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Speaker: Broadcasting and the Public Interest

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  • BenWilson, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    an important function of state broadcasters of record is their role in disasters, and radio and broadcast TV are relatively robust in the face of disaster.

    This is important, as is the question of access. Considering that it took well over 8 weeks for my broadband to get connected at home, despite all the physical infrastructure being in place already, and someone in a remote location perhaps having no internet connection at all, there's still a place for this "obsolete" technology. And the radio works in my car, and is still a good way to listen to the news without killing oneself fiddling with a device. I confess to reading Twitter while driving a lot - when in traffic jams mostly - but on the motorway good old fashioned newsreading makes commuting much more bearable.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10504 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    As long as the management was on board with the vision then I think any reasonable mixed use structure could be managed.

    Just echoing what Damien and Russell have said. This kind of thing could work well BUT it needs the right CEO.

    From my experience in a CRI most CEOs are fundamentally accountants in nature. They focus on "business" and most Boards of Directors are the same. In that environment the "purpose" of the organisation gets lost.

    When you have a CEO committed to what the organisation is actually meant to do, be it science or public broadcasting, you have a much stronger chance of getting the desired outcome. There are always plenty of accountants hovering around to make sure the business is OK but without that genuine commitment from the CEO to a goal bigger than simply making more dollars you quickly become just another business.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4364 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Lynn Yum,

    I agree that local programming is more than just journalism, so TOP’s focus is just too narrow. So what exactly do people want from a public broadcaster that reflect NZ culture in the first place? More Masterchef NZ? The Block? Shorty Street? Can someone provide some concrete example? You look at BBC, they do everything under the sun, from nature doco to Doctor Who. They even commissioned Top of the Lake. Are we expecting a NZ public broadcaster to do THAT kind of range?

    Masterchef, The Block and Shorty Street? Yes, sure, why not!?

    I don't know how we judge what's worth making, but in a broad sense I think anything that puts New Zealander's on screen, or tell New Zealand stories is worth considering.

    But certainly the idea that only journalism and educational documentaries are worthy is silly. Reality TV can be amazingly good at connecting people to others who are different from themselves, for example.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 306 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    From my experience in a CRI most CEOs are fundamentally accountants in nature. They focus on "business" and most Boards of Directors are the same. In that environment the "purpose" of the organisation gets lost.

    Well I think the issue is that CEOs and boards are concerned with meeting objectives and delivering outcomes and all that.

    As it stands, the objective of TVNZ (and most SOEs, or whatever we call them now) is profit. If TVNZ's objectives were changed and outcomes were measured against metrics around public interest broadcasting then CEOs and Boards would work toward those.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 306 posts Report Reply

  • Lynn Yum, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    But certainly the idea that only journalism and educational documentaries are worthy is silly. Reality TV can be amazingly good at connecting people to others who are different from themselves, for example.

    What I want to get at is to ask how we should see a public broadcaster in a NZ market environment. My understanding is that there are at least two kinds of thought as to what public broadcasters should do:

    1. the public broadcaster should plug the gap left untouched by commercial broadcasters. (i.e. public broadcaster addresses the market failure in the cultural space).

    2. the public broadcaster should just be broadly representative of NZ culture, regardless of what commercial broadcasters are doing.

    For case #1, if Masterchef et. al. is already commercially viable, the public broadcaster would not do those, and should do programming that otherwise would not have been commercially viable but still reflective of NZ, like nature doco, or investigative journalism that doesn't pay the bills but still valuable. The public broadcaster would NOT be competing with the commercial broadcasters.

    For case #2, it would be the BBC model. It will be directly competing with commercial broadcasters. My understanding is that commercial broadcasters in UK always cry foul that BBC is taking their lunch because BBC is subsidised by taxpayers (licensing fee) while commercial broadcasters have to stand on their their own feet.

    Case #1 would sound to me politically and economically plausible. Politically the right (with some convincing) will support that. The left will be on board by default. And the funding required would also be less than case #2 because case #1 is not doing the full spectrum of programming, just special interest programming. But this kind of public broadcaster may be typecast as elitist because it will NEVER do popular programme in principle. It is to plug the market failure.

