NZ on Air going platform agnostic

Radio NZ reports:

is shaking up the way it spends public money on programmes. Mediawatchlooks at why the government’s broadcasting funding agency is making the change, and the potential pitfalls in the proposal.

Last weekend, Fairfax Media published a major investigation into racism in the justice system. At the heart of it was a 20 minute video for the stuff.co.nz website by journalists Paula Penfold and Eugene Bingham and videographer Toby Longbottom.

Just last year, all three were producing similar work for TV3’s prime time current affairs show 3D. NZ On Air funding supported the show’s journalism, but TV3 canned the programme because it didn’t attract enough viewers and advertising.

Traditional TV fare shifting online like this is one of the reasons NZ On Air is adopting a “platform agnostic” attitude and – as announced today – planning a move to a single public media fund.

Research on viewing habits commissioned by NZ On Air has shown New Zealanders – especially the young – are increasing going online for their screen time, using on-demand services like Netflix, Lightbox, Neon and YouTube.  

In the past, NZ On Air sought to ensure the public got bang for its bucks by ring-fencing most money for programmes screened by mass-audience free-to-air TV broadcasters such as TV3, TVNZ and Prime.

The proposed new NZ Media Fund will instead create four new streams – factual, scripted, music and platforms – which will mean television loses its place as the centre of gravity.

NZ On Air will still send big budgets to free-to-air broadcasters for TV shows, but online and on-demand services will also be able to bid for money to make a wider range of content.

In principle this is a good idea. If we are to have taxpayer funded content, then it shouldn’t be focused on broadcast media only. So this is sensible.

However as more diverse platforms emerge, it is important to have transparency over how many people view something funded by the taxpayer. Ratings are not the only criteria (as the point of funding is to help produce NZ content that may not be commercially viable) but it is important to understand how many people actually viewed something.

I’d like to see NZ on Air report annually (or more often) on every show funded by them, and including:

  1. Total contribution from NZ on Air
  2. Number of viewers (broadcast, streaming, online, download etc)
  3. Cost per viewer

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