included in an “other” category. This excludes Channels 1 to 4, Prime, MTS, Box and Sky channels. Now last week “other” during the time Media7 was on got 0.6% AUD%, which is around 24,000 viewers. This means the number of viewers was somewhere between 0 and 24,000.

These level of viewers makes it hard to justify taxpayer investment. Public broadcasting is not expected to rate like Shortland Street as it is not commercial. But it is expected to at least rate. You should be achieving at least 1% of the population. It is quite possible no show on TVNZ7 has ever achieved even a 1% audience. I don’t blame the shows for this – I think the three shows mentioned are well produced and very worthwhile. If anything I blame TVNZ for not promoting them on other channels. TVNZ use their 6 pm new slot to often promote Q+A. They didn’t do this for any of the stuff on TVNZ7. How often did a story on TVNZ7 get picked up on TVNZ news the next day? I can think of many that should have been (such as Jim Farmer QC’s comments on the Supreme Court on the Court Report). So TVNZ failed to promote TVNZ7 programmes enough.

Next you consider how much these programmes cost. Someone out there may know, and I would hope it is public information as they are taxpayer funded. NZ on Air publishes funding details of the programmes they fund. We should be able to easily look up what the TVNZ7 programmes cost.

But someone in the industry has estimated for me that those programmes would probably cost $10,000/hr to produce or $5,000 an episode. So that is $250,000 a year. *If* those prices are correct, that is not an unaffordable amount of money. Now NZ on Air allocates $80m a year of contestable funding towards NZ TV programmes. It is not impossible to imagine that they could find $750,000 a year to keep Media 7, Court Report and Backbenches on our screens. However the real problem is finding the broadcaster to agree to host them.

TVNZ is refusing (so far) to apply to NZ on Air to keep any of those programmes going. Why? Well they don’t want to screen them on TV1 or TV2 during a weeknight, as they would lose advertising revenue. I can understand that, but I don’t see why they couldn’t apply for them to be shown on a Saturday or Sunday?

But lets assume for now TVNZ won’t agree to broadcast them. What about other broadcasters? Well this could be an opportunity for Sky. They could apply for NZ on Air funding to show it on Prime or on Sky News. Politically it could be useful for Sky also to be doing more public good broadcasting (they also did election debates etc), as their future in a converged broadcasting and telecommunications market is scrutinised. Sky would also have the ability to promote the shows to get more viewers.

Another possibility is to make (for example) the Court Report an Internet broadcast. NZ on Air already fund some stuff over the Internet. The sort of people who watch the Court Report will tend to be Internet savvy, and many would happily subscribe to it and watch on their iPads or PCs.

So the issues are much much wider than just funding for TVNZ7. It is a complicated challenge. I’ve always been of the view that TVNZ can not be asked to be both a commercial broadcaster and a public service broadcaster. However that does leave opportunities for others.

New Zealand’s Got Talent

February 25th, 2012 at 11:51 am by David Farrar

Yvonne Tahana at NZ Herald reports:

Public arts and culture funding to the tune of $1.6 million will partly pay for the New Zealand’s Got Talent reality television series.

Developed by Simon Cowell, the series is famous for discovering unlikely star Susan Boyle in the British series. It will screen on TV One.

Government agency New Zealand On Air said its support was a smart use of the public purse.

Chief executive Jane Wrightson said it was a “wonderful opportunity for many types of New Zealand performers to entertain a nationwide audience”.

I like the US and other country versions of the show. However I’m not convinced that a NZ version should be funded by NZ on Air. I suspect the show will be a ratings hit anyway. I’d much rather NZ on Air was funding shows like The Court Report. Of course to be fair to NZ on Air, TVNZ is refusing to apply for funding for shows that used to be on TVNZ7, because it doesn’t want to screen them on a weeknight. So the fault is not NZ on Air, but it does suggest the model needs looking at if taxpayer funding is going on shows such as New Zealand’s Got Talent.

