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.

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Will Backbenches be saved?

July 6th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

John Drinnan writes at NZ Herald:

Plans for TVNZ to make Back Benches for Prime TV will deliver good public relations results all round and a pleasing result for the show’s loyal audience.

The politics programme, which is one of the last vestiges of television in Wellington, has screened on TVNZ 7 until it was discontinued last week.

It does not fit with TVNZ’s aims of making profit at all costs, so TVNZ is not interested in picking up the niche-interest show for TV One.

Prime TV is prepared to run a weekly 10.30pm show – a time when it should not be too encumbered with advertising.

So now TVNZ, which owns the intellectual property, has sought taxpayer funding from New Zealand On Air to make the show in-house and sell it to Prime.

This is a win-win-win. Worthy souls will applaud the survival of Back Benches. TVNZ and New Zealand On Air will do something to keep the legacy alive.

NZ on Air has to agree to the funding request, but I certainly hope they do.

As I understand it the bid is a co-operative exercise between TVNZ and Sky, and it would probably also show on a TVNZ channel at a delayed time spot.

The good thing is this bid, if successful, will open up viewership to a potentially much larger audience than TVNZ7 had.

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The final TVNZ7 Backbenches

June 27th, 2012 at 10:35 pm by David Farrar

Just finished watching the final episode of Backbenches, well on TVNZ7 anyway. I watched in on TV, as the Speights Ale House was crammed to capacity. A fair bit of the show ended up being filmed on the pavement outside after a fire alarm went out, providing an exciting end to the show on TVNZ7.

It is possible the show may get picked up by another broadcaster, but for now anyway it has ended after four and a bit years.

In the main, I’ve greatly enjoyed the show – both as a viewer, and occasional participant.    The after show drinking sessions ending up at Hummingbird have also been good!

I thought I would first start with the good. The two producers – Caroline and Mary-Anne – are always friendly, always professional, put together an excellent production and two really great people to boot.

The combination of Wallace and Damien worked well. Damien’s humour and Wallace’s engaging style produced a very watchable show.  I said to Wallace some years ago that one day I could see him on Close Up. I still hold to that view.

The floor manager and technical staff did an excellent job of live broadcasts from a non-studio. The Backbenches pub was a great venue for the show, as has been Speights Ale House for the last three weeks.

I think it was a great thing that we had a show, where any member of the public could turn up at the pub, and see four MPs debate the week’s issues, and meet and chat to them before hands and afterwards. There are few countries that have their MPs so accessible. I recall one show on a day the House rose early, and there were over 40 MPs at the Backbencher.

I also think the show was great for MPs, especially well backbenchers. Previously some MPs would never have to debate on live television until they were a Minister – and normally only if they are in the crap! It’s good training for MPs.

So many good things about Backbenchers, and I will miss it. But there were two or three issues which did detract from it.

The first is the behaviour of some in the audience. We saw this tonight where they booed and hissed as Peter Dunne got introduced. I will heckle (hopefully something humourous) an MP when they say something worth heckling, but would never ever boo or hiss an MP – as would be the case for most people. But the partisan activists who regularly jeer, boo and hiss those they disagree with did the show a dis-service. And if no other broadcaster does pick up the show, then I happen to know their behaviour has been an element in that. Certain broadcasting executives have commented on some of the appalling rudeness.

Linked to that, is the composition of the audience has changed over the four years. There has always been a hard core group of activists from the right and left who have turned up, which is good. But there used to also be a lot of non-activists turn up, who just wanted to experience the show. Over time it seems there were fewer of those, and the audiences became more and more the partisan activists.

Another issue for me has been the composition of the panels, since the 2011 election. The formula has always been one MP per party. Up until the 2011 election this would normally mean two Government MPs and two Opposition MPs. After ACT lost all their backbenches in 2011, the result has been almost every panel has been three opposition MPs and one Government MP. It could have been worth allowing two MPs from National, or alternatively having just three MPs on the panel, so it is slightly less lop sided.

