Will Labour end up killing off private TV news?

Mark Jennings writes:

Mediaworks CEO Michael Anderson is about to go to war with the Government over RNZ’s planned new TV venture.

“It won’t work and it puts at risk the very thing they want – diversity.”

Anderson says Labour has failed to think through the consequences of its plan to sink $38 million into a new public service television channel called RNZ+.

“This is one of the most pivotal points for media in the country’s history. We have real scale (audience size) issues in New Zealand and free-to-air TV is going to be really challenged in the next few years. Further fragmentation is going to create very serious stress.”

If this sounds like a man who is worried about the future of his TV network (Mediaworks owns Three and Bravo) then Anderson is frank in his assessment: “Is the business model challenged? Yes.”

Anderson said Three was in the same boat as other free-to-air (FTA) networks around the world.

“We need to look at doing things differently but we need to buy ourselves some runway, we need to buy time.”

The Government, he said, should step back and reconsider RNZ+.

“I’m worried that we could accidentally be wiped into oblivion by a decision that hasn’t been worked through.”

“Government already own five channels (TV1, TV2, Duke, RNZ and Māori TV) in a country of only 4.5 million people.

“I’m not against giving RNZ some more money to continue to develop the platforms it is doing really well on – radio and online – it does a great job. But another FTA TV channel doesn’t make sense.”

Michael Anderson has a valid point. TV broadcasters are already struggling and pouring taxpayers money into a state funded competitor could well see private news broadcasters fail. TV3 is in a precarious state and Sky TV not that healthy either.

You could end up with the only news TV broadcasters in NZ being owned by the Government – TV1, Radio NZ and Maori TV.

This may of course be a target, not a bug. Labour has always preferred state owned broadcasters as they by default favour parties that promise more and more state funding.

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