Defending the inconsistency charge

January 19th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Clare Curran blogs at Red Alert and contrasts two statements from me:

My views are simple. No Government should censor the Internet.


”perfectly reasonable for programmes that NZ on Air fund to have small scheduling restrictions during politically sensitive periods.

While Clare obviously disagrees, I don’t regard my views as inconsistent. I don’t think the Government should censor the Internet and I also don’t think the Government (through NZ on Air) should be getting involved in election campaigns. I want the Government to butt out of using its huge resources to tell us who we should vote for.

I have no problem with “advocacy” documentaries. But if the taxpayer funds them, then of course it is sensible to have NZ on Air able to say “Avoid the four weeks before the election as we do not want NZ on Air to be seen as getting involved in an election”.

Think if NZ on Air had funded a documentary on how power prices almost doubled under Labour and how they reaped in $3 billion of dividends from state owned power companies so they could bribe the electorate with KiwiSaver subsidies, and a TV broadcaster showed it the Thursday night before the election? I can only imagine the howls of outrage, and the calls for the NZ on Air Board to be sacked.

Clare’s summary was:

So it’s ok to censor the broadcaster and use the government agency that funds it to restrict New Zealander’s access to well produced evidence-based documentaries that raise legitimate concerns about important issues facing the nation during an election campaign.

That was no evidence-based documentary. It got basic facts wrong. It was partisan advocacy.

Inconsistent. I don’t agree with the scheduling of many programmes on television. I certainly don’t think that politicians should be interferring in, when and if material can be shown on television during an election campaign.

I agree politicians should not get a say on when material is shown. Last thing I want. But the NZ on Air Board is independent from the Government, and if they fund a programme, it is not outrageous that they can say don’t broadcast this show we have funded three days before the election, as that calls into question our neutrality.

Now as many have pointed out, one of the board members is a National Party office holder. He is also a very experienced broadcaster himself with over 20 years experience.  One can have a legitimate view that no one with political affiliations should be appointed to the NZ on Air Board. If Labour wish to promise they will never appoint someone with Labour links to NZ on Air, then I would hope National would agree to do the same.

But regardless, the NZ on Air Board is more than one person. The Board is:

  • Neil Walter – Chair  (former MFAT Secretary)
  • Nicole Hoey
  • Michael Glading
  • Stephen McElrea
  • Caren Rangi
  • Ross McRobie

Yes Stephen has “political baggage”, but that doesn’t mean the Board as a whole is in anyway political. Worth remembering that they are the ones who actually approved the funding for the documentary.

Anyway the most interesting part of Clare’s post is not what she said in the post, but later on in the comments when someone asked why she was blogging on this issue. She said:

His comments on Radio NZ this morning with regard to censoring the broadcast media contradicts his comments on his blog with regard to the internet. I pointed that out. Hypocrisy is important to point out when one is a political commentator in the public eye as Farrar is, and when he is part of a group which is intent on censoring a prominent communication vehicle for the Labour Party.

Well that is a fascinating view of what NZ on Air is for. Truly truly fascinating.

Incidentally Andrew Geddis at Pundit also is critical of what he has amusingly named the Farrar Rule. I won’t respond in detail to Andrew as I have a plane to catch, but he does mention how the Electoral Commission rejected complaints about the documentary.

It is worth pointing out that no matter what the substance of the TV programme was, it is exempt from being considered an election advertisement by virtues of S3A(2)(c)(ii) of the Electoral Act which exempts “the editorial content of a radio or television programme”. It may have issues under the Broadcasting Act however.


Election period taxpayer funded programmes

January 18th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

NZ on Air wants to stop broadcasters screening documentaries on political issues in the lead-up to an election – a break from its usual hands-off approach which its chairman says is important for its reputation.

The broadcasting funding agency has obtained legal advice on whether it can include a condition for broadcasters “not to screen programmes discussing topics likely to be an election issue” before an election.