As I said, it is possible Backbenches will continue on another channel. I hope it does. While I have highlighted some issues (I’d solve the booing issue by having the cameras do close up focuses on those doing it), I definitely think overall it has become a fun part of New Zealand politics.

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Fighting for what?

June 18th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

 Lobby group Save TVNZ7 has hired high-profile constitutional lawyer Mai Chen to examine whether the Government has acted lawfully in its decision to axe funding for the free-to-air channel.

The media are so gullible at times. This, like most of the Save TVNZ7 campaign, is a media stunt.  The decision to not grant additional funding to TVNZ7 (Labour only granted limited duration funding) was taken well over a year ago – and well before the last election. If there was any serious issue about the legality of doing so, then it would have been challenged at the time.  The channel ceases in 12 days, and this is just about whipping up a cheap headline. Well not necessarily cheap – Mai’s normal hourly fee could probably fund TVNZ7 for a month :-(This is a joke – I have no idea what Mai’s fees are).

While I am not a lawyer, and have great respect for Mai’s public law knowledge, I have to say I struggle to see how one can say the Government may have acted illegally in deciding not to fund something. Again, if there was a serious question of this I would have expected it to be looked at well before now.

It was vital that public service television was retained because without it New Zealand was left with only commercial broadcasters.

I agree. And we have masses of public service television funded by NZ on Air – such as Media 3 which will now enjoy a larger audience and more influence.

“That means our news is prey to commercial interests and everything is simplified because commercial programmes don’t want anyone to change channel.

Which is exactly why TVNZ7 was doomed. It was on a broadcaster which had no interest in having people watch it. How many times do you have to state the obvious – a broadcaster can not be both a commercial broadcaster and a public service broadcaster.

If you want public service television, there are really only two sustainable models. The first is the NZ on Air contestable funding model which allows all broadcasters to air public service programmes that are not commercially viable.

The second is a dedicated stand alone broadcaster. That will cost around $200m to $250m or so a year.

Labour’s broadcasting spokeswoman, Clare Curran, said public broadcasting was crucial for New Zealand’s culture and heritage.

“The Government doesn’t seem to understand there are many thousands of New Zealanders who believe public broadcasting is a right of citizenship.”

Well first of all it is no such thing. Your rights are freedom of speech, liberty etc etc. Please do not invent rights.

What I would agree with Clare on is that public broadcasting is a good thing. Just as funding the conservation estate is a good thing. I don’t know any National Minister who thinks the Government should not fund public broadcaasting.

But that is very different from trying to have TVNZ be both a commercial and public service broadcaster. Everyone from Ian Fraser on has said it does not work. How many times do you need to fail to understand that?

Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss said TVNZ7 was set up with time-limited funding in 2006 to encourage people to “go digital” ahead of the digital switchover.

“The Government values Kiwi content and invests $230m each year on public broadcasting and supporting New Zealand content on our screens.”

So it is not a choice between public broadcasting and no public broadcasting. It is not even much of a debate over the level of investment in public broadcasting. It is a debate about how best to deliver it. And the TVNZ7 model is not the way to do it.

Recent audience data shows TVNZ7′s audience has grown from 863,100 last year to 1.47 million, comparable with the audience of Maori Television.

Oh for fuck’s sake if you are going to quote a dodgy stat, at least define what it is. This is “cumulative” monthly audience which means someone who tuned in to one programme for 15 minutes gets treated the same as someone who watches a channel for five hours a day, 30 days a month. It is a near meaningless statistic.

Kiwiblog’s total cumulative audience is 2.3 million or so, if I wanted to inflate my numbers.

With television, always ask for the actual population share of their highest rating programme. Does TVNZ7 have a single programme that ever attracted over 1% of the population?

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Throng on Media7

June 15th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Throng blogs:

For the second time this weekMartyn Bradburyhas lashed out at a TV network that doesn’t employ him.  While his initial ire was towards TVNZ for failing to keep TVNZ7 running, it has now been directed towards NZ On Air (One of his employers?) and a different network that has stepped in to act as saviour for one of the channel’s shows when it goes dark.

