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.