    Case #2 would cost a lot, but public broadcaster in this role is truly representative of NZ. (That would be reverting TVNZ back to the big state broadcaster as opposed to de facto commercial broadcaster it now is.) The problem with this politically is from the right: that in a free society, the state should not fund a broadcaster providing ONE voice that claims to be representative of NZ. Unlike CCTV in China or Russia Today (or even BBC), it should be up to the people (and the market) to decide what NZ culture should be.

    Looming above all this is how technology is changing the media landscape, where every broadcaster is bleeding into the territory of another via the internet. I get that not all people use the internet to access the media (by choice or due to circumstance), but the trend to convergence is here, and I think it should be a factor in deciding what public broadcaster should be and how it is funded.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2016 • 37 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*,

    I just can’t take TVNZ seriously as a provider of any kind of public service. It’s a commercial broadcaster owned by the government.

    Whatever value TVNZ has, it’s commercial, not civic.

    So perhaps the debate on whether to keep it or not could be held solely on commercial terms, not civic.

    The civic need for quality media is just as urgent - and unmet - regardless who owns TVNZ.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 400 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready,

    Great post and discussion. A tangent here. The evening TV news stories and even their ordering are so identical across stations as to be more than a coincidence. What's going on?

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 111 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    the state should not fund a broadcaster

    The BBC has cutouts that are (supposed to) protect it from political influence. For instance, presenters in news and current affairs are not allowed to disclose political opinions: a Paul Henry or Mike Hoskyns would not be employed by the BBC (or indeed in UK commercial TV), except maybe in light entertainment.

    Of course, the BBC does centre itself around a "mainstream" position, as you might expect.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5539 posts Report Reply

  • sandra,

    Does anyone know why TVNZ doesn't dip into its (presumed) cache of great documentary programming from the past and sell DVD series? I'm particularly thinking of all the great documentaries screened in 1990. I was living back in NZ for the first time in 10 years and lapped it up. There must be money to be made there ...

    tauranga • Since Dec 2011 • 70 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to Kevin McCready,

    The evening TV news stories and even their ordering are so identical across stations as to be more than a coincidence.

    It's not a coincidence. Both networks are lining up stories according to a well established set of new values. Are they colluding or communicating these decisions to each other? No. But without seeing the news tonight, I'm guessing both led with about ten minutes on Christchurch fires, then the Cadbury closure... close? After that you'll find it gets a bit more random. Sometimes the two have different lead stories, where one has polling done, or an exclusive, or just got better pictures of a big event.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1162 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to sandra,

    There must be money to be made there …

    There's not. The DVD market isn't what it used to be, and people's interest in watching old 4:3 ratio docos from 20 years or more ago is pretty limited. These things are usually better in one's memory than in reality - this coming from someone who's spent more time than most trawling the archive for gems.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1162 posts Report Reply

  • sandra, in reply to Damian Christie,

    Thanks Damian.

    tauranga • Since Dec 2011 • 70 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to James Littlewood*,

    I just can’t take TVNZ seriously as a provider of any kind of public service. It’s a commercial broadcaster owned by the government.

    Yes, that is currently by design. It's meant to be solely commercial. But it can be changed simply by passing new legislation.

    Whatever value TVNZ has, it’s commercial, not civic.

    So perhaps the debate on whether to keep it or not could be held solely on commercial terms, not civic.

    Then it becomes just another asset sale. Currently TVNZ returns $10-20m a year to the government. Hard to say would it would fetch as a salable asset.

    But if we sell it then we lose all the people, equipment, institutional knowledge and other assets it holds internally that could be used to deliver a civic service.

    Instead if we were then to start a new public service broadcaster we would be starting from nothing, into a crowded market, trying to secure talent from existing commercial broadcasters.

    We already have all those resources - why throw them away just to start again?