I think this shows that the Save TVNZ7 movement is all about ego and politics, and has little to do with an actual desire to have good public broadcasting in NZ.

If a Saturday morning show on TV3 is the ghetto, what then does that make the unpromoted TVNZ7?  As David Farrar pointed out recently, the “others” rating of which Media7 is included in, is a fraction of what the commercial networks pull.  It isn’t unreasonable to expect that the audience TV3 will deliver to Media 3 on a Saturday morning will be higher than what the audience would have been on TVNZ7.  Certainly the Sunday night encore will be bigger.  You also have to wonder whether Media 3 will also deliver news bites for 6pm in a similar fashion as The Nation does.

Being on TV3 will give Media 7/3 not just higher ratings, but more impact. If a guest on the show says something newsworthy, it may then end up on the network news that night.

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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 tv3.co.nz.

“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.

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The actual ratings for TVNZ7

June 11th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

One of the stats that should never see the light of day is monthly cumulative audience. It is a meaningless figure which counts someone who watched 15 minutes of a programme once during a month the same as someone who tunes in for three hours a day, 30 days a month (watches 360 times as much).

Cumulative figures mean almost nothing, except to get very large numbers. The cumulative unique audience for Kiwiblog is 2.78 million people. That is double the 1.4 million monthly cumulative audience for TVNZ7.

What matters is actual shows, and how many watch a show. People watch shows, not channels. I have long said that I think there were some good quality shows on TVNZ7, but the idea of a separate non-commercial channel as part of a commercial broadcaster was incredibly stupid. Those who really care about public broadcasting should be trying to get a better model going forward, not trying to preserve a failed model. TVNZ was never going to promote shows on TVNZ7, which might take people away from TV1 and TV2. What you actually want is to get those shows on TV1 or TV3 or Sky, or even on the Internet.

Now to provide some hard data on viewership, I’m going to blog the ratings for most of the shows that were broadcast the week before last in the evenings, so people can see the audience differences. Now note TVNZ7 is so small it does not even get rated seperately, it comes under “Others”. So the viewing figure for others is the maximum TVNZ7 shows got.

The channels Neilsen reports on are TVOne, TV2, TV3, Prime, Maori TV, Sky, Others.

Viewer numbers for Tuesday were:

  • Tuesday One News 773,000
  • Shortland Street 712,000
  • Masterchef 619,000
  • Tuesday Close Up 487,000
  • Intrepid Journeys 452,000
  • The Middle 429,000
  • 3 News 411,000
  • Target 388,000
  • NCIS 371,000
  • Suburgatory 331,000
  • NCIA: LA 303,000
  • Campbell Live 270,000
  • Funny Roots 270,000
  • Coppers 249,000
  • GCB 230,000
  • Friends 164,000
  • Bee Gees 164,000
  • River Cottage 123,000
  • Necessary Roughness 123,000
  • Neighbours 90,000
  • Others (incl TVNZ7) at 9.30 when Good Word is on) 82,000
  • Deal or No Deal 78,000
  • Crowd Goes Wild 37,000
  • Whose Line is it 29,000

For Wednesday it is:

  • Wednesday One News 725,000
  • Shortland Street 618,000
  • Fair Go 593,000
  • Animal rescue 585,000
  • Big Bang Theory 507,000
  • Two and a half men 495,000
  • Wednesday Close Up 470,000
  • 2 Broke Girls 454,000
  • Undercover Boss 427,000
  • 3 News 338,000
  • Castle 327,000
  • Campbell Live 258,000
  • The GC 245,000
  • Road Cops 221,000
  • Hell’s Kitchen 221,000
  • Friends 192,000
  • Almighty Johnsons 166,000
  • Breakout Kings 150,000
  • WWII in Colour 82,000
  • Deal or No Deal 78,000
  • Wuthering Heights 70,000
  • Others (incl TVNZ7) from 9.00 to 10.00 when Backbenches is on) 65,000
  • QI 41,000
  • Whose Line is it 33,000
  • Crowd Goes Wild 29,000

Now recall again that Others is actually for all channels outside the main TVNZ ones, TV3, TV4, Sky and Maori TV. This includes TVNZU, TVNZ kidzone24, TVNZ7, TVNZ Heartland, Trackside, Choice, Parliament TV, Cue, Te Reo, ShineTV, CTV8, Ch9, Centre Stage, 33 TV, Channel North, Triangle TV. So the actual TVNZ7 numbers may be just a small fraction of “others”, which is already tiny.

