Public service broadcasting – Government serving New Zealand poorly

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It was amusing to see Helen Clark defending Radio New Zealand in the paper this morning. It’s too bad that her Labour government didn’t do more to protect it and insulate it from the current campaign of a thousand deadly cuts when it had the chance.

I don’t always like Morning Report, but it is essential listening in my house every day and I try to catch Checkpoint as often as I can too. I’ve always been a strong supporter of public broadcasting and no matter how much I might disagree with the analysis and angles, or how much I am annoyed by fatuous or bullying interviewers I love and cherish Radio New Zealand.

I like the news and current affairs service, I love Mediawatch and I don’t mind some of the weekend shows – the book readings, science, technology and arts programming. It is all important, well-made and essential to maintaining a vibrant, eclectic and democratic public sphere in New Zealand.

In fact, we can probably make a strong case that Radio New Zealand is taonga.

RNZ is particularly important given what I regard as the abysmal state of television current affairs reporting and the limitations of TV news bulletins. I grew up with the ABC in Australia and worked there for nearly 10 years in news and CAff and while I don’t think the Kiwi versions are really as good, I appreciate what I’ve got and would be angry if it were taken away.

I agree totally with my Unitec colleague Peter Thompson and his assessment of the issues currently facing RNZ and the New Zealand listening public.

…the government’s move to restrict the funding of New Zealand’s national public service broadcaster and encouragement to move toward commercial sources of revenue is tantamount to direct interference in its operational decision making. If one joins the dots, it is clear that the government’s refusal to increase RNZ’s funding, even when independent reports confirm current levels are inadequate, will have predictable and deleterious consequences for the range and quality of content the broadcaster can deliver…

[Joining the dots, Scoop 19 Feb 2010]

This has to be totally unacceptable. Incumbent governments of any stripe don’t really like independent, publicly-funded media outlets because, unlike their commercial cousins, they are technically free to report and broadcast without fear or favour. Of course, in the case of TVNZ this is constrained by the all-but commercial nature of what it does, including the requirement that it deliver a return on investment to the very government that controls the purse strings.

I think it’s time to step up on this issue before it’s too late.

You can start by adding your thoughts on the Herald‘s opinion and comment blog. Please do it. We need to counteract this kind of un-informed codswollop:

The state has no business running mass media. The sooner it stops the better. Public broadcasting gives faceless grey bureaucrats the ability to enforce their views on the masses.

And this:

Maybe they feel their isn’t much point?! Propaganda is pumped out through largely left wing editorialised jouralism anyway.

I love it when dribblejaws complain about institutionalised leftwing bias in public broadcasters. It really isn’t there, it’s just that because they don’t often parrot the rightwing crap from talkback, it sounds leftwing. Most analysis of alleged leftwing bias in public broadcasting finds that it’s a convenient myth trotted out by rightwing think-tanks and taken up by those tuned to dogwhistle politics.

When the odious John Howard was Prime Minister, he did his best to nobble the ABC, appointing disgusting conservative culture warriors to the board and hacking at the budgets constantly. I’m sure we can expect Key to do the same. My bet is that some grubby ACT acolyte will get on to the RNZ board. I’m sure Key would have liked to appoint someone like Ms Boag, but her boat has sailed (none too soon).

Whoever it is will be a ruthless and pro-business lobbyist and their riding instructions will be to gut the place even further.

One Response to Public service broadcasting – Government serving New Zealand poorly

  1. […] My colleague at Unitec Peter Thompson has written on this topic many times and I’ve always supported his very sound analysis. He argues that public broadcasting is being gutted and he’s right. He’s also done the […]

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