Get the feeling that this Government, and the Minister of Broadcasting in particular, are not exactly big fans of public broadcasting?

Indeed, as other bloggers have also pointed out, Jonathan Coleman once compared public broadcasting to North Korean propaganda.

He said in 2007:

When the Minister says that the Government is committed to the core objective of building national identity and will do so through television, does he not realise that New Zealanders do not want to be told by the Government what their identity is, and that using a State-owned broadcaster to try to shape national identity is actually a feature of totalitarian regimes, not Western democracies; or does he secretly fancy himself as the “MP for Palmerston North Korea'?

This writer also has a problem with TVNZ setting itself up as some kind of 'conduit' for the national experience, especially when it leads to the awful promos that TVNZ has been broadcasting for the past two years.

That said, misguided ideas about 'national identity' - which is a sanitised middle class fiction anyway - is no justification for attacking the ethos of public broadcasting.

But that is what Coleman has done.

He has freed TVNZ of any public service obligations by scrapping the TVNZ Charter and now TVNZ is providing lots of ammunition for those who would like to see it sold off.

Close Up for example - which TVNZ claims is current affairs - has ran stories in recent times about a drunken former All Black groping a teenage girl, a woman who is frightened of clowns and an interview with silly Mike Hoskings about the horrors of being a minor celebrity. In Hoskings case it's not being able to get a decent haircut.

'Non commercial' content is now ghettoised on TVNZ's digital channels and even this will probably end because Coleman has indicated that TVNZ 6 and 7 will have to become 'self funding' once public funding runs out in 2012. So look out for the return of The Club Show with Glyn Tucker and Ernie Leonard.

Having relieved TVNZ of any public broadcasting obligations, Coleman has moved on to Radio New Zealand.

Last year he kindly froze the budgets of Radio New Zealand National and Concert FM for the next four years.

That means RNZ has no money to meet rising costs. never mind any capital to put toward new developments and innovations. Effectively Coleman has marooned RNZ.

And now the Minister of Broadcasting is further tightening the noose by demanding RNZ 'trim' its costs and look for new sources of funding. If it won't cooperate then Coleman, acting a little like a North Korean despot, is threatening to sack the board and replace them with his kind of people. Perhaps Steven Joyce has helpfully suggested a few candidates.

Coleman says RNZ could raise more revenue by selling its news service and introducing commercial sponsorship to Concert FM. He also wants staff numbers trimmed and studios and offices closed.

Coleman may deny it, but this constitutes an attack on public radio in this country.

Of course it will delight RNZ's commercial rivals who have always resented the public broadcaster because National Radio has consistently beaten its stations in the ratings.

Its always been a bitter pill for the two commercial networks to swallow that people like and support public radio.

Not that this seems to make any difference to Jonathan Coleman - or Radio Live's Marcus Lush.

'Make them (National and Concert FM) play commercials', Lush said on his breakfast show today. 'Then there'll be a level playing field'.

Yes, a level playing field right at the bottom of the barrel, along with Leighton Smith, Michal Laws, John Tamihere and commercials for herbal viagra.

The irony is that Lush has enjoyed the benefit of public money to make his television shows - the same public money he resents RNZ receiving.

Save Radio New Zealand


  1. Interesting to read what Lushy has been saying. I'm disappointed as I thought he was better than that. I'll be looking at him differently from now on.


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