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 306 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to sandra,

    Does anyone know why TVNZ doesn't dip into its (presumed) cache of great documentary programming from the past and sell DVD series? I'm particularly thinking of all the great documentaries screened in 1990. I was living back in NZ for the first time in 10 years and lapped it up. There must be money to be made there ...

    TVNZ doesn't really have any trouble making money (well, no more than any broadcaster in the current age).

    But ultimately that is not commercially viable. However if TVNZ were again directed to have a public interest objective, rather than a purely commercial one, then it might make more sense for them to make those things available even where the commercial return wasn't good.

    That said - most of the archive content is now managed by Nga Taonga. And they are taking steps toward making more available I believe. And a lot of stuff is online through NZ On Screen

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 306 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Lynn Yum,

    *Put hand up*. Same here. The change of media landscape driven by technology needs to be factored in when it comes to what to do with TVNZ.

    Me too. I get that broadcast TV is still a thing for many people, but with respect I wonder if Dylan's assessment skipped around that there are apparently increasing portions of society who simply don't tune into the traditional format of television. What's the role of public broadcasting when large numbers of people don't access it, nor necessarily even realise it's there? ...not necessarily because they actively choose to watch alternatives, but because it doesn't fit with how they live their lives.

    I still do watch broadcast TV, and I want good and high quality programmes to be made which are relevant to New Zealand, but I'm finding that sitting down at specific times to stare at a screen works less and less. I know TVNZ OnDemand is there, but (unlike RNZ where I often catch up on stuff I missed) I've noticed I'm also almost never going there to catch up on what was broadcast previously.

    Only introspectively, the reasons for that often seem to be little things. For example, despite now having an unlimited internet plan (which was previously a barrier), we'd probably watch much more of TVNZ OnDemand if it actually offered good support for Chromecasting. But, aside from a really clunky generic method which most devices we have aren't powerful enough to handle nicely, it doesn't. For reasons I can't totally place, there also just doesn't seem to be an obvious way I've found to actually keep it in front of me where I see stuff and know it's there to watch.

    RNZ is an interesting case IMO, because they have evolved with technology, and they have a wide variety of programmes. Not glossy TV programme with fancy graphics.

    RNZ's awesome. I listen to it a lot, almost entirely streaming. I also very rarely go specifically to RNZ to listen to it, and yet I don't think I miss out, which for me seems to be a big difference between how I consume RNZ versus TVNZ. Maybe I'll go to the app or the website if I missed the news bulletin and want to hear it 15 minutes later (RNZ makes it really easy to do this... which is good because its news gets straight to the point without being so strung out and sensationalist!), or want to look up a programme I missed or saw referenced & recommended. Maybe I'll open YouTube if Checkpoint's talking about some video content that sounds interesting. Most of the time in my case, though, I just don't go directly to RNZ to listen to it. It sits alongside a bunch of other streaming radio stations which I organise through a third party tunein.com service.


    TVNZ just doesn't seem to make its visible and available the way RNZ does. It's probably arrogant to assume that exactly what suits me would suit the whole demographic of people who don't watch broadcast TV, but more generally I wonder if accessibility is a big thing that needs to be worked on. Also, these days what's the distinction between a public TV broadcaster and a public radio broadcaster?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1104 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to izogi,

    TVNZ just doesn't seem to make its visible and available the way RNZ does.

    Territorial content licensing restrictions could be a big part of that, I imagine.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19413 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    Just as an aside.

    Beyond simply informing the public there is also benefit in entertaining the public. Currently NZ On Air does an admirable job of this, and once TVNZ was returned to its commercial operation its $15 million in Charter funding went to NZ On Air, which made it available to all broadcasters in the hope of reaching the widest audiences.

    As admirable as NZOA’s job is, what is the deal with the widest kiwi audience and their hard-on for 1990’s rape gags? Prison rape is a tried and tested comedy trope, but when pandering to the lowest common denominator and addessing purely public service interests collide, how could things be improved in that regard?