I don’t think taxpayer funding programmes should be interfering with the election, unless they are part of the normal news and current affairs of a channel.

Our electoral laws goes to great length to restrict the amount of money that can be spent in an election period. Parties are not even able to purchase television advertising time beyond that allocated to them.

The step was prompted by TV3 screening a child poverty documentary four days before the November election. NZ on Air had provided $105,400 for the Inside Child Poverty programme by Bryan Bruce.

Board chairman Neil Walter said yesterday NZ on Air did not shirk from funding controversial programmes, but had to safeguard its own reputation.

He said child poverty was a major election issue, and there was a risk the programme would influence voting.

More than a risk. The programme was factually incorrect and should have had an authorisation statement on it, as it was very partisan against National.

Now I’m not saying it should not have been funded. I have no issue with NZ on Air funding controversial programmes. But absolutely TV3 should not be shown such blatant propoganda a few days before an election, and if it is funded by the taxpayer, then fair enough to have a clause in there saying “You can screen this programme anytime in 152 out of 156 weeks, but just not during these four weeks.

“We are, on one hand, anxious to safeguard our reputation for political impartiality, and in our view that was put at risk by the decision to schedule that documentary just four days out from a general election. On the other hand, we are very careful not to interfere in the editorial content of programmes. Our legislation bars us from doing that.”

Media law barrister Stephen Price said a blanket clause preventing “election issues” was too broad and seemed heavy-handed.

“It’s much better if they just leave it up to the Broadcasting Standards Authority. The broadcasters already have an obligation to be fair and balanced and they know they have to be on their toes close to an election.”

But they can only act on complaints after the event.

TV3 would not comment yesterday, although in the documents Mr Walter said the broadcaster had “expressed its regret for having put us into this situation and has assured us there will be no repeat of the problem”.


And my views would stand even if the programme was a history of the union movement, and was an hour long expose on how over 60 years unions have funded Labour, influenced their policy and control their candidate selections. That would be a good documentary – but not one to be funded by taxpayers to show in election week.

The NZ on Air Platinum Fund

September 5th, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Readers may recall that TVNZ under Labour was given a “charter” and “charter funding” with the idea being that TVNZ would be both a commercial broadcaster and a public service broadcaster.

It was an experiment that failed. Former TVNZ CEO IAN Fraser, a huge public broadcasting advocate, said that you can’t ask the broadcaster to be both.

And certainly viewers couldn’t detect any change in TVNZ programming despite the charter money. In fact much of it got siphoned off into stuff that they would have done anyway, or stuff shown at times no one watches.

So National abolished the meaningless charter and took the charter funding of around $15m a year, and gave it to NZ on Air who uses it for contestable “public good” programmes through their platinum fund.

Now I’m not sure if others have been watching Sunday Theatre the last few weeks, but there have been some great shows on, funded through the Platinum Fund. There was Billy on the life of Billy T James, Rage last night on the Springbok Tour by Tom Scott, Bliss on Katherine Mansfield, and the iconic Tangiwai.

Now some may say they don’t think there should be any public broadcasting at all. That’s fine. But I think most would agree if we do have public broadcasting it should be high quality programmes that people actually watch,

These dramas have all had massive ratings, and in my opinion have all reflected events and people which are important parts of New Zealand’s history.

I think it is a great example of substance over form. The TVNZ charter made people feel think that it would be good for public broadcasting, but it wasn’t. The current approach of using the charter funding as a contestable fund has produced some superb New Zealand television.

Both Q+A and The Nation to return

December 10th, 2010 at 12:22 pm by David Farrar

Infonews reports:

Highly regarded current affairs programmes Q+A and The Nation will return to New Zealand television screens next year, with funding from NZ On Air.

The funding agency announced today it will continue supporting the two programmes through its special Platinum Fund.

NZ On Air chief executive Jane Wrightson said TVNZ will receive $798,000 to produce 38 episodes of Q+A. Front Page Ltd will receive $972,000 to produce 36 episodes of The Nation for TV3.

