INDEPENDENT NEWS

Juggling Act For NZ On Air Funds In Coming Year

Published: Tue 3 Aug 1999 03:09 PM
MEDIACOM-RELEASE-NZ-ON-AIR
NZ On Air's Statement of Intent for the coming year signals increased support for local television drama, in particular children's drama, but at the expense of documentary hours.
NZ On Air Chairman, David Beatson, said the new funding structure for NZ On Air had forced the organisation to make some difficult decisions about where its funding should be allocated.
"You could say we're robbing Peter to pay Paul. We are facing static or diminishing funding in the near future, and this means it is not possible for us to continue funding all that we have in the past, let alone introduce new initiatives.
"For the coming year, we have decided our focus must go onto areas where we know we can add value and make a difference in the commercial broadcasting environment.
"Accordingly, we are shifting the emphasis of our funding allocations to recognise the risk to the key result areas of drama and children's programming. Even so, we know that what we can afford to do is not going to be enough."
Mr Beatson said that the extra funding for drama would come at the expense of documentaries.
"In the coming year, we will fund fewer hours of documentaries. But, to compensate for that , we are going to be focusing what funding we have on more in-depth, research-driven projects," he said.
"This approach carries some risk, as we are relying on broadcasters to take on more of the cost of producing the lower cost documentaries, in the popular prime-time series slots, such as Documentary New Zealand and Inside New Zealand."
Mr Beatson said the role for NZ On Air in an otherwise wholly commercial and highly competitive broadcasting market was increasing, rather than diminishing.
"New Zealanders need to decide whether NZ on Air's current level of funding is sufficient to adequately cover the areas of increasing market failure, such as children's, drama, mainstream Maori and in- depth documentary programming.
"Recent research commissioned by NZ On Air into local content and diversity on television showed that New Zealand lags well behind other countries, in terms of its public broadcasting initiatives and achievements.
"It is ten years since this organisation was set up, and we believe it is time for urgent and widespread debate on broadcasting issues. There are a range of broadcasting issues, which we know New Zealanders care about, which we can't even contemplate resolving.
"We must make sure that whatever changes are made in the future, take the broader picture into account, and are made in the best interests of the viewing public."
Other initiatives covered by the Statement of Intent include:
- NZ On Air intends to continue to fund the flagship public radio services, National radio and Concert FM, and to slightly increase funding for access radio services.
- NZ On Air's efforts to get more New Zealand music played on commercial radio will intensify, and funding for New Zealand music programmes for radio and for music videos will continue.
- NZ On Air aims to reduce the level of funding needed for the transmission coverage of television services in order to free up more funding for television programmes.
The Statement of Intent also canvasses the funding implications of the phase-out of the Public Broadcasting Fee, including reference to provisions for doubtful debt, and plans for compliance and awareness campaigns to maximise Fee income in the coming year.
ENDS....

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