A good crowd turned up today outside Radio New Zealand’s HQ in Hobson Street, Auckland to protest against the government’s planned cuts to the broadcasters already tight budget.
A good start, but we have to keep going and build the pressure. If you don’t do anything else, at least sign the online petition at Hands Off Our Dial
Jake and friends at the Auckland protest 1 March
Over 100 people gathered to hear a few short speeches and to let Broadcasting Minister Jonathon Coleman know that he won’t get away with his ‘slash and burn’ strategy.
The arguments for retaining – and extending – RNZ’s budget are not difficult. It is the national broadcaster and it provides a vital service for all New Zealanders.
As many speakers outlined, it is a service that we have come to rely on and Sunday’s Tsunami alerts and the special extended Sunday morning Morning Report are one example among many.
I supported the rally and made a few remarks of my own. The key message I wanted to get across was to point out that critics who say “Why should I pay for Radio New Zealand, when I can listen to commercial radio for free?” are actually totally wrong.
Commercial radio is not free. In fact, the clue is in the very name ‘commercial’ radio. Advertising is the lifeblood of the commercial media – the harvesting of eyeballs and ears. Without advertising there would be no commercial radio.
But who actually pays? Well, the advertisers do don’t they?
No, in fact we pay for commercial radio every time we buy a packet of busciuts at Pack’n'Save, or when we fill up our tanks with petrol.
Advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide and advertising or marketing budgets are built into the cost and price of every commodity we buy.
You see, we in fact pay and pay and pay again for advertising every day.
So commerical radio is not free and it costs us a lot more than the paltry amount of our taxes that currently goes to supporting Radio New Zealand.
The other point I made is that RNZ is on the bones of its arse already. It has suffered cuts now for a decade under both Labor and National governments.
No government in power likes the scrutiny and independent analysis that RNZ provides. It is an irritant to any government and that’s how it should be.
You can't argue with intelligence
So when a Labor MP says that her party fully supports RNZ, what does this mean?
If it’s to mean anything at all it must mean a Manifesto commitment to restore and extend RNZ funding if they’re re-elected.
So that RNZ can continue to provide the quality programming that it does. Who else is going to promote Kiwi music and art and science and so on?
But there’s another reason to increase the funding to RNZ – so that it can continue to innovate and to extend its services.
If you look at the Australian example – go on, just for a minute – you can see that the ABC provides local radio services to every major population centre across the country. This was invaluable during last summer’s dreadful bushfires. ABC local radio kept communities informed and saved many lives through providing up-to-the-minute news about fire fronts and rescue or evacuation plans.
Then there’s the youth network TripleJ. This is a fantastic service for the youth of Australia. It talks to them in the language they appreciate and it gives them access to useful public interest information. It helps young people connect with politics and the big ideas.
Finally, the ABC provides a fantastic online presence called Unleashed that creates the space for a truly national debate about politics, policies and culture.
Honest journalism without advertising. Now there's a thought
This is what RNZ should be doing to. For that it needs much more money.
I think it is a national shame that this government is hell-bent on cutting it even more.
I think that in Wellington the ACT Party tail is wagging the National dog. And it is a dog.
Now we have to keep the protests going and keep them growing. There’s a long way to go in this fight.
They say cut back, we say fight back.