A combined public service broadcaster?

John Drinnan writes:

Radio New Zealand faces a big makeover next year with the Government expected to merge the public radio operation with non-commercial TVNZ 7.

The plan is to create a new public broadcasting institution. Labour is understood to be broadly behind the merger.

Such a move is being challenged by TVNZ, which wants to keep government funding within its otherwise commercial focus. But surprisingly the biggest sceptics are within RNZ management.

A merger would mean a revamp of RNZ which has been caught in the cross-fire with Government demands that it works within existing budgets.

It would require the transfer of some TVNZ staff, and possible pay rises for some at RNZ, sources say. The new body would provide both radio and TV, though it is understood the Government is not yet convinced TVNZ should not be allowed to continue to provide some TVNZ 7 content.

A combined radio and TV operation makes sense, removing public service from the increasingly commercial focus of TVNZ while injecting fresh energy into RNZ.

I have been advocating this for well over a year. It is good to see both the Government, and Labour, looking favourably on doing this.

We spend a fairly large amount of money on public broadcasting – RNZ, NZ on Air, Maori TV, TVNZ 7. If you combine it all together you have the ability to have a pretty good budget for a combined public broadcaster. I recognize Maori TV won’t merge in at this stage, but no reason they can’t become a semi-autonomous channel within say the NZ Broadcasting Service?

Once the public broadcaster is established, I’d look favourably at floating some or all of TVNZ. It is effectively a fully commercial company and is not a public broadcaster. Radio NZ is. TVNZ 7 is. TVNZ as a whole is not.

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