Fighting for what?

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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