“Both series provide an important point of difference for television current affairs,” Ms Wrightson said. “Public funding allows such programmes to exist outside the demands of commercial prime time. Each programme provides a special opportunity for thoughtful interviews with leading news makers, accompanied by insightful analysis.”

I’m glad NZ on Air is keeping them both going. In an election year especially we need shows like them.

Lee’s company may owe $100,000

October 13th, 2009 at 7:04 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

Evidence emerged last night of potentially serious breaches of contract between the television production company of National Party list MP Melissa Lee and funder NZ on Air which could cost the company at least $100,000 in repayments.

The funding organisation’s chief financial officer, Wayne Verhoeven, sent the MP a letter on June 12 outlining what it considered to be breaches of its funding contract through inflating company profits from the contingency fund.

The contract between Asia Vision Ltd and NZ on Air explicitly prohibits the producer making any changes to the agreed contingency budget or the agreed company markup (production company overhead) without the consent of NZ on Air.

Mr Verhoeven’s letter accuses Ms Lee of using money from the contingency budget to increase the markup from 8 per cent to 10 per cent over five series of Asia Downunder.

The five years of contingencies total $100,126.

Last night, Ms Lee described it as “an innocent error”.

She said she had replied to NZ on Air in June but had not yet had a response.

“I have been waiting for them to let me know the outcome.”

Ms Lee told the Herald she had not been aware that the errors had been happening as the finances were handled by the production manager and accountant.

“At a time when there was no increase in funding, the company reduced its profit margins so it could continue making quality television and prudently maintain a contingency fund,” she said.

“This has come as a total surprise. The company wasn’t aware that the money set aside in the contingency was technically expected to be refunded.

“I’m not deeply involved in the day-to-day accounting, but the company’s moved quickly to rectify the problem and will pay back any money deemed to be outstanding.”

The company had amended processes to ensure such an error could not happen again, she said.

“I’d also urge other production companies to seek advice and make sure they comply.”

This issue is quite separate from the false allegations made against Lee before the by-election, but they are cause for concern in their own right.

Normally I would hold a case like this up as an example of the dangers MPs can have in continuing with business activities as an MP, but this actually predates Melissa’s election to Parliament.

Labour released the NZ on Air letter last night.

It had previously complained about Ms Lee’s company while she was National’s candidate in the Mt Albert byelection. NZ on Air cleared her in May of misleading the agency.

The Labour Party says Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman must have known about the letter.

“Unless he fronts up and tells the public what he knows, he could be accused of a cover-up,” Labour deputy leader Annette King told TV3.

Dr Coleman said he had known about it since August 18.

It is unclear whether or not the company does have to pay back $100,000 or not, as at this stage we do not know their response to the response from Lee.

From a political management point of view, this should have been sorted out within weeks, not months, of the issue being raised.

If I was advising Melissa, I would have counselled her to get a final decision from NZ on Air as soon as possible, to repay immediately any money owing (if that was the final decision), and then to do a media release announcing what has happened. You front-foot the issue, rather than wait for the Opposition to discover it.

Now it is still a bit murky, as we are yet to hear from NZ on Air what their final position is, but it certainly is not a good look even on facts known to date.

NZ on Media

September 30th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan had what I consider a really good idea, during her speech on political blogging yesterday.

Part of the discussion was around the increasing commercial pressures on newspapers, and their diminishing resources to do investigative journalism etc.

Fran said she thought it was very unbalances that the Government (taxpayer) funds some media through NZ on Air, but this is restricted to broadcasters only.

She advocated that NZ on Air should become NZ on Media, and all media should be able to apply for worthy “local content” projects whether they be TV, radio, print or Internet.

I think that is a concept with some merit. First of all it does make for a more level playing field. But also because a contestable funding pool for print (and Internet) journalism could help turn around the decline in quality research intensive journalism (which is often not commercially viable).

