During last year’s election campaign, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern pledged an additional $38 million – annually, it appeared – for a public broadcasting sector whose budget had been frozen for nine years of a National-led government. It was welcome news and in keeping with past Labour rhetoric. It came packaged with a new, multimedia vision for Radio New Zealand.
And it is now a broken promise.
Curran fairly basked in the appreciation of the audience as she reiterated the promise that there would be $38 million in new funding, to be shared between RNZ and NZ On Air. But, she said, beaming as if it was a feature not a bug, she couldn’t tell us what the split would be.
The kind explanation would be that, per the policy, funding was to be distributed by a new Public Media Funding Commission, whose shape and composition was yet unknown. But the minister’s inability to say how much the two country’s two major public broadcasting organisations would receive has meant that those two organisations have been unable to properly plan their year ahead.
This is a salient point. If you don’t know how much funding you will have, then it is very difficult to plan.
As delivered today, the Budget contains only $15 million in new funding for public broadcasting services – and it’s still not clear where the money will go.
So actually Radio NZ for now has the exact same budget as under National!
Now, hold on. The advisory group is going to determine where the new funding will go? Wasn’t the advisory group established to advise on the goals and composition of the Public Media Funding Commission, which was going to allocate the funding?
One problem here is that the advisory group quite evidently isn’t constituted to allocate funding itself.
Sounds like the advisory group is now going to do the job of the entity the group is meant to be setting up.
As Jacinda Ardern herself said back in September when she announced the policy, RNZ “has been chronically under-funded since 2007.”
I fully expected this Budget to be a relatively conservative one, and that Grant Robertson would use it to demonstrate his capacity for restraint and responsibility. So maybe we write off the missing $23 million to that. But offering RNZ nothing in rescue funding until an advisory group has decided something, some time in the next year, is not competent, prudent, fair or in keeping with Labour’s rhetoric.
That’s a pretty harsh critique of the Government – incompetent, unfair and imprudent.
The broadcasting element of this government’s first Budget really is a shambles.
What I would be doing is selling off TVNZ (while you can) and putting the money from that sale towards funding public broadcasting.