The campaign to save TVNZ7 is misdirected and let's Labour off the hook.

A big campaign has been mounted to save the last vestiges of public television in New Zealand, namely TVNZ7. A series of meetings are occurring throughout the country and one was held in Christchurch last night.  It's a campaign that has  largely been orchestrated  by the Labour Party although I notice that its leader has yet to publicly jump to the defence of TVNZ7.

TVNZ7, will,  of course, cease on June 30 and then will simply broadcast TV1.

I actually have no interest in saving TVNZ7 and  I think its a misconceived campaign that avoids the real issues.

For a start, this is a campaign that is designed to let our dismal  Labour Party off the hook. It can go around the country pretending to be the defender of the public television ethos when, in reality, it has done more than its  fair share to destroy public broadcasting in this country.

Labour's astonishingly inept view that TVNZ could somehow meet public service obligations while at the same deliver a commercial dividend to the Government was always a recipe for disaster.  As I wrote a couple of years ago:

The hard fact - one that Labour Party hacks choose to ignore- is that it was the Labour Government of 1984-90 that tipped public broadcasting into the quagmire of commercialism.

It deregulated broadcasting in New Zealand which included no limits on foreign ownership of media companies, no limits on cross-ownership -and it was Labour that imposed the neoliberal business model on TVNZ.

I find it galling that many of the defenders of TVNZ7 had  nothing to say when Labour imposed its ridiculous  hybrid model on TVNZ in the 1980s. They are lions when  Labour  is  in opposition - but lambs when  Labour is in government. Believe me  - nothing has changed in that respect.

Labour supporters are ignoring  that even now its unclear what Labour's real commitment is to public broadcasting.  Labour's broadcasting spokesperson Clare Curran says that Labour is committed to 'a strong independent public media'.

But campaigning for the retention of TVNZ 7 is not a commitment to  public broadcasting. At the heart of this campaign lies an assumption that commercial interests will continue to dominate broadcasting in this country.

As it stands right now TVNZ 7   is a under-resourced channel with a limited  range of programmes and it  lacks  a comprehensive news and current affairs service.  Why should anyone want to support that or is the implication that this is all we can now expect from public broadcasting in this country? 

Also I oppose public broadcasting being sidelined to the periphery  and acting as some kind of 'niche provider' for the chattering classes dissatisfied with what  is on offer from the main commercial channels.  This simply isn't good enough.

We need  to have a non-commercial  national broadcaster that is at the heart  of New Zealand's cultural life and that broadcaster should be TV1.

If the Labour Party really has a commitment to ' a strong independent public media' then it should be advocating  that TV1 be  transformed Into a fully-resourced  non-commercial public broadcaster.  This, incidentally, is the policy of the Green Party.


  1. "I find it galling that many of the defenders of TVNZ7 had nothing to say when Labour imposed its ridiculous hybrid model on TVNZ in the 1980s. They are lions when Labour is in opposition - but lambs when Labour is in government"
    Apart from the fact that Labour's hybrid model for TVNZ was only introduced in 2003, not the 1980s, there were plenty of people, inlcuding myself, pointing out the contradictions of Labour's broadcating policies.
    Then, like now, the problem was that Treasury played a key role in compromising the policy options available to the minister of broadcasting.
    If one supports public service principles, then of course TVNZ7 cannot do everything- just as NZ On Air cannot address a full range of programmes. This theme has been repeated at all the Save TVNZ7 public forums- the campaign is hopefully a catalyst for the public to demand something better.
    But given that nobody has a few spare billions to recreate the BBC, then given the choice between saving TVNZ7 or some similar service and having NO commercial-free PSB channel in NZ, I know which I'd choose...

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  3. Yes, the hybrid model was introduced in 2003, my error.

    I don't think you can simply blame Treasury for TVNZ's decline. After all Broadcasting Minister Steve Maharey rejected turning TV1 into a non-commercial channel.

    To say that the campaign to save TVNZ7 may be a 'catalyst' for the public to demand 'something better' is vague. Why not demand that TV1 become a non-commercial public broadcaster as it once was or would the Labour Party - the main sponsor of this campaign - find that unacceptable?

    It would not cost 'billions' to tranform TV1 and no-one is talking about imitating the BBC.

  4. You appear to confuse the issue of having a quality public broadcaster with playing politics and trying to blame Labour for its historic misdeeds. A quality public broadcaster is essential for a healthy demockary. Not having a non commercial quality broadcasting channel is a tragedy for New Zealand, and not holding the present government to account for its demise, is shocking. TVNZ and or TVNZ7, could have become that broadcaster, but TVNZ7 was killed off by this National Government, and Labour cannot be held responsible for that. I've switched the TV off as its largely rubbish. I know others that have done the same. Having seen Australia's ABC, they are much better served by an intelligent and informed non commercial media.

  5. Labour may of not killed off TVNZ7 but it prepared the ground for it to happen. If it had defended public broadcasting it would of more more difficult to kill it off by its opponents. But the ludicrous hybrid model that it imposed on TVNZ opened the door to those who seeked to destroy it. Labour can be held responsible for this.

    Even now Labour is making no commitment to public broadcasting.


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