Now as print and Internet has much lower costs than broadcast, I don’t think opening up the field, would lead to a huge amount of money being drained from the broadcasters. Maybe a couple of million out of the tens of millions they grant every year.

Note this is not about increasing the total amount of funding for NZ on Air, but increasing the range of eligible applicants.

Someone like No Right Turn could (for example) have applied for a grant for his research and series of posts on the sedition laws (which helped lead to the law being unanimously repealed).

A newspaper could apply for a grant of say $25,000 to allow a journalist to spend three months working on a story about (for example) the immigration system.

There would be some challenges such as editorial independence, but I think it is a proposal worth considering. Why should TV and radio retain exclusive rights to NZOA funding?

It is worth mentioning that NZ on Air does sort of fund stuff on the Internet – the very worthy NZ on Screen archive of iconic NZ TV shows. However that is funding Internet storage and access of TV shows, which is different to funding contemporary material regardless of medium.

NZ on Air clears Lee

May 21st, 2009 at 12:09 pm by David Farrar

NZ on Air have stated:

A report conducted by NZ On Air into funding of Asia Downunder has found that the agency was not misled, and that there is no evidence public funding was misused.

Not misled and no evidence of misuse.

NZ On Air is satisfied that Ms Lee did not have editorial control for Asia Downunder programmes dealing with political matters, and that the systems put in place were robust, managed well by TVNZ  and Ms Jean, and willingly complied with by Ms Lee.

NZ On Air was not misled at any stage about Ms Lee’s intentions to stand for Parliament.

NZ On Air is satisfied that public funds intended for production of Asia Downunder were not misused.

They have also published their full report into the allegations. In the report they note TV3 did not contact NZ on Air before broadcasting the allegations.

They also note there a specific reference to the candidacy in the 26 August funding application.

So who should be apologing to Melissa Lee for their smears against her? Let us start with Phil Goff and his press release:

Does Melissa Lee’s use of taxpayer money to make the National Party video, including payment for the cost of staff and equipment, constitute a misuse of public funds?

Now note Goff stated as a fact that Lee used taxpayer money to make the video. That was wrong and he should apologise.

But worse is what Trevor Mallard said in Parliament:

Hon Phil Goff: Has the Prime Minister asked the Minister of Broadcasting to examine whether there have been any conflicts of interest or misuse of NZ On Air money to produce party political advertisements?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That would have been a matter for the previous Prime Minister to address, because the events being referred to, which were outside the House, occurred under the Labour Minister of Broadcasting.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: All around the House there will be order. A point of order is being taken.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I do take personal exception to that. If someone stole money on my watch—

Mallard is clearly implying that Lee stole money. He din’t quite state it explicitly but everyone knows what he meant.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I just want to make it clear that I regard as a personal reflection on me the suggestion that I should have stopped Melissa Lee using NZ On Air funding when she did not declare it.

NZ on Air have made it very clear her candidacy was declared and known.

and earlier:

Hon Trevor Mallard: As the former Minister of Broadcasting, I say that if that matter had been properly declared it would have been declared to me. Melissa Lee did not do so.

Yet NZ on Air say:

12. In late August 2008 NZ On Air received a funding application from AVL for production of the 2009 series in time for NZ On Air’s main ‘special interest’ funding round in October 2008. Funding applications for all special interest series planned for 2009 were required to be made to this round so NZ On Air could adequately assess competing proposals.

13. The application specifically stated that if Ms Lee entered Parliament she would stand down from producing the 2009 series if the funding application was successful, and that a permanent replacement producer for the show would be


AVL’s application for funding, received by NZ On Air on 26 August 2008, specifically stated that if Ms Lee entered Parliament she would stand down from producing the 2009 series, and that a permanent replacement producer for the show would be appointed.

If Goff and Mallard had just asked the Government if allegations were true, then that would be a different matter. But they both stated allegations as facts, and they got it wrong. Will either or both of them apologise?