    Despite a lack of development, Cynthia is one of the more interesting characters to emerge in New Zealand fiction this century, at least Cynthia is the character I identified most with in TVNZ’s kidult production Terry Teo. Not so much the implication that Cynthia is a pedophile rapist, I didn’t identify with that at all, but as a transgender person, and not a pedophile rapist, facing discriminatory systemic and social hurdles to being correctly gendered – well we’re not making much ground, illustrated by the fear in poor Terry’s eyes.

    The meta-ness of prison rape jokes being funded by a Government entity and broadcast on a Government owned TV channel, while transgender inmates are alledgedly being raped by guards in Government owned prisons is pure balls. That the mechanism of this joke in part hinges on the misgendering of this inmate, and that this is occuring while Corrections are refusing applications by transgender prisoners to be moved to gender appropriate prisons is frightening. Sophie Buchanan has being doing a considerable amount of work increasing awareness of these issues via her OIA requests at FYI.org.nz.

    I was pleased to see Kelvin Davis stepping up this week to support No Pride In Prisons.

    Despite the prison joke I was impressed by the slickness of the production and happy enough to continue watching

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    So you can imagine my bedazzlement when in the second episode:

    Pretty funny heh, widest audience? A man in woman’s underwear, for shame. The Effemimania is strong with this one.

    To think that of all the scandals that could ruin an Auckland mayor, it’s crossdressing that might just break the camel’s back. Parts of this clip appeared in the advertisements.

    And it’s not so much that NZOA funded it or TVNZ broadcast it (twice), or even that this kind of transphobia pops up in NZOA funded shows across the networks

    Jeremy Corbett: The following show is for adults only and contains bad language that may offend some people and there have been a lot of moves this week to ban all smoking on TV because when people see it on TV, it glamorises it making it cool and sexy, well we at 7Days have a plan to make sure that doesn’t happen [cut to shot of Paul Ego wearing a red bikini top]
    Paul Ego: [husky voice] What are you looking at? pervert. [flicks ash under bra, seductively pokes out tongue]
    [laughter]
    Jeremy Corbett: That should do it.

    No. It’s more that somehow, from the writers, through the production staff, to the funders, among the crew and the actors, the editors, the TV producers and schedulers, no one thought to ask “Hey wait Terry Teo team or hey wait Seven Days team, why all the transphobia?”

    Heavy use of transgender artist Randa’s music doesn’t miraculously legitimise that. I’d like to know about what “public interest” actually means.

    My apologies for the tangent.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to mark taslov,

    The meta-ness of prison rape jokes being funded by a Government entity and broadcast on a Government owned TV channel

    I agree. I cringe every time I see or hear people joking about prison rape. In this day and age it shouldn't be normalised as acceptable, and it's worrying that that type of tone could make it into such a recently produced show, let alone one that's targeted at a young audience.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1104 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to izogi,

    Thanks for your reply Izogi. While I’m here I should probably point out that in order to change the gender on a birth certificate in New Zealand Cynthia must have undergone medical treatment (not necessarily full reconstructive surgery). This is a substantive barrier for transgender people, derelicts like Cynthia included, not just in terms of the economics of finding and traveling to a suitable mental health practitioner, undergoing medical treatment and sitting on waiting lists but also for those denied treatment on the grounds that it may lead to health complications – issues that would most certainly be compounded for a 300lb derelict who likes to call himself Cynthia. This is why the police are misgendering Cynthia and why there is a possibility that Terry is presented as an appropriate cell mate.

    Medical intervention is no longer a requirement in world leader Argentina, nor is it a requirement in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Israel, Taiwan, Hungary, Denmark, Latvia, Italy, Malta and Ireland. Third genders are similarly legally recognised without the necessity for medical intervention in Bangladesh, Nepal and India. By contrast, New Zealand’s current discriminatory legislation remains at odds with Yogyakarta principle 3:

    No one shall be forced to undergo medical procedures, including sex reassignment surgery, sterilisation or hormonal therapy, as a requirement for legal recognition of their gender identity.