Even all grouped together, the only shows on that evening which rate lower are those on Prime. And it not just just about the time of night. At 9 pm and 9.30 pm you often have 35% to 30% of New Zealanders still watching TV.

Now again the issue is not the quality of the TV shows. The issue was placing them as part of TVNZ on a non-commercial channel within a commercial company. It was never going to work.

Taxpayers spend $150 million a year on public broadcasting. There is no reason some of those shows which were on TVNZ7 can’t be funded, if a broadcaster is willing to host them. Setting the shows free from TVNZ7 might be the best thing which could happen to them.

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Drinnan on Save TVNZ7

May 18th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

John Drinnan writes in the Herald:

Since this column started nearly six years ago it has maintained there is demand for a non-commercial TV channel in New Zealand.

I agree. But it must not be part of TVNZ. You can not be a commercial broadcaster and a public service broadcaster.

On Tuesday, the Save TVNZ 7 group held a meeting in Auckland, the first of many around the country, which happily was more focused on building momentum to make public television an election issue in 2014, rather than reviving TVNZ 7.

Of course it is. The campaign is purely about the election, not about saving TVNZ7 whose funding decision was announced well before the last election.

But I was struck by a few things as I listened to the debate. The first was the age of the audience. Which is understandable since older people are naturally ignored by commercial television programmers. Few young people seem to be upset by the absence of non-commercial TV.

The second aspect of the audience was race – appearances can be deceptive but I saw just two people who were not Pakeha. This may be due to the fact that Maori have their own channel, while Chinese and Indians have developed their own channels and programming on Triangle TV. But different ethnicities would clearly have added fresh ideas.

It was also worrying that there seemed to be a party political bias in the crowd – veering to the left. Public television should allow all perspectives.

So it was a bunch of grumpy old leftwing whities. Most of them probably think Coronation Street should be on for two hours a night.

There seemed no acknowledgement of the concept of personal video recorders, of the internet and the development of internet TV.

The danger is that some supporters want a TV channel that is just right for them, supported by taxpayers. Users of Apple TV and YouTube are doing just that by choosing the content themselves. There are lots of options for public television.

The reality is the average programme on TVNZ7 was watched by a miniscule number of people. Between 0.1% and 0.4% of the population. This is not because they programmes were not good, but because the concept of having them within TVNZ was fatally flawed, as TVNZ has no interest in promoting those shows rather than ones with more advertising dollars.

But it is a myth that the demise of TVNZ7 is the end of public broadasting, and more than the myth there was none until we had TVNZ7. The taxpayer currently spends a significant $150m on public broadcasting.

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Throng on TVNZ7

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

A sensible post by Throng on TVNZ7:

Q. Does Throng believe TVNZ7 should be saved?
A. No.

Q. Does Throng believe there should be a Public Broadcasting TV channel?
A. Yes.

This is also my position.

So with such positives, why do we not support TVNZ7 being saved?  The primary reason is due to the first four letters of the channel’s name.

When the Labour government established both TVNZ6 and TVNZ7 and the channels were launched on the Freeview platform, there was much fanfare about an alternative to subscription-based television. However, due to the poor broadcasting policies of both the former and current governments, TVNZ has found itself caught in the middle of striving for commercial success and being a public broadcaster.  The reality is that they simply cannot do both.

TVNZ were never going to drive viewers away from their highly rating, ad supported channels.
TVNZ7 was doomed to near invisibility and the critics’ ire.

Exactly. Again this is a point I have often made. Those who mindlessly call out to save TVNZ7 are being reactionary. A public service channel should have nothing to do with TVNZ (which personally should be sold, with the capital going into a proper public service broadcaster).

