Drinnan on Broadcasting Ministers

John Drinnan in his media column look at the last four Broadcasting Ministers.

First he looks at ’s game playing:

Television New Zealand is trying to outbid TV3 for rights to Fox Television programming – begging awkward questions about the taxpayers-can-pay logic underpinning the Kiwi television business.

The state broadcaster has been crying poor. It can’t deliver profits, it has to cut back its news operations and starting this year it needs taxpayer subsidies for the Sunday current affairs programme.

Yet TVNZ – which already holds the rights to Warner Bros and Disney content – is willing to bid tens of millions of dollars to challenge TV3 for shows like Boston Legal, House and The Simpsons.

They would fill TVNZ programming vaults to overflowing and devastate TV3. Then – a delicious irony this – the Government releases TVNZ submissions that accuse Television and its free channel, Prime, of being a domineering, acquisitive menace in the TV world.

Outraegous that TVNZ is trying to steal broadcasting rights off the sports codes who own them.

Then he looks at the Broadcasting Ministers:

: “Minister of Market Forces.”

Williamson was an admirer of entrepreneurs Craig Heatley and Terry Jarvis who started the pay-TV firm. Lack of regulation ensured that it was able to grow swiftly and unencumbered. To be fair, Williamson inherited a new system from Labour that was light on regulations Like Telecom, Sky was small, and during his era at least, no threat to anybody.

: “Minister of Muddles.”

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and there were lots of potholes during Marian Hobbs era as Broadcasting Minister. It was a period marked by muddled ideas about social and cultural goals mixed with overseeing the Beehive’s paybacks to TVNZ for imagined wrongs.

… In her era Labour killed off TVNZ’s early, flawed aspirations for a digital strategy to challenge Sky – which some believe was a missed opportunity.

: “Minister of Broadcasting Bureaucracy.”

Broadcasting was a minor portfolio for a busy minister; Maharey privately lamented the state of the portfolio he inherited from Hobbs. …

Maharey’s approach centred on giving TVNZ whatever cash it wanted with as little scrutiny as possible. An anti-Murdoch phobia held sway with the implementation of Freeview, a new platform for digital free-to-air television that would act as a counter to Sky.

: “Minister for Holding the Fort.”

Pragmatic Mallard is largely disinterested in his smallest portfolio, which he picked up when Maharey resigned from Parliament. Mallard was stunned by the “money for nothing” terms of state subsidies to TVNZ and approved by Maharey, and instituted changes.

I like the nicknames. So true.

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