    It’s almost as if the long history of gender variant identities – from the fa’afafine to the takatāpui, from the Quariwarmi to the mukhannathun doesn’t predate New Zealand’s establishment or “medical interventions” by thousands of years.

    Though I’d still be concerned that if Cynthia were freely able to legally change her gender, then the cops would be scaring the women in their custody with rapey threats of a 300lb chick with a dick. Who knows…keeping with the programming.

    I’ll stop this here, sorry again for derailing your thread Dylan, I’ve been enjoying the discussion.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    I doubt there's any perfect solution to this... Ideally we'd have had a true public broadcaster for the last 50 years and it would have grown and developed in the way the BBC and ABC have over that time.

    Sadly the ABC appears to have been corrupted.

    https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/dec/09/she-doesnt-get-what-we-do-has-abc-boss-michelle-guthrie-got-the-insiders-on-her-side

    https://newmatilda.com/2016/07/06/decades-of-conservative-pressure-on-the-abc-are-paying-off/

    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/mark-scott-the-man-who-stands-between-the-abc-and-its-critics-20150626-ghyio6.html

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5328 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Sacha,

    Territorial content licensing restrictions could be a big part of that, I imagine.

    Yes, I guess so. RNZ tends to produce much of its own content whereas TVNZ, except maybe for journalism, seems to sub-contract production of much of its content to other parties... or simply buy things.

    It's really getting back towards my final sentence of that comment though, regarding comparison between TVNZ and RNZ.

    They used to be clearly distinctive by the presence of pictures (or not), but if Radio New Zealand starts producing lots of local video content in line with its adaptation to new mediums, as it seems to be leaning towards doing, then what's the real difference between Radio New Zealand and what so many people seem to want TVNZ to be?

    Maybe there is some sense in ditching TVNZ, and instead focusing on funding RNZ to expand what it's already doing to make even more of its locally focused content, and to make it more accessible and available to people regardless of how they want to access it.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1104 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    One thing leads to another…*
    I’ve just been reading through Christopher Fowler’s ‘Bryant and May’ series – highly recommended for the inner polymath and fact hoarder – a comment at his website lead me to this marvellous piece of Live New Yorker copy editing…
    WATCH: Andrew Boynton copy-edits recent speeches by Donald Trump.
    the video is at the bottom of the linked RomCom in the Age of Trump piece.

    Should be live on television, I could watch for hours, as he just cuts away the crazy….

    * I put this on the 'Next four years' thread, but methinks it's relevant here too,
    - I'd hate to see these skills disappear (or be subverted).

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7480 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    This came this morning regarding the attempted merger of Fairfax & NZME;

    Good morning

    Having read your submission re the proposed merger of NZME/ Wilson and Horton and Fairfax I thought you would be interested in results we are releasing today of a survey of New Zealanders' views on this.

    They concur broadly with your conclusions.

    Horizon Research conducted this national survey in the public interest. I am surprised the media companies have not done the same, or published anything if they have.

    We post the results here:

    https://www.horizonpoll.co.nz/page/451/disbelief-disagreement-greet-major-media-merger-plan

    We also published comments made by survey respondents.

    https://www.horizonpoll.co.nz/page/452/kiwis-advic

    The survey is representative of the 18+ population at the most recent census.

    If we can help with further information please don't hesitate to ask.

    Kindest regards


    Graeme Colman
    Principal
    Horizon Research Limited
    E-mail: gcolman@horizonresearch.co.nz

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2499 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson,

    Interesting that the opposite statements F & G, and H & I, and J & K, come nowhere near to summing up to 100%. I guess this means that most of those polled were very unsure about :
    F&G : Whether NZME and Fairfax NZ can continue successfully without a merger (71% unsure)
    H & I : Whether they feel better or worse served by NZME and Fairfax NZ if the merger goes ahead (68% unsure, or no difference)
    J & K : Whether having strong competition between news media companies in New Zealand is important to them (54% unsure)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 591 posts Report Reply

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