It is time the confusion was ended and there be a separation between TVNZ’s role as a public broadcaster and a commercial entity.  If they are there to make a profit, let them do it but let’s not pretend any longer that they can do that and have success as a public broadcaster at the same time.

Indeed.

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TVNZ7

April 17th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve blogged at length before on TVNZ7. I have praised a number of programmes on TVNZ7, but noted that their audiences were miniscule (seem to range from 0.1% to 0.4% of the population) and that trying to make TVNZ both a commercial and a public service broadcaster is doomed to failure (as former CEO Ian Fraser has noted).

I’d like to see other broadcasters (including Sky) apply to NZ on Air to broadcast some of the better shows that were on TVNZ7 such as Court Report, Media 7, Backbenchers and The Last Word. But at this stage I’ve not heard any are.

Clare Curran has blogged a number of things:

I am drafting a private members bill which would ensure TVNZ7 had adequate funding to continue. But a private members bill goes into a ballot with around 60 other bills and it’s the luck of the draw as to whether it gets pulled out. If it did, it would be interesting to see the support for TVNZ7 and public service television across the House. I think the government might find itself outnumbered.

The bill has no chance of achieving anything, and is a last minute publicity stunt (nothing wrong with those, but let’s not pretend it is something different). The bill hasn’t even been drafted yet (most MPs draft the bill then announce it), and could not possibly be passed by 30 June. Hell even it was drawn out of the ballot, I doubt it would even have its first reading by 30 June.

There are two schools of thought. The government’s view  is that public service television can continue to be funded by NZ on Air funding programmes on commercial channels. The problem with this is that the most interesting programmes are not shown in prime time.

True, but with the growing use of PVRs and TV on demand on the Internet this is less of a problem.

There’s a strong argument for a complete revamp of the sector and the Broadcasting Act. For a  new independent public service TV channel separate from TVNZ. For requiring commercial channels, including the pay TV channel Sky to contribute. For even a small levy on internet connections to enable a new service to embrace the broadband environment and develop more Kiwi content that is accessible to Kiwis.

I really do hope Labour adopt this Internet tax as policy and campaign on it.

I am not against there being a public service television broadcaster, but the appropriate funding mechanism would be taxes – just as Radio NZ and Maori TV are funded. And no I do not advocate increased funding in these tight fiscal times. I think one could seriously look at a ABC or BBC style combined radio and television broadcaster within the current Vote Broadcasting.

There’s a strong view that if TVNZ7 was able to continue, and however it is funded, it should be completely separate from TVNZ control and influence.

I agree with that. You can not be a public service broadcaster and a commercial broadcaster. Choose one, not both.

Clare quotes Judy Callingham:

The channel itself should be a  totally separate entity, run by a separate organisation. Whether that’s a trust, a government entity or a company is a detail that can be worked out later. What is important now is to remove the channel from the control of TVNZ  altogether – mere editorial independence isn’t enough.

The separate entity could still use TVNZ studios and staff and equipment if need be.  It would hire them, just as private companies do. It would, and should, expect mates’ rates, but it shouldn’t expect to use the facilities for nothing, although perhaps the cost could be absorbed and become a paper addition to TVNZ’s annual dividend.

This would never work long-term in my opinion. TVNZ would always prioritize itself and other customers over an entity paying very little for its facilities.

Also this model overlooks one of the reasons why TVNZ7 had such dismal ratings. TVNZ never promoted TVNZ programmes in prime time on other channels. Trying to run a stand-alone broadcaster on $15m a year would inevitably fail. This is why the model of a larger combined pubic service broadcaster is better. One could promote the better TV programmes on radio, and vice-versa. There would also be synergies where (for example) something shown on the Court report could be followed up on Radio NZ the next day. When did you ever see One News follow up something from TVNZ7? Very rare.

Going on about “saving” TVNZ7 sounds good, but it was always a flawed model. What the debate should be about is how to best get quality public service programmes onto television. Is it purely NZ on Air or should it be all through a dedicated public service broadcaster or something inbetween? And how do you make it affordable in our current fiscal environment.

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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.

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